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History of Haiti

Pre-Columbian period (12th century)

Before settlers arrived, the entire island was inhabited by Native American people from South America. They are the Tainos, and they were part of the Arawak language family.

The origin of the Tainos Indians is confused and controversial when one refers to the study of their customs and traditions. Their language is of Arawak origin but by analyzing their symbolism and their mythology, one is surprised to discover that it is related to the Mayas of Yucatán, Guatemala, and other adjacent regions.

This people lived mainly from agriculture and fishing until the 15th century. They carried out sowing which they called conucos. There are also: potatoes, corn, peanuts, peppers, pineapples, sweet potatoes, cotton and tobacco.

They entertained themselves in a variety of ways: dance, music and ball game. The main rituals involved sacred dances called areytos accompanied by various instruments, mainly drums.

The religion Taino is centered on the cult of zemís or cemís. Cemís were either gods, spirits or ancestors. Cemí was also the name of the physical representations of the gods.

Colombian / colonial period (15th century)

In 1492, Christopher Columbus and his men land on the island and meet the Tainos. Struck by the beauty of the island, Columbus calls it "La Espagnola" ("Spanish"). After some time, this name suffered a small distortion that gave "Hispaniola", which means "Little Hispania". Soon, the tribe of Tainos is used, or even exploited to work in mines and plantations. This form of exploitation is very similar to the feudal system where several subjects had to submit to a lord who granted them land to work, and in return they had to pay the tax. This regime to which the Tainos are forced to submit is called the encomienda. It is true that the Tainos enjoyed a little liberty; on the other hand, this system of exploitation did not fail to hide a certain slavery.

The ill-treatment inflicted on this people got the better of them. It only took a short time for the people to be completely decimated. Some time later, these Tainos were replaced by other slaves who were "torn" from their native Black Africa.

During the first half of the 16th century, Hispaniola is doing well; so much that it is considered to be "the metropolis of the Spanish colonies of the new world". However, the second half of the century shows the opposite result, because of the stubbornness of the Spanish authorities to sell sugar to the Dutch. In addition, Columbus men do not consume enough to fill the huge sugar cane production. Faced with this problem, the island is gradually deserted by Spanish immigrants; these are heading south, but still left their mark on the island.

The island is shared between the Spaniards and the French (1697)

In 1697, the peace treaty of Ryswick is signed between France, the United Provinces, England and Spain (yes, the Spaniards are back). By this treaty, the island is divided in two: the western part (current Haiti) is occupied by the French colonists, and the east part (the present Dominican Republic) is occupied by the Spaniards. It was only many years later, in 1777, by the Treaty of Aranjuez, that the boundaries between west and east were clearly established.

Black slaves revolt

The western side of the island, which is the French zone, is mainly blacks who have been "torn" from their native African black. Against their will, they were made slaves and subjected to very difficult living conditions, which caused a very high mortality rate. In 1791, a division settled between the French. On the one hand, there are those who wish to remain faithful to the monarchical regime of King Louis XVI; on the other hand, there are those who advocate the French Revolution. This political racket got the better of the patience of the African slaves who finally decided to revolt. This revolt, embellished with great violence, deteriorates and turns into a civil war.

In 1793, a certain Léger Félicité Sonthonax (a commissioner who represented the convention) wanted to abolish slavery before the fixed date but, this attempt literally failed because the fighting did not stop at all. In 1795, the French finally won the victory over the Spaniards. That same year (1795), the Treaty of Basel is signed; by this treaty, Spain cedes part to France. Toussaint Louverture, a former slave - very clever in strategy, by the way - participated in this battle alongside the French. However, before being with the French, Louverture was the ally of the Spaniards. When he joined the French, he was promoted to Major General in 1796.

In 1799, a civil war sponsored by André Rigaud and Alexandre Sabès Pétion was frowned upon and repressed by Louverture. Still in 1799; only after the coup d'état of 18 Brumaire did General Napoléon Bonaparte formalize the appointment of Louverture as a general of division. The power goes up to the head of Louverture which, in 1801 drafts a constitution, thanks to which he proclaims himself "governor" (king) for life of the island. However, he remains, apparently at least, under the aegis of the general-in-chief (Bonaparte). Having understood this, in 1802, Bonaparte thinks of restoring slavery. That's not enough, Bonaparte bets big! He sends a large troop in pursuit of Toussaint Louverture. Commissioned by Charles Victor Emmanuel Leclerc, the troop captures Louverture and sends him to France where he is taken prisoner.

The independence of Haiti (1804)

The decision of Bonaparte stirs the anger of General Jean-Jacques Dessaline (replacing Louverture). Dessaline was a former lieutenant of Louverture's troops. Beside Dessaline were Henri Christophe and Alexandre Sabès Pétion. The three accomplices take up arms against the men of Bonaparte; the French army is defeated in the western part of the island (Haiti), and the last settlers are expelled. With this victory, the independence of Haiti is proclaimed on January 1, 1804 by Jean-Jacques Dessaline. This victory, Dessaline savored it by giving itself the title of emperor; his name: Jacques 1er.


Division, reunification, annexation, division

In 1806, two years later, Dessaline was betrayed by the two men who had helped him; Christophe and Petion kill him. Haiti is then divided in two: the North is transformed into a kingdom governed by Henri Christophe who decides to call himself Henry 1st. The South, on the other hand, takes the form of a republic headed by Alexandre Pétion, which has not changed its name, but has declared itself "president for life".

Five years passed (1811), like the 13 colonies in the history of the United States, it is the war between North and South. Christophe wants the whole country to be under his leadership. His claim continued until the death of Petion in 1818). Alexandre Pétion is replaced by Jean-Pierre Boyer who stood up to Christophe. In 1820, Henri Christophe gives up the soul, and that same year, Boyer managed to reunite the North and the South. In 1822, Boyer annexed the east side of the island (which he named Spanish Haiti). With this feat, he reigns alone on the entire island of Hispaniola for 21 years. In 1843 the government of Boyer fell, and the latter went into exile in France. The east side of the island causes an uprising and finally splits on the west side to become the Dominican Republic.

France and the United States in the same territory

Haiti takes its independence, but it is still tributary of France. Moreover, France wants Haiti to give it monetary compensation so that it definitively recognizes its independence. However, it turned out that Haiti can not pay this compensation. On the political level, the situation is practically the same; Haiti can not balance itself, which causes successive civil wars. Added to all this, the problems of agriculture that, of course, lead the black peasants (in the south) to rise. This uprising brought the name of Revolt of pickets in 1844.

In 1849, came back a certain Faustin Soulouque who, like so many others changes his name (Faustin 1st), proclaiming himself emperor. Upon seizure of power, Soulouque does not hesitate to attack the mulattoes who are "still the ruling elite of the country." His reign lasts 10 years, when in 1859, a mulatto (Nicolas Geffrard) perpetrated a coup d'état against him, to thus govern the country during 8 years (until 1867).

From 1867 to 1910, the country is, so to speak, relatively prosperous. The Americans who at that time were on Dominican territory, shows a certain interest in Haiti. In 1906, they began the construction of railways, and seized peasants without title deeds. In July 1915, the Americans replaced the French, who until then were the main foreign influence in the country, and occupied it militarily. The Americans do not waste time, they immediately establish a government that must obey their commands. The two countries sign a treaty in 1916; treaty by which Washington undertakes to help Haiti economically and politically for 10 years. US aid also includes improvements to road infrastructure, the land system and even the telephone network. However, not all segments of society benefit from this momentum towards modernity. The most disadvantaged, the peasants in particular, are somehow marginalized from these developments. This form of "injustice" ignites the anger of the people who express their dissatisfaction with the Americans. Faced with this situation, the Americans resigned themselves to leaving the country in August 1934.

Successive coup d'Etat (1934-1957)

The end of the American occupation has left many ills in its wake. The global economic crisis, which obviously affects Haiti, is mixed with the instability that ironically makes a triumphant return to the country. There were many coups d'etat during this period of time (1934-1957); through Elie Lescot, to the military council headed by E. Zamor, A. Kebreau and A. Vaville; thus, the country is politically ransacked.

The Duvaliers: power from father to son

In 1957, a former member of the government of Dumarsais Estime was elected president. This is François Duvalier aka "Papa doc". The latter received the support of the blacks who believed that it was the ideal weapon to fight the mulattoes. As soon as he took office, Duvalier applied an iron policy. It prohibits, among other things, parties opposing its government. Duvalier maintains his dictatorial policy throughout his reign. In 1971, while he was at death's door, "the National Assembly amends the Constitution" so that he could appoint his son Jean-Claude as successor. When François died in January 1971, Jean-Claude came to power at just 19 years of age; that's why we call him Baby Doc. He follows the political tracks of his father by applying a severe dictatorship. But, failing to keep this political pace, he finally applied a slight flexibility in his regime. This is not enough because a good part of the population lives in poverty. In the late 1970s, the situation caused an exodus of the population. Many of these people are heading to the United States (Florida in particular) and other West Indies (eg Bahamas). Things go wrong for the government of Jean-Claude Duvalier; a popular uprising overthrows him. In 1986, he left the country and moved to the south of France.


Post-Duvalier period (1986 to the present)

It is true that the Duvalierist oppression has disappeared, but a new atmosphere has not settled down in the country. Once again, a succession of coups affects the politics of the country. After the departure of Jean-Claude Duvalier, a military junta, headed by General Henri Namphy, took power. Nanphy was overthrown by Leslie Manigat in 1988. Shortly after, Namphy regained power by a coup. No sooner has he had the time to savor the power than he is for a second time overthrown, but this time by Prosper April. However, Avril either does not enjoy power for a long time; in 1990, he resigned; it is the ideal opportunity for the international community to manage the elections.

Surprisingly, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a Catholic priest is in the running. Aristide cares for the poor; he won the victory in December 1990. His political passion and his ability to talk well seduced many people; so much that it gives great hope to the Haitian people. One year later, his government was the victim of a coup by General Raoul Cedras; Aristide fled to the United States. This coup is repressed by the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations (UN). The policy of General Cedras causes an economic blockade since 1993, not only that, a certain food crisis takes place in the country.

By a military intervention commanded by US President (Bill Clinton), the military junta led by Cedras is forced to restore power to Aristide in October 1994. However, just Aristide has time to recover from the situation that his term ends, and according to the Constitution he can not have a second term in a row.

In 1995, former Prime Minister René Préval was elected President of the Republic. He tries hard to get the country back, but things are very complicated for him.

New millennium, new politics?

The arrival of the new millennium brought back to power Aristide (November 2000), with votes estimated at just over 90%. Again, things are not going well for Aristide, because the elections are said to be controversial. This time, the European Union and the United States decide not to send observers to regulate the elections; it is then that the country falls into an era of political crisis. Then follows a kind of political chaos that led to the resignation of President Aristide in 2004. Boniface Alexandre (President of the Court of Cassation) temporarily replaces Aristide. Gérald Latortue meanwhile, "becomes head of the Provisional Government". In 2006, other elections were held to elect a permanent president. Preval is back in the running and wins these elections and ends his term at the end of 2010. As for the 2011 elections, several candidates were in the race, including three special cases: the wife of Leslie Manigat (Myrlande Hyppolite Manigat) and two very popular singers among young Haitians (Wyclef Jean and Michel Martelly). After a very eventful election, Michel Martelly finally won


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