What is the etymology of Haiti's name?

A long time ago someone told me a story which is very unclear.

They said that Haiti got the name from the American Civil War after the slave trade when the slaves occupied the country it was or something like that. I think I remember Haiti's previous name being El something.

Does anyone know the in depth story as to how Haiti got its name?

First, Haiti achieved independence in 1804, way before the US Civil-War. Haiti was originally called Saint-Domingue

Wikipedia says that name was originally "Ayiti" as derived from Taíno and African languages

At the end of the double battle for emancipation and independence, former slaves proclaimed the independence of Saint-Domingue on 1 January 1804,[26] declaring the new nation be named "Ayiti", both a Native American and African term, meaning "home or mother of the earth" in the Taíno-Arawak Native American language and "sacred earth or homeland" in the Fon African language, to honor one of the indigenous Taíno names for the island.

Ayiti (land of high mountains) was the indigenous Taíno or Amerindian name for the island.

The book "A Brief History of the Caribbean" confirms this

Saint-Domingue finally belonged to the black majority after 15 years of devastation. On January 1, 1804, Dessalines and his generals proclaimed Haiti's independence, choosing an aboriginal word (meaning "the land of the mountains") to replace the French name Saint-Domingue.

For further reading:

  • Haiti
  • A Brief History of the Caribbean @ pp. 174-175


Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

Haiti, country in the Caribbean Sea that includes the western third of the island of Hispaniola and such smaller islands as Gonâve, Tortue (Tortuga), Grande Caye, and Vache. The capital is Port-au-Prince.

Haiti, whose population is almost entirely descended from African slaves, won independence from France in 1804, making it the second country in the Americas, after the United States, to free itself from colonial rule. Over the centuries, however, economic, political, and social difficulties, as well as a number of natural disasters, have beset Haiti with chronic poverty and other serious problems.

Haiti is bordered to the east by the Dominican Republic, which covers the rest of Hispaniola, to the south and west by the Caribbean, and to the north by the Atlantic Ocean. Cuba lies some 50 miles (80 km) west of Haiti’s northern peninsula, across the Windward Passage, a strait connecting the Atlantic to the Caribbean. Jamaica is some 120 miles (190 km) west of the southern peninsula, across the Jamaica Channel, and Great Inagua Island (of The Bahamas) lies roughly 70 miles (110 km) to the north. Haiti claims sovereignty over Navassa (Navase) Island, an uninhabited U.S.-administered islet about 35 miles (55 km) to the west in the Jamaica Channel.

The ancient name of Haiti

Date: Sun, 31 Jan 1999 11:15:58 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Corbett &#[email protected]>
Sender: Robert Corbett &#[email protected]>
Reply-To: Robert Corbett &#[email protected]>y Subject: Haiti : the ancient name of Haiti
To: Bob Corbett &#[email protected]>
Message-ID: &#[email protected]>

Today I was cataloguing a new booklet into my library, called THE ABORIGINES OF THE ANCIENT ISLAND OF HISPANIOLA by Herbert W. Krieger. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1929.

The first sentence is: The island of Hispaniola, anciently known as Haiti to its aboriginal inhabitants, is occupied jointly by the Dominican Republic and the Republic of Haiti.

This struck me as curious. The FACT in question, the ancient name of Haiti, is one that I have known since. well, a long time. But I never think about it much and I don't think I'd every noticed a sentence like that before. It made me start reflecting.

First there was Haiti. Then the Spanish changed the name to Santo Domingo. Eventually in 1697 there is the formal division of the island into Santo Domingo and Saint-Domingue. The Dominican side has several fluxuations of name over the years, and, as this group knows only too well, on Jan. 1, 1804, Saint-Domingue ceases to exist and modern Haiti is born.

I think every school child in Haiti knows all this, but it seems curious that it is easy to forget that there was a full circle for at least this 1/3 the island of Hispaniola from Haiti to Saint-Domingue and then back to Haiti again.

Just a tidbit for this Superbowl Sunday!

Date: Sun, 31 Jan 1999 15:08:42 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Corbett &#[email protected]>
Subject: Re: Haiti : the ancient name of Haiti: Bellegarde-Smith clarifies
To: Bob Corbett &#[email protected]>
Message-ID: &#[email protected]>

From: P D Bellegarde-Smith &#[email protected]>

Bob: First, there was Ayiti, Quisqueya and Bohio. The Haitians took the first, the Dominican, the second, and thank God, no one took the third! The Spanish first called the three-named island, La Isla Espanola (before Santo Domingo), later mispronounced and known by its diminutive, Hispaniola. On January 1st 1804, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and the victorious insurgents gave the WHOLE island its ancient name, Hayti. At that time, the whole island belonged to France, and the eastern two-thirds remained in French hands. In the 1820s, Dominicans would come to refer to their side as Spanish Hayti. In French encyclopedias and dictionaries, and thus for the entire francophone world, TODAY, there is the island of haiti subdivided into the Republic of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In the 1930s, I beleive, at the urging of the Dominican government, the geographic board that decide on these matters, renamed or named the whole island Hispaniola. In Haiti, this was seen as a victory for Dominican diplomacy. In Haiti, we refer to the country next door as Dominicanie.

Date: Mon, 1 Feb 1999 07:51:08 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Corbett &#[email protected]>
Sender: Robert Corbett &#[email protected]>
Reply-To: Robert Corbett &#[email protected]>
Subject: The name of Haiti: more comments
To: Bob Corbett &#[email protected]>
Message-ID: &#[email protected]>

From: Elizabeth Ritza Vieux &#[email protected]>

I respect Bellegarde's view point when he says and I quote: Bob: First, there was Ayiti, Quisqueya and Bohio. The Haitians took the > first, the Dominican, the second, and thank God, no one took the third!

But who knows, we could have been better off if the third name 'Bohio' was the actual one chosen for our country Haiti.

If we decompose the word 'haitiens,' phonetically we get 'Hai Siens' = qui hait les siens (One who hates his own)

Isn't it quite a reality in our country, where hatred is like a desease acid that corrodes our country, where one hates the other and usually for no particular reason. it's been like this since the beginning.

I believe that a name can have an important impact or influence on: a person, an animal or why not a country. I heard from my grand mother of a girl whose name meant something like veuve = widow. She got married 3 times, and each time she would lose her husband (by death). This might not be related to her name, but who can say that it was not either.

At least, Bohio means soulier = shoe. 'Shoe' is a necessary footwear. So, it's useful. This is much more positive than Haiti which I see as a negative word.

I'd rather say, Why God, Bohio was only the third name. We went for the first, but in fact, we ended up being the last.

From: ange perrault &#[email protected]>

>From: P D Bellegarde-Smith &#[email protected]>
>On January 1st 1804, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and the
>victorious insurgents gave the WHOLE island its ancient name, Hayti.

I have seen old french maps and they spell haiti: AYTI (without the H) Could anyone comment on the spelling of the ancient name?

This is all nice and everything, but why do all geography/history books insist on referring to the island as HISPANOLA (Little Spain)?

Dominicans will never call the island HAITI (why means High Mountains) beside DR is flat, and made of mostly plains.

QUISQUEYA is what they call it, and I think most haitians would approve the name. So it is not WE who keep getting it wrong, it is THOSE who write the history books who refuse to make the change (I don't think I need to elaborate).

PS: Could someone tell me the origin of the word: AFRICA? Since it is not Haiti related, reply to me directly.

>From: P D Bellegarde-Smith &#[email protected]>
>In the 1930s, I beleive, at the urging of the Dominican government,
>the geographic board that decide on these matters, renamed or named the whole
>island Hispaniola.

No doubt a TRUJILLO campaign of remaining closely associated with Spain and distanting themselves from Haitians, but what about now? How do dominicans feel about calling the island HISPANOLA, or do they prefer QUISQUEYA?

Ronel Perrault, PhD
[email protected]

From: Yacine Khelladi &#[email protected]>

Toma is the last name of Haiti

as Robert Corbett or Jhon Doe

Haiti the only country that has a first and a last name

Date: Tue, 2 Feb 1999 08:27:27 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Corbett &#[email protected]>
Subject: ancient names (fwd)
To: Bob Corbett &#[email protected]>
Message-ID: &#[email protected]>

I have wondered about how the africans of the french period knew so much about the ancient inhabitants. It is said that virtually all of the indians were gone by 1550 or so.

There were not very many slaves imported to the caribean by that time, altho Hugh Thomas (in The Slave Trade) says that africans brought to Santo Domingo encouraged the indians to run away from the spanish settlements. There couldn't have been very many africans there by then tho.

Perhaps early african slaves intermarried with the people of the island? I haven't heard much talk of this.

Haitians do revere the cacique Anacaona. When was she killed? How have these stories become such a part of Haitian mythology?

Date: Tue, 2 Feb 1999 17:36:19 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Corbett &#[email protected]>
Sender: Robert Corbett &#[email protected]>
Reply-To: Robert Corbett &#[email protected]>
Subject: Ancient names: several responses
To: Bob Corbett &#[email protected]>
Message-ID: &#[email protected]>

A recent text which people may find useful in terms of this discussion of names of origins and the mixed heritage (Native, African and European) of the island is Alan Cambeira's __Quisqueya La Bella: The Dominican Republic in Historical and Cultural Perspective__ (M.E. Sharpe, 1997) which discusses both sides of the island in both personal and historical terms. highly readable with many secondary sources cited and listed. A point Alan makes is that it is in fact an error to believe that all Native people were wiped out and that the Native heritage does in fact reveal itself in a number of ways culturally, etc.

Myriam J. A. Chancy
Associate Professor of English
Department of English
P.O. Box 870302
Tempe, AZ 85287-0302

In a message dated 2/2/99 12:57:31 PM, dlyall wrote:

<I have wondered about how the africans of the french period knew
<so much about the ancient inhabitants. It is said that virtually
<all of the indians were gone by 1550 or so.

I can imagine four possible options:
1. They made it up.
2. They found this out through research and lectures at the spectacular libraries and academic centers of the various kingdoms before the Spaniards destroyed them.
3. They divined it through their mystical vodou powers.
4. Something happened which the people who killed and opressed both groups did not know about or bother to document for our appreciation.

As Mr. Vedrine has commented: Who writes history, why, and for whom? As I would like to comment: Who knows history and how?

From: Madison Bell &#[email protected]>

I can't make any absolute distinctions of fact and mythology on this subject, but here's a bundle of received ideas.

The priest, Las Casas, was influenced by his fondness for the Taino Indians to promote African slavery in Hispaniola, on the idea that the Africans could support slavery better (!) and that the Taino might thus be saved from extermination. If that much is true (it is, I think) then it follows that there would have been some overlap of African and Taino presence under Spanish rule.

During that period (here the distinction between myth and fact may blur) runaway slaves, i.e. mawon yo, had contact with Taino surviving in the mountains. It certainly is possible, if not provable, that some of the last Taino declined to report for extermination and held out in inaccessible locations for longer than generally recognized. And it is true that maroon communities formed around some of the ancient sacred sites of the Taino, such as the caves of Bahoruco.

The idea of a mingling of African and Taino cultures (and bloodlines) in the mountains is an important component of the whole idea of marronage. In this view, the African maroons grafted themselves onto the last roots of the Taino resistance. The cultural fusion extends to Vodu, which is supposed to have some identifiable Taino components (e.g. the asson). I'm sure anthropologists are to be found on every side of that issue, but I've heard it stated as a fact by some of the most reputable.

If this were in fact the situation, then the Taino bloodline would have gradually submerged itself in the African bloodline to the point of invisibility. You can see the late phase of that process today in Dominica, where there is still a tiny Carib reservation. By my eyeball impression, only the oldest members of that community still retain the physical characteristics of their Indian bloodstock one hundred percent. Younger people have an African strain in their appearance and one assumes that in a few more generations the Indian strain will be invisible there too.

What I think myself is that the Taino element of marronage is true at least to some degree and that Haitians do have something of the original inhabitants in them still, in however small a measure.

Date: Tue, 2 Feb 1999 17:40:33 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Corbett &#[email protected]>
Sender: Robert Corbett &#[email protected]>
Reply-To: Robert Corbett &#[email protected]>
Subject: Name of Haiti: Perrault replies to several others
To: Bob Corbett &#[email protected]>
Message-ID: &#[email protected]>

From: ange perrault &#[email protected]>

>From: P D Bellegarde-Smith &#[email protected]>
>Dominicans refer to the island as Hispaniola.
>The term Quisqueya comes in as a nickname, and as the
>part of the title of the national anthem. It is used much
>as Borinquen refers to Puerto Rico.
>From: Yacine Khelladi &#[email protected]>
>England (a part of the UK), has a first name and last name
>(in fact, a >nickname), John Bull. The United
>States has Uncle Sam, and France, Marianne. Other
>countries? The Dominican Republic has Quisqueya, and
>Puerto Rico, Borinquen! P.B.-S.

I did not think I had to elaborate, but noone so far is raising the issue, so I will. QUISQUEYA, HAYTI and BORINQUEN are all original names. Not nickname or last name. The point is by not giving back the original name to the land diminishes the contribution of these inhabitants to our history I quote: Christophe Colon a decouvert Haiti en 1492 . Only contributions from the europeans that came are recognized, before then there was nothing just a bunch of savages running loose.

>From: [email protected]
>I respectfully beg to differ --the DR has Pico Duarte, which
>is higher than any North American mountain east of the
>Mississipi. There are vast mountainous areas in the north,
>south and east, and all around the central Cibao Valley
>--One of the most important, you will be interested to know,
>is Los Haitises, a range of low mountains in the east where
>there is an ecological preserve.

I did not want to twist the Dominicans hands, but is it fair to say, based on your argument that the name of HAYTI would refer to more than the western 1/3 of the island? So, why don't Dominicans call the island HAYTI or why do they only call QUISQUEYA the eastern 2/3? Why not call the island QUISQEYA na dnot HISPANOLA? Again the first European name is the one that sticks.

>From: Emmanuel W. Vedrine &#[email protected]>
>Sorry, I thought the word AYITI meant beautiful and
>mountaneous lands in the Marcorix language (one of the main
>languages of Haiti) spoken by the Arawaks. And AYISYEN
>would be the natives of this particular land. Does the origin
>of the word have some connection with hate or the white
>masters taught Ayisyen or Haitiens to hate each
>other? Were the natives fighting eacher other all the time to
>take control of the land or were the French & Spaniards
>fighting each other all the time to take control of AYITI ,

I don't this ayi sien thing should be taken seriously. School children plays the same game over and over. At my school we used to say: ayi-chien (hate dog).

Those are school children plays. You are right, those are inconcious word games of a eurocentric education in haiti without taking into consideration the origin of the word.

Ronel Perrault, PhD
[email protected]

Date: Thu, 4 Feb 1999 18:56:33 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Corbett &#[email protected]>
Subject: Re: ancient names : A reply
To: Bob Corbett &#[email protected]>
Message-ID: &#[email protected]>

From: JAupont &#[email protected]>

Looking at an old Histoire D'Haiti text( a 1942 ed.), it mentions the first Black slaves arriving on the island in 1503. This is approximately a year after Nicolas Ovando arrived as the new governor, replacing Bobadilla. As some will remember, this the same Ovando responsible for the treachous death of the Cacique-queen Anacaona. Ovando tricked her into accepting his coming to Leogane to sign a peace treaty or some sort of an agreement. Anyway, after receiving a nice reception from the queen, Ovando placed his hand on the cross he was wearing, at which time his soldiers took captive the queen, bound the indian chiefs to the supporting columns and torched the whole room. Later, in Santo-Domingo, Anacaona was hung publicly.

It appears that the African slaves and the original Haitians both cohabited the island for at least 40 years. Another supporting evidence for this is the story surrounding the Cacique Henri and his autonomy. The text mentions that the Emperor Charles-Quint, worried, wrote to the Cacique Henri requesting a peace agreement. One of the motivations for such a move on the part of the King is that the island was perceived as still being in danger. One of the dangers mentioned was a slave revolt that had already occurred on the habitation of even the Vice-Roi, Don Diego Colomb. The text doesn't mention the exact date, but I'll venture to say that the first slave revolt probably occurred between 1503 and 1510.

If these events happened within the timeframe given here, it would appear that the slave trade had started early enough to have allowed a considerable number of African slaves to have lived and witnessed many of those events before the eventual and complete decimation of the Haitian Arawaks and Caraibes. I wouldn't be surprised though, if the slaves were dragged to the public hanging of the Queen-Cacique Anacanoa just to instill fear and give them a foretaste of the consequences of disobedience of their Spanish masters.

I am of the opinion that slavery was already instituted on the island long before the dissappearance of the native Arawaks and Caraibes. If that's true then these same slaves were eyewitnesses to many of the events that happened on the island. So, naturally, these stories eventually became the basis of much of the myths and folktales that we find today in Haitian folklore.

Date: Fri, 5 Feb 1999 14:00:06 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Corbett &#[email protected]>
Subject: Reply to Hai Siens
To: Bob Corbett &#[email protected]>
Message-ID: &#[email protected]>

From: Concerned Haitians League/Asanblaj Ayisyen Konsene &#[email protected]>

> . If we decompose the word 'haitiens,' phonetically we
> get 'Hai Siens' qui hait les siens (One who hates his own)
> Isn't it quite a reality in our country, where hatred is
> like a desease acid that corrodes our country, where one
> hates the other and usually for no particular reason.
> it's been like this since the beginning.
> I believe that a name can have an important impact or
> influence .

This is in response to the erroneous breakdown of the word Haitiens into Hai Siens and the negative association of such breakdown. The Concerned Haitian League, in its concern to educate all (including ourselves), considers it an imperative to point out any attempt to diminish the dignity of our nation.

Ayiti as used by the native inhabitants -- at the time of the arrival of the Europeans -- meant mountainous land . The decision of our forefathers in 1804 to revert to Ayiti from the French name Saint-Domingue signified that we Haitians claimed back the land that was taken from the original inhabitants and on which we were forced to toil. From this accepted origin of the name of Haiti, I do not see how a superposition of a breakdown of Haitiens as Hai Siens could have any linguistic significance and psychological validity.

Yet the breakdown above seems to convey the intention to characterize all Haitians as mean-spirited, hateful beings. Having been a victim of ethnic stereotypes (and having been trained as a linguist), I must stress that such a breakdown is based on completely false premises. I hope this message will limit the potentially-negative consequences of MIS-analyzing Haitiens as Hai Siens .

Morphologically, Haitiens does not break down into Hai Siens . Such attempt shows a lack of understanding of basic linguistic rules. One must not confuse phonetic breakdown of a word -- the way it is actually realized in the spoken language -- and the spelling of that word -- the way it is represented in writing. The Haitiens -> Hai Siens breakdown fails to use the spelling, morphological and phonetic rules of French --- the correct morphological analysis is: Haiti-en-s

Furthermore, the different components of your breakdown, Hai and Siens do not have any meaning in Haitian Creole. Worse yet, the proposed translation ( One who hates his own ) would be rendered in French by Qui hait les siens or Hair les Haitiens , but definitely not Hai(t) Siens -- a textbook on French grammar would be very helpful to elucidate this point.

Finally, as mentioned by more than one on the list, the origin of the root Haiti in Haitiens could not have anything to do with French since it was the word used by native inhabitants of the Island way before the coming of the French.

Let's try to promote tolerance and love of one another and not perpetuate ill-formed negative stereotypes.

Francois Canal, Coordinator
Concerned Haitian League
Stony Brook Union Building
Room 252
Stony Brook, New York, 11794
Telephone: (516) 632-4131

Are You Ready For Some Controversy? The History Of 'Redskin'

Monday Night Football kicks off this evening with the Washington Redskins facing off against the Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx Field. As the Redskins start a new season, they are once again in the center of a national debate about their name.

On Thursday, the Oneida Indian Nation in upstate New York announced the launch of a radio ad campaign urging the team to change its moniker. The ad begins with an Oneida leader commending NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for condemning the behavior of Eagles player Riley Cooper, after Cooper was recorded using the N-word at a concert this summer. While the narrator applauds the NFL for taking swift action in the Cooper case, he then draws a parallel between that slur and the word "redskin." "We do not deserve to be called redskins," he says in the ad. "We deserve to be treated as what we are — Americans." The spots began airing in the D.C. market on Sunday. (You can listen to it in full here.)

The Oneida campaign is just the latest protest this year against the Redskins' name. The online magazine Slate made headlines last month when it declared the site will no longer use "Redskins" to refer to the franchise, choosing instead to refer to "the Washington NFL team" from now on. Slate isn't alone: The New Republic and Mother Jones quickly followed suit. Major news sources like The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Associated Press, however, will continue to refer to the team as the "Redskins" this season.

But where did the word "redskin" come from? Many dictionaries and history books say the term came about in reference to the Beothuk tribe of what is now Newfoundland, Canada. The Beothuk were said to paint their bodies with red ochre, leading white settlers to refer to them as "red men."

According to Smithsonian historian Ives Goddard, early historical records indicate that "Redskin" was used as a self-identifier by Native Americans to differentiate between the two races. Goddard found that the first use of the word "redskin" came in 1769, in negotiations between the Piankashaws and Col. John Wilkins. Throughout the 1800s, the word was frequently used by Native Americans as they negotiated with the French and later the Americans. The phrase gained widespread usage among whites when James Fenimore Cooper used it in his 1823 novel The Pioneers. In the book, Cooper has a dying Indian character lament, "There will soon be no red-skin in the country."

The Pioneers and other books by Cooper were largely seen as sympathetic toward Native Americans and their struggles in the 1800s. Decades later, the word "redskin" began to take on a negative, increasingly violent connotation. Author L. Frank Baum, best known for his classic The Wizard of Oz, celebrated the death of Sitting Bull and the massacre at Wounded Knee with a pair of editorials calling for the extermination of all remaining Native Americans. In one of the December 1890 pieces, Baum wrote, "With his fall the nobility of the Redskin is extinguished, and what few are left are a pack of whining curs who lick the hand that smites them."

At around the same time the word "redskin" was becoming a word with negative connotations, other Native American words and images were becoming increasingly popular symbols for sports teams. In an article for the North Dakota Law Review, J. Gordon Hylton found that team owners frequently began using words with indigenous connections in the 1850s. "Native American names appear to have been chosen to emphasize the 'Americanness' of the team and its patriotic character," writes Hylton, without noting that at the same time popular culture was relegating Native Americans to the foreign and the extreme.

While Cooper's portrayal of Native Americans in books like The Pioneers was sympathetic, the portrayal of Indians created a backlash of sorts. In 1915, the poet Earl Emmons released Redskin Rimes, a book so offensive I had to double-check to make sure it wasn't a parody of the racism of that era. Emmons makes his intentions clear in the introduction of the work: "Those persons who got their idea of the Indian from Mr. Cooper have pictured him as an injured innocent. . Those persons have acquired the wrong idea of the maroon brother." That introduction kicks off a series of poems, songs and speeches, each more offensive than the last.

Emmons' book was emblematic of the usage of the word "redskins" in the late 1800s and early 1900s, as the word went from being an identifying term to a derogatory slur. By the 1910s, it wasn't uncommon for filmgoers to encounter it, with the word frequently popping up in the titles of American Westerns.

The hit film Redskin (1929) was notable for two reasons: first, that it was one of the first films to use Technicolor and secondly, that the script was surprisingly sympathetic toward its main character, a Navajo Indian who is constantly harassed because of his race. The portrayal of Native Americans in Redskin was very much ahead of its time — other films that used the word portrayed the culture as primitive and war-hungry. The 1932 Tom and Jerry cartoon "Redskin Blues" follows the beloved characters as they are attacked by Indians, surviving after they are rescued by the U.S. Army.

Just a year after that stereotype-laden Tom and Jerry cartoon was released, Boston Braves owner George Preston Marshall decided in 1933 to change the franchise's name from the Braves (another name with a racial history) to the Redskins. Team lore says the franchise adopted the name in honor of former coach William "Lone Star" Dietz, who identified as Native American. Dietz brought several Native American players he had coached at the Haskell Indian School with him to the team. Marshall also sought to strongly tie the team to Native American imagery, occasionally requiring Dietz to wear a Sioux headdress on the sidelines and telling players to wear war paint while on the field.

The cover of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat Sunday supplement from January 1908 shows William "Lone Star" Dietz, who in 1916 coached Washington State University to a Rose Bowl victory, in full Indian dress. Some credit Dietz with inspiring the name of the Redskins. AP hide caption

The cover of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat Sunday supplement from January 1908 shows William "Lone Star" Dietz, who in 1916 coached Washington State University to a Rose Bowl victory, in full Indian dress. Some credit Dietz with inspiring the name of the Redskins.

Five years later, the team unveiled its fight song, "Hail to the Redskins," with lyrics written by Marshall's wife, actress Corinne Griffith. The original lyrics to the song included both references to scalping and pidgin English, with the line "Scalp 'em, swamp 'em — we will take 'em big score / Read 'em, weep 'em, touchdown! — we want heap more!"

The word began to fade from everyday usage in the 1960s (though songs like the 1960 Richie Allen track "Redskin" would occasionally be released). As Ian Crouch recently pointed out in The New Yorker, "since 1971, nearly two-thirds of professional and amateur athletic teams bearing Native American iconography have made a change."

Recent months have seen several athletes and other sports figures speak out about the name, as well. In July, Redskins Hall of Famers Darrell Green and Art Monk spoke with the D.C. radio station WTOP.

"[If] Native Americans feel like Redskins or the Chiefs or [another] name is offensive to them, then who are we to say to them, 'No, it's not?' " Monk said. Green agreed, saying, "It deserves and warrants conversation because somebody is saying, 'Hey, this offends me,' and then you have a conversation."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering the team is based in Washington, many elected officials have also weighed in. D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said earlier this year that the name has become "a lightning rod" and that the team would have to seriously consider changing the name if it wished to move from Maryland back into the District in the future. The mayor seems to also have a self-imposed ban on saying the name of the team, merely referring to it as "our football team" in his 2013 State of the District address. Members of Congress have also spoken out against the name, with a bipartisan group sending a letter to the team urging a name change.

And when the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian hosted a symposium on Indian mascots in February, museum director Kevin Gover, himself a Native American, said the word was "the equivalent of the N-word." At the same event, former Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell asked the crowd to consider an equally offensive name for the local sports team: "How you would like for us to change the name of that team to the Washington Darkies?"

For his part, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has been vocal in his support for the name and has insisted that it's here to stay. "We'll never change the name," Snyder told USA Today in May. "It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps."

Native American activist Suzan Shown Harjo has been battling the Redskins over the name for more than 20 years. "The name is one of the last vestiges of racism that is held right out in the open in America," Harjo said in a recent phone conversation. "It's a toy of racism, and the people who are holding on [to the name] for dear life, they know that."

But do they really? A Washington Post poll from June revealed that 8 out of 10 fans believe the team should keep its name. However, you shouldn't expect to hear those same fans use the word in nonfootball conversations. Over half of those questioned agreed that the word "redskin" is an inappropriate term to describe Native Americans.

Correction Sept. 9, 2013

A previous version of this story misidentified writer Ian Crouch as Ian Crouther.

Discover Your Last > Name Origin & Meaning

Research your family history to discover who you are and where you come from.

Your last name holds clues into your family history. Whether you have a common or unique last name, learning the meaning behind your name can unlock new details of your genealogy.

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    Surname Origins & Your Family History

    Most European surnames can be traced back to the Medieval Times in the 13th and 14th centuries. During this period, last names were recorded as societies started collecting taxes and became more bureaucratic.

    Early last names were often linked to occupations, geographical features such as where your home was in the village, a nickname, physical feature, or even a combination of the mother's and father's name. Eventually, most people adopted patronymic names inherited from their fathers.

    Asking, "What nationality is my last name?" may confirm (or disprove) some long-accepted beliefs about your family's roots including their ethnic origin. Perhaps there are other countries (and relatives) attached to your family tree that you had never considered before.

    The genealogy behind your last name is more than just finding the meaning from a surnames list. Tracing your last name origin can help you gleam new insights into your family history and even about yourself. After all, your name is piece of your identity.

    Use our free last name meaning search populated with data from U.S. Census records, the Social Security Death Index, newspaper archives and more! Read More.

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    Where do surnames come from?

    Humans have used more than one name to make it easier to distinguish one person from another who may have the same name. As communities grew and societies developed, the distinguishing names became fixed. People also started passing a certain name from generation to generation, creating the origins of a family name.

    The story behind the surname depends on the society’s priorities at the time people started adopting surnames. Societies that were hunter-oriented based their surnames on events, religious connotations, or characteristics of the individual. Less developed societies commonly used surnames derived from the father's name. Communities that were more technically superior based their surnames on occupations, place of residence, or social status.

    However, just because a person carries the last name Tailor doesn't mean that an individual's occupation has anything to do with tailoring. Someone from their family was once a tailor and they passed on their distinguishing name to their children, and so on. Fast forward a hundred years later, when someone carries the last name Taylor or Tailor, you may say with great certainty that one of their ancestors practiced tailoring as a profession.

    Surnames occurred in various periods across different regions. They were first adopted in England in the 11th and 16th centuries.

    Do surnames have meanings like first names do?

    Last name meanings can tell you a lot about the origins of your ancestors. Surname meanings can be categorized into the most common types:

    Occupational surnames derived from an ancestor's profession can be divided into two groups: standard and titular occupations. For example,
    the name origin of someone with the last name Stewart links back to an ancient clan title in Scotland.

    Topographical surnames are usually derived from landscapes (Ford, Hill, Rivers) or town or place names (London, Austin.) At first, families that held land adopted the surnames derived from place-names. However, as people started moving from one place to another, it became more common for them to choose a surname derived from the name of a certain place.

    Descriptive surnames were most often derived from insulting characteristics, which is why they are less common. People got surnames based on characteristics such as baldness, stupidity, greediness, or even straightforward insults such as the surname Blackinthemouth. Many insulting descriptive surnames have disappeared. Luckily, there are still many surnames derived from positive characteristics, such as Good, Young, White, Angel, Goodman, etc.

    Matronymic surnames are those derived from a female ancestor's name and are very uncommon in many parts of the world. They usually arose due to illegitimate births, or among nobility when the mother enjoyed higher social ranking than her spouse.

    Why are some surnames so much more common than others?

    The culture the progenitor lived in and their social status will greatly influence a surname origin. People of high social status usually took surnames that are fairly uncommon today. Whereas, people of the lower social class took surnames that are very common today. People of lesser social status had much less control over their surnames, especially during feudalism. They were often handed to them by authorities such as lords or big community landowners. This is why you will find many common insulting surnames, such as Purcell – that literally means "little pig" in old English, or Barrett which means "fraud" and describes a deceiving man.

    Some of the most widely-found surnames are job-related because our ancestors widely practiced certain occupations.

    The surname Smith, for example, was shared by 2,442,977 Americans in the 2010 census. The name origins refer to a smith, a person who works with metal. Smith has been used as an occupational surname since the Anglo-Saxon period. Based on a widely-spread occupation, the surname quickly became one of the most common surnames in many English-speaking countries. Many Smiths have been given the surname precisely because of its popularity, even though they had no connection to the occupation.

    Surnames derived from father's names are also common, especially those derived from John, Thomas, or Williams, since those three names were the most common for a long time.

    What can your surname tell you about your history?

    Your surname meaning can help you discover many interesting things about your ancestry, including your last name origins and nationality. However, you can find so much more behind the name.

    In addition to ethnic last name origin, you will discover if your name is habitational, occupational, or descriptive. You may even discover where your surname first appeared.

    If you wonder what your last name means, a simple search can help you discover some or all of the following:


    The name Haiti (or Hayti) comes from the indigenous Taíno language which was the native name [note 2] given to the entire island of Hispaniola to mean, "land of high mountains." [37] The h is silent in French and the ï in Haïti has a diacritical mark used to show that the second vowel is pronounced separately, as in the word naïve. [38] In English, this rule for the pronunciation is often disregarded, thus the spelling Haiti is used. There are different anglicizations for its pronunciation such as HIGH-ti, high-EE-ti and haa-EE-ti, which are still in use, but HAY-ti is the most widespread and best-established. [39] The name was restored by Haitian revolutionary Jean-Jacques Dessalines as the official name of independent Saint-Domingue, as a tribute to the Amerindian predecessors. [40]

    In French, Haiti's nickname is the "Pearl of the Antilles" (La Perle des Antilles) because of both its natural beauty, [41] and the amount of wealth it accumulated for the Kingdom of France during the 18th century the colony was the world's leading producer of sugar and coffee. [42]

    Pre-Columbian history

    The island of Hispaniola, of which Haiti occupies the western three-eighths, [17] [18] has been inhabited since about 5000 BC by groups of Native Americans thought to have arrived from Central or South America. [20] Genetic studies show that some of these groups were related to the Yanomami of the Amazon Basin. [21] [43] Amongst these early settlers were the Ciboney peoples, followed by the Taíno, speakers of an Arawakan language, elements of which have been preserved in Haitian Creole. The Taíno name for the entire island was Haiti, or alternatively Quisqeya. [44]

    In Taíno society the largest unit of political organization was led by a cacique, or chief, as the Europeans understood them. The island of Hipaniola was divided among five 'caciquedoms': the Magua in the north east, the Marien in the north west, the Jaragua in the south west, the Maguana in the central regions of Cibao, and the Higüey in the south east. [45] [46]

    Taíno cultural artifacts include cave paintings in several locations in the country. These have become national symbols of Haiti and tourist attractions. Modern-day Léogâne, started as a French colonial town in the southwest, is beside the former capital of the caciquedom of Xaragua. [47]

    Colonial era

    Spanish rule (1492–1625)

    Navigator Christopher Columbus landed in Haiti on 6 December 1492, in an area that he named Môle-Saint-Nicolas, [48] and claimed the island for the Crown of Castile. Nineteen days later, his ship the Santa María ran aground near the present site of Cap-Haïtien. Columbus left 39 men on the island, who founded the settlement of La Navidad on 25 December 1492. [20] Relations with the native peoples, initially good, broke down and the settlers were later killed by the Taíno. [49]

    The sailors carried endemic Eurasian infectious diseases to which the native peoples lacked immunity, causing them to die in great numbers in epidemics. [50] [51] The first recorded smallpox epidemic in the Americas erupted on Hispaniola in 1507. [52] Their numbers were further reduced by the harshness of the encomienda system, in which the Spanish forced natives to work in gold mines and plantations. [53] [49]

    The Spanish passed the Laws of Burgos, 1512–13, which forbade the maltreatment of natives, endorsed their conversion to Catholicism, [54] and gave legal framework to encomiendas. The natives were brought to these sites to work in specific plantations or industries. [55]

    As the Spanish re-focused their colonization efforts on the greater riches of mainland Central and South America, Hispaniola became reduced largely to a trading and refueling post. As a result piracy became widespread, encouraged by European powers hostile to Spain such as France (based on Île de la Tortue) and England. [49] The Spanish largely abandoned the western third of the island, focusing their colonization effort on the eastern two-thirds. [56] [20] The western part of the island was thus gradually settled by French buccaneers among them was Bertrand d'Ogeron, who succeeded in growing tobacco and recruited many French colonial families from Martinique and Guadeloupe. [57] In 1697 France and Spain settled their hostilities on the island by way of the Treaty of Ryswick of 1697, which divided Hispaniola between them. [58] [20]

    French rule (1625–1804)

    France received the western third and subsequently named it Saint-Domingue, the French equivalent of Santo Domingo, the Spanish colony on Hispaniola. [59] The French set about creating sugar and coffee plantations, worked by vast numbers of slaves imported from Africa, and Saint-Domingue grew to become their richest colonial possession. [58] [20]

    The French settlers were outnumbered by slaves by almost 10 to 1. [58] According to the 1788 Census, Haiti's population consisted of nearly 25,000 Europeans, 22,000 free coloreds and 700,000 African slaves. [60] In contrast, by 1763 the white population of French Canada, a far larger territory, had numbered only 65,000. [61] In the north of the island, slaves were able to retain many ties to African cultures, religion and language these ties were continually being renewed by newly imported Africans. Some West African slaves held on to their traditional Vodou beliefs by secretly syncretizing it with Catholicism. [20]

    The French enacted the Code Noir ("Black Code"), prepared by Jean-Baptiste Colbert and ratified by Louis XIV, which established rules on slave treatment and permissible freedoms. [62] Saint-Domingue has been described as one of the most brutally efficient slave colonies one-third of newly imported Africans died within a few years. [63] Many slaves died from diseases such as smallpox and typhoid fever. [64] They had low birth rates, [65] and there is evidence that some women aborted fetuses rather than give birth to children within the bonds of slavery. [66] The colony's environment also suffered, as forests were cleared to make way for plantations and the land was overworked so as to extract maximum profit for French plantation owners. [20]

    As in its Louisiana colony, the French colonial government allowed some rights to free people of color (gens de couleur), the mixed-race descendants of European male colonists and African female slaves (and later, mixed-race women). [58] Over time, many were released from slavery and they established a separate social class. White French Creole fathers frequently sent their mixed-race sons to France for their education. Some men of color were admitted into the military. More of the free people of color lived in the south of the island, near Port-au-Prince, and many intermarried within their community. [58] They frequently worked as artisans and tradesmen, and began to own some property, including slaves of their own. [20] [58] The free people of color petitioned the colonial government to expand their rights. [58]

    The brutality of slave life led many slaves to escape to mountainous regions, where they set up their own autonomous communities and became known as Maroons. [20] One Maroon leader, François Mackandal, led a rebellion in the 1750s, however he was later captured and executed by the French. [58]

    Haitian Revolution (1791–1804)

    Inspired by the French Revolution of 1789 and principles of the rights of man, the French settlers and free people of color pressed for greater political freedom and more civil rights. [62] Tensions between these two groups led to conflict, as a militia of free-coloreds was set up in 1790 by Vincent Ogé, resulting in his capture, torture and execution. [20] Sensing an opportunity, in August 1791 the first slave armies were established in northern Haiti under the leadership of Toussaint Louverture inspired by the Vodou houngan (priest) Boukman, and backed by the Spanish in Santo Domingo – soon a full-blown slave rebellion had broken out across the entire colony. [20]

    In 1792, the French government sent three commissioners with troops to re-establish control to build an alliance with the gens de couleur and slaves commissioners Léger-Félicité Sonthonax and Étienne Polverel abolished slavery in the colony. [62] Six months later, the National Convention, led by Maximilien de Robespierre and the Jacobins, endorsed abolition and extended it to all the French colonies. [67]

    Political leaders in the United States, which was a new republic itself, reacted with ambivalence, at times providing aid to enable planters to put down the revolt. Later in the revolution, the US provided support to native Haitian military forces, with the goal of reducing French influence in North America and the Caribbean. [68] [69]

    With slavery abolished, Toussaint Louverture pledged allegiance to France, and he fought off the British and Spanish forces who had taken advantage of the situation and invaded Saint-Domingue. [70] [71] The Spanish were later forced to cede their part of the island to France under the terms of the Peace of Basel in 1795, uniting the island under one government. However an insurgency against French rule broke out in the east, and in the west there was fighting between Louverture's forces and the free people of color led by André Rigaud in the War of the Knives (1799–1800). [72] [73] Many surviving free people of color left the island as refugees. [ citation needed ]

    After Louverture created a separatist constitution and proclaimed himself governor-general for life, Napoléon Bonaparte in 1802 sent an expedition of 20,000 soldiers and as many sailors [74] under the command of his brother-in-law, Charles Leclerc, to reassert French control. The French achieved some victories, but within a few months most of their army had died from yellow fever. [75] Ultimately more than 50,000 French troops died in an attempt to retake the colony, including 18 generals. [76] The French managed to capture Louverture, transporting him to France for trial. He was imprisoned at Fort de Joux, where he died in 1803 of exposure and possibly tuberculosis. [63] [77]

    The slaves, along with free gens de couleur and allies, continued their fight for independence, led by generals Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Alexandre Pétion and Henry Christophe. [77] The rebels finally managed to decisively defeat the French troops at the Battle of Vertières on 18 November 1803, establishing the first nation ever to successfully gain independence through a slave revolt. [78] Under the overall command of Dessalines, the Haitian armies avoided open battle, and instead conducted a successful guerrilla campaign against the Napoleonic forces, working with diseases such as yellow fever to reduce the numbers of French soldiers. [79] Later that year France withdrew its remaining 7,000 troops from the island and Napoleon gave up his idea of re-establishing a North American empire, selling Louisiana (New France) to the United States, in the Louisiana Purchase. [77] It has been estimated that between 24,000 and 100,000 Europeans, and between 100,000 and 350,000 Haitian ex-slaves, died in the revolution. [80] In the process, Dessalines became arguably the most successful military commander in the struggle against Napoleonic France. [81]

    Independent Haiti

    First Empire (1804–1806)

    The independence of Saint-Domingue was proclaimed under the native name 'Haiti' by Dessalines on 1 January 1804 in Gonaïves [82] [83] and he was proclaimed "Emperor for Life" as Emperor Jacques I by his troops. [84] Dessalines at first offered protection to the white planters and others. [85] However, once in power, he ordered the massacre of nearly all white men, women, children between January and April 1804, 3,000 to 5,000 whites were killed, including those who had been friendly and sympathetic to the black population. [86] Only three categories of white people were selected out as exceptions and spared: Polish soldiers, the majority of whom had deserted from the French army and fought alongside the Haitian rebels the small group of German colonists invited to the north-west region and a group of medical doctors and professionals. [87] Reportedly, people with connections to officers in the Haitian army were also spared, as well as the women who agreed to marry non-white men. [88]

    Fearful of the potential impact the slave rebellion could have in the slave states, U.S. President Thomas Jefferson refused to recognize the new republic. The Southern politicians who were a powerful voting bloc in the American Congress prevented U.S. recognition for decades until they withdrew in 1861 to form the Confederacy. [89]

    The revolution led to a wave of emigration. [90] In 1809, 9,000 refugees from Saint-Domingue, both white planters and people of color, settled en masse in New Orleans, doubling the city's population, having been expelled from their initial refuge in Cuba by Spanish authorities. [91] In addition, the newly arrived slaves added to the city's African population. [92]

    The plantation system was reestablished in Haiti, albeit for wages, however many Haitians were marginalized and resented the heavy-handed manner in which this was enforced in the new nation's politics. [77] The rebel movement splintered, and Dessalines was assassinated by rivals on 17 October 1806. [93] [77]

    State of Haiti, Kingdom of Haiti and the Republic (1806–1820)

    After Dessalines' death Haiti became split into two, with the Kingdom of Haiti in the north directed by Henri Christophe, later declaring himself Henri I, and a republic in the south centred on Port-au-Prince, directed by Alexandre Pétion, an homme de couleur. [95] [96] [97] [98] [77] Christophe established a semi-feudal corvée system, with a rigid education and economic code. [99] Pétion's republic was less absolutist, and he initiated a series of land reforms which benefited the peasant class. [77] President Pétion also gave military and financial assistance to the revolutionary leader Simón Bolívar, which were critical in enabling him to liberate the Viceroyalty of New Granada. [100] Meanwhile, the French, who had managed to maintain a precarious control of eastern Hispaniola, were defeated by insurgents led by Juan Sánchez Ramírez, with the area returning to Spanish rule in 1809 following the Battle of Palo Hincado. [101]

    Unification of Hispaniola (1821–1844)

    Beginning in 1821, President Jean-Pierre Boyer, also an homme de couleur and successor to Pétion, reunified the island following the suicide of Henry Christophe. [20] [102] After Santo Domingo declared its independence from Spain on 30 November 1821, Boyer invaded, seeking to unite the entire island by force and ending slavery in Santo Domingo. [103]

    Struggling to revive the agricultural economy to produce commodity crops, Boyer passed the Code Rural, which denied peasant laborers the right to leave the land, enter the towns, or start farms or shops of their own, causing much resentment as most peasants wished to have their own farms rather than work on plantations. [104] [105]

    The American Colonization Society (ACS) encouraged free blacks in the United States to emigrate to Haiti. Starting in September 1824, more than 6,000 African Americans migrated to Haiti, with transportation paid by the ACS. [106] Many found the conditions too harsh and returned to the United States.

    In July 1825, King Charles X of France, during a period of restoration of the French monarchy, sent a fleet to reconquer Haiti. Under pressure, President Boyer agreed to a treaty by which France formally recognized the independence of the nation in exchange for a payment of 150 million francs. [20] By an order of 17 April 1826, the King of France renounced his rights of sovereignty and formally recognized the independence of Haiti. [107] [108] [109] The enforced payments to France hampered Haiti's economic growth for years, exacerbated by the fact that many Western nations continued to refuse formal diplomatic recognition to Haiti Britain recognized Haitian independence in 1833, and the United States not until 1862. [20] Haiti borrowed heavily from Western banks at extremely high interest rates to repay the debt. Although the amount of the reparations was reduced to 90 million in 1838, by 1900 80% of the country's gross domestic product was being spent on debt repayment [110] [111] and the country did not finish repaying it until 1947. [ citation needed ]

    Loss of the Spanish portion of the island

    After losing the support of Haiti's elite, Boyer was ousted in 1843, with Charles Rivière-Hérard replacing him as president. [20] Nationalist Dominican forces in eastern Hispaniola led by Juan Pablo Duarte seized control of Santo Domingo on 27 February 1844. [20] The Haitian forces, unprepared for a significant uprising, capitulated to the rebels, effectively ending Haitian rule of eastern Hispaniola. In March Rivière-Hérard attempted to reimpose his authority, but the Dominicans put up stiff opposition and inflicted heavy losses. [112] Rivière-Hérard was removed from office by the mulatto hierarchy and replaced with the aged general Philippe Guerrier, who assumed the presidency on 3 May 1844.

    Guerrier died in April 1845, and was succeeded by General Jean-Louis Pierrot. [113] Pierrot's most pressing duty as the new president was to check the incursions of the Dominicans, who were harassing the Haitian troops. [113] Dominican gunboats were also making depredations on Haiti's coasts. [113] President Pierrot decided to open a campaign against the Dominicans, whom he considered merely as insurgents, however the Haitian offensive of 1845 was stopped on the frontier. [112]

    On 1 January 1846 Pierrot announced a fresh campaign to reimpose Haitian suzerainty over eastern Hispaniola, but his officers and men greeted this fresh summons with contempt. [112] Thus, a month later – February 1846 – when Pierrot ordered his troops to march against the Dominicans, the Haitian army mutinied, and its soldiers proclaimed his overthrow as president of the republic. [112] With the war against the Dominicans having become very unpopular in Haiti, it was beyond the power of the new president, General Jean-Baptiste Riché, to stage another invasion. [112]

    Second Empire (1849–1859)

    On 27 February 1847, President Riché died after only a year in power and was replaced by an obscure officer, General Faustin Soulouque. [20] During the first two years of Soulouque's administration the conspiracies and opposition he faced in retaining power were so manifold that the Dominicans were given a further breathing space in which to consolidate their independence. [112] But, when in 1848 France finally recognized the Dominican Republic as a free and independent state and provisionally signed a treaty of peace, friendship, commerce and navigation, Haiti immediately protested, claiming the treaty was an attack upon their own security. [112] Soulouque decided to invade the new Republic before the French Government could ratify the treaty. [112]

    On 21 March 1849, Haitian soldiers attacked the Dominican garrison at Las Matas. The demoralized defenders offered almost no resistance before abandoning their weapons. Soulouque pressed on, capturing San Juan. This left only the town of Azua as the remaining Dominican stronghold between the Haitian army and the capital. On 6 April, Azua fell to the 18,000-strong Haitian army, with a 5,000-man Dominican counterattack failing to oust them. [70] The way to Santo Domingo was now clear. But the news of discontent existing at Port-au-Prince, which reached Soulouque, arrested his further progress and caused him to return with the army to his capital. [114]

    Emboldened by the sudden retreat of the Haitian army, the Dominicans counter-attacked. Their flotilla went as far as Dame-Marie, which they plundered and set on fire. [114] Soulouque, now self-proclaimed as Emperor Faustin I, decided to start a new campaign against them. In 1855, he again invaded the territory of the Dominican Republic. But owing to insufficient preparation, the army was soon in want of victuals and ammunition. [114] In spite of the bravery of the soldiers, the Emperor had once more to give up the idea of a unified island under Haitian control. [114] After this campaign, Britain and France intervened and obtained an armistice on behalf of the Dominicans, who declared independence as the Dominican Republic. [114]

    The sufferings endured by the soldiers during the campaign of 1855, and the losses and sacrifices inflicted on the country without yielding any compensation or any practical results provoked great discontent. [114] In 1858 a revolution began, led by General Fabre Geffrard, Duke of Tabara. In December of that year, Geffrard defeated the Imperial Army and seized control of most of the country. [20] As a result, the Emperor abdicated his throne on 15 January 1859. Refused aid by the French Legation, Faustin was taken into exile aboard a British warship on 22 January 1859, and General Geffrard succeeded him as President.

    Late 19th century–early 20th century

    The period following Soulouque's overthrow down to the turn of the century was a turbulent one for Haiti, with repeated bouts of political instability. President Geffrard was overthrown in a coup in 1867, [115] as was his successor, Sylvain Salnave, in 1869. [116] Under the Presidency of Michel Domingue (1874–76) relations with the Dominican Republic were dramatically improved by the signing of a treaty, in which both parties acknowledged the independence of the other, bringing an end to Haitian dreams of bringing the entirety of Hispaniola under their control. Some modernisation of the economy and infrastructure also occurred in this period, especially under the Presidencies of Lysius Salomon (1879–88) and Florvil Hyppolite (1889–96). [117]

    Haiti's relations with outside powers were often strained. In 1889 the United States attempted to force Haiti to permit the building of a naval base at Môle Saint-Nicolas, which was firmly resisted by President Hyppolite. [118] In 1892 the German government supported suppression of the reform movement of Anténor Firmin, and in 1897, the Germans used gunboat diplomacy to intimidate and then humiliate the Haitian government of President Tirésias Simon Sam (1896–1902) during the Lüders Affair. [119]

    In the first decades of the 20th century, Haiti experienced great political instability and was heavily in debt to France, Germany and the United States. A series of short lived presidencies came and went: President Pierre Nord Alexis was forced from power in 1908, [120] [121] as was his successor François C. Antoine Simon in 1911 [122] President Cincinnatus Leconte (1911–12) was killed in a (possibly deliberate) explosion at the National Palace [123] Michel Oreste (1913–14) was ousted in a coup, as was his successor Oreste Zamor in 1914. [124]

    United States occupation (1915–1934)

    Germany increased its influence in Haiti in this period, with a small community of German settlers wielding disproportionate influence in Haiti's economy. [125] [126] The German influence prompted anxieties in the United States, who had also invested heavily in the country, and whose government defended their right to oppose foreign interference in the Americas under the Monroe Doctrine. [20] [126] In December 1914, the Americans removed $500,000 from the Haitian National Bank, but rather than seize it to help pay the debt, it was removed for safe-keeping in New York, thus giving the United States control of the bank and preventing other powers from doing so. This gave a stable financial base on which to build the economy, and so enable the debt to be repaid. [127]

    In 1915, Haiti's new President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam sought to strengthen his tenuous rule by a mass execution of 167 political prisoners. Outrage at the killings led to riots, and Sam was captured and killed by a lynch mob. [126] [128] Fearing possible foreign intervention, or the emergence of a new government led by the anti-American Haitian politician Rosalvo Bobo, President Woodrow Wilson sent U.S. Marines into Haiti in July 1915. The USS Washington, under Rear Admiral Caperton, arrived in Port-au-Prince in an attempt to restore order and protect U.S. interests. Within days, the Marines had taken control of the capital city and its banks and customs house. The Marines declared martial law and severely censored the press. Within weeks, a new pro-U.S. Haitian president, Philippe Sudré Dartiguenave, was installed and a new constitution written that was favorable to the interests of the United States. The constitution (written by future US President Franklin D. Roosevelt) included a clause that allowed, for the first time, foreign ownership of land in Haiti, which was bitterly opposed by the Haitian legislature and citizenry. [126] [129]

    The occupation improved some of Haiti's infrastructure and centralized power in Port-au-Prince. [126] 1700 km of roads were made usable, 189 bridges were built, many irrigation canals were rehabilitated, hospitals, schools, and public buildings were constructed, and drinking water was brought to the main cities. [ citation needed ] Port-au-Prince became the first Caribbean city to have a phone service with automatic dialling. [ citation needed ] Agricultural education was organized, with a central school of agriculture and 69 farms in the country. [130] However, many infrastructure projects were built using the corvée system that allowed the government/occupying forces to take people from their homes and farms, at gunpoint if necessary, to build roads, bridges etc. by force, a process that was deeply resented by ordinary Haitians. [131] [126] Sisal was also introduced to Haiti, and sugarcane and cotton became significant exports, boosting prosperity. [132] Haitian traditionalists, based in rural areas, were highly resistant to U.S.-backed changes, while the urban elites, typically mixed-race, welcomed the growing economy, but wanted more political control. [20] Together they helped secure an end to the occupation in 1934, under the Presidency of Sténio Vincent (1930–41). [20] [133] The debts were still outstanding, though less due to increased prosperity, and the U.S. financial advisor-general receiver handled the budget until 1941. [134] [20]

    The U.S. Marines were instilled with a special brand of paternalism towards Haitians "expressed in the metaphor of a father's relationship with his children." [135] Armed opposition to the US presence was led by the cacos under the command of Charlemagne Péralte his capture and execution in 1919 earned him the status of a national martyr. [136] [20] [126] During Senate hearings in 1921, the commandant of the Marine Corps reported that, in the 20 months of active unrest, 2,250 Haitians had been killed. However, in a report to the Secretary of the Navy, he reported the death toll as being 3,250. [137] Haitian historians have claimed the true number was much higher. One went so far as to say, "the total number of battle victims and casualties of repression and consequences of the war might have reached, by the end of the pacification period, four or five times that – somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 persons." This is not supported by most historians outside Haiti. [138]

    Recognition of the distinctive traditionalism of the Haitian people had an influence on American writers, including Eugene O'Neill, James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston and Orson Welles. [139]

    Post-occupation era (1934–1957)

    After US forces left in 1934, Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo used anti-Haitian sentiment as a nationalist tool. In an event that became known as the Parsley Massacre, he ordered his army to kill Haitians living on the Dominican side of the border. [140] [141] Few bullets were used – instead, 20,000–30,000 Haitians were bludgeoned and bayoneted, then herded into the sea, where sharks finished what Trujillo had begun. [142] Congressman Hamilton Fish, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the Parsley Massacre "the most outrageous atrocity that has ever been perpetrated on the American continent." [143]

    President Vincent became increasingly dictatorial, and resigned under US pressure in 1941, being replaced by Élie Lescot (1941–46). [144] In 1941, during the Second World War, Lescot declared war on Japan (8 December), Germany (12 December), Italy (12 December), Bulgaria (24 December), Hungary (24 December) and Romania (24 December). [145] Out of these six Axis countries, only Romania reciprocated, declaring war on Haiti on the same day (24 December 1941). [146] On 27 September 1945, [147] Haiti became a founding member of the United Nations (the successor to the League of Nations, of which Haiti was also a founding member). [148] [149]

    In 1946 Lescot was overthrown by the military, with Dumarsais Estimé later becoming the new president (1946–50). [20] He sought to improve the economy and education, and to boost the role of black Haitians, however as he sought to consolidate his rule he too was overthrown in a coup led by Paul Magloire, who replaced him as president (1950–56). [20] [150] Firmly anti-Communist, he was supported by the United States with greater political stability tourists started to visit Haiti. [151] The waterfront area of Port-au-Prince was redeveloped to allow cruise ship passengers to walk from the docks to cultural attractions. Celebrities such as Truman Capote and Noël Coward visited Haiti the era is captured in Graham Greene's 1966 novel The Comedians. [152]

    Duvalier dynasty (1957–1986)

    In 1956–57 Haiti underwent severe political turmoil Magloire was forced to resign and leave the country in 1956 and he was followed by four short-lived presidencies. [20] In the September 1957 election Dr. François Duvalier was elected President of Haiti. Known as 'Papa Doc' and initially popular, Duvalier remained President until his death in 1971. [153] He advanced black interests in the public sector, where over time, people of color had predominated as the educated urban elite. [20] [154] Not trusting the army, despite his frequent purges of officers deemed disloyal, Duvalier created a private militia known as Tontons Macoutes ("Bogeymen"), which maintained order by terrorizing the populace and political opponents. [153] [155] In 1964 Duvalier proclaimed himself 'President for Life' an uprising against his rule that year in Jérémie was violently suppressed, with the ringleaders publicly executed and hundreds of mixed-raced citizens in the town killed. [153] The bulk of the educated and professional class began leaving the country, and corruption became widespread. [20] [153] Duvalier sought to create a personality cult, identifying himself with Baron Samedi, one of the loa (or lwa), or spirits, of Haitian Vodou. Despite the well-publicized abuses under his rule, Duvalier's firm anti-Communism earned him the support of the Americans, who furnished the country with aid. [153] [156]

    In 1971 Duvalier died, and he was succeeded by his son Jean-Claude Duvalier, nicknamed 'Baby Doc', who ruled until 1986. [157] [153] He largely continued his father's policies, though curbed some of the worst excesses in order to court international respectability. [20] Tourism, which had nosedived in Papa Doc's time, again became a growing industry. [152] However as the economy continued to decline Baby Doc's grip on power began to weaken. Haiti's pig population was slaughtered following an outbreak of swine fever in the late 1970s, causing hardship to rural communities who used them as an investment. [20] [158] The opposition became more vocal, bolstered by a visit to the country by Pope John Paul II in 1983, who publicly lambasted the president. [159] Demonstrations occurred in Gonaïves in 1985 which then spread across the country under pressure from the United States, Duvalier left the country for France in February 1986.

    In total, roughly 40,000 to 60,000 Haitians are estimated to have been killed during the reign of the Duvaliers. [160] Through the use of his intimidation tactics and executions, many intellectual Haitians had fled, leaving the country with a massive brain-drain that it has yet to recover from. [161]

    Post-Duvalier era (1986–2004)

    Following Duvalier's departure, army leader General Henri Namphy headed a new National Governing Council. [20] Elections scheduled for November 1987 were aborted after dozens of inhabitants were shot in the capital by soldiers and Tontons Macoutes. [162] [20] Fraudulent elections followed in 1988, in which only 4% of the citizenry voted. [163] [20] The newly elected President, Leslie Manigat, was then overthrown some months later in the June 1988 Haitian coup d'état. [20] [164] Another coup followed in September 1988, after the St. Jean Bosco massacre in which 13–50 people (estimates vary) attending a mass led by prominent government critic and Catholic priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide were killed. [164] [165] General Prosper Avril subsequently led a military regime until March 1990. [20] [166] [167]

    In December 1990 Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected President in the Haitian general election. However his ambitious reformist agenda worried the elites, and in September of the following year he was overthrown by the military, led by Raoul Cédras, in the 1991 Haitian coup d'état. [20] [168] Amidst the continuing turmoil many Haitians attempted to flee the country. [153] [20]

    In September 1994, the United States negotiated the departure of Haiti's military leaders and the peaceful entry of 20,000 US troops under Operation Uphold Democracy. [153] This enabled the restoration of the democratically elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide as president, who returned to Haiti in October to complete his term. [169] [170] As part of the deal Aristide had to implement free market reforms in an attempt to improve the Haitian economy, with mixed results, some sources stating that these reforms had a negative impact on native Haitian industry. [171] [20] In November 1994, Hurricane Gordon brushed Haiti, dumping heavy rain and creating flash flooding that triggered mudslides. Gordon killed an estimated 1,122 people, although some estimates go as high as 2,200. [172] [173]

    Elections were held in 1995 which were won by René Préval, gaining 88% of the popular vote, albeit on a low turnout. [174] [175] [20] Aristide subsequently formed his own party, Fanmi Lavalas, and political deadlock ensued the November 2000 election returned Aristide to the presidency with 92% of the vote. [176] The election had been boycotted by the opposition, then organized into the Convergence Démocratique, over a dispute in the May legislative elections. In subsequent years, there was increasing violence between rival political factions and human rights abuses. [177] [178] Aristide spent years negotiating with the Convergence Démocratique on new elections, but the Convergence's inability to develop a sufficient electoral base made elections unattractive. [ citation needed ]

    In 2004 an anti-Aristide revolt began in northern Haiti. The rebellion eventually reached the capital, and Aristide was forced into exile. [177] [20] The precise nature of the events are disputed some, including Aristide and his bodyguard, Franz Gabriel, stated that he was the victim of a "new coup d'état or modern kidnapping" by U.S. forces. [177] Mrs. Aristide stated that the kidnappers wore U.S. Special Forces uniforms, but changed into civilian clothes upon boarding the aircraft that was used to remove Aristide from Haiti. [179] [180] These charges were denied by the US government. [181] [177] As political violence and crime continued to grow, a United Nations Stabilisation Mission (MINUSTAH) was brought in to maintain order. [182] However MINUSTAH proved controversial, as their at times heavy-handed approach to maintaining law and order and several instances of abuses, including the alleged sexual abuse of civilians, provoked resentment and distrust amongst ordinary Haitians. [183] [184] [20] Boniface Alexandre assumed interim authority until 2006, when René Préval was re-elected President following elections. [182] [20] [185]

    Post-Aristide era (2004–present)

    Amidst the continuing political chaos, a series of natural disasters hit Haiti. In 2004 Tropical Storm Jeanne skimmed the north coast, leaving 3,006 people dead in flooding and mudslides, mostly in the city of Gonaïves. [186] In 2008 Haiti was again struck by tropical storms Tropical Storm Fay, Hurricane Gustav, Hurricane Hanna and Hurricane Ike all produced heavy winds and rain, resulting in 331 deaths and about 800,000 in need of humanitarian aid. [187] The state of affairs produced by these storms was intensified by already high food and fuel prices that had caused a food crisis and political unrest in April 2008. [188] [189] [20]

    On 12 January 2010, at 4:53pm local time, Haiti was struck by a magnitude-7.0 earthquake. This was the country's most severe earthquake in over 200 years. [190] The earthquake was reported to have left between 220,000 and 300,000 people dead and up to 1.6 million homeless. [191] [192] The situation was exacerbated by a subsequent massive cholera outbreak that was triggered when cholera-infected waste from a United Nations peacekeeping station contaminated the country's main river, the Artibonite. [182] [193] [194] In 2017, it was reported that roughly 10,000 Haitians had died and nearly a million had been made ill. After years of denial the United Nations apologized in 2016, but as of 2017 [update] , they have refused to acknowledge fault, thus avoiding financial responsibility. [195]

    General elections had been planned for January 2010 but were postponed due to the earthquake. [20] Elections were held on 28 November 2010 for the senate, the parliament and the first round of the presidential elections. The run-off between Michel Martelly and Mirlande Manigat took place on 20 March 2011, and preliminary results, released on 4 April, named Michel Martelly the winner. [196] [197] In 2011 both former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier and Jean-Bertrand Aristide returned to Haiti attempts to try Duvalier for crimes committed under his rule were shelved following his death in 2014. [198] [199] [200] [196] In 2013, Haiti called for European nations to pay reparations for slavery and establish an official commission for the settlement of past wrongdoings. [201] [202] Meanwhile, after continuing political wrangling with the opposition and allegations of electoral fraud, Martelly agreed to step down in 2016 without having a successor in place. [196] [203] An interim president, Jocelerme Privert, then took office. [20] After numerous postponements, partly owing to the effects of another devastating hurricane, elections were eventually held in November 2016. [204] [205] The victor, Jovenel Moïse of the Haitian Tèt Kale Party, was subsequently sworn in as president in 2017. [206] [207] The 2018–2021 Haitian protests are demonstrations in cities throughout Haiti that began on 7 July 2018, in response to increased fuel prices. Over time these protests evolved into demands for the resignation of president Moïse. [208]

    Haiti forms the western three-eighths of Hispaniola, the second largest island in the Greater Antilles. At 27,750 sq km Haiti is the third largest country in the Caribbean behind Cuba and the Dominican Republic, the latter sharing a 360-kilometre (224 mi) border with Haiti. The country has a roughly horseshoe shape and because of this it has a disproportionately long coastline, second in length (1,771 km or 1,100 mi) behind Cuba in the Greater Antilles. [209] [210]

    Haiti is the most mountainous nation in the Caribbean, its terrain consists of mountains interspersed with small coastal plains and river valleys. [19] The climate is tropical, with some variation depending on altitude. The highest point is Pic la Selle, at 2,680 metres (8,793 ft). [22] [19] [20]

    The northern region consists of the Massif du Nord (Northern Massif) and the Plaine du Nord (Northern Plain). The Massif du Nord is an extension of the Cordillera Central in the Dominican Republic. [20] It begins at Haiti's eastern border, north of the Guayamouc River, and extends to the northwest through the northern peninsula. The lowlands of the Plaine du Nord lie along the northern border with the Dominican Republic, between the Massif du Nord and the North Atlantic Ocean.

    The central region consists of two plains and two sets of mountain ranges. The Plateau Central (Central Plateau) extends along both sides of the Guayamouc River, south of the Massif du Nord. It runs from the southeast to the northwest. To the southwest of the Plateau Central are the Montagnes Noires, whose most northwestern part merges with the Massif du Nord. Haiti's most important valley in terms of crops is the Plaine de l'Artibonite, which lies between the Montagnes Noires and the Chaîne des Matheux. [20] This region supports the country's (also Hispaniola's) longest river, the Riviere l'Artibonite, which begins in the western region of the Dominican Republic and continues for most of its length through central Haiti, where it then empties into the Golfe de la Gonâve. [20] Also in this valley lies Haiti's second largest lake, Lac de Péligre, formed as a result of the construction of the Péligre Dam in the mid-1950s. [211]

    The southern region consists of the Plaine du Cul-de-Sac (the southeast) and the mountainous southern peninsula (also known as the Tiburon Peninsula). The Plaine du Cul-de-Sac is a natural depression that harbors the country's saline lakes, such as Trou Caïman and Haiti's largest lake, Étang Saumatre. The Chaîne de la Selle mountain range – an extension of the southern mountain chain of the Dominican Republic (the Sierra de Baoruco) – extends from the Massif de la Selle in the east to the Massif de la Hotte in the west. [20]

    Haiti also includes several offshore islands. The island of Tortuga (Île de la Tortue) is located off the coast of northern Haiti. The arrondissement of La Gonâve is located on the island of the same name, in the Golfe de la Gonâve Haiti's largest island, Gonâve is moderately populated by rural villagers. Île à Vache (Cow Island) is located off the southwest coast also part of Haiti are the Cayemites, located in the Gulf of Gonâve north of Pestel. La Navasse (Navassa Island), located 40 nautical miles (46 mi 74 km) west of Jérémie on the south west peninsula of Haiti, [212] is subject to an ongoing territorial dispute with the United States, who currently administer the island via the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. [213]


    Haiti's climate is tropical with some variation depending on altitude. [19] Port-au-Prince ranges in January from an average minimum of 23 °C (73.4 °F) to an average maximum of 31 °C (87.8 °F) in July, from 25–35 °C (77–95 °F). The rainfall pattern is varied, with rain heavier in some of the lowlands and the northern and eastern slopes of the mountains. Haiti's dry season occurs from November to January.

    Port-au-Prince receives an average annual rainfall of 1,370 mm (53.9 in). There are two rainy seasons, April–June and October–November. Haiti is subject to periodic droughts and floods, made more severe by deforestation. Hurricanes are a menace, and the country is also prone to drought, flooding and earthquakes. [19]


    There are blind thrust faults associated with the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault system over which Haiti lies. [214] After the earthquake of 2010, there was no evidence of surface rupture and geologists' findings were based on seismological, geological and ground deformation data. [215]

    The northern boundary of the fault is where the Caribbean tectonic plate shifts eastwards by about 20 mm (0.79 inches) per year in relation to the North American plate. The strike-slip fault system in the region has two branches in Haiti, the Septentrional-Oriente fault in the north and the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault in the south.

    A 2007 earthquake hazard study, noted that the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault zone could be at the end of its seismic cycle and concluded that a worst-case forecast would involve a 7.2 Mw earthquake, similar in size to the 1692 Jamaica earthquake. [216] A study team presented a hazard assessment of the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault system to the 18th Caribbean Geologic Conference in March 2008, noting the large strain. The team recommended "high priority" historical geologic rupture studies, as the fault was fully locked and had recorded few earthquakes in the preceding 40 years. [217] An article published in Haiti's Le Matin newspaper in September 2008 cited comments by geologist Patrick Charles to the effect that there was a high risk of major seismic activity in Port-au-Prince [218] and duly the magnitude 7.0 2010 Haiti earthquake happened on this fault zone on 12 January 2010.

    Haiti also has rare elements such as gold, which can be found at The Mont Organisé gold mine. [219]


    The soil erosion released from the upper catchments and deforestation have caused periodic and severe flooding in Haiti, as experienced, for example, on 17 September 2004. Earlier in May that year, floods had killed over 3,000 people on Haiti's southern border with the Dominican Republic. [220]

    Haiti's forests covered 60% of the country as recently as 50 years ago, but that has been halved to a current estimate of 30% tree cover, according to more recent environmental analysis. This estimate poses a stark difference from the erroneous figure of 2% which has been oft-cited in discourse concerning the country's environmental condition. [221] Haiti had a 2019 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 4.01/10, ranking it 137th globally out of 172 countries. [222]

    Scientists at the Columbia University's Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) and the United Nations Environment Programme are working on the Haiti Regenerative Initiative an initiative aiming to reduce poverty and natural disaster vulnerability in Haiti through ecosystem restoration and sustainable resource management. [223]


    Despite its small size, Haiti's mountainous terrain and resultant multiple climactic zones has resulted in a wide variety of plant life. [225] Notable tree species include the breadfruit tree, mango tree, acacia, mahogany, coconut palm, royal palm and West Indian cedar. [225] The forests were formerly much more extensive, but have been subject to severe deforestation. [20]

    Most mammal species are not native, having been brought to the island since colonial times. [225] However there are various native bat species, as well as the endemic Hispaniolan hutia and Hispaniolan solenodon. [225] Various whale and dolphin species can also be found off Haiti's coast.

    There are over 260 species of bird, 31 of these being endemic to Hispaniola. [226] Notable endemic species include the Hispaniolan trogon, Hispaniolan parakeet, grey-crowned tanager and the Hispaniolan Amazon. [226] There are also several raptor species, as well as pelicans, ibis, hummingbirds and ducks.

    The government of Haiti is a semi-presidential republic, a multiparty system wherein the president of Haiti is head of state elected directly by popular elections held every five years. [20] [228] The prime minister of Haiti acts as head of government and is appointed by the president, chosen from the majority party in the National Assembly. [20] Executive power is exercised by the president and prime minister who together constitute the government.

    Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of the National Assembly of Haiti, the Senate (Sénat) and the Chamber of Deputies (Chambre des Députés). [20] [19] The government is organized unitarily, thus the central government delegates powers to the departments without a constitutional need for consent. The current structure of Haiti's political system was set forth in the Constitution of Haiti on 29 March 1987. [19]

    Haitian politics have been contentious: since independence, Haiti has suffered 32 coups. [229] Haiti is the only country in the Western Hemisphere to undergo a successful slave revolution however, a long history of oppression by dictators such as François Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude Duvalier has markedly affected the nation. Since the end of the Duvalier era Haiti has been transitioning to a democratic system. [20]

    Administrative divisions

    Administratively, Haiti is divided into ten departments. [19] The departments are listed below, with the departmental capital cities in parentheses.

    The departments are further divided into 42 arrondissements, 145 communes and 571 communal sections. These serve as, respectively, second- and third-level administrative divisions. [230] [231] [232]

    Foreign relations

    In February 2012, Haiti signaled it would seek to upgrade its observer status to full associate member status of the African Union (AU). [233] The AU was reported to be planning to upgrade Haiti's status from observer to associate at its June 2013 summit [234] but the application had still not been ratified by May 2016. [235]


    Haiti's Ministry of Defense is the main body of the armed forces. [236] The former Haitian Armed Forces were demobilized in 1995, however efforts to reconstitute it are currently underway. [237] The current defense force for Haiti is the Haitian National Police, which has a highly trained SWAT team, and works alongside the Haitian Coast Guard. In 2010, the Haitian National Police force numbered 7,000. [238]

    Law enforcement and crime

    The legal system is based on a modified version of the Napoleonic Code. [239] [20]

    Haiti has consistently ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world on the Corruption Perceptions Index. [240] According to a 2006 report by the Corruption Perceptions Index, there is a strong correlation between corruption and poverty in Haiti. The nation ranked first of all countries surveyed for of levels of perceived domestic corruption. [241] It is estimated that President "Baby Doc" Duvalier, his wife Michelle, and their agents stole US $504 million from the country's treasury between 1971 and 1986. [242] Similarly, after the Haitian Army folded in 1995, the Haitian National Police (HNP) gained sole power of authority on the Haitian citizens. Many Haitians as well as observers of the Haitian society believe that this monopolized power could have given way to a corrupt police force. [243]

    Similarly, some media outlets alleged that millions were stolen by former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. [244] [245] [246] [247] In March 2004, at the time of Aristide's kidnapping, a BBC article wrote that the Bush administration State Department stated that Aristide had been involved in drug trafficking. [248] The BBC also described pyramid schemes, in which Haitians lost hundreds of millions in 2002, as the "only real economic initiative" of the Aristide years. [249]

    In 2010, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) sent a team of veteran officers to Haiti to assist in the rebuilding of its police force with special training in investigative techniques, strategies to improve the anti-kidnapping personnel and community outreach to build stronger relationships with the public especially among the youth. It has also helped the HNP set up a police unit in the center of Delmas, a neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. [254] [255] [256]

    In 2012 and 2013, 150 HNP officers received specialized training funded by the US government, which also contributed to the infrastructure and communications support by upgrading radio capacity and constructing new police stations from the most violent-prone neighborhoods of Cité Soleil and Grande Ravine in Port-au-Prince to the new northern industrial park at Caracol. [256]

    Haitian penitentiary system

    Port-au-Prince penitentiary is home to half of Haiti's prisoners. The prison has a capacity of 1,200 detainees but as of November 2017 [update] the penitentiary was obliged to keep 4,359 detainees, a 454% occupancy level. [257] This leads to severe consequences for the inmates.

    One cell could hold up to 60 inmates which was originally designed for only 18, therefore creating tight and uncomfortable living conditions. The inmates are forced to create makeshift hammocks from the wall and ceilings. The men are on a 22/ 23 hour lock up in the cells so the risk of diseases is very high. [257] Unable to receive sufficient funds from the government as Haiti endures severe natural disasters which takes up their attention and resources, such as the 2010 earthquake, has caused deadly cases of malnutrition, combined with the tight living conditions, increases the risk of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis which has led to 21 deaths in January 2017 alone at the Port-au-Prince penitentiary. [257]

    Haitian law states that once arrested, one must go before a judge within 48 hours however, this is very rare. In an interview with Unreported World, the prison governor stated that around 529 detainees were never sentenced, there are 3,830 detainees who are in prolonged detained trial detention. Therefore, 80% are not convicted. [258]

    Unless families are able to provide the necessary funds for inmates to appear before a judge there is a very slim chance the inmate would have a trial, on average, within 10 years. Brian Concannon, the director of the non-profit Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, claims that without a substantial bribe to persuade judges, prosecutors and lawyers to undergo their case, there is no prospect for getting a trial for years. [259]

    Families may send food to the penitentiary however, most inmates depend on the meals served twice a day. However, the majority of the meals consists of ration supplies of rice, oats or cornmeal, which has led to deadly cases of malnutrition-related ailments such as beriberi and anaemia. Prisoners too weak are crammed in the penitentiary infirmary. [260]

    In confined living spaces for 22–23 hours a day, inmates are not provided with latrines and are forced to defecate into plastic bags and leave them outside their cells. These conditions were considered inhumane by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2008. [260]

    Haiti has a predominantly free market economy, with a GDP of $19.97 billion and per capita GDP of $1,800 (2017 estimates). [19] The country uses the Haitian gourde as its currency. Despite its tourism industry, Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Americas, with corruption, political instability, poor infrastructure, lack of health care and lack of education cited as the main causes. [19] Unemployment is high and many Haitians seek to emigrate. Trade declined dramatically after the 2010 earthquake and subsequent outbreak of cholera, with the country's purchasing power parity GDP falling by 8% (from US$12.15 billion to US$11.18 billion). [4] Haiti ranked 145 of 182 countries in the 2010 United Nations Human Development Index, with 57.3% of the population being deprived in at least three of the HDI's poverty measures. [261]

    Following the disputed 2000 election and accusations about President Aristide's rule, [262] US aid to the Haitian government was cut off between 2001 and 2004. [263] After Aristide's departure in 2004, aid was restored and the Brazilian army led a United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti peacekeeping operation. After almost four years of recession, the economy grew by 1.5% in 2005. [264] In September 2009, Haiti met the conditions set out by the IMF and World Bank's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries program to qualify for cancellation of its external debt. [265]

    More than 90 percent of the government's budget comes from an agreement with Petrocaribe, a Venezuela-led oil alliance. [266]

    Foreign aid

    Haiti received more than US$4 billion in aid from 1990 to 2003, including US$1.5 billion from the United States. [267] The largest donor is the US, followed by Canada and the European Union. [268] In January 2010, following the earthquake, US President Barack Obama promised US$1.15 billion in assistance. [269] European Union nations pledged more than €400 million (US$616 million). [270] Neighboring Dominican Republic has also provided extensive humanitarian aid to Haiti, including the funding and construction of a public university, [271] human capital, free healthcare services in the border region, and logistical support after the 2010 earthquake. [272]

    According to the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti, as of March 2012 [update] , of humanitarian funding committed or disbursed by bilateral and multilateral donors in 2010 and 2011, only 1% has been pledged to the Haitian government. [273]

    The United Nations states that in total US$13.34 billion has been earmarked for post-earthquake reconstruction through 2020, though two years after the 2010 quake, less than half of that amount had actually been released, according to UN documents. As of 2015 [update] , the US government has allocated US$4 billion, US$3 billion has already been spent, and the rest is dedicated to longer-term projects. [274]

    Former US President Bill Clinton's foundation contributed US$250,000 to a recycling initiative for a sister-program of "Ranmase Lajan" or "Picking Up Money" by use of reverse vending machines. [275]


    According to the 2015 CIA World Factbook, Haiti's main import partners are: Dominican Republic 35%, US 26.8%, Netherlands Antilles 8.7%, China 7% (est. 2013). Haiti's main export partner is the US 83.5% (est. 2013). [276] Haiti had a trade deficit of US$3 billion in 2011, or 41% of GDP. [277]


    In 1925, the city of Jacmel was the first area in the Caribbean to have electricity and was subsequently dubbed the City of Light. [278]

    Today, Haiti relies heavily on an oil alliance with Petrocaribe for much of its energy requirements. In recent years, hydroelectric, solar and wind energy have been explored as possible sustainable energy sources. [279]

    As of 2017, among all the countries in the Americas, Haiti is producing the least amount of energy. Less than a quarter of the country has electric coverage. [280] Most regions of Haiti that do have energy are powered by generators. These generators are often expensive and produce a lot of pollution. The areas that do get electricity experience power cuts on a daily basis, and some areas are limited to 12 hours of electricity a day. Electricity is provided by a small number of independent companies: Sogener, E-power, and Haytrac. [281] There is no national electricity grid within the country. [282] The most common source of energy used is wood, along with charcoal. In Haiti, about 4 million metric tons of wood products are consumed yearly. [283] Like charcoal and wood, petroleum is also an important source of energy for Haiti. Since Haiti cannot produce its own fuel, all fuel is imported. Yearly, around 691,000 tons of oil is imported into the country. [282]

    On 31 October 2018, Evenson Calixte, the General Director of energy regulation (ANARSE) announced the 24 hour electricity project. To meet this objective, 236 MW needs to installed in Port-au-Prince alone, with an additional 75 MW needed in all other regions in the country. Presently only 27.5% of the population has access to electricity moreover, the national energy agency l'Électricité d'Haïti (Ed'H) is only able to meet 62% of overall electricity demand said Fritz Caillot, the Minister of Public Works, Transportation and Communication (Travaux publics, transport et communication (TPTC)). [284]

    Personal income

    The World Factbook reports a shortage of skilled labor, widespread unemployment and underemployment, saying "more than two-thirds of the labor force do not have formal jobs." It is also often stated that three-quarters of the population lives on US$2 or less per day. [285]

    The CIA World Factbook also states that "remittances are the primary source of foreign exchange, equaling one-fifth (20%) of GDP and representing more than five times the earnings from exports in 2012". [286] The World Bank estimates that over 80% of college graduates from Haiti were living abroad in 2004. [287]

    Occasionally, families who are unable to care for children financially may send them to live with a wealthier family as a restavek, or house servant. In return the family are supposed to ensure that the child is educated and provided with food and shelter, however the system is open to abuse and has proved controversial, with some likening it to child slavery. [288] [289]

    Real estate

    In rural areas, people often live in wooden huts with corrugated iron roofs. Outhouses are located in back of the huts. In Port-au-Prince, colorful shantytowns surround the central city and go up the mountainsides. [290]

    The middle and upper classes live in suburbs, or in the central part of the bigger cities in apartments, where there is urban planning. Many of the houses they live in are like miniature fortresses, located behind walls embedded with metal spikes, barbed wire, broken glass, and sometimes all three. The gates to these houses are barred at night, the house is locked guard dogs patrol the yard. These houses are often self-sufficient as well. The houses have backup generators, because the electrical grid in Haiti is unreliable. Some even have rooftop reservoirs for water, as the water supply is also unreliable. [290]


    Haiti is the world's leading producer of vetiver, a root plant used to make luxury perfumes, essential oils and fragrances, providing for half the world's supply. [291] [292] [293] Roughly 40–50% of Haitians work in the agricultural sector. [19] [294] Haiti relies upon imports for half its food needs and 80% of its rice. [294]

    Haiti exports crops such as mangoes, cacao, coffee, papayas, mahogany nuts, spinach, and watercress. [295] Agricultural products comprise 6% of all exports. [277] In addition, local agricultural products include maize, beans, cassava, sweet potato, peanuts, pistachios, bananas, millet, pigeon peas, sugarcane, rice, sorghum, and wood. [295] [296]


    The Haitian gourde (HTG) is the national currency. The "Haitian dollar" equates to 5 gourdes (goud), which is a fixed exchange rate that exists in concept only, but are commonly used as informal prices. [ citation needed ] The vast majority of the business sector and individuals in Haiti will also accept US dollars, though at the outdoor markets gourdes may be preferred. Locals may refer to the USD as "dollar américain" (dola ameriken) or "dollar US" (pronounced oo-es). [297]


    The tourism market in Haiti is undeveloped and the government is heavily promoting this sector. Haiti has many of the features that attract tourists to other Caribbean destinations, such as white sand beaches, mountainous scenery and a year-round warm climate, however the country's poor image overseas, at times exaggerated, has hampered the development of this sector. [20] In 2014, the country received 1,250,000 tourists (mostly from cruise ships), and the industry generated US$200 million in 2014. [ citation needed ]

    Several hotels were opened in 2014, including an upscale Best Western Premier, [298] [299] a five-star Royal Oasis hotel by Occidental Hotel and Resorts in Pétion-Ville, [300] [301] [302] a four-star Marriott Hotel in the Turgeau area of Port-au-Prince [303] and other new hotel developments in Port-au-Prince, Les Cayes, Cap-Haïtien and Jacmel. [ citation needed ]

    The Haitian Carnival has been one of the most popular carnivals in the Caribbean. In 2010, the government decided to stage the event in a different city outside Port-au-Prince every year in an attempt to decentralize the country. [304] [305] The National Carnival – usually held in one of the country's largest cities (i.e., Port-au-Prince, Cap-Haïtien or Les Cayes) – follows the also very popular Jacmel Carnival, which takes place a week earlier in February or March. [304]

    Caracol Industrial Park

    On 21 October 2012, Haitian President Michel Martelly, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Richard Branson, Ben Stiller and Sean Penn inaugurated the 240-hectare (600-acre) Caracol industrial park, the largest in the Caribbean. [306] Costing US$300 million, the project, which includes a 10-megawatt power plant, a water-treatment plant and worker housing, is intended to transform the northern part of the country by creating 65,000 jobs. [306]

    The park is part of a "master plan" for Haiti's North and North-East departments, including the expansion of the Cap-Haïtien International Airport to accommodate large international flights, the construction of an international seaport in Fort-Liberté and the opening of the $50 million Roi Henri Christophe Campus of a new university in Limonade (near Cap-Haïtien) on 12 January 2012. [307]

    South Korean clothing manufacturer Sae-A Trading Co. Ltd, one of the park's main tenants, has created 5,000 permanent jobs out of the 20,000 projected and has built 8,600 houses in the surrounding area for its workers. The industrial park ultimately has the potential to create as many as 65,000 jobs once fully developed. [308] [309]


    Haiti has two main highways that run from one end of the country to the other. The northern highway, Route Nationale No. 1 (National Highway One), originates in Port-au-Prince, winding through the coastal towns of Montrouis and Gonaïves, before reaching its terminus at the northern port Cap-Haïtien. The southern highway, Route Nationale No. 2, links Port-au-Prince with Les Cayes via Léogâne and Petit-Goâve. The state of Haiti's roads are generally poor, many being potholed and becoming impassable in rough weather. [20]

    According to the Washington Post, "Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Saturday [23 January 2010] that they assessed the damage from the [12 January] quake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and found that many of the roads aren't any worse than they were before because they've always been in poor condition." [310]

    The port at Port-au-Prince, Port international de Port-au-Prince, has more registered shipping than any of the other dozen ports in the country. The port's facilities include cranes, large berths, and warehouses, but these facilities are not in good condition. The port is underused, possibly due to the substantially high port fees. The port of Saint-Marc is currently the preferred port of entry for consumer goods coming into Haiti. Reasons for this may include its location away from volatile and congested Port-au-Prince, as well as its central location relative to numerous Haitian cities.

    In the past, Haiti used rail transport, however the rail infrastructure was poorly maintained when in use and cost of rehabilitation is beyond the means of the Haitian economy. In 2018 the Regional Development Council of the Dominican Republic proposed a "trans-Hispaniola" railway between both countries. [311]


    Toussaint Louverture International Airport, located ten kilometres (six miles) north-northeast of Port-au-Prince proper in the commune of Tabarre, is the primary transportation hub regarding entry and exit into the country. It has Haiti's main jetway, and along with Cap-Haïtien International Airport located near the northern city of Cap-Haïtien, handles the vast majority of the country's international flights. Cities such as Jacmel, Jérémie, Les Cayes, and Port-de-Paix have smaller, less accessible airports that are serviced by regional airlines and private aircraft. Such companies include: Caribintair (defunct), Sunrise Airways and Tortug' Air (defunct).

    In 2013, plans for the development of an international airport on Île-à-Vache were introduced by the Prime Minister. [312]

    Bus service

    Tap tap buses are colorfully painted buses or pick-up trucks that serve as share taxis. The "tap tap" name comes from the sound of passengers tapping on the metal bus body to indicate they want off. [313] These vehicles for hire are often privately owned and extensively decorated. They follow fixed routes, do not leave until filled with passengers, and riders can usually disembark at any point. The decorations are a typically Haitian form of art. [314]

    In August 2013, the first coach bus prototype was made in Haiti. [315]


    In Haiti, communications include the radio, television, fixed and mobile telephones, and the Internet. Haiti ranked last among North American countries in the World Economic Forum's Network Readiness Index (NRI) – an indicator for determining the development level of a country's information and communication technologies. Haiti ranked number 143 out of 148 overall in the 2014 NRI ranking, down from 141 in 2013. [316]

    Water supply and sanitation

    Haiti faces key challenges in the water supply and sanitation sector: Notably, access to public services is very low, their quality is inadequate and public institutions remain very weak despite foreign aid and the government's declared intent to strengthen the sector's institutions. Foreign and Haitian NGOs play an important role in the sector, especially in rural and urban slum areas.

    Haiti's population is about 10,788,000 (July 2018 est.) [19] with half of the population younger than age 20. [317] In 1950, the first formal census gave a total population of 3.1 million. [318] Haiti averages approximately 350 people per square kilometer (

    900 per sq mi.), with its population concentrated most heavily in urban areas, coastal plains, and valleys.

    Most Haitians are descendants of former black African slaves, including Mulattoes who are mixed-race. [19] The remainder are of European or Arab descent, the descendants of settlers (colonial remnants and contemporary immigration during World War I and World War II). [319] [320] Haitians of East Asian descent or East Indian origin number approximately more than 400. [ citation needed ]

    Millions of Haitians live abroad in the United States, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Canada (primarily Montreal), Bahamas, France, French Antilles, the Turks and Caicos, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Brazil, Suriname and French Guiana. There are an estimated 881,500 Haitians in the United States, [321] 800,000 in the Dominican Republic, [322] 300,000 in Cuba, [323] 100,000 in Canada, [324] 80,000 in France, [325] and up to 80,000 in the Bahamas. [326] There are also smaller Haitian communities in many other countries, including Chile, Switzerland, Japan and Australia.

    In 2018, the life expectancy at birth was 63.66 years. [327]

    Population genetics

    Autosomal DNA

    The gene pool of Haiti is about 95.5% Sub-Saharan African, 4.3% European, with the rest showing some traces of East Asian genes [328] according to a 2010 autosomal genealogical DNA testing.

    Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA

    A 2012 genetic study on Haitian and Jamaican Y-chromosomal ancestry has revealed that both populations "exhibit a predominantly Sub-Saharan paternal component, with haplogroups A1b-V152, A3-M32, B2-M182, E1a-M33, E1b1a-M2, E2b-M98, and R1b2-V88" comprising (77.2%) of the Haitian and (66.7%) of Jamaican paternal gene pools. [329] Y-chromosomes indicative of European ancestry "(i.e., haplogroups G2a*-P15, I-M258, R1b1b-M269, and T-M184) were detected at commensurate levels in Haiti (20.3%) and Jamaica (18.9%)". [329] While Y-haplogroups indicative of Chinese O-M175 (3.8%) and Indian H-M69 (0.6%) and L-M20 (0.6%) ancestry were found at significant levels in Jamaica, [329] Levantine Y-haplogroups were found in Haiti.

    Duffy antigens

    According to a 2008 study examining the frequency of the Duffy antigen receptor for Chemokines (DARC) Single Nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), (75%) of Haitian women sampled exhibited the CC genotype (absent among women of European ancestry) at levels comparable to US African-Americans (73%), but more than Jamaican females (63%). [330] [331]

    Racial discrimination

    Under colonial rule, Haitian mulattoes were generally privileged above the black majority, though they possessed fewer rights than the white population. Following the country's independence, they became the nation's social elite. Numerous leaders throughout Haiti's history have been mulattoes. During this time, the slaves and the affranchis were given limited opportunities toward education, income, and occupations, but even after gaining independence, the social structure remains a legacy today as the disparity between the upper and lower classes have not been reformed significantly since the colonial days. [332] Comprising 5% of the nation's population, mulattoes have retained their preeminence, evident in the political, economic, social and cultural hierarchy in Haiti. [333] As a result, the elite class today consists of a small group of influential people who are generally light in color and continue to establish themselves in high, prestigious positions. [334]


    Religion in Haiti according to the Pew Research Center (2010) [335]

    The 2017 CIA Factbook reported that around 54.7% of Haitians profess to being Catholics while Protestants made up about 28.5% of the population (Baptist 15.4%, Pentecostal 7.9%, Seventh-day Adventist 3%, Methodist 1.5%, other 0.7%). Other sources put the Protestant population higher than this, suggesting that it might have formed one-third of the population in 2001. [336] Like other countries in Latin America, Haiti has witnessed a general Protestant expansion, which is largely Evangelical and Pentecostal in nature. [337] [338] [339]

    Haitian Cardinal Chibly Langlois is president of the National Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church.

    Vodou, a religion with West African roots similar to those of Cuba and Brazil, originated during colonial times in which slaves were obliged to disguise their loa (lwa), or spirits, as Roman Catholic saints, an element of a process called syncretism and is still practiced by some Haitians today. Due to the religious syncretism between Catholicism and Vodou, it is difficult to estimate the number of Vodouists in Haiti. [340] [341] The religion has historically been persecuted and misrepresented in popular media, however in 2003 the Government recognized the faith as an official religion of the nation. [19]

    Many Protestant and Catholics in Haiti denounce Vodou as devil worship, but do not deny the power of such spirits. Instead, they regard them as adversaries who are “evil” and “satanic”, which are often encouraged to pray against. Likewise, Protestants view Catholic veneration of Saints as idol worship, as zealots would often destroy statues and other Catholic paraphernalia. [342]

    Minority religions in Haiti include Islam, Bahá'í Faith, Judaism, and Buddhism. [4]


    The two official languages of Haiti are French and Haitian Creole. French is the principal written and administratively authorized language (as well as the main language of the press) and is spoken by 42% of Haitians. [343] [344] It is spoken by all educated Haitians, is the medium of instruction in most schools, and is used in the business sector. It is also used in ceremonial events such as weddings, graduations and church Masses. Haiti is one of two independent nations in the Americas (along with Canada) to designate French as an official language the other French-speaking areas are all overseas départements, or collectivités, of France, such as French Guiana.

    Haitian Creole, [345] which has recently undergone a standardization, is spoken by virtually the entire population of Haiti. [346] Haitian Creole is one of the French-based creole languages. Its vocabulary is 90% derived from French, but its grammar resembles that of some West African languages. It also has influences from Taino, Spanish, and Portuguese. [347] Haitian Creole is related to the other French creoles, but most closely to the Antillean Creole and Louisiana Creole variants.


    There is a large Haitian diaspora community, predominantly based in the US and Canada, France, and the wealthier Caribbean islands.

    Emigrants from Haiti have constituted a segment of American and Canadian society since before the independence of Haiti from France in 1804. [348] [349] Many influential early American settlers and black freemen, including Jean Baptiste Point du Sable and W. E. B. Du Bois, were of Haitian origin. [350] [351] [352] [353]

    Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, an immigrant from Saint-Domingue (now the Republic of Haiti), founded the first nonindigenous settlement in what is now Chicago, Illinois, the third largest city in the United States. The state of Illinois and city of Chicago declared du Sable the founder of Chicago on 26 October 1968. [350] [351] [352]

    Largest cities

    Haiti has a rich and unique cultural identity, consisting of a blend of traditional French and African customs, mixed with sizeable contributions from the Spanish and indigenous Taíno cultures. [354] Haiti's culture is greatly reflected in its paintings, music, and literature. Galleries and museums in the United States and France have exhibited the works of the better-known artists to have come out of Haiti. [355]

    Haitian art is distinctive, particularly through its paintings and sculptures. [354] [356] [357] Brilliant colors, naïve perspectives, and sly humor characterize Haitian art. Frequent subjects in Haitian art include big, delectable foods, lush landscapes, market activities, jungle animals, rituals, dances, and gods. As a result of a deep history and strong African ties, symbols take on great meaning within Haitian society. For example, a rooster often represents Aristide and the red and blue colors of the Haitian flag often represent his Lavalas party. [ citation needed ] Many artists cluster in 'schools' of painting, such as the Cap-Haïtien school, which features depictions of daily life in the city, the Jacmel School, which reflects the steep mountains and bays of that coastal town, or the Saint-Soleil School, which is characterised by abstracted human forms and is heavily influenced by Vodou symbolism. [ citation needed ]

    In the 1920s the indigéniste movement gained international acclaim, with its expressionist paintings inspired by Haiti's culture and African roots. Notable painters of this movement include Hector Hyppolite, Philomé Oban and Préfète Duffaut. [358] Some notable artists of more recent times include Edouard Duval-Carrié, Frantz Zéphirin, Leroy Exil, Prosper Pierre Louis and Louisiane Saint Fleurant. [358] Sculpture is also practised in Haiti noted artists in this form include George Liautaud and Serge Jolimeau. [359]

    Music and dance

    Haitian music combines a wide range of influences drawn from the many people who have settled here. It reflects French, African and Spanish elements and others who have inhabited the island of Hispaniola, and minor native Taino influences. Styles of music unique to the nation of Haiti include music derived from Vodou ceremonial traditions, Rara parading music, Twoubadou ballads, mini-jazz rock bands, Rasin movement, Hip hop kreyòl, méringue, [360] and compas. Youth attend parties at nightclubs called discos, (pronounced "deece-ko"), and attend Bal. This term is the French word for ball, as in a formal dance.

    Compas (konpa) (also known as compas direct in French, or konpa dirèk in creole) [361] is a complex, ever-changing music that arose from African rhythms and European ballroom dancing, mixed with Haiti's bourgeois culture. It is a refined music, with méringue as its basic rhythm. Haiti had no recorded music until 1937 when Jazz Guignard was recorded non-commercially. [362]


    Haiti has always been a literary nation that has produced poetry, novels, and plays of international recognition. The French colonial experience established the French language as the venue of culture and prestige, and since then it has dominated the literary circles and the literary production. However, since the 18th century there has been a sustained effort to write in Haitian Creole. The recognition of Creole as an official language has led to an expansion of novels, poems, and plays in Creole. [363] In 1975, Franketienne was the first to break with the French tradition in fiction with the publication of Dezafi, the first novel written entirely in Haitian Creole the work offers a poetic picture of Haitian life. [364] Other well known Haitian authors include Jean Price-Mars, Jacques Roumain, Marie Vieux-Chauvet, Pierre Clitandre, René Depestre, Edwidge Danticat, Lyonel Trouillot and Dany Laferrière.


    Haiti has a small though growing cinema industry. Well-known directors working primarily in documentary film-making include Raoul Peck and Arnold Antonin. Directors producing fictional films include Patricia Benoît, Wilkenson Bruna and Richard Senecal.


    Haiti is famous for its creole cuisine (which related to Cajun cuisine), and its soup joumou. [365]


    Monuments include the Sans-Souci Palace and the Citadelle Laferrière, inscribed as a World Heritage site in 1982. [366] Situated in the Northern Massif du Nord, in one of Haiti's National Parks, the structures date from the early 19th century. [367] The buildings were among the first built after Haiti's independence from France. The Citadelle Laferrière, is the largest fortress in the Americas, is located in northern Haiti. It was built between 1805 and 1820 and is today referred to by some Haitians as the eighth wonder of the world. [94]

    The Institute for the Protection of National Heritage has preserved 33 historical monuments and the historic center of Cap-Haïtien. [368]

    Jacmel, a colonial city that was tentatively accepted as a World Heritage site, was extensively damaged by the 2010 Haiti earthquake. [367]


    The anchor of Christopher Columbus's largest ship, the Santa María now rests in the Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien (MUPANAH), in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. [369]

    Folklore and mythology

    Haiti is known for its folklore traditions. [370] Much of this is rooted in Haitian Vodou tradition. Belief in zombies is also common. [371] Other folkloric creatures include the lougarou. [371]

    National holidays and festivals

    The most festive time of the year in Haiti is during Carnival (referred to as Kanaval in Haitian Creole or Mardi Gras) in February. [ citation needed ] There is music, parade floats, and dancing and singing in the streets. Carnival week is traditionally a time of all-night parties.

    Rara is a festival celebrated before Easter. The festival has generated a style of Carnival music. [372] [373]


    Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Haiti with hundreds of small football clubs competing at the local level. Basketball is growing in popularity. [374] Stade Sylvio Cator is the multi-purpose stadium in Port-au-Prince, where it is currently used mostly for association football matches that fits a capacity of 10,000 people. In 1974, the Haiti national football team were only the second Caribbean team to make the World Cup (after Cuba's entry in 1938). They lost in the opening qualifying stages against three of the pre-tournament favorites Italy, Poland, and Argentina. The national team won the 2007 Caribbean Nations Cup. [375]

    Haiti has participated in the Olympic Games since the year 1900 and won a number of medals. Haitian footballer Joe Gaetjens played for the United States national team in the 1950 FIFA World Cup, scoring the winning goal in the 1–0 upset of England. [376]

      – in command of more than 500 volunteers from Saint-Domingue fought alongside American colonial troops against the British in the Siege of Savannah, one of the most significant foreign contributions to the American Revolutionary War in 1779 [377] – one of Haiti's most remarkable beauty queens Miss Universe 2017 first runner-up and Reina Hispanoamericana 2016 third runner-up – arguably Haiti's greatest author candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2009 – television actress (NYPD Blue, The Jamie Foxx Show) – might have been born in St Marc, Saint-Domingue in 1745 established a fur trading post at present-day Chicago, Illinois considered one of the city's founders – pirate who operated around New Orleans and Galveston on the Gulf Coast of the United States born in Port-au-Prince around 1782 [378] – ornithologist and painter born in 1785 in Les Cayes, Saint-Domingue his parents returned to France, where he was educated emigrated to the United States as a young man and made a career as he painted, catalogued and described the birds of North America – Danish poet and filmmaker [379] – American Oscar Award-winning actor, who currently serves as Ambassador-at-large for Haiti the first non-Haitian citizen to hold such a position [380] – current Secretary-General of La Francophonie and 27th Governor General of Canada born in Port-au-Prince in 1957 and lived in Haiti until 1968 – Grammy Award-winning hip-hop recording artist – formerly enslaved Ethiopian woman, whose statue is in Bordeaux

    The educational system of Haiti is based on the French system. Higher education, under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education, [381] is provided by universities and other public and private institutions. [382]

    More than 80% of primary schools are privately managed by nongovernmental organizations, churches, communities, and for-profit operators, with minimal government oversight. [383] According to the 2013 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Report, Haiti has steadily boosted net enrollment rate in primary education from 47% in 1993 to 88% in 2011, achieving equal participation of boys and girls in education. [384] Charity organizations, including Food for the Poor and Haitian Health Foundation, are building schools for children and providing necessary school supplies. According to CIA 2015 World Factbook, Haiti's literacy rate is now 60.7% (est. 2015).

    The January 2010 earthquake, was a major setback for education reform in Haiti as it diverted limited resources to survival. [385]

    Many reformers have advocated the creation of a free, public and universal education system for all primary school-age students in Haiti. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates that the government will need at least US$3 billion to create an adequately funded system. [386]

    Upon successful graduation of secondary school, students may continue into higher education. The higher education schools in Haiti include the University of Haiti. There are also medical schools and law schools offered at both the University of Haiti and abroad. Presently, Brown University is cooperating with L'Hôpital Saint-Damien in Haiti to coordinate a pediatric health care curriculum. [387]

    In the past, children's vaccination rates have been low – as of 2012 [update] , 60% of the children in Haiti under the age of 10 were vaccinated, [388] [389] compared to rates of childhood vaccination in other countries in the 93–95% range. [390] Recently there have been mass vaccination campaigns claiming to vaccinate as many as 91% of a target population against specific diseases (measles and rubella in this case). [391] Most people have no transportation or access to Haitian hospitals. [392]

    The World Health Organization cites diarrheal diseases, HIV/AIDS, meningitis, and respiratory infections as common causes of death in Haiti. [393] Ninety percent of Haiti's children suffer from waterborne diseases and intestinal parasites. [394] HIV infection is found in 1.71% of Haiti's population (est. 2015). [395] The incidence of tuberculosis (TB) in Haiti is more than ten times as high as in the rest of Latin America. [396] Approximately 30,000 Haitians fall ill with malaria each year. [397]

    Most people living in Haiti are at high risk for major infectious diseases. Food or water-borne diseases include bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, typhoid fever and hepatitis A and E common vector-borne diseases are dengue fever and malaria water-contact diseases include leptospirosis. Roughly 75% of Haitian households lack running water. Unsafe water, along with inadequate housing and unsanitary living conditions, contributes to the high incidence of infectious diseases. There is a chronic shortage of health care personnel and hospitals lack resources, a situation that became readily apparent after the January 2010 earthquake. [398] The infant mortality rate in Haiti in 2019 was 48.2 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 5.6 per 1,000 in the United States. [399]

    After the 2010 earthquake, Partners In Health founded the Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais, the largest solar-powered hospital in the world. [400] [401]

    What is the etymology of Haiti's name? - History

    Researching surname origins, and the effort required to trace back even the most common surname, is quite a daunting task. Yet many genealogists have the expectation that the research has already been completed, while others believe there must be a simple formula. As complicated as it is to locate the true origin of a surname, knowing what country you should be tracing for your family surnames is an essential element of research.

    Quick History of Surnames

    For thousands of years first (or given) names were the only designations people needed, as the world was much less crowded and every one knew their neighbors. Over time, it became increasingly difficult to distinguish individuals who lived relatively close to each other and possessed the same name.

    While there are several different versions of when surnames were first given, it is generally agreed by most that the birth of the surname can be attributed to the Normans [the race, not the family]. In fact, the Domesday Book of 1086 (referred to in America as the Doomsday Book) was commissioned for the purpose of designating property ownership, thereby formalizing taxation, and is a fascinating study of early 11th century life and family heritage.

    Shortly thereafter, surnames established themselves as part of the bearer's individuality and as they were passed down from generation to generation, they became the symbol of a whole family and all that it stood for. As surnames were added to baptismal (or given) names, they began to make ones' identity more specific and helped distinguish family relationships.

    Basic Construction of Surnames

    Most surnames can be traced back to one of five groups: (1) formed from the given name of the sire (common in English-speaking countries) (2) arising from physical characteristics or dispositions (3) derived from locality or place of residence (4) derived from occupation (crafts and trades common during medieval times) or (5) invented for their pleasing sound, as a nickname, or simply out of necessity.

    Over time, some countries developed specific rules, publishing "Naming Systems" for use in developing surnames. These systems, for example, promoted the use of suffixes like I, II, or III, which when used, the eldest son's name could be the same as that of the father. The Normans also introduced the Sr. and Jr. suffixes to distinguish father and son.

    Regionally there are commonalties among the way heritable surnames were derived. The English terminated names with "son", "ing", and "kin", which are comparable to names prefixed with the Gaelic "Mac", the Norman "Fitz", the Irish "0", and the Welsh "ap". There are also German, Netherlands, Scandinavian, and other European surnames of similar formation, such as the Scandinavian names ending in "sen". In the Slavic countries, the "sky" and "ski" played the same role.

    The Italians used a variety of prefixes for their naming practices. The prefix "di" (meaning "of") was often attached to an otherwise ordinary Christian name to form a patronym "da" and "di" (meaning "from") often associated a place of origin and "la" and "lo" (meaning "the") often derived from nicknames.

    While these are examples of a structured approach to naming descendants, all too often other circumstances existed and our ancestors opted for (or were forced into) an alternate approach.

    More Exceptions than Rules

    It is important to keep an open mind when trying to determine a surname's origin for genealogical purposes. Specific individuals may have not known (or cared) about naming customs of their times. Or, in a variety of instances, they may have voluntarily (or not) accepted a change in their surname imposed by another party.

    Surnames that seem to defy classification or explanation may be merely a corruption of ancient forms that have become disguised often beyond recognition. This may have resulted from ignorance of spelling, variations in pronunciation, or merely from personal preference. Some families even came to America without a fixed surname and emigrants from continental Europe frequently translated or otherwise modified their names upon arrival.

    If an eldest son assumed the given name of his father for a surname, as was the tradition in certain cultures, he would be designated as such in legal records. On his father's death, however, the son might revert back to his father's surname for the purpose of inheritance. It is possible to have multiple documents with the same name, but actually be different individuals.

    Similarly, the terms "Senior" and "Junior" following a name did not necessarily imply a father and son relationship. It could have been an uncle and nephew who had the same name and lived near each other a grandfather and a grandchild living together or even two unrelated individuals with the same name but of different ages who lived near each other. In these cases, the suffix merely meant the older and the younger respectively.

    Final Thoughts

    Fascination with surname origins is common among genealogists. Conversely, how to make the best use of that information is quite subjective. As with anything you discover while researching your roots, use the origin of your surname as a source of clues for where to look and what to be looking for. If your surname is based on a location, find out more about that place an occupation, learn what those skills entailed (during the respective time period) an ancestor, see if you can trace the pattern, or physical attributes, look at old photos and see if anyone fits the description.

    Country Pages

    Browse through our collection of books and web site links pertaining to the origins of surnames from various countries. Additional countries will be added in the future.

    Our Name in History Book Series

    Our Name in History is a series of unique paperback books of fascinating facts, statistics and commentary, each following a specific family name as far back in history as possible. More details.

    There are 1,000 census records available for the last name Haiti. Like a window into their day-to-day life, Haiti census records can tell you where and how your ancestors worked, their level of education, veteran status, and more.

    There are 24 immigration records available for the last name Haiti. Passenger lists are your ticket to knowing when your ancestors arrived in the UK, and how they made the journey - from the ship name to ports of arrival and departure.

    There are 14 military records available for the last name Haiti. For the veterans among your Haiti ancestors, military collections provide insights into where and when they served, and even physical descriptions.

    There are 1,000 census records available for the last name Haiti. Like a window into their day-to-day life, Haiti census records can tell you where and how your ancestors worked, their level of education, veteran status, and more.

    There are 24 immigration records available for the last name Haiti. Passenger lists are your ticket to knowing when your ancestors arrived in the UK, and how they made the journey - from the ship name to ports of arrival and departure.

    There are 14 military records available for the last name Haiti. For the veterans among your Haiti ancestors, military collections provide insights into where and when they served, and even physical descriptions.

    What is the etymology of Haiti's name? - History

    Welcome to Surname Finder, online since 1998, providing easy access to free and commercial resources for 1,731,359 surnames. On each surname specific "finder" page, you can search a variety of online databases all pre-programmed with your surname.

    Browse Our Surname Search Pages


    You'll find a helpful table of contents at the top of the Surname Finder pages to quickly access the section you're most interested in. We also revised/replaced several non-working, obsolete links.

    We have added a DNA Studies section to the surname checklists, and cataloged over 400 surname study web sites and blogs.

    There is now a Family Photos section on the surname checklists, providing pre-programmed links to some great collections.

    The Surname Finder pages are now setup to function as "checklists." They print out nicely, and can be used to check off the items as you visit them.

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    One size does not fit all when it comes to doing genealogical research online. Searching for "Smith" is quite a different matter than searching for "Smithberger." What works well for one surname will not necessarily work well for another, yet I continue to witness frustrated genealogists attempting to use the same search strategy for their surnames of interest. It is no wonder that they often end up with far too much information to sift through, or perhaps none at all.

    A surname, or family name, can be defined as a legal identification tag which is transmitted by family members from generation to generation. The use of a surname is a comparatively recent phenomenon. Surnames were adopted in order to legally distinguish two individuals with the same given name. By surname, we mean a fixed name by which that particular individual is known.

    Some same-surname marriages are the result of relatives marrying each other. These relatives may be relatives by birth or marriage. It is not unheard of in some areas, during some time periods, for first or second cousins to marry. Individuals who are this closely related are more likely to share a surname than those who are more distantly related.

    One of my greatest challenges in my early genealogy research was locating a great-great-grandfather in the 1850 census records of Caswell County, NC. You see, I knew my great-grandmother's name was Caroline Alice Whitfield. This was evident from her marriage license and other documents. I searched, census page by census page, for other Whitfields in the 1840 and 1860 censuses, but could find no evidence of her father. It finally dawned on me that there may have been a spelling variation on the surname.

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    Why Should We Care About Word Histories?

    If a word's etymology is not the same as its definition, why should we care at all about word histories? Well, for one thing, understanding how words have developed can teach us a great deal about our cultural history. In addition, studying the histories of familiar words can help us deduce the meanings of unfamiliar words, thereby enriching our vocabularies. Finally, word stories are often both entertaining and thought provoking. In short, as any youngster can tell you, words are fun.