HAITI: IT’S PAST AND PRESENT Haiti is the second largest Caribbean Island. It occupies a third of the western part of the island it shares with the Dominican Republic. Haiti is also made up of several islands that surround the main territory. The capital is Port-au-Prince. It rains between November and March in the North of the island and between May and October in the South. “Once covered by forest, the country has been heavily logged for wood and fuel and to clear land for farming, and is now largely deforested. ” Haiti is divided into “nine administrative departments. Besides the capital, other important cities are Cap-Haitien and Gonaives. “Haiti is the most densely populated country in Latin America and has the lowest per capital income, with about half the people unemployed and three quarters living in the severest poverty. ” Agriculture is the main economic activity in Haiti. The main crops grown are cassava, rice, sugarcane, sorghum, yams, corn, and plantains. The main exports are coffee, cotton, sugar, sisal, bauxite, and essences. The most predominant religion is Roman Catholicism. Catholicism is enshrined in the Haitian constitution as the official state religion, and between 80 and 85% of Haitians are Catholics. ” The religion of Voodoo is also practiced. “Vodou encompasses several different traditions, and consists of a mix encompassing African, European and indigenous Taino religious elements. ” It is unknown how many people practice Voodoo, but many practice it along with their Christian faith. Haiti has a rich culture that comes mostly from voodoo tribes. Haitian culture is a mixture of French, African elements, and native Taino, with influence from the colonial Spanish. The country’s customs essentially are a blend of cultural beliefs that derived from the various ethnic groups that inhabited the island of Hispaniola. ” “In nearly all aspects of modern Haitian society however, the European and African elements dominate. Haiti is world famous for its distinctive art, notably painting and sculpture. ” The Dominican War of Independence gave the Dominican Republic independence from Haiti. Before the war, the whole island of Hispaniola had belonged to Haiti for 22 years. The Dominican War of Independence of 1844 was led by twenty year old Juan Pablo Duarte.
Duarte along with Matias Ramon Mella and Francisco del Rosario Sanchez formed a group they called La Trinitaria or the Trinity. They recruited many people and kept their actions very secret to avoid detection by any Haitian authorities. The group was eventually discovered and it was forced to change its name to La Filantropica or The Philanthropic. The group continued to make trouble for the Haitians. In 1843 the group had a break as it worked with a “liberal Haitian party” they were able to overthrow the president.
Their success continued and on February 27, 1844, Dominican rebels seized the Fortaleza Ozama in Santo Domingo. Within days all Haitian officials left Santo Domingo. The war continued and the Dominican Republic continued to defend against Haitian attacks. The Republic went on to win more wars against Haiti’s attacks. “In November 6, 1844 a Constituent assembly drafted a constitution, based on the Haitian and United States models, which established separation of powers and legislative checks on the executive. ” The war continued throughout September and November of 1845.
The war for independence was foreseeable as tensions built over the twenty two years in which Haiti had control of the island. The relationship between Haitians and the Dominican Republic deteriorated as “Haitians monopolized government power, severed the church’s ties with Rome, forced out the traditional ruling class, and all but obliterated the western European and Hispanic traditions. ” “In addition, Haitian troops arbitrarily confiscated foodstuffs and other supplies, and ethnic tensions caused further resentment. Many Dominican historians have painted a picture of this period as cruel and barbarous. The aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake has had a clear devastating impact on the capital, Port-au-Prince. “The National Palace, the Cathedral, the Ministry of Justice and other important Government offices have been destroyed. Hotels, hospitals, schools and the national penitentiary have all suffered extensive damage. Buildings and infrastructure were heavily damaged throughout the capital. Basic services such as water and electricity have collapsed almost entirely. The remaining areas of Haiti appear to be largely unaffected. The destruction that the earthquake has caused is massive and the country is still very visibly shaken up as the casualties were vast, the destruction of homes immense, the water supply is short, and there are shortages of essential items. “Over 222,570 people have died, 300,572 injured and a staggering 2. 3 million, nearly one quarter of the population, displaced. The government lost thousands of civil servants and most of their key infrastructure was destroyed. Haiti’s present day situation is very grim. If you visit Haiti today it seems as if the earthquake had just taken place. Less than four percent of the debris has been cleared, 1. 6 million people are still living in tents, and all of this is “despite $1. 8 billion in earthquake aid, according to US government and United Nations figures. ” Haiti’s government is going to receive a “significant portion” of aid and its leaders will be left to figure out how to spend the money and where to distribute it.
Unfortunately, this is of concern because even “before the earthquake, the Haitian government could not provide basic services such as education and health care to most of the nations’ nine million people. ” Currently, sanitary conditions are unbearable as “women use newspapers to control menstruation. Babies do not have diapers, and many are sick. ” However, there has been progress. Some progress includes: the distribution of emergency shelters to over 1. 5 million people and of food to 4. million Haitians; more than one million people have access to drinkable water daily; and over 900,000 people have been vaccinated so far. Due to the vaccinations there have not been any major increases in the camps. Haiti still has a very long way to go in rebuilding but the one thing that can be said is that there seems to be a lot of organizations trying to help. With these organizations in place, the Haitian people can only hope that with a plan in order their current grim situation will change in the future. WORKS CITED * “History of Haiti. ” Encyclopaedia Britannica. 010. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. 16 Aug. 2010. ;http://www. britannica. com/EBchecked/topic/251987/history-of-Haiti; * “Dominican Republic. ” Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. 16 Aug. 2010. http://www. britannica. com/EBchecked/topic/168728/Dominican-Republic * “Haiti: 6 months after. ” United Nations Development Programme. 12 July 2010. http://www. undp. org/haiti/doc/Haiti_6months_after. pdf * “Haiti Earthquake of 2010. ” Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. 16 Aug. 2010. ;