Hati makes up half of the island of Hispaniola, which has been inhabited for about 7000 years, first by native Americans who arrived from Central and South America, and later by people who arrived from Europe and Africa. In 1492, the Italian navigator Christopher Columbus landed in Haiti, bringing with him infectious diseases that the native peoples were vulnerable to. Native Hatians who did not die from smallpox were enslaved by the Spanish. French buccaneers settled in Haiti during the 1600s, and a treaty with Spain gave France the western third of Hispaniola. Under French rule, hundreds of thousands of people were brought from Africa to Haiti as slaves. These slaves labored on sugar and coffee plantations, growing and harvesting crops that were then exported to Europe. Slaves suffered harsh treatment. Many newly-arrived slaves would die within their first few years on the island, either from disease or from being overworked. Some slaves escaped to the mountains, and others led a series of revolts—culminating in the Haitian revolution. Led by Toussaint Louverture, Haitian slaves rose up to outlaw slavery and oust their oppressors, but it would be decades before Haiti was fully independent from France and Spain. A range of different governments have followed, and Haiti is currently a Unitary semi-presidential republic.
The current national flag of Haiti was adopted on February 26, 1986. The flag consists of equally-sized blue and red horizontal bands, with the Haitian coat of arms in the center. The royal palm symbolizes independence, rising above a trophy of weapons.
Haiti is the third largest country in the Caribbean sharing the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic to the east. Haiti is uniquely mountainous, with tall highlands interspersed with river valleys and coastal plains. Haiti also includes several smaller offshore islands.
World Land Mass Ranking: 147th
Highest Mountain: Pic la Selle, 2,680 m (8,793 ft)
Longest River: Artibonite, 321 km (199 mi)
French, Haitian Creole
Haiti Population: 11.3 million (as of 2022)
Capital City: Port-au-Prince
Capital City Population: 2.6 million (as of 2015)
Haiti has a warm and tropical climate, but temperatures can get cooler at high elevations in the mountains. Haiti experiences both droughts and flooding, with harsh rainy and dry seasons.
Haitian food is part of the rich history of creole cuisine. Creole dishes combine influences and ingredients from Europe, Africa, and pre-Columbian America, which means that Haitian food encompasses a wide range of flavors. Lots of herbs and peppers give Haitian food its signature savory spice. Rice, beans, and a variety of meats make up many Haitian dishes. Haitian patties, made from meat surrounded by a flaky crust, are also popular. A special soup, soup joumou, is made every year to commemorate Haitian liberation.
Football is the most popular sport in Haiti, with hundreds of local football clubs competing with each other throughout the country. Basketball has become increasingly popular as well, and multiple Haitians have gone on to play in the American National Basketball Association. Haitians have also made a strong showing at the olympics, winning medals in a range of different sports.
The culture of Haiti has been shaped by its past, as French, Spanish, West African, and native Taíno cultures have collided and combined to form a rich melting pot of tradition. Kanaval is celebrated in February—with singing, dancing, music, parades, and all-night festivities. Music and dancing are a big part of Haitian culture, and young people enjoy spending time at nightclubs and discos. A range of different religious and folklore traditions have also shaped Haitian culture, and some Haitians still practice Vodou—often alongside their Christian faith. Haiti is full of history.
10 facts about Haiti
1. Haiti was the first American country to abolish slavery.
2. Haiti is home to ancient cave paintings.
3. Haiti’s currency is called the gourde.
4. Haiti is the most mountainous country in the Caribbean.
5. Tourism makes up a large part of Haiti’s economy.
6. Haiti has suffered from many devastating earthquakes.
7. Haiti’s name means land of mountains.
8. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
9. Under French rule, Haiti was called Saint Domingue.
10. In the 1600s, Haiti was home to many pirates.