Republic of Haiti occupies the western third of the
island. Haitian Créole is the only language of 85 percent
of its inhabitants. It evolved from French into a distinct
language. The other 15 percent speak Créole and French.
About 95 percent are of virtually pure African descent.
The rest are mostly mulattoes, the descendants of unions
between French masters and African slaves. The mulattoes
became the ruling class, called the élite. In the last 50
years their economic preeminence has been weakened by Arab
immigrants while an emerging black middle-class took over
the state sector. Haiti is an Indian word meaning ‘high
ground’. It is the Caribbean’s most mountainous
country. Except for a few small, mainly coastal plains and
the central Artibonite River valley, the entire country is
a mass of ranges. The highest peak is the 2,674-metre La
Selle, southeast of the capital. Little remains of
Haiti’s once luxuriant forest cover, cut down for fuel
or to make way for farming. With soil erosion and
desertification far advanced, Haiti is an ecological
disaster. The main regions still regularly receiving
abundant rainfall are the southwest peninsula and the
eastern two thirds of the northern seaboard. Haiti has two
rainy seasons: April-May and September-October.
Haitians are almost wholly black, with a culture that is a
unique mixture of African and French influences. Haiti was
a French colony until 1804 when, fired by the example of
the French Revolution, the black slaves revolted,
massacred the French landowners and proclaimed the
world’s first black republic. Throughout the 19th
century the Haitians reverted to a primitive way of life,
indulging in a succession of bloody, almost tribal wars.
Even today, nowhere else in the Caribbean do African
cults, particularly voodoo, play such a part in everyday
life. The country is desperately poor and the standard of
living is the lowest in the Americas. According to UNICEF,
the literacy rate is only 45 percent, while only 20
percent of children reach secondary school.
to go to Haiti web site.