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Republic of Haiti
République d'Haïti

CAPITAL: Port-au-Prince

FLAG: The upper half is blue, the lower half is red.

ANTHEM: La Dessalinienne (Song of Dessalines).

MONETARY UNIT: The gourde (g) is a paper currency of 100 centimes. There are coins of 5, 10, 20, and 50 centimes and notes of 1, 2, 5, 10, 50, 100, 250, and 500 gourdes. Silver (5, 10, and 25 gourdes) and gold (20, 50, 100, 200, 1,000 gourdes) coins have also been minted. US paper currency also circulates freely throughout Haiti. g1 = $0.02555 (or $1 = g39.14) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is official for customs purposes, but French colonial units and US weights also are used.

HOLIDAYS: Independence and New Year's Day, 1 January; Forefathers Day, 2 January; Pan American Day, 14 April; Labor Day, 1 May; Flag and University Day, 18 May; National Sovereignty Day, 22 May; Assumption, 15 August; Anniversary of the Death of Dessalines, 17 October; UN Day, 24 October; All Saints' Day, 1 November; Commemoration of the Battle of Vertières and Armed Forces Day, 18 November; Discovery of Haiti, 5 December; Christmas, 25 December. Movable religious holidays include Carnival (three days before Ash Wednesday) and Good Friday.

TIME: 7 am = noon GMT.


Occupying the western third of the island of Hispaniola, Haiti has an area of 27,750 sq km (10,714 sq mi) including the islands of Tortuga (La Tortue), Gonâve, Les Cayemites, and Vache. Comparatively, the area occupied by Haiti is slightly smaller than the state of Maryland. Extending roughly 485 km (300 mi) enewsw and 385 km (240 mi) ssennw, Haiti is bounded on the n by the Atlantic Ocean, on the e by the Dominican Republic, on the s by the Caribbean Sea, and on the w by the Windward Passage and the Gulf of Gonâve, with a total land boundary length of 360 km (224 mi) and a coastline of 1,771 km (1,100 mi). Haiti claims Navassa Island, an uninhabited US possession about 50 km (31 mi) west of Hispaniola.

Haiti's capital city, Port-au-Prince is located on Hispaniola's west coast.


The coastline of Haiti is irregular and forms a long southern peninsula and a shorter northern one, between which lies the Gulf of Gonâve. Rising from the coastal plains to a peak height at La Selle of 2,680 m (8,793 ft) and covering two-thirds of the interior, three principal mountain ranges stretch across the country; one runs east and west along the southern peninsula, while the others stretch northwestward across the mainland. Once-fertile plains run inland between the mountains: the Plaine du Nord, extending in the northeast to the Dominican border, and the Artibonite and Cul-de-Sac plains reaching west to the Gulf of Gonâve. Of the many small rivers, the Artibonite, which empties into the Gulf of Gonâve, and L'Estère are navigable for some distance.


The climate is tropical, with some variation depending on altitude. Port-au-Prince ranges in January from an average minimum of 23°c (73°f) to an average maximum of 31°c (88°f); in July, from 2535°c (7795°f). The rainfall pattern is varied, with rain heavier in some of the lowlands and on the northern and eastern slopes of the mountains. Port-au-Prince receives an average annual rainfall of 137 cm (54 in). There are two rainy seasons, AprilJune and OctoberNovember. Haiti is subject to periodic droughts and floods, made more severe by deforestation. Hurricanes are also a menace.


Tropical and semitropical plants and animals are characterized more by their variety than by their abundance. In the rain forest of the upper mountain ranges, pine and ferns as well as mahogany, cedar, rosewood, and sapin are found. Coffee, cacao, and coconut trees and native tropical fruits such as avocado, orange, lime, and mango grow wild.

Many species of insects abound, but there are no large mammals or poisonous snakes. Ducks, guinea hens, and four varieties of wild pigeons are plentiful. Egrets and flamingos live on the inland lakes. Reptile life includes three varieties of crocodile, numerous small lizards, and the rose boa. Tarpon, barracuda, kingfish, jack, and red snapper abound in the coastal waters.

As of 2002, there were at least 20 species of mammals, 62 species of birds, and over 5,200 species of plants throughout the country.


The virgin forests that once covered the entire country have now been reduced to 4% of the total land area. Deforestation has had a disastrous effect on soil fertility, because the steep hillsides on which so many Haitian farmers work are particularly susceptible to erosion. From 19902000, the rate of deforestation was about 5.7% per year. The nation loses 1.35 tons of soil per square kilometer yearly. Agricultural chemicals, such as DDT, are widely used in Haiti. These pollutants plus the use of oil with high lead content are a significant source of pollution. Not only has much of the topsoil been washed away, but the eroded slopes retain little rainfall and are vulnerable to flooding.

The chief impediment to reforestation is the fact that Haiti is so intensely cultivated that allocation of land for forests means a reduction in the land available for crop growing and grazing. Foreign organizations have attempted to alleviate these problems. In 1981, an $8 million Agroforestry Outreach Project, funded primarily by the United States, helped farmers plant trees throughout Haitiover 4.5 million seedlings by 1983. The government also agreed to set up the nation's first two national parks with funding from the US Agency for International Development. However, as of 2003, only 0.4% of Haiti's total land area was protected.

Water quality is also a serious environmental problem. Haiti has 13 cu km of renewable water resources with 94% used for farming activity. About 91% of the nation's city dwellers and 59% of the rural population have access to improved water sources.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 4 types of mammals, 15 species of birds, 9 types of reptiles, 46 species of amphibians, 12 species of fish, 5 species of invertebrates, and 208 species of plants. Endangered species in Haiti included the tundra peregrine falcon, Haitian solenodon, green sea turtle, hawksbill turtle, and American crocodile. At least 13 species have become extinct, including the Caribbean monk seal, imposter hutia, and the Haitian edible rat.


The population of Haiti in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 8,288,000, which placed it at number 91 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 3% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 42% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 97 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 1.9%, a rate the government viewed as too high. The government reinstated the Population Secretariat in 1997, which attempted to address the high fertility rate (4.5 births per woman); however, as of 2005 little progress had been made. The projected population for the year 2025 was 12,887,000. The population density was 299 per sq km (774 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 36% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 2.95%. The capital city, Port-au-Prince, had a population of 1,961,000 in that year. Other major cities and their estimated populations are Jacmel (216,600) and Les Cayes (214,606).

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS has had a significant impact on the population of Haiti. The UN estimated that 7.7% of adults between the ages of 1549 were living with HIV/AIDS in 2001. The AIDS epidemic causes higher death and infant mortality rates, and lowers life expectancy.


Emigration from Haiti has been mainly to Cuba, other Caribbean states, Canada, and the United States; illegal emigration to the United States has been substantial since the 1960s. Between 1972 and 1981 more than 55,000 (perhaps as many as 100,000) Haitian "boat people" arrived in Florida. During 198185, some 43,312 Haitians were admitted legally to the United States. In September 1981, the US and Haitian governments agreed to work together to halt the flow of refugees, and these efforts apparently met with success. Over the next 10 years only 28 of the 22,716 Haitians intercepted at sea were admitted to the United States.

Several thousand Haitian migratory workers travel to the Dominican Republic each year during the cane-harvest season; many more change their residences permanently.

Following the 1991 coup (which overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide) many Haitians left for the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Suriname, Cuba, Panama, Honduras, Venezuela, Colombia, and Mexico. Between 199193, 43,000 Haitians tried to reach the United States by boat, but were interdicted and held at Guantanamo Bay, the US naval base in Cuba. In October 1994, soon after Aristide's return to power, Haitians began repatriating, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) helped repatriate 8,052 persons from various countries. From the United States, some 16,500 repatriated voluntarily. The UNHCR office in Haiti was closed in April 1996. After disputed legislative elections in 2000, Haiti was politically and economically paralyzed. In February 2004, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced to resign. Again, US troops arrived and the US warned Haitians that if intercepted on their way to Florida, they would be returned to Haiti, or be detained in Guantanamo. In 2004, 5,389 Haitians entered the United States as refugees.

In 2005, the net migration rate was estimated as -1.68 migrants per 1,000 population. The total number of migrants living in Haiti in 2000 was 26,000. The government viewed the emigration level as too high.


For the vast majority of Haiti's people, the African ethnic influence is dominant. About 95% of the inhabitants are of African descent; mulattos and whites make up the remaining 5% of the population.


The official languages of Haiti are French and Creole. French is only spoken by about 1020% of the population. Virtually all the people speak Creole, a mixture of early 17th-century provincial French and African tongues, with infusions of English, Spanish, and Amerindian words. English is used in the capital and to a lesser extent in the provincial cities, and along the Dominican border a Spanish Creole is spoken.


For many years Roman Catholicism was the official religion of Haiti. Its official status was repealed with the enactment of the 1987 constitution; however, neither the government nor the Vatican has renounced the 1860 Concordat that serves as a basis for relations between the two. Roman Catholicism retains a position of honor, but Haitians are guaranteed the freedom to practice all religions by the constitution.

Roman Catholics represent about 5055% of the population. Most of the remainder belong to various Protestant denominations, the largest being the Baptist and Pentecostal churches. Other significant denominations include Methodists, Episcopalians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, and Orthodox Christians. Other religious groups include Jews, Muslims, Rastafarians, and Baha'is. Voodoo, a traditional religion that is partially derived from West African beliefs, is still widely practiced, often in tandem with Christianity. Voodoo became an officially recognized church in 2003 with the establishment of the Eglise Voudou d'Ayiti (the Voodoo Church of Haiti) and has had a growing attendance since then.


In 2002, Haiti had 4,160 km (2,585 mi) of roads, 1,011 km (628 mi) of which were paved. Farm-to-market roads are few, and most produce for the local market is transported by burro or carried on foot by women. In 1980, a new highway linking Port-au-Prince with Les Cayes was opened, and several road improvement projects have been completed; overall, however, road conditions continue to deteriorate because of flooding. There were some 34,800 passenger cars and 34,325 commercial vehicles in 2003. In that same year, Haiti had a ratio of 223.3 inhabitants per registered vehicle, the highest ratio of any country in the Western Hemisphere. Two railroad systems, the National Railroad of Haiti and the Culde-Sac Railroad, with a combined trackage of 301 km (187 mi), originally operated lines from Port-au-Prince to Verrettes and to Léogâne, and from Cap-Haïtien south to Bahon. By 1982, however, most of the system had become inoperative; the 40 km (25 mi) of lines that remained in 1999 were being used only for sugarcane transport.

The commercial shipping fleet consists of a few hundred small sailing vessels engaged in coastal trade and a few motorized vessels of light tonnage. The island depends chiefly on foreign shipping. During the early 1980s, the IBRD sought to stimulate intercoastal trade by building port facilities at Jérémie, Port-au-Prince, and Port-de-Paix. Other ports and harbors include Cap-Haïtien, Gonaives, Jacmel, Les Cayes, Miragoane, and Saint-Marc.

In 2004 there were an estimated 13 airports, of which 4 had paved runways as of 2005. Domestic air service is supplied by the privately owned Air Haiti, which connects principal cities on regular scheduled flights. An international airport at Port-au-Prince opened in 1965; the other international airport is at Cap-Haïtien. Carriers serving Port-au-Prince are ALM, American Airlines, Air Canada, Canada 3000, Caribintair, Tropical Airways, Haiti International airlines, Air France, and COPA.


In 1492, Christopher Columbus made the European discovery of the island of Hispaniola and established a settlement near the present city of Cap-Haïtien. Within 25 years, the native Arawak, a peace-loving, agricultural people, were virtually annihilated by the Spanish settlers. Bishop Bartolomé de las Casas, a missionary to the Amerindians, who had originally come to Hispaniola as a planter in 1502, proposed that African slaves be imported for plantation labor. Starting after 1517 a forced migration of Africans gave Haiti its black population.

About 1625, French and English privateers and buccaneers, preying on Spanish Caribbean shipping, made the small island of Tortuga their base. The French soon also established a colonial presence on nearby mainland coasts and competed with the Spaniards. In the Treaty of Ryswick (1697), Spain ceded the western third of the island (Haiti) to the French. Under French rule it became one of the wealthiest of the Caribbean communities. This prosperity, stemming from forestry and sugar-related industries, came at a heavy cost in human misery and environmental degradation.

The French Revolution in 1789 outlawed slavery in France, which inspired Haiti's nearly half million black slaves to revolt. In a series of violent uprisings, slaves killed white planters and razed estates. Although they suffered cruel reprisals, they fought on under the direction of Toussaint L'Ouverture, an ex-slave who had risen to the rank of general in the French army. By 1801 Toussaint controlled the entire island, and promulgated a constitution, which abolished slavery. The emperor Napoleon did not accept this move, and sent 70 warships and 25,000 men to suppress the movement. Toussaint was captured, and died in a French prison.

Jean Jacques Dessalines, another black general who rose from the ranks, continued the struggle, and in 1803 the disease-decimated French army surrendered. On 1 January 1804, Dessalines proclaimed Haiti's independence. Dessalines, after assuming the title of emperor in 1804, was assassinated in 1806, and Haiti was divided into a northern monarchy and a southern republic. Under both regimes, the plantations were distributed among former slaves, and Haiti became a nation of small farmers. Haiti was reunited by Jean Pierre Boyer in 1820, and in 1822 the Haitian army conquered Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic). For 22 years there was one republic for the entire island. In 1844, however, one year after Boyer was overthrown, the Dominican Republic proclaimed its independence from Haiti. In 1849, the president of Haiti, Faustin Elie Soulouque, proclaimed himself Emperor Faustin I. He was dethroned by a revolution headed by Nicholas Fabre Geffrard, who reestablished the republic and became president. In 1860, Geffrard negotiated a concordat with the Holy See that established Roman Catholicism as the national religion, although freedom of worship was retained.

A long period of political instability between 1843 and 1915, during which time Haiti had 22 dictators, culminated in the assassination of President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam and was followed by US military occupation. The occupation, which lasted 19 years, terminated in 1934 during the administration of President Sténio Vincent (193041), who in 1935 proclaimed a new constitution.

After World War II, another period of political instability reached a peak in a 1950 coup d'etat that brought Gen. Paul Magloire to power. Magloire's economic policies led to a serious depression. In December 1956 a national sit-down strike, organized jointly by business, labor, and professional leaders, forced Magloire into exile. A period of chaos ensued in which seven governments attempted to establish control.

In a September 1957 election filled with irregularities, François Duvalier, a middle-class black physician known to his followers as Papa Doc, became president. He began to rule by decree in 1958, and in May 1961, he had himself elected for another six years. On 22 June 1964, Duvalier was formally elected president for life. Despite several attempted revolts, he consolidated his position, ruling largely through his security force, the Tontons Macoutes ("bogeymen"). Political opposition was ruthlessly suppressed, and thousands of suspected dissidents "disappeared." Also murdered were some 3,000 supporters of Daniel Fignolé, leader of the Peasant Workers Movement (Mouvement Ouvrier Paysan) and Duvalier's most effective opponent.

Political life under the Papa Doc regime was characterized by plots against the government and governmental counterterrorism, the latter was entrusted to the Tontons Macoutes and to other thugs known as cagoulards. Opposition leaders went into hiding or exile. The Haitian Revolutionary Movement (Mouvement Révolutionnaire Haïtien), led by Haitian exiles Luc B. Innocent and Paul G. Argelin, began operations in Colombia in February 1961.

The National Democratic Union (Union Démocratique Nationale) was founded in Puerto Rico in April 1962 by former Ambassador Pierre Rigaud, with a branch in Venezuela organized by Paul Verna and an underground movement operating in Haiti. Invasions in 1964, 1969, and 1970 met with no success. Haitian exiles in New York, Montréal, Chicago, and Washington mounted an influential anti-Duvalier campaign during the 1960s. Throughout this period, no party operated openly in Haiti except the Duvalierist Party of National Unity (Parti de l'Unité Nationale).

On 22 January 1971, Duvalier named his son Jean-Claude to be his successor. Papa Doc died on 21 April 1971, and Jean-Claude, at the age of 19, became president for life the following day. The younger Duvalier sought to ease political tensions, encouraged tourism and foreign investment, and contributed to the beginnings of an economic revival. However, political arrests did not wholly cease, and there were severe economic reversals in the mid- and late-1970s.

In February 1979, elections to the National Assembly took place amid allegations of government fraud. Opposition groups were then arrested, tried, and convicted of subversion, but later released. In January and March 1982, two small exile groups tried unsuccessfully to overthrow the government by staging armed invasions. The first municipal elections of the Duvalier period were held in spring 1983. The voting resulted, for the most part, in victories for the government, partly because several opposition figures had been arrested during the campaign.

Jean-Claude proved to be an ineffectual leader and tensions mounted as the economy stagnated after 1980. When civil disorder began to break out in the mid-1980s, the president became increasingly reclusive. In February 1986, following a series of demonstrations and protests, Jean-Claude and his family fled to France, and the National Governing Council (Conseil National de GouvernementCNG), led by Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy, seized power. Namphy's declared purpose was to provide a transition to a democratically elected government. A constituent assembly, convened in October 1986, drafted a new constitution that was approved by referendum in March 1987.

Hopes for the restoration of democracy soon faded. The presidential election scheduled for November 1987 was postponed as gangs of thugs and soldiers killed at least 34 persons. The CNG attempted new elections and a new government, but those governments had no legitimacy at home or abroad. In December 1990 a Roman Catholic priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was elected with 67.5% of the votes cast. The immediate aftermath of the CNG's takeover was euphoric. Political prisoners were released and the dreaded Tontons Macoute (Duvalier's clandestine secret police) were disbanded.

Aristide had an ideology, a sort of egalitarian Catholic doctrine, and a political coalition of 15 parties, the National Front for Change and Democracy (FNCD). But, he did not have the confidence of the military. Upset by his popularity and his foreign policy, which favored stronger hemispheric relations at the expense of US-Haitian relations, the military under Gen. Raoul Cédras ousted him in October 1991. From exile, Aristide did not relent, and appealed to international organizations for help. The UN and OAS forged an agreement between Cédras and Aristide to return Aristide to the presidency in October 1993, but the military balked. Aristide promptly appealed to the Clinton administration, even as he criticized US policy, and the Clinton administration responded with sanctions against the Haitian regime in May and June of 1994. However, the impasse persisted.

In September 1994, as a last resort, the Clinton administration secured international support for a military invasion of Haiti to force Cédras from power. A US invasion force was assembled and war seemed imminent. However, in the 11th hour, Clinton sent a special delegation, headed by former US president Jimmy Carter, to negotiate a peaceful solution to the crisis. As US fighter planes were about to take off for Haiti, the Carter team reached an agreement with Cédras and war was diverted. American forces peacefully took control of the country and, in October 1994, restored Aristide to power.

Returning to the country after a three-year absence, Aristide faced two major challenges: rescuing the country's economy, which was in dire straits following the international embargo that had been imposed on it, and curbing the rampant violent street crime, gang activity, and vigilantism that had developed in the absence of an adequate justice system. To cope with the security vacuum created by the departure of the military regime, UN peacekeeping forces arrived in March of 1995.

In June 1995 elections for local and legislative office, though marred by mismanagement and requiring additional rounds of voting, remained free of state-sponsored violence and were generally regarded as a sign of success for the nation's fledgling democracy. Although there was strong sentiment among many Haitians in favor of having Aristide remain in office beyond the end of his designated single term as president (most of which had been usurped by military rule), US support remained contingent on adhering to the terms of the 1987 constitution, which barred the president from seeking a second consecutive term. Aristide himself wavered about honoring this provision but ultimately stepped down, endorsing a close associate, René Préval, to succeed him in office. Préval was elected on 17 December 1995, with 88% of the vote. In February 1996 he took office, becoming Haiti's second democratically elected president in the country's 191-year history as an independent nation. The presence of both a UN peacekeeping force of over 1,000 and several hundred US troops was extended through November 1997. In July 1997 Haiti became a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Even under relatively stable political conditions, Haiti's economic and security problems proved intractable. Poverty and unemploymentestimated at 80%remained endemic. In May 1996 Préval agreed to economic reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund, including privatization of state-owned enterprises, a measure previously resisted by his government. However, former president Aristide opposed the privatization plans and in 1997 formed a new political grouping of his own. After failing to win parliamentary approval for three nominees for prime minister in 1998, President Préval dissolved parliament in January 1999 and unilaterally appointed a new prime minister, provoking civil unrest in the streets. Through the rest of 1999 and into early 2000, Préval repeatedly postponed promised legislative elections, leaving the country without a fully operating government. A wave of violence escalated and eventually claimed the life of the country's most prominent radio journalist, Jean Leopold Dominique, who was murdered in April 2000.

In the presidential election held in November 2000, former president Aristide easily won the election with 91.8% of the vote. His party, the Fanmi Lavalas (FLLavalas Family), won 83 of the 93 seats in the National Assembly. After taking office in early 2001, Aristide was accused of developing a highly personalist and authoritarian government. He concentrated power in his own hands and failed to build and consolidate democratic institutions. The economy continued its downward spiral, with negative growth in 2001 and 2002 and more than 80% of Haitians living in poverty. In addition, international organizations expressed concern over the growing violence in the country and the little respect for human rights shown by the Aristide government. Rebellion, escalating in early 2003, coupled with international pressure, led to the resignation of Aristide on 29 February 2004, who then went into exile in South Africa. The same day, Boniface Alexandre, a Supreme Court justice, was sworn in as president of an interim government. The rebels, made up largely of personnel from the disbanded military, continued sporadic violence as UN forces attempted to control security by confiscating weapons; Aristide supporters also protested, sometimes in violent support for his return. Rebels almost began another attempt to oust the interim government, but money began flowing into the country again when loans and aid were released after about a four-year freeze. The interim government was able to make some payments to appease the rebels, who demanded that the military be reinstated with 10 years of back pay, but organizational hurdles twice postponed elections originally slated for October.

On 7 February 2006, general elections were held for the first time since Aristide was overthrown in 2004. Former President René Préval was declared the winner of the highly contested presidential election, with 51% of the vote. Préval was declared the winner after election officials agreed to discount thousands of blank ballots. Préval's supporters had taken to the streets, rejecting initial vote tallies, which would have led to a second round of voting. Préval took office on 14 May 2006.


Under Article 197 of the 1964 constitution, François Duvalier was appointed president for life, with the stipulation that this article be approved in a nationwide plebiscite. On 14 June 1964, the voters were declared to have "almost unanimously" given their consent. He was granted power to dissolve the Legislative Assembly and the cabinet and to govern by decree in case of grave conflict. A constitutional amendment in January 1971 allowed the president to choose his successor. Jean-Claude Duvalier became president for life in April 1971 and was chief of state and head of government until early 1986.

The constitution adopted in March 1987 established a president elected to a five-year term as head of state and restricted to no more than two nonconsecutive terms in office. The head of government was to be the prime minister, appointed by the president from the party holding the majority in both houses of the legislature, which is made up of a 27-member Senate and a Chamber of Deputies with 83 members. Supporters of the Duvaliers were barred from holding political office for 10 years. Senators are elected for six years and deputies for four.

Since its passage, the constitution was suspended in June 1988 and reinstated in March 1989. The leaders of the coup of October 1991 claimed to be observing the constitution and Marc Bazin was named head of a caretaker government. But to all observers, nothing approaching a political system was present in Haiti until the restoration of the democratically elected Aristide government in late 1994. Because of an agreement with the United States, Aristide was unable to seek a second consecutive term and endorsed René Préval to succeed him in office. Préval was elected on 17 December 1995 as the country's second democratically elected president. In 2000, Aristide was elected president again, marking the first time that a democratically elected president completed his term without interruption and handed power over to another democratically elected leader. In 2004, however, Aristide resigned following a violent uprising; he went into exile in South Africa. The country was thrown into chaos and UN peacekeepers arrived to provide security for the country. In February 2006, former President René Préval was elected with 51% of the vote in the first round.


From the mid-19th to the mid-20th century, two major political parties, the Liberals and the Nationalists, were predominant. The Liberals, composed mainly of the wealthier and better-educated mulatto minority, advocated legislative control of government, while the Nationalists, composed mainly of the lower- and middle-class black majority, favored a strong executive. The traditional mulatto hegemony, whose wealth was inherited from the departed French colonists, was ended by Duvalier, who used the mulattoes as scapegoats.

After Jean-Claude Duvalier became president in 1971, some political activity was allowed, but by 1982 most dissidents had again been silenced. In 1979, an opposition Haitian Christian Democratic Party (Parti Démocratique Chrétien d'HaïtiPDCH) was founded, but its leader, Sylvio Claude, was arrested in October 1980. In the 1979 legislative elections only one antigovernment candidate won a seat; he resigned in July 1981. The PDCH dropped out of the municipal election campaign in 1983 following the arrest of several party members on national security charges.

Dozens of parties emerged after the CNG ousted Jean-Claude Duvalier in February 1986, most prominently, the National Front for Change and Democracy (FNCD), which backed Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the 1990 elections, but from which he later disassociated himself. Other groups include the National Congress of Democratic Movements (CONACOM), the Rally of Progressive National Democrats (RDNP), the Revolutionary Progressive Nationalist Party (PANPRA), and the Movement for the Installation of Democracy in Haiti (MIDH), under former Prime Minister Marc Bazin.

By 1995 the dominant party, and the one associated with Aristide, was the Lavalas Political Platform, an alliance of the Lavalas Political Organization (OPL) and the Movement for the Organization of the Country (MOP). Backed by Aristide and Lavalas, René Préval was elected president in the December 1995 elections with 88% of the vote. In the mid-1995 legislative elections, all but one of the 18 vacated Senate seats were won by Lavalas candidates and the party also swept the election in the lower house, with 12 seats going to candidates of other groups, including independents. In 1997, former president Bertrand Aristide formally registered a new partyFanmi Lavalas (FLLavalas Family)which broke ranks with the existing Lavalas government before the 2000 elections. The legislative elections, initially scheduled for June 1999, were postponed repeatedly throughout the rest of 1999 and the first half of 2000. They were eventually held, together with the presidential elections, in November 2000. The FL dominated the elections, which were boycotted by the opposition. Parliamentary elections were due to be held in 2003, but they were not. Large protests were held against Aristide's rule, which eventually turned into a rebellion which, along with international pressure, ousted him on 29 February 2004.

A first round of legislative elections was held on 7 February 2006, but only two deputies were elected. A second round of legislative elections was held on 21 April 2006. René Préval's alliance Front for Hope or L'ESPWA won 11 seats in the Senate. Other parties winning Senate seats included: Struggling People's Organization (OPL), 4; Fanmi Lavalas (FL), 3; Merging of Haitian Social Democratic Parties (FUSION), 3; Artibonite in Action (LAAA), 2; National Christian Union for the Reconstruction of Haiti (UNCRH), 2; Democratic Alliance (ALYANS) 1; For Us All (PONT), 1; 3 seats were subject to a run-off election. In the Chamber of Deputies, seats by party were: L'ESPWA 19; FUSION 15; ALYANS 10; OPL 8; FL 6; UNCRH 6; Mobilization for Haiti's Development (MPH), 4; Assembly of Progressive National Democrats (RDNP), 4; LAAA 3; Cooperative Action to Build Haiti (KONBA), 3; National Front for the Reconstruction of Hait (FRN) 1; New Christian Movement for a New Haiti (MOCHRENHA), 1; Movement for National Reconstruction (MRN), 1; Heads Together (Tet-Ansanm), 1; Independent Movement for National Reconciliation (MIRN), 1; Justice for Peace and National Development (JPDN), 1; Union of Nationalist and Progressive Haitians (UNITE), 1; Liberal Party of Haiti (PLH), 1; 13 seats were subject to a run-off election by June 2006.


As of 1999, Haiti was divided into nine departments and subdivided into arrondissements and communes. Each department is headed by a prefect appointed by the central government. Under the constitution, a commune is headed by an elected mayor, whose powers are strictly circumscribed. Local government is limited and all taxes collected by the communes are paid directly into the national treasury. The first open municipal elections in 26 years took place in 1983. Local mayoral and council elections were held in December 1995. In January 1999 President René Préval began appointing mayors and other local officials because political violence and instability had resulted in the delay of local elections. Since taking office, President Aristide has replaced many of the mayors elected by Préval. By late 2002, most government officials and authorities were loyal to Aristide and his Fanmi Lavalas party. Opposition leaders were prevented from having power in local governments.


The judiciary consists of four levels: the Court of Cassation, courts of appeal, civil courts, and magistrates' courts. Judges of the Court of Cassation are appointed by the president for 10-year terms. Government prosecutors, appointed by the courts, act in both civil and criminal cases. There are also land, labor, and children's courts. Military courts function in both military and civilian cases when the constitution is suspended. The legal system is based upon the French Napoleonic Code.

Until 1995, the Haitian armed forces controlled law enforcement and public security even though the constitution called for separation of the police and military. The 1987 constitution was put into effect in 1995. Although the constitution also calls for an independent judiciary, all judges since 1986 have been appointed and removed at the will of the government and political pressures affect the judiciary at all levels. The justices of peace issue warrants and adjudicate minor infractions. The Supreme Court deals with questions of procedure and constitutionality. Haiti accepts compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. On 9 June 2003, a treaty was ratified to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), with the first session of the CCJ scheduled for November 2003. Although Haiti was not among the eight nations to officially approve the CCJ, it did agree to use the CCJ for resolution of trade disputes.


In 1994, a civilian administration replaced the military government. The armed forces and police were disbanded and they were replaced with a National Police Force, which had an estimated 5,300 members. Since 1 June 2004 there have been no active armed forces, replaced instead, by a UN stabilization force, with 6,700 authorized personnel. A National Police Force of around 2,000 personnel remains operational. Security expenditures in 2000 (the latest year for which data was available) were $50 million.


Haiti is a charter member of the United Nations, having joined on 24 October 1945; it is part of ECLAC and several specialized UN agencies, such as FAO, IAEA, ILO, IMF, IFC, UNESCO, UNIDO, WHO, and the World Bank. Haiti joined the WTO in 1996. The country is also a member of the ACP Group, G-77, the Inter-American development Bank, the Latin American Economic System (LAES), CARICOM, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), and the OAS.

During the 199194 period of de facto military rule, the UN Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) was formed (1993), with a total of 38 countries participating, to restore legitimate government and create a secure and stable political environment within the country. In 1994, the UN Security Council authorized deployment of a US-led multinational force to accomplish this task. From 19942001, other peacekeeping missions were established, including the United Nations Support Mission in Haiti (UNSMIH), the United Nations Transition Mission in Haiti (UNTMIH) and the United Nations Civilian Police Mission in Haiti (MIPONUH). The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was established in 2004, at the resignation of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to support the efforts of the transitional government. A total of 20 countries have offered support to MINUSTAH.

Haiti is a signatory of the 1947 Río Treaty, an inter-American security agreement. The nation also participates in the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL) and is a signatory to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In environmental protection, Haiti is part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the London Convention, the Montréal Protocol, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


One of the richest colonial possessions based on its slave-operated sugar plantations, and site of the world's first successful slave revolt, Haiti is now one of the world's poorest countries, separated on the island of Hispanola from the prospering Dominican Republic by racial and linguistic divisions, and a river named Massacre. About 80% of the population lives in abject poverty, engaged mainly in subsistence agriculture. The economy is basically agricultural: coffee, mangoes, sugar, rice, corn, sorghum, and wood are the main products. Some cottage industries were developed in the mid 1940s, and in the late 1950s and early 1960s the mining sector, particularly bauxite and copper, grew to provide important export items. By the early 1980s, however, mining was losing its importance, and light export-oriented industry, based on cheap labor, was the main growing area. The informal market is growing including the black market transshipment of cocaine. In 2003, Haiti remains one of the 23 countries on the US government's list of major drug-producing or drug-transit countries.

Haiti has suffered a series of natural and political setbacks. Hurricanes have often destroyed substantial parts of the coffee and sugar crops. During 196070, the real GDP declined annually by 0.2%. The accession of Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1971 improved the economy, and between 1970 and 1979, the average annual growth of the GDP was 4%. The economy took a downward turn in the early 1980s, growing by only 0.90% between 1977 and 1987.

On 30 September 1991 a military coup headed by General Cedras deposed the democratically elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The OAS and the United States imposed several economic sanctions following this military coup. The accumulated contraction in the economy from 199194 amounted to about 30%, leaving per capita income at about $260. A UN-mediated agreement called for President Aristide's return to power, which occurred in 1994.

In 1995, GDP growth reached a recent high of 4.5% due mainly to public investment equal to 7.2% of GDP (compared to 0.6% in 1994). Inflation fell to 30.2%, down from 36.1% in 1994. In 1996, GDP growth moderated to 2.78% as inflation fell to 20%. From 1997 to 1999, annual GDP growth averaged 2.1% and inflation fell to single digits, 8.3% in 1998 and 9.9% in 1999. With extensions of credit under the IMF's Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF), the government initiated fiscal policy and structural reforms. After Aristide was voted out of office in 1996, the prime minister resigned in 1997, and the legislature broke up in 1999; all these factors contributed to a cessation of economic reforms. In 2000, violence, civil unrest and fraud that marred the presidential election and led donor countries to put a hold on about $500 million of economic assistance, helped bring GDP growth down to a negligible 0.9% as inflation increased to 15.3%. A new agreement in November 2000 with the IMF was voted down by the legislature. In 2001, continued political unrest, the freezing of over $1 billion in credits from international financial institutions, and the deterioration in the external economy following recession in the United States and the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks brought on Haiti's first contraction since 1994 as GDP fell 1.1%. In 2002, the US government (George W. Bush administration) continued to block aid to Haiti on condition that political reforms, specific arrests, and disarmament would first have to be carried out, and sent assistance to the Dominican Republic to help their military seal their border against Haitian refugees along the Massacre River.

Economic growth for 2002 was -0.9%, with inflation at 9.9%. Unemployment was an estimated 60%. In 2003 the GDP growth rate recovered slightly at 0.5%, but in 2004 it relapsed again, reaching -3.8%; in 2005 the economy was expected to expand by 2%. Inflation went out of control, reaching 39.3% in 2003, and 22.8% in 2004; it was expected to fall to 15% in 2005. Haiti suffers from lack of investments, and a severe trade deficit. In addition, civil conflict and natural disasters, in 2004, added to the problems of an already impoverished country. Foreign aid flows have started to pick up in past years that not at a pace that would offer immediate economic relief.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Haiti's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $12.9 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $1,600. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 3.5%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 13.3%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 30% of GDP, industry 20%, and services 50%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $811 million or about $96 per capita and accounted for approximately 27.8% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $200 million or about $24 per capita and accounted for approximately 6.9% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Haiti totaled $2.69 billion or about $316 per capita based on a GDP of $2.9 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1980 to 1990 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 0.9%. It was estimated that in 2003 about 80% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


In the latest years for which data was available, Haiti's labor force in 1998 was estimated at three million. Of that total, agriculture employed 66%; industry, 9%; and services, 25%. Unemployment and underemployment in Haiti is widespread, As of 2002, it was estimated that more than two-thirds of the country's labor force did not have formal employment of any kind.

Because the proportion of wage earners is relatively small, the labor movement is weak. In 2002, there were nine principal labor federations, representing about 5% of the total labor force. Unions are independent of the government and political parties, but they must register to achieve legal recognition. Strikes are permitted, but participation in strike activity is low. Collective bargaining does not occur.

The minimum age for employment is legally set at 15 years with the exception of domestic service. Child labor is not problematic in the formal sector due to job competition, however it remains prevalent in the informal economy. In industry and service organizations, the legal standard is an eight-hour day with a 48-hour week and 24-hour rest on Sunday. The legal daily minimum wage in 2002 was $1.52, which does not provide a decent standard of living for a family. This only applies to the formal wage-earners, and does not apply to agricultural workers or the informal sector of the economy.


With 62% of the laboring population deriving its living exclusively from the soil, farming is the mainstay of the Haitian economy. Although only about one-third of the country's land is considered suitable for cultivation because of the rugged terrain, 40% of the land was actually being used for crop and feed production and pasture in 2003. Nevertheless, population growth outstripped agricultural growth during the 1970s, and a drought in 1985 affected the production of such important staple crops as rice, maize, and beans. Consequently, foodstuffs have had to be imported in increasing quantity.

Production of coffee in 2004 totaled 28,000 tons, as compared with the record-high of 43,600 tons in 1962. Sugarcane is the second major cash crop, but production has been declining; in 1976, Haiti became a net importer of sugar. Sugarcane production in 2004 was 1,080,000 tons. Other agricultural production figures for the 2004 growing season (in thousands of tons) were bananas, 290; corn, 180; rice, 102; sorghum, 85; dry beans, 33; and cocoa beans, 4.4. Haitian agriculture is characterized by numerous small plots averaging slightly over one hectare (2.5 acres) per family, on which peasants grow most of their food crops and a few other crops for cash sale; few farms exceed 12 hectares (30 acres). Haiti employs an unusual form of farming called arboriculture. Combinations of fruit trees and various roots, particularly the manioc plant, the traditional Haitian bread staple, replace the grain culture of the usual subsistence-economy farming. Crops are cultivated with simple hand tools; the plow or animal power is only rarely employed, except on sugarcane plantations. Coffee is grown on humid mountain slopes, cotton on the semiarid plateaus and sealevel plains, and bananas as well as sugar on the irrigated plains, which covered about 57,000 hectares (140,800 acres) in 2004. Rice has become a basic staple for Haitians, but local production only meets a little more than 20% of demand.


Stock raising is generally a supplementary activity on small farms. In 2005 there were 1,456,000 head of cattle, 1,000,000 hogs, 1,900,000 goats, 500,000 horses, 153,500 sheep, and 5,500,000 poultry. The hog population was decimated by African swine fever in 1979, and careful efforts at replacement have been unsuccessful. In the mid-1990s, the poultry industry contracted from over 100 commercial producers to less than 10. In addition to the embargo and political uncertainty, the industry is under competitive pressure of low cost poultry imports from the United States. Poultry production has not risen enough to fill the vacuum in the rural diet. Extension work directed by the Department of Agriculture's educational center at Damien has helped to stabilize animal husbandry. Poultry production slowly increased from about 6,000 tons per year in the mid-1990s to 8,400 tons by 2005. Native stock has been upgraded by the introduction of hogs and cattle from abroad, particularly the zebu, which does well in the hot, dry plains. Two major stock-feeding centers operate at Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien. Livestock products in 2005 included 99,893 tons of meat, 25,200 tons of goat's milk, 44,500 tons of cow's milk, and 5,050 tons of eggs.


While the proximity of Haiti to the Windward Passage and the north-flowing currents off the Venezuelan coast place it in the path of major fish migrations, including tuna, marlin, bonito, and sardines, the commercial fishing industry is not developed. Reef fish, including giant grouper and rock lobster, are important food sources because deep-sea fishing is limited. Fisheries have been successfully developed in the small ponds and in the irrigation and drainage ditches of the Artibonite Plain. Carp and tertar, a native fish, are abundant, but lack of transport and other facilities limits this important food source to local consumption. The catch was estimated at 5,010 tons in 2003, including 200 tons of Caribbean spiny lobster and 300 tons of conch.


Originally, Haiti was endowed with abundant forest resources. Excellent stands of pine were located in the mountain rain forests of La Hotte Massif and in the Massif du Nord. (Haitian pine is high in turpentine and rosin content, making it suitable for naval stores.) Major stands of mahogany grew in the Fer à Cheval region, and small stands occurred in the island's lower mountain ranges. Tropical oak, cedar, rosewood, and taverneaux also were widespread; hardwoods included lavan (mahogany), narra, tindalo, and ipil. The intensive use of the forests for fuel, both in colonial times and in the modern era, and the clearing of woodlands for agriculture resulted in a decline of Haiti's forestland from over 2.7 million hectares (6.7 million acres) before the coming of Columbus to about 88,000 hectares (217,000 acres) by 2000, the majority of which was privately owned. Such deforestation has created a problem with soil erosion. Reforestation efforts have been more ambitious in design than successful in execution. Haiti had an annual average deforestation rate of 5.7% during 19902000, the highest in the world. Of the estimated 2,231,000 cu m (78,784,000 cu ft) of wood cut in 2004, almost 89% was used for fuel.


The mining sector played a minor role in Haiti's economy. In 2003, mining was limited to sand, gravel, and marble. Cement was also produced in 2003. Asphalt, lime, and salt may also have been produced. The marble industry was being developed for export possibilities.

In 2003, cement production totaled 290,300 metric tons. Sand and gravel production that same year each totaled an estimated 450,000 and 2 million cu m, respectively. Marble output in 2003 was estimated at 131 cu m.

There were small, undeveloped deposits in northern Haiti of chromite, copper (both sedimentary and in veins, in the Massif du Nord), gold, iron ore, lead, manganese (in the Morne Macat section of the Massif du Nord), silver, sulfur, tin, and zinc. There were also bauxite deposits near Miragoâne, and deposits of antimony, gypsum, nickel, and porphyry. The Canadian company St. Genevieve Resources estimated that two small gold mines near Cap-Haïtien could yield at least $100 million over 10 years. The Canadian company KWG Resources, Inc. had two properties with gold and copper resourcesGrand Bois and Morne Bossa.

All subsoil rights belonged to the state; private ownership of mining companies was permitted, and mineral exploration has generally been conducted by foreign enterprises. Private gold mining was permitted, but the metal had to be sold to the National Bank. Production of bauxite ceased with the 1985 closing of the Reynolds mine; production peaked at 613,000 tons in 1979, and exports were worth $14.9 million in 1982. Copper mining was suspended in 1971, because it became unprofitable.


Haiti has no known proven reserves of oil, natural gas, coal, or any oil refining capacity. As a result the country must import whatever refined petroleum products or fossil fuels it consumes. In 2002, imports and consumption of refined petroleum products averaged 11,610 barrels per day in 2002. There were no imports or consumption of natural gas or coal for that same year.

Haiti's electric power sector is marked by reliance upon fossil fuels and hydropower to generate electricity. In 2002, conventional thermal fueled generating capacity totaled 0.244 million kW, with hydropower accounting for 0.063 million kW and fossil fuel plants 0.181 million kW. Electric power production in that year totaled 0.609 billion kWh, with hydropower and conventional thermal accounting for 0.298 billion kWh and 0.311 kWh, respectively. Total power demand in 2002 totaled 0.566 billion kWh. Although power represented the government's top investment priority in the early 1970s, as of July 2005, the electricity supply remains erratic and inadequate. Most industrial plants have standby generators.


Industry has traditionally been primarily devoted to the processing of agricultural and forestry products, although the assembly of imported components for export to the United States and other markets has grown into a substantial industry. During 197078, the industrial sector grew by 8.3% annually; between 1977 and 1987, growth was null; and between 1988 and 1998 the sector declined by 3.1% annually. The parastatal flour refinery and cement factory were sold to foreign interests in 1999. The flour refinery had been out of service for five years before it began operations again in 1998. The cement factory was undergoing restructuring in 1999, and thus was closed. Since the flour refinery and cement factory were privatized in 1999, privatization has stalled. Other industries produce aluminum, enamelware, garments and hats, essential oils, plastic, soap, pharmaceuticals, and paint. A steel plant commenced operations in 1974, converting imported scrap into steel sections. Haitian plants assemble US-made components to create electronic devices, toys, and leather goods. In 1986, before the trade embargo, some 140 export assembly firms employed about 40,000 people. The figure was only 400 in 1994, but five years later 25,000 people were employed in such firms.

Industry grew by 6% annually in 1997 and 1998. However, a growing trade imbalance preempted a more robust recovery, and the global economic slowdown in the United States that began in 2001 negatively affected the Haitian economy. Construction has been consistently more dynamic than agriculture and manufacturing, which realized only moderate output increases.

Industry made up 20% of the economy in 2001, and it employed only 9% of the labor force; services represented 30% of the overall GDP, and employed 25% of the workforce; agriculture was the biggest employer, at 66%, and contributed with 30% to the overall GDP.


The National Council for Scientific Research, founded in 1963, coordinates scientific activities in Haiti, especially in the public health field. Four colleges and universities, including the University of Haiti, offer degrees in basic and applied sciences.


Port-au-Prince, a free port, is the commercial center of Haiti, with Cap-Haïtien second in importance. Most Haitian products are sold in regional markets, which meet on traditional established days, once or twice a week. The Croix-de-Bossales market in Port-au-Prince is the largest market in the country, handling about two-thirds of the food and manufactures used in the capital.

Imported goods usually are sold in small stalls (boutiques), but there are some modern supermarkets. Specialty goods and articles for the tourist trade are offered by merchants who are generally franchised to handle specific brands. Some larger franchised stores, including Sears, Radio Shack, NAPA Auto Parts, and Domino's Pizza, have found a market with the help of Haitian business managers. Although foreign imports, motion pictures, and soft drinks are advertised in newspapers, radio is the principal advertising medium.

Stores are generally open on weekdays from 8 am to 5 pm in the winter, with some shops open until about 7 pm. In summer, closing time is set by law at 4 pm; on Saturdays, stores close at noon. Banks are open from 9 am to 1 pm, Monday through Friday.


Coffee has been supplanted as the main export by manufactured articles assembled in Haiti. The high deficit in the trade balance, with a marginal increase in exports and continued high import buoyancy in the late 1990s, reflects pent-up aggregate demand that is not satisfied by domestic production. Narrowing the trade deficit will therefore require a policy mix that prioritizes exportoriented productive sectors.

The light manufacture of clothes in Haiti accounts for the majority of commodity exports (56%). Other exports include essential oils (5.6%), coffee (5.4%), tropical fruits and vegetables (5.4%), and paper products (4.8%). Haiti's biggest export market is, by far, the United States.

In 2004, exports reached $338 million (FOBFree on Board), while imports grew to $1.1 billion (FOB). The bulk of exports went to the United States (81.2%), the Dominican Republic (7.3%), and Canada (4.1%). Imports included food, manufactured goods, machinery and transport equipment, fuels, and raw materials, and mainly came from the United States (34.8%), the Netherlands Antilles (18%), Malaysia (5.1%), and Colombia (4.7%).


Haiti's external trade position worsened from 1991 to 1994 following the imposition of the trade embargo. As all but humanitarian foreign aid was suspended during those years, balance of

Current Account -13.1
   Balance on goods -782.7
     Imports -1,115.8
     Exports 333.2
   Balance on services -123.0
   Balance on income -14.3
   Current transfers 906.8
Capital Account
Financial Account -76.5
   Direct investment abroad
   Direct investment in Haiti
   Portfolio investment assets
   Portfolio investment liabilities
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets -98.0
   Other investment liabilities 13.7
Net Errors and Omissions 85.0
Reserves and Related Items 4.6
() data not available or not significant.

payments deficits reflected the decline in net capital inflows. Once a constitutional government was returned to power in 1994, however, imports increased, due to high domestic demand. As a result of aid flows and remittances from Haitians living abroad, imports in the 1990s and into the early 2000s grew steadily. Haiti's ability to generate export revenue depends upon a revival of the assembly sector.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2001 the purchasing power parity of Haiti's exports was $326.6 million while imports totaled $977.5 million resulting in a trade deficit of $650.9 million.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 1998 Haiti had exports of goods totaling $299 million and imports totaling $641 million. The services credit totaled $180 million and debit $381 million.

Exports of goods and services reached $502 million in 2004, up from $461 million in 2003. Imports grew from $1.4 billion in 2003, to $1.5 billion in 2004. The resource balance was consequently negative in both years, worsening from -$939 million in 2003, to -$953 million in 2004. The current account balance was also negative, slightly improving from -$140 million in 2003, to - $98 million in 2004.


The national bank of the Republic of Haiti (Banque Nationale de la République d'Haïti-BRH), the sole bank of issue and government depository, was founded in 1880 and acquired from US interests in 1934 and became the fiscal agent of Haiti in 1947. As the nation's principal commercial bank, it participates in the national lottery, the national printing office and plant, the National Archives, banana development, the tobacco and sugar monopolies, the Agricultural and Industrial Development Institute, and the Agricultural Credit Bureau; it is also a depositor with the IMF and IBRD.

The first private Haitian bank, the Bank of the Haitian Union, opened in 1973. In 2002, nine other commercial banks were in operation; including one of them Haitian (Banque Industrielle et Commerciale d'Haiti), one US (Citibank), and one Canadian (Bank of Nova Scotia). There are two state-owned banks, Banque Nationale de Crédit and Banque Populaire Haitienne. Other banks included Promobank, Unibank, Sogebank, Socabank, and Capital Bank. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $434.3 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $1.4 billion.

There is no securities exchange in Haiti. Trading in Haitian corporations that make public offerings of their bonds or equity shares is conducted on the New York over-the-counter market.


Major world insurance companies maintain agencies or branches in Haiti, the most prominent being Sun Life of Canada, the first to enter into life insurance. The insurance classes covered are life, accident, sickness, fire, and motor.


In the mid to late 1990s, Haiti, under President Préval, undertook a program of economic reform. The agenda included trade liberalization, increasing fiscal responsibility, downsizing civil service, financial sector reform, and privatization of some state-owned enterprises. The privatization program stalled in 2001, a year in which GDP fell by 2.1% due to political uncertainty, low investment, a high budget deficit, and reduced capital inflow from abroad.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Haiti's central government took in revenues of approximately $400 million and had expenditures of $600.8 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$200.8 million. Total external debt was $1.3 billion.


Corporate and personal incomes are both taxed according to a progressive scale ranging from 10% to 35%. Since 1951, new corporations, if placed on the government's list of recommended new industries have benefited from special tax concessions, including customs duties exemption and a five-year corporate income tax exemption. The progressive income tax is the most important direct tax. The first band, 10%, implicitly exempts the first 20,000 gourde of income (about $509) from taxation, and runs to 100,000 gourde ($2,542). The 15% band covers the next increment of income to 250,000 gourde ($6,360); the 25% band covers the next increment to 750,000 gourde ($19,076), and the highest band, 30%, applies to all income above $19,076. The highest property tax rate is reportedly 15%. Indirect taxes include a value-added tax (VAT) with a 10% standard rate, raised from 7% in 1985. There are also numerous excise taxes at various rates.


In February 1987, a new tariff structure replaced all remaining specific duties with ad valorem tariffs and introduced new rates of between zero and 15%, except for higher rates on rice, maize, millet, flour, and gasoline, and lower rates for sugar and cement. All imports are subject to a 10% VAT and 4% verification fee. Fuel imports are subject to various additional excise taxes.

Haiti was voted into CARICOM in July 1999 and is working towards full integration by 2006. The country is also a part of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), allowing duty-free entry of exports to the United States, and is a signatory to the Lomè Convention, allowing mostly free exporting to the European Union.


The government welcomes foreign investment, granting important concessions to new industries not competing with local production. Such enterprises are exempt from import and export duties for the life of the enterprise and enjoy a full tax exception for the first five years of operation. Companies locating in the industrial park are entitled to tax exception for a further three years. For companies that locate outside the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area there is a 100% income tax exemption for 5 to 15 years with 1520% of the income tax payable thereafter. Additionally, for export and import oriented business, there is an exemption without time limit from customs duties on imported machinery, equipment, raw materials, and accessories needed for production. Foreign capital enjoys equal status treatment with Haitian capital. The National Office for Investment Promotion is in charge of foreign investment.

Substantial foreign investment in Haiti began during World War II as a means of stimulating production of goods considered essential to the United States war effort. Agricultural development was financed largely by the US Export-Import Bank and the World Bank, supplemented with private foreign capital.

In October 1996, the IMF approved a $131 million loan to Haiti. The credit, to be provided over a three-year period, is aimed at supporting a national economic reform program. The international donor community committed $2 billion in concessional loans and grants to Haiti for the 199599 period, including $390 million from the World Bank. Unfortunately, the political impasse of 2000 caused a freeze on international donations.

Foreign direct investment (FDI), since the lifting of the trade embargo in 1995, has increased only moderately. By 1998, annual FDI inflow to Haiti reached almost $11 million, up from $4.4 million in 1997, and in 1999, FDI inflow peaked at $30 million. The disputed elections in 2000 and continuing political uncertainty helped bring FDI flows down to $13.2 million in 2000 and less than $3 million in 2001. In 2003, Haiti was one of 23 countries that remained on the US "majors" list of countries involved in illicit drug processing and/or illicit drug transit.

Most investment comes from petroleum companies (Texaco, Shell, Esso, and Elf). Other major foreign investors include American Airlines, American Rice Corporation, Citibank, Compagnie Tabac, Continental Grain, Seaboard Marine, and Western Wireless, from the United States; and Royal Caribbean and Scotiabank.


Although its annual national revenue covers basic necessities, the government supports development programs by encouraging loans and by requiring private enterprises to finance development projects. Aided by the United States and various international aid organizations, the government has supported the construction of tourist facilities, public works, and irrigation and the creation of monopolies in cement, sugar marketing, tobacco and lumbering.

The framework for economic policy in 1996 was determined mainly by the passage of a structural reform program and the agreement signed between the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance to curtail financing of the fiscal deficit by the Central Bank. Passage of the structural reform program (which forms the basis for international financial support and includes Civil Service Reform and Modernization of Public Enterprises), proved slow and difficult. The Civil Service Reform prescribed the modalities for a reduction of the civil service by 7,500 employees over a period of 18 months. The Modernization of Public Enterprises program established a legal framework for private sector participation in the state-owned enterprises, in the form of either concession, management contract, and/or capitalization.

Macroeconomic stability, structural and institutional reforms, and poverty alleviation are still the main objectives in Haiti's agenda for the future. The administration has demonstrated its commitment through programs with the International Monetary Fund (IMF); the passage of laws pertaining to structural reforms; coordinated efforts with multilateral and national institutions to design the modernization of the state program; and continuation of programs for poverty alleviation such as the IMF's Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) Arrangement. In exchange for the IMF assistance, Haiti in 2003 pledged to reduce spending and stabilize its currency, moves that were expected to pave the way for other financial institutions to release suspended funds to the country (funds were suspended due to flawed legislative elections in 2000, and due to Haiti's state of arrears on its debts).

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, experienced worsening economic and social conditions from 200103. About 80% of the population lives in abject poverty. Nearly 70% of all Haitians depend on the agriculture sector, which consists mainly of small-scale subsistence farming and employs about two-thirds of the economically active work force. The country has experienced only moderate job creation in recent years. Failure to reach agreement with multilateral lenders in late 1995 led to rising deficit spending, subsequently increasing inflation, and a drop in the value of the Haitian currency in the final months of 1995. Potential investors, both foreign and domestic, have been reluctant to risk their capital. The government will have to grapple with implementing necessary, although unpopular, economic reforms in order to obtain badly needed foreign aid and improve Haiti's ability to attract foreign capital if the Haitian economy is to gain momentum. Haiti will continue to depend heavily on foreign aid in the medium term.

Foreign aid flows have mainly targeted the garment assembly industry, and were doubled by remittances from abroad (which are estimated to represent over 20% of the country's GDP). The economy was expected to expand by around 2% in 2005, a rate that is far from what is needed to improve the economic situation for the population that is living in abject poverty.


A social welfare program covers employees of industrial, commercial, and agricultural firms funded equally from employee and employer contributions. The government funds any deficit. Retirement is set at age 55. Pensions are also available for survivors and disability. Work injury insurance is funded by the employer. Maternity benefits were first introduced in 1999. A funeral grant of one month's earnings is provided.

Women do not enjoy the same economic and social status as men. Women's rights groups reported in 2004 that rape and other abuses against women increased. The government provides no services for victims of sexual violence. Although the government signed the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, the abuse of children is widespread. Many children in Haiti are forced to work as domestic servants in the homes of middle and upper class families.

Haiti has an extremely poor human rights record.


In general, sanitation facilities in Haiti are among the poorest in Latin America. Haiti lacks water in both quantity and quality, with only 46% of the urban population having access to safe water in 2000. City sewerage systems are inadequate and business and residential areas often make use of septic tanks. In 2000, only 28% of Haiti's population had access to adequate sanitation.

As of 2004, there were an estimated 25 physicians, 11 nurses, and 1 dentist per 100,000 people. Half the doctors are in Port-au-Prince and a fourth are in other principal towns, leaving a minimum of medical services for the rural population. In 1999, the government entered into an agreement with Cuba under which 120 Haitians are studying medicine in Cuba, while 500 Cuban health care professionals provide services to Haitians.

Malaria and yaws have been combated by the World Health Organization, while other health programs have been conducted by the Rockefeller Foundation and the American Sanitary Mission. Tuberculosis has long been a serious health problem; in 1999, there were about 361 reported cases of tuberculosis per 100,000 inhabitants. Malnutrition and gastrointestinal diseases are responsible for more than half of all deaths. Children may receive vaccinations, but the statistics are very low. Haiti's government did not pay for routine vaccines. Children were vaccinated against tuberculosis, 40%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 35%; polio, 32%; and measles, 30%. Goiter was present in 12.4% of schoolage children in 1996. Some 27% of children were underweight between 1989 and 1995.

Haiti has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the Americas. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 5.60 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 280,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 24,000 deaths from AIDS in 2003.

The fertility rate has declined from 6.3 in 1960 to 4.3 children per woman in 2000. An estimated 15% of all births were considered low birth weight. Haiti has the highest maternal mortality rate in the Americas, with 525 maternal deaths per 1,000 live births. The infant mortality rate fell from 182 per 1,000 live births in 1960 to 73.45 in 2005 and the general mortality rate was estimated at 14.8 per 1,000 in 2002. During 2005, the average life expectancy was estimated at 52.92 years. The birth rate was an estimated 31.4 per 1,000 people in 2002. As of 2000, 28% of women (ages 15 to 49) used some form of contraception. Less than half the population had access to health care services. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 4.2% of GDP.


Although housing projects have been constructed in Port-au-Prince and in Cap-Haïtien, there is an increasing shortage of low-cost housing. Migration to the major cities has compounded the urban housing problem. Natural disaster including cyclones, floods, droughts, and earthquake have had serious effects on the housing situation as well.

Outside the capital and some other cities, housing facilities are generally primitive and almost universally without sanitation. Wooden huts are the prevalent standard for the countryside. The average household includes about five or six people, often living on a two- or three-room dwelling. Over 40% of all homes have dirt floors. About 63% of the population do not have access to clean water or sanitary restroom facilities. The housing deficit has been estimated at one million homes and growing.

By presidential decree, the National Housing Office was established in 1966. Housing built in the 1970s in Port-au-Prince for about 18,000 people merely replaced demolished units. A new cooperative project, supervised by the National Housing Office and financed by UNDP, was initiated in 1979 in St. Martin, on the out-skirts of Port-au-Prince. Housing construction is reported to have proceeded at a steady pace since that time. According to the latest available statistical information, total housing units numbered 890,000, with 6.1 people per dwelling.


Although 80% of the students speak Creole and have only rudimentary knowledge of French, educational programs are mostly conducted in French. The Office of National Literacy and Community Action has the major responsibility for literacy programs throughout the country. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 51.9%, with 53.8% for men and 50% for women. In 1990, public expenditure on education was estimated at 1.4% of GDP.

Education is compulsory for six years (ages 6 to 12). There are two systems of public education. In the traditional (French) system, primary school covers six years and secondary school covers seven years. In the reform system, there are nine years of primary school followed by three years of secondary school. At about age 15, some students may choose to attend a three-year technical school instead of following the classical or professional education tracks of the other systems. The academic year runs from October to June. Primary school enrollment in 1999 was estimated at about 81% of age-eligible students. The student-to-teacher ratio in 1999 was about 31:1 for primary schools.

The Université d'État d'Haïti (Port-au-Prince), dating from 1920, offers the following schools: administration and management, agronomy, economics, ethnology, law, medicine and pharmacy, science, and surveying. There are about two dozen other universities in Haiti, including the Université Jacques Theodore Holly. There are also several vocational training centers and trade schools.


The library of the Brothers of St.-Louis de Gonzage, the finest in Haiti, includes bound newspaper collections covering the 19th and 20th centuries and many rare works of the colonial and republican eras. The Bibliothèque Nationale contains about 26,000 volumes. Le Petit Séminaire, a parochial college, has an excellent library. The government has a wealth of library material dating back to colonial Saint-Domingue in the National Archives and rare papers on the Napoleonic expedition in Haiti in the famous Rochambeau Collection. Private libraries, notably the Mangones Library in Pétionville, make important contributions to Haitian scholarship. There is a French Institute and an American Institute library in Port-au-Prince. The University of Haiti has an important agricultural collection.

The National Museum in Port-au-Prince dates from 1938. The Museum of the Haitian People, also in the capital, has anthropological and folklore collections, and the College of St. Pierre houses the Museum of Haitian Art, which opened in 1972. There is a historical and public affairs museum in the capital as well.


The government owns and operates domestic telephone and telegraph communications. All America Radio and Cables, RCA Global Communications, and Western Union International provide international telephone and telegraph service. In 2003, there were an estimated 17 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 38 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

With low literacy rates and limited television broadcasting, radio is the most important medium for news and information. A 1997 law designates the government as the sole owner of the airwaves; however, the government provides broadcast leases to private operators. In 2004, there were about 307 licensed radio stations and at least 133 unlicensed stations. Most broadcast in French; some offer programming in Creole. In 2005, there were at least three television stations. Television Nationale d'Haiti is a government-owned cultural television station offering programs in Creole, French, and Spanish. Trans-America and PVS Antenne are private stations broadcasting in French. In 2003, there were an estimated 18 radios and 60 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, about 18 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were five secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

The principal Haitian newspapers (all published in Port-au-Prince) are the three dailies, Le Matin, (2002 circulation, 5,000), Le Nouvelliste (6,000), and L'Union (7,000). Le Moniteur, the official gazette, is published three times a week.

The constitution guarantees free speech and a free press, and the government is said to uphold these freedoms with few exceptions.


Organizational activity in Haiti is limited. The Credit Cooperative of Les Cayes, the only cooperative of any significance, has maintained a sizable membership. There is a chamber of commerce in Port-au-Prince. The Center d'Art, an informal artists' cooperative founded in 1944, has exhibited Haitian artists locally and internationally. There are some professional associations in the country, such as the Association Medicale Haitienne, which serves as both a physician network and an advocacy group for research and education in medicine and healthcare industries.

A national student movement is organized through the National Federation of Haitian Students. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts programs are available, as are branches of the YMCA. There are some sports associations in the country representing a variety of pastimes.

There are branches of the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Rotary, Lion's Club, and the Masonic Order.


Port-au-Prince is a free port for a variety of luxury items. Tourist attractions include white sand beaches, numerous colonial buildings in Port-au-Prince and other cities, and the early 19th-century Citadelle and Sans Souci Palace in Cap-Haïtien. Rapid divorcesgranted in 24 to 48 hoursand casino gambling are among the attractions for US residents. Football (soccer) is the national sport, and cockfighting is very popular. Tourist resorts offer facilities for water sports and tennis.

For entry to Haiti, visitors must have a valid passport. A visa is not required for stays of up to 90 days. In the 1980s and 1990s, tourism was adversely affected by the island's generally depressed economy, political turbulence, and by the alleged link between Haitians and AIDS. The political and civil unrest in 2004 caused the tourism industry to suffer further.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Port-au-Prince at $235. Other areas were as low as $129.


The national heroes of Haiti include Pierre Dominique Toussaint L'Ouverture (17431803), the Precursor; Jean Jacques Dessalines (17581806), who defeated Napoleon's army and proclaimed Haitian independence; Alexandre Sabès Pétion (17701818), first president of the republic established in southern Haiti; and Henri Christophe (17671820), king of Haiti (181120), who built the famous Citadelle and Sans Souci Palace. François Duvalier ("Papa Doc," 190771), originally trained as a physician, was elected president in 1957 and in 1964 became president for life. His son Jean-Claude Duvalier (b.1951) inherited his father's title in 1971 but was ousted in 1986. Ertha Pascal-Trouillot (b.1943) was the first woman to hold the post of president of Haiti. She held the position for nearly a year, from 1990 to 1991. Jean-Bertrand Aristide (b.1953), a former Roman Catholic priest, succeeded her in 1991, and served again from 1994 to 1996, and then from 2001 to 2004, when he was overthrown in a popular rebellion.

John James Audubon (17851851), an artist and ornithologist, was born in Haiti. The writers Éméric Bergeaud (181858), Oswald Durand (18401906), Philippe Thoby-Marcelin (190475), Jacques Roumain (190744), and Jean Fernand Brierre (190992) have won international literary recognition. Noted poets include the dramatist Pierre Faubert (180368), Corolian Ardouin (181235), Alibée Féry (181996), and Charles-Seguy Villavaleix (18351923). Haitian artists include the sculptor Edmond Laforestière (18371904); the primitive painter Héctor Hippolyte (18901948), leader of the Afro-Art Renaissance in the Caribbean; Wilson Big-aud (b.1931); and Jacques Enguérrand Gourge (19311996). Haitian composers include Occide Jeanty (18601936) and Justin Elie (18831931); Ludovic Lamothe (18821953) used voodoo music in his compositions.


Haiti has no territories or colonies.


Abbott, Elizabeth. Haiti: The Duvaliers and their Legacy. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991.

Calvert, Peter. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Latin America. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

Dash, J. Michael. Culture and Customs of Haiti. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001.

Dupuy, Alex. Haiti in the New World Order: The Limits of the Democratic Revolution. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1997.

Girard, Philippe R. Clinton in Haiti: The 1994 U.S. Invasion in Haiti. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

. Paradise Lost: Haiti's Tumultuous Journey from Pearl of the Caribbean to Third World Hot Spot. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Health in the Americas, 2002 edition. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Health Organization, Pan American Sanitary Bureau, Regional Office of the World Health Organization, 2002.

Heinl, Robert Debs. Written in Blood: The Story of the Haitian People, 14921995. Lanham: University Press of America, 1996.

McElrath, Karen, (ed.). HIV and AIDS: A Global View. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Metz, Helen Chapin, (ed.). Dominican Republic and Haiti: Country Studies. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2001.

Nicholls, David. From Dessalines to Duvalier: Race, Colour, and National Independence in Haiti. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1996.

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Republic of Haiti

Major City:

Other Cities:
Cap-Haïtien, Gonaïves, Jacmel, Kenscoff, Les Cayes, Pétionville, Port-de-Paix


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated August 1996. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


In October 1994, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was restored to power in Haiti by a U.S.-led Multinational Force (MNF), ending 3 years of military dictatorship and extreme hardship for the Haitian people. Economic sanctions were lifted, and MNF troops were deployed throughout the country to ensure Haiti's peaceful transition to democratic rule. Shortly after Aristide's return, the international donor community met and pledged $1.2 billion to assist in the rebuilding of the Haitian economy and social institutions. Parliamentary elections were held in the summer and fall of 1995, and, in accordance with the constitution, elections for President were held in December 1995. President Rene Preval was inaugurated February 7, 1996, completing the first-ever peaceful transition from one elected President to another and giving Haitians a democratically elected government from the local level to the Presidency. A small U.N. or multinational peace-keeping mission is expected to remain in Haiti through 1996.

Haiti is a land with too many people and almost no natural resources. Its forests have been cut down and its topsoil washed into the sea. To the outside world, its name has become synonymous with "boat people" and voodoo. It is a land of hunger, poverty, pride, and beauty.

Americans living in Haiti find the climate delightful, the people handsome and approachable, the arts fascinating, the poverty appalling, and the overall experience unique to each person.



Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, is located on the Gulf of La Gonave, formed by the two great peninsulas that define Haiti's coastline. These two peninsulas are often compared to the jaws of a crocodile that looks as if it is about to swallow Port-au-Prince.

To feel the pulse of Port-au-Prince, one can think of Haiti as "a fragment of black Africa which dislodged, drifted across the Atlantic and settled in the Caribbean." Following a successful slave revolt in 1804, this "bit of Africa" became the second independent country in the Western Hemisphere.

Port-au-Prince is a city with an uninspired waterfront and downtown area. The city has expanded onto adjoining hills with incredible vistas. At present, the city is a conglomeration of nondescript office buildings, slums, old Victorian houses with "gingerbread" trim, modern cement-block houses, and breathtaking million-dollar homes. The city's social system unofficially divides the populace into a majority of black African descent called "noirs" and a minority of mixed ancestry called "mulatres." This division continues to be the basis for the inequalities so glaringly visible in Port-au-Prince.

The city has few historic sites, but sight-seeing is ample for a short visit. Major attractions are the Episcopal cathedral with its Haitian Biblical murals, the Catholic cathedral, the Musee d'Art, and many private art galleries. Haitian handi-craft stores feature metal arts created from old oil drums, many with a delightful sense of humor. There are over 8,000 U.S. citizens living in Haiti, and about half of those registered are children under 18. The American business community in Port-au-Prince is not sizable.


During normal times Port-au-Prince offers a surprising variety of food products, although many items are imported and retail at prices well above the U.S. level. These include packaged, canned, and frozen foods, occasional cottage cheese, sour cream and French cheeses, but only dry or long-life (UHT) milk is available. Goods are often beyond their peak upon arrival and many past their expiration date as well.

Local beef, pork, and chicken are available, but the quality does not meet U.S. standards. Vegetables and fruit are available in season. Market women sell string beans, peas, avocados, beets, carrots, eggplant, tomatoes, squash, lettuce, cabbage, onions, garlic, parsley, special artichokes, cauliflower, potatoes, and radishes. Papayas, mangoes, oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, pineapples, bananas, and various melons are available in season but quality varies.

Uncooked vegetables or unpeeled fruit should be washed and treated with a chlorine solution as disinfectant.


Lightweight clothing is worn year-round, with a sweater or jacket occasionally useful in the winter. The average temperature in Port-au-Prince is 80°F. Raincoats are not worn, as they are too warm, but umbrellas are useful. A lightweight sweater or jacket is needed for trips to the mountains.

Women: In public women wear dresses, skirts and blouses, or slacks and tops. Lightweight, washable cottons or synthetic cotton mixtures are most comfortable. A limited supply of Haitian-embroidered linen dresses are sold locally but at high prices.

Lingerie is available locally but is very expensive or of second quality. Nylon lingerie can be too hot for the Port-au-Prince climate. Hosiery is optional and rarely worn.

Locally made sandals are reasonably priced and available in the markets. It is wise to bring other footwear and tennis shoes from the U.S. Many beaches are stony, and sea urchins are numerous, so bathing shoes of some type are useful.

Children: Children in all grades at Union School wear uniforms. The uniforms, shirts and shorts are limited to the colors blue, white, and yellow and must be purchased locally. Play clothes are worn to children's parties. Most teenage entertaining is casual.

Supplies and Services

Most well-known brands of American toiletries and cosmetics are available but much more expensive. French and European toiletries and cosmetics often cost less.

Haitian fabric material is of poor quality, and imported fabrics are available but expensive.

Tailoring is inadequate for most types of men's clothing. Prices for low-quality tailor-made suits are reasonable.

Dressmakers are available. Seamstresses will come to the home at reasonable prices to make clothing for adults or children. Shoe repair often takes place on the street and is quite satisfactory. Good-quality dry-cleaning is hard to find.

In all of these service areas, language ability, or lack thereof, usually compounds any problem.

Religious Activities

Haiti is predominately a Roman Catholic country. Parish churches are located throughout the city, and the Port-au-Prince Cathedral is in the center city. Mass is traditionally said in French or Creole. An English mass is held on Sunday mornings at St. Louis de Gonzague Chapel in the downtown area.

Protestant services are held on Sunday mornings at the Episcopal Church of St. Jacques in Petionville and at the Quisqueya Chapel, a nondenominational church in Port-au-Prince. The Quisqueya Chapel also has Sunday School classes, Bible study groups, and a Sunday evening worship service. Services are held on Saturday mornings at the Church of the Adventist University of Haiti in Diquini.

Members of the Jewish and Muslim communities usually hold services in their homes to celebrate their holy days.

Vaudun (voodoo) plays a central part in the religious life of many Haitians. It is essentially a bringing together of beliefs and rituals of African origin, closely tied to Catholic practices. Some understanding of voodoo is essential to an understanding of Haiti.


The Haitian school system includes primary through university levels and is based on the French system, with classes taught in French or Creole.

Most foreign children in Port-au-Prince attend the SACS-accredited Union School. Classes are taught in English, with French a required subject at all grade levels. The Union School is open to all nationalities and offers a program from pre-school through grade 12. It has a capacity of 380 children and should be notified well in advance of enrollment plans for arriving children, particularly if they involve a mid-term transfer.

When planning enrollment in the Union School, students should bring with them complete school records including report cards and test results. A one-time bonding fee of $150 per child is nonreimbursable. School hours are from 7:45 am to 1:30 pm. The school year normally begins toward the end of August and finishes in early June. Students at the Union School wear uniforms from kindergarten through grade 12, as do children in all Haitian schools. Children attending the Union School ordinarily have no difficulty transferring to U.S. schools.

The Union School has a Learning Center for children with mild learning difficulties, and it is generally recognized to have a very good elementary school program. Its high school curriculum has an advanced placement program, but there is no international baccalaureate available. The Quisqueya Christian School also provides English-language schooling from kindergarten through grade 12. The school is open to all nationalities and is attended by many American children. It currently has an enrollment of 200, and the staff are American educated.


Sports activities in Haiti are found primarily in private clubs. (There are no organized sports facilities such as the YMCA.) The Petion Ville Club, about 3 miles from downtown Port-au-Prince, is on a hill overlooking the bay. Included in its 145 acres are a rugged nine-hole golf course, six tennis courts (four lighted), a 75-foot swimming pool (which can be enjoyed by children), and a clubhouse with dance floor, dining, bar, and locker accommodations. There are a number of tennis clubs in Port-au-Prince. These often have social facilities available in addition to the tennis courts. Most clubs require an initiation fee and/or monthly dues.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

A great deal of Haiti's outdoor life centers around its coastal waters and beaches. There are safe and pleasant beaches about a 60-minute drive from Port-au-Prince, and a number have overnight and restaurant facilities. Swimming and snorkeling are ideal for all ages.

Scuba diving is popular in Haiti, but divers should bring their own tanks. There is one place in Port-au-Prince that will refill tanks, but only to 2,200 pounds unless you have your own compressor. There is no scuba-diving equipment available locally. The Cormier Plage Beach Resort, adjacent to Cap Haitien on the north coast, rents equipment. Scuba-diving instruction for certification is possible in Haiti at both beginning and advanced levels. The cost is 550 Haitian dollars.

Unstable political conditions have restricted the formerly good hunting for ducks, guinea hens, wild pigeons, and doves.

Kenscoff (45 minutes from Port-au-Prince) is a town at an altitude of 4,500 feet, set in mountains as high as 6,500 feet. It is cool year-round and may even be cold in winter. Although the road has suffered wear and tear, people enjoy visiting Kenscoff on weekends. There are some wonderful places to hike. The scenery in the mountains is extraordinary, and travelers like to stop en route to visit the Baptist Fermathe Mission's arts-and-crafts shop and have lunch in its pleasant restaurant. For historic content, Forts Jacques and Alexandre can be added to the itinerary.

Cap Haitien (157 miles from Port-au-Prince; 6 hours by car), Haiti's second-largest city, is of primary interest because of its historic past. The famed Citadelle Laferriere, often referred to as the "eighth wonder of the world," was built on a 3,000-foot peak overlooking Cap Haitien. Below the Citadelle is Milot, where one can visit the ruins of Henri Christophe's Sans Souci Palace. Above Milot, horses can be rented for the uphill ride to the Citadelle. Cap Haitien has adequate hotel facilities, and nearby are two very pleasant seaside resorts.

Jacmel (73 miles from Port-au-Prince; 2 hours by car) is on the southern peninsula and well known for its beaches. It is a picturesque town with turn-of-the-century architecture, a small iron market, and a few small art galleries. Jacmel has beaches inside the town and nearby at Carrefour Raymond. The road to Jacmel is in fair condition, and the town has two good hotels with restaurants.

Les Cayes (125 miles from Port-au-Prince; 4 hours by car) is the principal city of the southern peninsula and the third-largest city in Haiti. The city itself has little to offer, but the road from the capital passes through beautiful and interesting country. One of the best beaches in Haiti, Port-Salut, is nearby and has a restaurant and hotel. Les Cayes has two satisfactory hotels, one on the outskirts and one in the city.

The Arts and Entertainment

The Haitian art scene has attracted world-wide attention since 1946, when English teacher DeWitt Peters brought Hector Hippolyte, Philomene Obin, and other greats of Haiti's primitive art scene to the attention of the world's art establishment. One of the unique experiences of living in Haiti is the chance to visit the studios and galleries of the artists carrying on this fascinating tradition.

Haiti has no concert or theater series, but the Philharmonic Orchestra of Saint Trinite Cathedral presents seasonal concerts of classical music, and the cathedral provides a locale for the all-too-rare performances by visiting soloists or chamber groups.

The Musee d'Art Haitien, on the Champs-de-Mars, houses both standing and rotating art exhibits.

Private art galleries abound in the Port-au-Prince area, but one that holds a special place in Haitian hearts is the Jean-Rene Jerome Museum, opened in the mid-1980s to honor the much-revered artist.

There are few archaeological sites in Haiti, but Dr. William Hodges of the Good Samaritan Hospital in Limbe has had as an avocation during his 30-year career in the country a search for the site where Columbus landed his first expedition on the north coast. If one is traveling to Cap Haitien by car, a stopover to visit Dr. Hodges' small museum in Limbe should be considered. For the real enthusiast, a journey to the east of Cap Haitien takes one to the site that Dr. Hodges' research leads him to conclude was the actual spot where Columbus established the first colony in the New World.

Port-au-Prince has several movie houses, of which the Imperial is the largest and most comfortable. Most films shown are French films, but even American films are dubbed in French.

There are a number of quite good restaurants in the area. Excellent French cuisine can be had at the pricier establishments. The larger hotels have dining rooms that feature special buffets, Sunday brunches, and an occasional floor show. A few nightclubs provide Haitian or disco music, and there are two hotel casinos.

Coverage of the entertainment scene in Haiti cannot neglect Carnival where dancing in the streets takes place every Sunday after Christmas and culminates in Mardi Gras, the two days before Ash Wednesday. Musical groups called rara bands dance across the countryside during the pre-Lenten season. Many Haitians join in these singing and dancing festivities, and drinking is excessive. Things tend to become rowdy, and foreigners usually prefer to watch these celebrations on television.

Social Activities

Most entertaining takes place informally in the home. Single people generally find sports clubs or outdoor activities the most satisfactory way to socialize. As most Haitians do not receive high salaries, it is often difficult for them to return hospitality. There is an American Women's Community Association (AWCA), which meets monthly. It provides a welcome to new American women, sponsors seasonal parties for the children, and is open to any activities or projects for which members indicate enthusiasm. The Women's International Gourmet Society (WIGS) meets monthly to sample different restaurant cuisine. The local churches have women's groups to which all are welcome. The Quisqueya Chapel sponsors periodic men's breakfasts at a local hotel. These are open to all men in the community.


CAP-HAÏTIEN (also called Le Cap), about 85 miles north of Port-au-Prince on the northern coast, is Haiti's second largest city. It is of primary interest because of its historic past. There are ruins here of former colonial dwellings and buildings; nearby Milot is the site of the ruins of King Christophe's Sans Souci palace. From Milot, horses or burros can be rented for a two-hour ride to the Citadelle Laferrière, also built by Christophe, and surmounted on a 3,000-foot peak overlooking the nearby plain. The city has a modern harbor which handles one-ninth of Haiti's imports and exports. One of the world's largest sisal plantations is located in Cap-Haïtien. Pineapples, sugarcane, coffee, bananas, and cacao are grown near the city. From Port-au-Prince to Cap-Haïtien, the trip is four hours by car, or 35 minutes by air. Cap-Haïtien's 1995 population was about 100,600.

GONAÏVES is a port city on the Gulf of Gonave in western Haiti. The country's independence was proclaimed here in 1804, and today the city is a major commercial center. The region's agricultural products, including sugar, cotton, coffee, and bananas, are exported from the harbor. A main attraction in the city is the Musée du Centenaire. It was inaugurated in 1904 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Haiti's independence. The Gulf of Gonave is situated in the pincers of two mountainous peninsulas and is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. The city's population is estimated over 40,000.

JACMEL , situated on the southern peninsula, is a picturesque town of about 216,600. It boasts a small iron market, a few small art galleries, and beaches at nearby Carrefour Raymond. The road to Jacmel recently was rerouted and paved.

KENSCOFF , 10 miles south of Port-au-Prince, and where visitors go on weekends to escape the heat of the capital city, is at an altitude of 4,500 feet. Its mountains rise as high as 6,500 feet. The area is cool all year, and sometimes even cold during the winter. In addition to the climate change, the road to Kenscoff and the town itself offer beautiful scenery and picturesque countryside. Along the road to Kenscoff, sightseers often stop to visit the Baptist Mission's arts and crafts shop or to explore the historic forts, Jacques and Alexandre. The town has about 3,000 people.

LES CAYES is the principal city of the southern peninsula and the third largest city in Haiti, with over 37,000 inhabitants. It is situated 90 miles from Port-au-Prince, but the trip takes several hours by jeep, and then only when roads are passable. The city itself has little to offer, but the road from the capital passes through beautiful and interesting country. One of the best beaches in Haiti, Port-Salut, is nearby. The city is Haiti's principal southern port. Coffee, bananas, cotton, timber, and hides are exported from Les Cayes. Historic landmarks include an arsenal and several forts dating from buccaneer times.

PÉTIONVILLE , a suburb of Port-au-Prince, is five miles southeast of the capital in the hills of the Massif de la Selle. The community is mostly a residential resort area, tied to Port-au-Prince by a twisting toll road. Pétionville's estimated population is 69,5000 (1995). Its name derives from that of Alexandre Sab s Pétion, a hero of Haiti's war for independence in the early 1800s.

Historic PORT-DE-PAIX is a seaport town opposite Tortuga Island, 45 miles west of Cap-Haïtien. Its tumultuous history dates to 1665 and the founding of the city by French insurrectionists from Tortuga Island. They originally settled near Môle Saint-Nicolas, where Columbus landed on December 6, 1492. The first slave revolt took place in Port-de-Paix in 1679. The area flourished in the 19th century when, for a while, it was the colonial capital. A 1902 fire devastated the city, physically and spiritually. Today, Port-de-Paix relies on coffee, bananas, rice, sisal (a strong fiber used to make rope), and tobacco production, as well as fishing, for survival. Agricultural produce, logwood, and hides are exported. The municipal population is over 20,000.


Geography and Climate

Eighteenth-century Haiti, famed for its wealth and productivity, was known to the colonial world as the Pearl of the Antilles. Located in the Caribbean Sea on the western third of the island of Hispaniola, Haiti is a 10,700-square-mile area of primarily mountainous terrain, some of which rises above 8,000 feet, and 850 miles of spectacular coastline. Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, which occupies the eastern two-thirds.

Haiti's tropical climate produces seasonal rainfall, although large areas of the country are semiarid. Temperatures year-round range from 70°F to 90°F with humidity sometimes high along the coast. Average annual rainfall varies from nearly zero in some areas to 53 inches in Port-au-Prince. The two rainy seasons that Port-au-Prince experiences are from April to June and from August to mid-November. Rain and accompanying thunder/lightning storms usually occur at dusk and at night, but the days remain clear and sunny. There is a crisp dry season from December to April. Surrounding mountains protect Port-au-Prince from Caribbean hurricanes.


With its current population estimated at approximately 7 million, Haiti ranks among the most densely populated countries in the world. Port-au-Prince, the capital, has more than 1.7 million inhabitants. Cap Haitien, on the north coast, is the second-largest city, with a population of 100,600. It is estimated that 95% of Haitians are of African descent. The remaining 5% include Haitians of mixed African-European descent plus immigrants from Europe and the Middle East. Haiti has both French and Creole as official languages even though only 20% of the population speaks French fluently. Creole is spoken and understood by all Haitians, but as a written means of communication it has to contend with Haiti's mere 45% literacy rate.

The culture and traditions of Haiti come from its African, Caribbean, and French roots. Following World War II, a significant number of Haitians began visiting or studying in the United States and Canada. Overseas Haitians now number around 1 million. This travel back and forth has made North American customs and habits increasingly familiar in Haiti. In an attempt to escape the country's grinding poverty (particularly during periods of political repression), tens of thousands of Haitians have attempted to enter the U.S. illegally, the vast majority in overcrowded, unseaworthy boats.

Public Institutions

The people of Haiti have fought with political instability since their independence in 1804. The country has had 21 different constitutions. But the most current Haitian constitution adheres to the principles of democracy and human rights as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.

The constitution provides for a system of representative government under which power is shared among branches.

The executive branch consists of a chief of state or president who is elected for a five-year term and is not eligible for immediate re-election or election for a total of more than two terms.

The head of government is the prime minister chosen by the chief of state from the membership of the majority party in Parliament; or, in the absence of a majority party, after consultations with the leadership of both parliamentary chambers.

The legislative branch consists of a senate made up of 27 members (three for each of the nine departments) elected by a direct popular vote at the departmental level for six-year terms and eligible for reelection for an indefinite number of terms. Terms are staggered on a two-year basis, one third of senators being elected every two years.

There is also a chamber of deputies consisting of 83 members elected by a direct popular vote at the municipal level for a four-year term, and eligible for re-election for an indefinite number of terms.

The Haitian judiciary is divided into four basic levels: justices of the peace; fifteen courts of first instance; five regional courts of appeal; and, The Haitian Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation).

The constitution also provides for an independent board of elections charged with the organization and supervision of electoral procedures and political decentralization through the election of mayors and administrative bodies responsible for local government.

The Prime Minister's government is composed of a cabinet that must be confirmed by parliament. This cabinet is called the Council of Ministers. The Council of Ministers is presided over by the President of the Republic.

Many political parties of different ideologies are active in the Haiti. Most parties are not well structured. They lack adequate financial resources, and their focus is on personalities and regional alliances rather than national policy priorities.

Despite the dictates of the constitution, politics remain volatile. Elections are often contested and military coups have called for intervention from the U.N. and other countries. After elections supervised by the United Nations in December 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was inaugurated as President in February 1991.

But in September 1991, a military coup forced Aristide out of Haiti. The U.S.-led Multinational Force restored government three years later and Rene Preval, took office in 1996. Aristide returned to be elected to a second term in the 2000 elections, but these were boycotted by the majority of opposition leaders.

Legislative elections were held in both 1995 and 1997, with disappointing results. New legislative elections did not take place until May 2000. They were expected to reconstitute the legislative branch of government, which effectively ceased to function January 11, 1999. However, they were so flawed as to call into question the legitimacy of the Parliament, which was convened on August 28.

The international community has refused to offer the new Haitian government funding for their projects if they do not negotiate with the opposition in order to come up with an agreement that will satisfy both parties. Talks between the opposition and governing party aimed at resolving the political impasse have taken place under the mediation of the OAS (Organization of American States) and CARICOM (Community of Caribbean Nations), but have yet to result in an accord.

Arts, Science, and Education

Education is available in Haiti from preschool through university, although only 73% of 6-through 11-year-old Haitian children attend primary school. In driving through Port-au-Prince, one sees an extraordinary number of schools, including numerous preschools and kindergartens. Haitian parents prefer private schools over public ones and make great sacrifices to afford the tuition.

The University of Haiti, located in Port-au-Prince, is tuition free to those students who can pass the tough entrance exams. The university has schools of administration, agronomy, dentistry, economics, education, law, literature, medicine, and science. Most subjects are taught in French and in the French university tradition. Of late there has been some instruction in Creole, and the American educational system has influenced the curriculum at the Institute of Administration, Management, and Diplomacy (INAGHEI).

A significant number of art schools attempt to maintain the spirit of Haiti's 1940s explosion onto the world art scene. There are also institutes of science and technology and two private universities.

Commerce and Industry

Since the demise of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, international economists have urged Haiti to reform and modernize its economy. Under President Preval (1995-2000), the country's economic agenda included trade/tariff liberalization, measures to control government expenditure and increase tax revenues, civil service downsizing, financial sector reform, and the modernization of two out of nine state-owned enterprises through their sale to private investors, the provision of private sector management contracts, or joint public-private investment. Structural adjustment agreements with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and other international financial institutions intended to create necessary conditions for private sector growth, proved only partly successful.

In 1999, Haiti's economy began to falter after about 4 years of positive, though modest growth. Real GDP growth fell in 2001 by 1.2%. The Privatization program stalled. Macroeconomic stability was adversely affected by political uncertainty, low investment, a significant increase in the budget deficit, and reduced international capital flows. The lack of an agreement with the IMF has prevented the resumption of crucial international assistance. This recent weakening of the economy has serious implication for future economic development as well as efforts to improve the general standard of living.

External aid is essential to the future economic development of Haiti, the least-developed country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world. Comparative social and economic indicators show Haiti falling behind other low-income developing countries (particularly in the hemisphere) since the 1980s. Haiti's economic stagnation is the result of earlier inappropriate economic policies, political instability, a shortage of good arable land, environmental deterioration, continued use of traditional technologies, under-capitalization and lack of public investment in human resources, migration of large portions of the skilled population, a weak national savings rate, and the lack of a functioning judicial system.

Haiti continues to suffer the consequences of the 1991 coup and the irresponsible economic and financial policies of the de facto authorities which greatly accelerated Haiti's economic decline. Following the coup, the United States adopted mandatory sanctions, and the OAS instituted voluntary sanctions aimed at restoring constitutional government. International sanctions culminated in the May 1994 UN embargo of all goods entering Haiti except humanitarian supplies, such as food and medicine. The assembly sector, heavily dependent on U.S. markets for its products, employed nearly 80,000 workers in the mid-1980s. During the embargo, employment fell below 17,000. Private domestic and foreign investment has been slow to return to Haiti. Since the return of constitutional rule, assembly sector employment has gradually recovered with about 25,000 now employed, but further growth has been stalled by investor concerns over safety and political instability.

If the political situation stabilizes, high-crime levels reduce, and new investment increases, tourism could take its place next to export-oriented manufacturing (the assembly sector) as a potential source of foreign exchange. Remittances from abroad now constitute a significant source of financial support for many Haitian households.

Workers in Haiti are guaranteed the right of association. Unionization is protected by the labor code. A legal minimum wage of 36 gourds a day (about U.S. $1.80) applies to most workers in the formal sector.



"Service" (sharing) taxis operate on defined routes. There is no safe, clean, or modern intercity or intracity public transport available. There are some private taxi services, but these are very expensive, particularly for new foreigners and during any gasoline shortages.


During normal times, Port-au-Prince has daily nonstop flights to and from Miami and New York and regular flights to Santo Domingo, Montreal, Paris, Kingston, and Curacao. Reservations can be difficult to make during the peak travel seasons of summer and Christmas.


Telephone, Telegraph, and FAX

Port-au-Prince has a dial telephone system, which is subject to interruption during rainy seasons and electricity shortages. Intercity calls can be made within Haiti. Overseas calls can also be made at most local hotels with a USA-direct card.

Radio and TV

Under normal conditions there are about 46 independent AM/FM stereo radio stations in Haiti, 22 of which are located in Port-au-Prince. Most broadcast 16 to 18 hours a day, including the government-owned radio station Radio Nationale. Shortwave radios pick up all principal international networks, including VOA and BBC. The VOA Creole service program is rebroadcast daily in the capital.

There are three television stations in the capital. Television Nationale d'Haiti (TNH), the government-owned station, broadcasts all over the country, with an estimated audience of 500,000. It provides French-and Creole-language programs 18 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Tele-Haiti, a privately owned cable station, relays 14 separate channels of programs in English, French, and Spanish. These currently include CNN, HBO, the Learning Channel, the Disney Channel, and U.S. stations affiliated with CBS and NBC. Tele-Haiti (broadcasting 7 days a week, 24 hours daily) serves only Port-au-Prince and has approximately 100,000 viewers. Program quality is generally good, barring power failures. PVS-Antenne 16, a privately owned station broadcasting on UHF, beams French-and English-language programming 8 hours a day, 7 days a week to about 20,000 viewers in the capital.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

Local bookstores no longer supply major newspapers, but magazines such as Time, Newsweek, L'Express, and Le Figaro are available about a week after publication.

At present there are 15 newspapers in Haiti, including three French-language dailies in Port-au-Prince. One of these dailies has occasional articles in English. Radio, television, and newspapers draw on Agence France Presse, Reuters, and AP for international news.

The Haitian-American Institute library, open to Americans, has about 3,700 volumes and is probably the best lending library in the country; membership is 5 Haitian dollars per year. The Colony Club, a private lending library located at the Petion-Ville Club, is open Fridays from 4 to 6 pm and can be joined for a minimal fee.

A few commercial bookstores have American, British, French, and Haitian books, although the supply of novels in English is slim, and prices are higher than in the U.S. For small children there are few books available outside the school library. It is wise to subscribe to U.S. magazines and book clubs for both adults and children to make up for the dearth of current English-language reading material available in Port-au-Prince.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Port-au-Prince has a number of competent Haitian doctors, but lack of equipment limits medical facilities. Expert diagnostic service is not available. Locally, there are several competent dentists. A number of American-or Canadian-trained specialists in cardiology, pediatrics, and eye/ear/nose/throat are available.

Local oculists and optometrists can issue eyeglass prescriptions. Lensgrinding facilities are available, but special lenses must be ground outside the country. It is advisable to bring extra eyeglasses, contact lenses, and sunglasses with ultraviolet screening plus a copy of your current prescription. Selection of contact lens solutions is limited.

The Canape Vert Hospital in Port-au-Prince has a doctor covering the emergency room from 7 pm to 7 am. It has some air-conditioned private rooms, and most doctors are permitted to practice there. The rates are lower than in the U.S., but due to inadequate nursing care and lack of supplies, hospitalization is sometimes precarious.

It is advisable to bring any medications and over-the-counter drugs used regularly and to make arrangements with a U.S. pharmacy for refills. Pharmacies are available in Port-au-Prince but often stock only European pharmaceuticals.

Community Health

The level of community sanitation and public cleanliness throughout the country is far below American standards. Streets in Port-au-Prince are littered with refuse, and sewage often stagnates in open gutters. Port-au-Prince's sewerage system is totally inadequate for the city's needs. Local vegetables and fruit that cannot be peeled must be washed with soap and water and soaked in chlorine solution.

Preventive Measures

Malaria is a serious problem in rural Haiti. It is recommended that travelers take malaria-preventive medication.

Other diseases common to Haiti include hepatitis A and B, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, venereal disease (including AIDS), intestinal parasites, dengue fever, polio, and rabies. Due to the high incidence of some of these diseases, any hired household help should have a pre-employment physical examination and periodic checkups.

Occasional cases of dysentery, diarrhea, or dengue fever occur among Americans living in Haiti. While no vaccinations are required for entry into the country (unless one is coming from a yellow-fever-infected area), the State Department recommends inoculations against typhoid fever, tetanus, diphtheria, polio, hepatitis B, measles, and rabies. Children should be up to date on all recommended immunizations. Immune globulin is recommended every 4 to 6 months for prevention of hepatitis A.

As the local water supply lacks fluo-ride, supplementation for children is important to prevent tooth decay. A supply of sunscreen is essential to prevent skin damage from the tropical rays.


Passage, Customs & Duties

Haitian law requires travelers to have a passport to enter Haiti. In practice, officials frequently waive this requirement if travelers have a certified copy of their U.S. birth certificate. Due to fraud concerns, however, airlines do not board passengers for return to the United States unless they are in possession of a valid passport. The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens obtain passports before travel to Haiti. The Haitian government requires foreigners to pay a fee prior to departure. For additional information regarding entry, departure and customs requirements for Haiti, travelers can contact the Haitian Embassy, 2311 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 332-4090, one of the Haitian consulates in Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Illinois or Puerto Rico, or via the Internet at

U.S. citizens living in or visiting Haiti are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince and obtain updated information on travel and security in Haiti. The Consular Section is located on Rue Oswald Durand, Port-au-Prince; telephone 011 (509) 222-7011; fax 011 (509) 222-1641. Consular Section hours are 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, except U.S. and local holidays. The U.S. Embassy is located on Harry Truman Blvd., Port-au-Prince; telephone (509) 23-0200, 223-0354, 223-0955 or 223-0269; fax (509) 23-1641. Internet:


To be admitted into Haiti, a pet must have an Authorization to Import certificate, issued by the Haitian Department of Agriculture, which states the animal's breed and point of departure for Haiti. All pets are required to have a recent veterinarian's clearance stating that they have had a current rabies vaccination and are free from disease.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

The Haitian Government permits a free-market exchange of U.S. dollars for gourdes, the Haitian monetary unit. Most prices in Haiti are quoted in Haitian dollars, where a dollar equals 5 Haitian gourdes. The metric system of weights and measures is the official standard. U.S. weights and measures are also widely used.

Disaster Preparedness

Haiti, like all Caribbean countries, can be affected by hurricanes and other storms. Hurricane season runs from approximately June 1 to November 30 each year. Extensive flooding as a result of heavy rainfall has occurred in the past. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at


Jan. 1 Independence

Day Jan. 2 Ancestor's Day

Feb/Mar. Mardi Gras*

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter

May 1Labor Day

May 16Ascension Day

May 18Flag and University Day

May 22Sovereignty Day

May/JuneCorpus Christi*

Aug. 15Assumption Day

Oct. 17 Anniversary of the Death of Dessalines

Nov. 1 All Saints' Day

November 18 Anniversary of the Battle of Vertieres

Dec. 5 Discovery of Haiti by Columbus

Dec. 25 Christmas Day



Much of the literature about Haiti is available only in French. The following is a suggested reading list of books in English. The more recent titles can be found in bookstores. Books published before 1989 may be available only in libraries. Novels and collections of short stories are indicated by an asterisk.

Abbott, Elizabeth. Haiti: the Duvaliers and their Legacy. Rev. ed. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991.

Alternative Museum Staff. Mon Reve: A Visual Record of Haiti Since the Departure of the Duvaliers. New York: Alternative Museum, 1989.

Anthony, Suzanne. Haiti. New York: Chelsea House, 1988.

Bellegarde-Smith, Patrick. Haiti: the Breached Citadel. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1989.

Courlander, Harold. The Drum and the Hoe. University of California Press: Berkeley, 1981.

. The Bordeaux Narrative. University of New Mexico Press: Albuquerque, 1990.

Danner, Mark. Beyond the Mountains: The Legacy of Duvalier. New York: Pantheon Books, 1991.

Dunham, Katherine. Dances of Haiti. Afro-American Studies Center: Los Angeles, 1983.

Dupuy, Alex. Haiti in the World Economy: Class, Race & Underdevelopment Since 1700. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1988.

Fass, Simon M. Political Economy in Haiti: The Drama of Survival. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Pubs., 1990.

Ferguson, James. Papa Doc, Baby Doc, Haiti and the Duvaliers. Basil Blackwell: London, 1987.

Fick, Carolyn E. The Making of Haiti: the Saint Domingue Revolution from Below. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1990.

Greene, Graham. The Comedians. Viking: New York, 1966.

Griffiths, John. Take a Trip to Haiti. New York: F. Watts, 1989.

Haggerty, Richard A., ed. The Dominican Republic and Haiti. Area Studies Handbook Series. U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, DC, 1991.

Haiti in Pictures. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications, 1987.

Hanmer, Trudy J. Haiti. New York: F. Watts, 1988.

Hurston, Zora Neale. Tell My Horse: Voodoo & Life in Haiti & Jamaica. San Bernardino, CA: Borgo Press, 1990.

Lawyers Committee on Human Rights. Paper Laws/Steel Bayonets: Breakdown of The Rule of Law in Haiti. New York, 1991.

Leyburn, James. The Haitian People. New Haven, 1971.

Lyon, Danny. Merci Gonaives: A Photographer's Account of Haiti and the February Revolution. Clintondale, NY: Bleak Beauty Books, 1988.

Pataki, Eva. Haitian Painting: Art and Kitsch. Adams Press, Chicago, 1986.

Rodman, Selden. The Miracle of Haitian Art. Doubleday: New York, 1971.

Thomson, Ian. Bonjour Blanc: A Journey Through Haiti. Hutchinson: London, 1992.

Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. Haiti: State Against Nation: The Origins and Legacy of Duvalierism. Monthly Review: New York, 1990.

University of Virginia. Callaloo, Haiti: The Literature and Culture. Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, 1992.

Weinstein, Brian and Aaron Segal. Haiti: The Failure of Politics. Praeger: New York, 1992.

Wilentz, Amy. The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier. Simon and Schuster: New York, 1989.

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Haiti
Region: North & Central America
Population: 6,867,995
Language(s): French, Creole
Literacy Rate: 45%
Academic Year: September-October
Number of Primary Schools: 7,306
Compulsory Schooling: 6 years
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 555,433
  Secondary: 143,758
  Higher: 6,288
Teachers: Primary: 26,208
  Higher: 654

History & Background

Haiti did not become an independent republic until 1804. The western half of the island that Columbus baptized Hispaniola in 1492 was a French colony known as Saint-Domingue. Haitian education or society cannot be understood today without examining its past, since the sources of all Haitian institutions lie in its history.

At one point there was exclusivity of education in the colony, where all human effort on the plantation was committed to the exploitation of the land. The agrarian economy's awesome demands in time and energy, the roughness of life in an environment deprived of all commodities, and the brutality of a colonial system that depended for survival on oppression precluded any interest in structured education. Creole or freedmen, the rich planters, who themselves rarely laid claim to even an average education, relied on the mother country for the education of their children, while African slaves were forbidden access to literacy.

Anyone who would put a book in the hands of a slave incurred the risk of heavy penalties. Beginning with the Black Code of 1685, in the reign of Louis XIV, the official position of French authorities was that educating servants had the potential to turn loyal servants into rebels. The colonists feared that once educated, the servant population would challenge their authority, would seek reparations, or worse even, would organize to overthrow their régime.

Since sedition had to be stemmed, Africans were kept in a state of abysmal ignorance. Hilliard d'Auberteuil summarizes the rationale behind this attitude: "The interest and safety of the colony demand that we subject the black race to such contempt that anyone whose origins can be traced back to that race will be covered of an indelible stain down to the sixth generation."

The French Governor of Martinique added to this argument: "The safety of the whites demands that we keep the Negroes in the most profound ignorance." In addition to the fear of revolt, there was a pervasive belief that Africans lacked intellectual qualities, as well as the potential for "progress and perfectibility." Montesquieu, the great philosopher of the Enlightenment, who utilized his sharp wit against slavery, alluded ironically to the opinion prevailing among his contemporaries that the people of Africa possessed inferior faculties, that their cognitive apparatus was not open to knowledge on a human scale, and that, consequently, trying to teach them anything would be pointless.

The Black Code in Article 2, nonetheless, provided for some religious instruction, not on humanitarian grounds, but rather from a need to keep the slave population under control. The Black Code did not achieve its goals, however, since only a few colonists chose to use it as a guide. The majority kept all instruction, religious or otherwise, from the slaves. Most administrators in Saint-Domingue believed that the more educated the slaves, the more difficult it was for them to accept their condition. There were, nonetheless, those who defied the oppressive policies and surreptitiously arranged for their slaves to learn how to read and write, not always because it was fair but, above all, because it was practical. The more educated the slave, the more helpful he could be. It is a known fact that some plantation owners not only encouraged practical training with a view to higher productivity, but also favored more than a rudimentary education, especially when their subject was a nègre à talent (a talented black). These slaveholders believed their investments would pay off when the servants would fulfill functions beyond the work of the land. This was the case with the master of Habitation Bréda, the plantation on which Toussaint Louverture was born.

Louverture was given not only a religious education in Catholicism, but he also learned French, Latin, geometry, drawing, as well as the medicinal virtues of plants. Thanks to his knowledge of herbs, he was able to serve the plantation as medicine man and veterinarian. Later, Louverture became the steward of the Bréda livestock and coachman to his master and, subsequently, joined the French Army as a scout, where he rose through the ranks to become General and finally Commander-in-Chief of Saint-Domingue.

Another case in point is Henry Christophe, a slave who worked as a waiter in a public hotel of Cap Français in Saint-Domingue and was given an education. Christophe later became king of Haiti. These are only two examples of a small privileged group that was fortunate enough to find educational opportunities in the colony.

The forced process by which the African slaves were integrated into the colonial community is another fact that will help post-independent Haiti. This brutal adaptation aimed to discourage a reversal to the native culture, therefore eliminating any rivalry between the old structure and the new one. Its purpose was to ensure the highest loyalty to Creole society and to subject the African to an internalization of French superiority. It was at once a mechanism of defense and an economy of force. The conquest of the mind was needed to consolidate power over a submissive population that outnumbered the colonists and that might one day revolt.

The colonial authorities created an intricate social system based on complexion and adhesion to French culture. With few exceptions, the lighter-skinned individuals occupied the higher echelons of the social ladder. Since these individuals were also French, French language and culture conferred a higher social status. At the bottom of the ladder, the black population, though more active and productive, was heavily taxed for lacking the qualities of a light complexion and a knowledge of French. Blacks were left with no other option but to pursue the ideals of language and culture that were set for them. They did so more or less enthusiastically. It was a stigmatizing experience that left its mark on Haitian society to this day. What added to the trauma was that, in order to motivate a quick acculturation, plantation owners offered the Africans a system of rewards that ranged from a simple reduction of their duties to the granting of freedom.

Religion was also used in acculturation. Baptism was the first step toward assimilation and, once baptized, African slaves became nègres créoles (Creole Blacks), a mark of distinction that carried privileges and denoted their status of being in the colony for some time, and therefore were worthy of everyone's trust. By contrast, the newly arrived, nègres bossales (wild, untamed blacks) were supposedly primitive, because they were still attached to traditional African cultures. The most demeaning tasks were assigned to the bossales who were constantly derided and harassed by the nègres créoles and punished by their masters. Brainwashing, indoctrination, derision, and the whip were the methods used to force Creole culture on the African and to suppress all African traditions brought to the colony.

Acculturation did not entail a systematic teaching or learning of the French language. Having lost their original languages, the Africans were not given opportunities to learn French. Instead, a simplified language that had grown out of the pidgins of triangular trade was adopted by masters and slaves alike. This language, like the people who spoke it, was and is still called Creole. Because of the humiliation associated with its history, it never gained favor with the Haitians, even though it has been the only language available to them throughout their history.

When the Haitians won their independence in 1804, they entered the world with a legacy of ignorance. They had neither a structured system of education nor a strategy to fight illiteracy. Even Toussaint Louverture, when he was Governor of Saint-Domingue, showed no interest in changing the status quo. The Constitution of July 8, 1801, for instance, had no elaborate plans for public instruction. In addition, Haitians had inherited two major handicaps: elitism and the powerful presence of French in their cultural landscape.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Independence completely changed the political outlook of the new republic. At last, Haitians were in power and had the opportunity to build a nation that responded to the needs and aspirations of its citizens. As expected, public instruction was at the top of the new government's priority list. It is interesting to note how consistently thereafter presidents and legislators have attended to this important issue. Indeed, if the short-lived imperial constitution of Jean-Jacques Dessalines reflected no real passion for the subject, all other charts drafted subsequently made education a pressing matter in the country's administrative programs. The reason for this sustained interest is, of course, the realization that progress depends on education.

These decrees, for all their good intentions, never resulted in a real system of education over a period of two hundred years. Several reasons account for this state of affairs:

  • political instability
  • lack of financial resources
  • absence of a pragmatic mentality seeking to identify the public to be served
  • a failure to match resources with needs
  • discord over the details of an appropriate educational system

To exacerbate these evils, mass education continued to be an object of suspicion, as one dictatorial régime after another felt the need to protect itself against an ignorant populace that, if literate, would be more effective and dangerous. Throughout the nineteenth century and until the 1980s, decrees on education took the character of simple formalities that no one cared to implement or they were drafted without interest in the peasant, Creole-speaking majority of the Haitian population.

Henry Christophe, the King of Haiti, made a serious attempt to organize public instruction, as attested by his constitutional act of February 17, 1807. The single most important item of the act is the mandate to create a central school in every arrondissement. The importance of this mandate lies in the fact that it was a proclamation of freedom to teach, and it invited competent individuals to open schools. But the difficulty with this act was that the country lacked competent teachers who could either create the schools or teach in them. Christophe opened an Academy in Cap-Haitien with the help of Haitian and foreign teachers, but it was for the families of public employees.

More interesting was Pétion's Constitution of 1816, which stipulated the universal right to a free education and ordered each commune to open free public institutions to the school age population; this constitution was the most durable that Haiti ever had. It lasted until 1843 and, with a slight modification in 1846, it was still in force in 1867. If one considers that the constitution of Haiti was rewritten at least 20 times in the past 200 years (1801-2001), Pétion's constitution shows an incredible endurance that guaranteed a period of stability and growth for Haitian institutions. It is in this 50-year period that public instruction had the best chance to evolve. With the help of Haitian and foreign educators, Pétion himself had founded a lycée in Port-au-Prince as well as a pensionnat (boarding school) for girls.

Compulsory education was decreed in July 1852 and again in the constitution of 1874. But at those times, neither the empire of Faustin Soulouque nor the short-lived government of Michel Domingue was able to provide the resources necessary to implement such an ambitious plan. Again, these documents fell in the category of abstractions that served no purpose.

Another important document is the Concordat of March 28, 1860, signed by President Geffrard with Pope Pius IX. It involved an agreement with the Vatican to send Catholic educators to Haiti to help with the establishment of parochial schools. Basically, what it entailed was the promotion of the Catholic Church and the education of young men and women who would devote themselves to religious life. This agreement resulted in the establishment of a seminary in Port-au-Prince. Other schools followed and soon there were private Catholic schools in all departments and major cities of Haiti. The Fathers of the Holy Spirit and the Christian Brothers were the first to participate in this missionary endeavor.

The Concordat could only go so far to help Haitian children. To be sure, a small number were selected for a general education, whether or not they had a predilection for clerical life. Others were turned away. The private Catholic schools would compete with free public institutions, since parents would be inclined to send their children to the more exclusive schools. Finally, the European could not give young Haitians an education rooted in the reality of their land. The consequence was a widening of the gap between the masses and the educated elite.

Nevertheless, the 1860s witnessed an unprecedented growth in Haitian education. President Geffrard organized the Medical School, founded a School of Music and a Law School. He sent several teacher trainees to Europe to remedy the shortage of teachers. He founded or reorganized several lycées around the country, especially in Jacmel and Gonaïves. He created special secondary schools for both genders. By 1872, a remarkable intellectual elite was ready to assume the leadership of the nation. Boards of education were formed as well as a Corps of Public Instruction Inspectors. Primary schools multiplied in the cities and in the countryside.

All these accomplishments were due to a period of economic prosperity in Haiti. The United States, engaged in a war at home (1861-1865), needed cotton and other products, so they bought products for a good price from Haiti. Still, the educational system provided little that could be considered relevant to the masses of Haitians. Vocational schools were not considered necessary at the time, even though it would be helpful in promoting light industry.

The 1880s brought several educational achievements that were decreed and successfully realized. President Salomon reorganized the lycées, invited a group of French professors to join the teaching faculty, and opened a sizable number of rural schools for the first time. These schools were so successful that plans were made to promote them further around the country, but the government of Salomon was overthrown.

Apart from the foundation of the State University of Haiti in 1960, no major developments took place either in new constitutions that followed Salomon's government or in occasional decrees. It is now clear that, with regard to education, new governments have only built on their predecessors' accomplishments. Fortunately for the Haitian people, public instruction is the only area where subsequent versions of the constitution have not defeated one another.

The constitution of 1983 brought a fresh set of ideas to the public. For years, there had been a public outcry for relevancy in Haitian education. Since the 1940s, advocates for education in Creole (as the only way out of the linguistic dilemma that plagued Haiti) launched one campaign after another. In the 1970s and 1980s, U.S. lending institutions eager to see change in Haiti posed certain conditions to the government before they made more money available.

In August 1979, a conference in Port-au-Prince was convened to debate the issue of Haiti's elitist, French system of education, which excluded 90 percent of its population. The question before the conference was whether to relegate French to the background and multiply literacy programs in Creole. In addition, the issue of vocational schools was considered by the conference. Then-minister of education Joseph C. Bernard informed the delegates that the government had approved Creole as a language of instruction. Soon thereafter, a law signed by the head of state formally approved of Creole as a vehicle of communication in the classroom and as a subject matter. Then, with the financial support of the World Bank, the president authorized four years of experimentation to test the idea. This process involved 1,000 children studying all subjects in Creole for the first four years of primary school. French was also offered as an ordinary subject, the first two years being scheduled for the speaking skill in French, while the third and fourth years were reserved for reading and writing. Finally, in the fifth year, the pupils received instruction in French. The program was an absolute success until members of the ruling class, fearing that they would lose privileges associated with proficiency in French, demanded that the program be discontinued. The president, eager to maintain his political base among the ruling class, fired the minister and canceled the Creole program in July 1982. Yet, the new constitution of 1983 made French and Creole national languages even though French remained the official language of administration, law, and education.

Educational SystemOverview

In the past decade, school schedules have not been uniform because of the addition of privately run schools modeled on American and other systems and the need for schools to adapt to the recent suburban phenomenon. Also, the increase of the school-age population and the lack of personnel, facilities, and equipment have prompted the schools to switch from a full six-hour day to a half-day of four hours. This strategy enabled the schools to serve two groups of pupils a day.

In general, the academic year begins in October and ends in July. With two vacations at Christmas and Easter, the number of hours in the school year is considerably reduced. Those parents who can afford it pay for private lessons in subjects where their children show the greatest need. Competent teachers who are poorly remunerated depend on tutoring to make ends meet and sometimes earn more this way than by regular means. In the more traditional schools, children are admitted at age six and are expected to complete the primary cycle in six years.

Secondary school takes six more years that lead to the first part of the baccalauréat (equivalent of the high school diploma), followed by one more year of study leading to the second part. This system, which is based on the Napoleonic Code, was imported in Haiti by the Concordat and was never reviewed since, even though the French themselves have given it up in the rise of the student protests of May 1968. French remains the language of instruction in the private schools, but Creole and French are used in the public schools.

Students are subject to three sets of trimestrial examinations a year, plus finals in July. The grading system on 10 points is rigid. A grade average of 5 points is required to pass a class. In general, schools are not technologically-equipped. Mediated facilities do exist, however, in a few business and professional schools. Textbooks have always been a concern. Mostly imported, they are often in short supply and their price, like all imported products, can be prohibitive for families who must strive to put food on the table. Many children go to school without books. In addition, the books are not adapted to the Haitian environment. The Haitian system of education is heavily influenced by its French counterpart.

The efforts of Haitian governments to educate their people may seem sincere but, so far, they have not yielded remarkable results. A serious reform is in order that will treat education as a true instrument of progress and development. Education does not appear to be focused on the specific needs of the country. From the outset, the orientation taken by the administration of public education had nothing to do with the reality of Haiti except for the fact that it served the particular interest of an elite who sent their children to study in France and considered themselves French.

In talking about Haitian education, there has been a tendency to focus exclusively on the formal system of education designed for the urban elites who only represent a small minority of the Haitian community, while ignoring the fate of more than 80 percent of the population in the countryside. It is imperative to redefine the scope of Haitian education to rectify this error.

Preprimary & Primary Education

In formal education, children four to six years of age go to the jardins d'enfants (kindergarten) or to the enfantin in the private schools. Traditionally, only families that could afford to pay for this stage of their children's education would consider it at all; these families usually live in the city. The decree of 1982 has not changed that situation, even though it stresses the democratic principle of universal accessibility. Once again, the immense majority of children are left out of the process while a generous system of laws is in place. In addition, the 1990s have witnessed a proliferation of preprimary schools, but they were created for the rich and exist purely for mercantile purposes. In the traditional primary schools, pupils study French grammar, arithmetic, world history, world geography, Haitian history, Haitian geography, religion, civic instruction, introduction to sciences, drawing, and physical education. In rural schools, where instruction is given in Creole, a basic reading, writing, and arithmetic package is offered with the other subjects added depending on availability of personnel. Final examinations passed satisfactorily permit access to the next higher grade.

In public schools, classrooms are overcrowded. A class may hold between 70 and 80 children. The facilities are dilapidated and offer no security, comfort, or hygiene. There is often no water, no electricity, and no recreational space. In rural areas, the situation is even worse since children must walk for one or two hours to go to school. The teachers in those areas function irregularly, being often late or absent, because they face the same hurdles as their pupils. In 1998-1999, some 16.44 percent of all schools were public schools and 83.60 percent were private. It should be understood that private schools have outnumbered public schools consistently since 1975, partly because of the Protestant schools created in the country for humanitarian purposes and partly because of the entrepreneurial schools that have sprung like mushrooms in the past two decades.

There are 6,111 primary schools. The school-age population is estimated at 3,000,000 and only 800,000 can be accommodated, although with difficulty. Therefore, 2,200,000 children are left out. These numbers do not take into account the normal evolution of the school-age population, which every year increases by 150,000 to 200,000 people. Out of 100 children who enter the traditional primary school, 67 will finish the fourth year of the cycle. Of these, 42 will give up school entirely to become functionally illiterate for the rest of their lives. A growing number of children are unable to read or write after four years of schooling. Each year 68 percent of school age children (mostly in rural areas) cannot find a school in which to enroll. More boys than girls are enrolled, but enrollment of girls, which has maintained itself at 46 percent across the board for several years, is growing faster than enrollment of boys.

Secondary Education

The traditional secondary cycle either at the secondary public school or at a private college provides six years of study in a track that features the classics or one that emphasizes the sciences with several subject combinations possible. Subjects available in secondary school are French grammar, French literature, Haitian literature, English, Spanish, Latin, Greek, algebra, geometry, human biology, chemistry, physics, zoology, botany, world history, Haitian history, world geography, and Haitian geography. An additional year after the first part of the baccalauréat gives instruction in philosophy. This seventh year of study ends with part two of the baccalauréat.

The lycées and collèges of the provinces are as good as those in the capital city, but there are too few secondary schools. In 1998-1999, only 635 institutions, both public and private, all located in urban areas, were open around the country. Of these, 107 were public, and the other 528 were private. To be sure, the needs are not as pressing as they are on the primary level. Out of 100 children who began primary school, only 25 went to secondary school. Less than three reached the year before the baccalauréat. Only one (out of 100) ever achieved the second part of the baccalauréat. With all levels, classes, and types of schools taken into account, the chance of survival in the Haitian system of education is a little less than 1 percent. Other alarming statistics put the number of graduates at 26 out of 1,000 and the attrition rate at 87.5 percent.

It is interesting to observe that whatever the rate of success at the baccalauréat, some schools (private, parochial) always register between 80 and 95 percent success with their candidates. Of these, more than 50 percent are girls. The reason for this success is clear: the system was designed by and for these schools. In addition, they have the resources, the faculty, and the virtues necessary to lead their students to success.

Higher Education

The university system is composed currently of four or five private institutions in addition to the State University of Haiti, which admits 2,000 students every year out of 13,000 to 16,000 applicants. The others receive 3,600 applications a year even though they can only take 1,780 students. The private universities have an attrition rate between 25 and 80 percent. All the institutions are located in the capital city. They offer a degree in law, medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, engineering, agriculture and veterinary sciences, education, social sciences (mainly ethnology and psychology), economics, business administration, linguistics, international studies, and African studies.

At this level, also, relevancy remains a concern. The formation given to young scholars in Haiti seems to prepare them better to live and work in foreign countries than in their own. The content of the curriculum is not defined according to the needs of the nation. In general, the higher education system shows all the faults of the other levels: centralization, French orientation (a conscious effort is made to establish equivalency with the University of Paris for degrees granted by the University of Haiti), elitism, and insufficiency.

Teaching Profession

Teachers are trained mainly at the école normale supérieure of the State University of Haiti where they enroll in a three-year program that includes a concentration on the subject or subjects of their choice and training in teaching strategies. There are at least six teachers colleges around the country. A large number of teachers in the Haitian school system make less than 500 gourdes a month. (The exchange rate is approximately 20 gourdes per US$1.) Another unfortunate fact is that 90 percent of them are not prepared for their task. Teaching is not a very attractive profession in Haiti because it is by all accounts the least appreciated of occupations; those who choose it anyway do so very often because of necessity. Attrition among teachers is extremely high. Yet, teacher colleges are still too few, and their instruction is not uniform. There are no research centers. Testing and assessment instruments are not designed to be of any real help to the system.


For 200 years, the Haitian system of education has been a failure because it neglected the people it was intended to serve. Instead, it favored an influential minority who identified more with France than with Haiti; it was used as an instrument by politicians and the ruling class to maintain power and privileges at the expense of monolingual Creole speakers. In colonial times, Haitians were stripped of their African identity and were taught in the most violent way to define themselves as sub-products of French culture and society.

Even after independence, the only model Haitians had to start building their new nation was the French model. Even though the majority could hardly speak French, and even though Dessalines and Toussaint Louverture addressed their troops in Creole, the only language Haitians had when talking to the world or negotiating formal situations was French. Creole had not gained the status it enjoys today; those who spoke it were not inclined to use it any other way but informally. Furthermore, Creole had become an object of degradation in the eyes of most Haitians. Later in history, French became an instrument of oppression sustained by the educational system. Citizens had no choice but to play the game. Families that wanted their children to succeed in life sent them to school so they could learn French and other subjects in French, but the children failed because to succeed in the schools they had to be fluent in French. Since most of them spoke no other language than Creole, the system of education sacrificed thousands of them for two centuries.

The tragedy of the Haitian system of education is due for the most part to the linguistic dichotomy that characterizes Haiti. Because the declarations of principles to compulsory education failed to address the language issue, they amount to no more than an exercise in futility. Not until the 1980s were solid measures initiated and supported by the government. In fact, a whole reform was launched in education at that point. It featured education in Creole, a more effective rural school system, a more effective basic education system, better teacher training, a literacy program, the creation of an inspection and supervision agency, rational timetables, and experimentation to test the new ideas. Although the world of education was elated to hear the announcement of these long-overdue reforms in 2001, one still does not see any real change. The Livre ouvert sur le développement endogène d'Haïti, a collective work of analysis that tries to tackle the country's problems for ordinary citizens, mentions, among other disappointing statistics in education, the continuing high attrition rate, the extremely high rate of failure in the baccalauréat, and the extremely high illiteracy rate.


Brutus, Edner. L'instruction publique en Haïti. Port-au-Prince, 1948.

Desroches, Rosny, and Pierre-Raymond Dumas. "Autour de quelques problèmes du système éducatif Haïtien." (Interview of Rosny Desroches by Pierre Raymond Dumas) in Conjonction: Revue Franco-Haïtienne, No. 168.

Girod, François. La vie quotidienne de la société créole. Paris, 1972.

Gouraige, Ghislain. La Diaspora d'Haïti et l'Afrique. Ottawa, 1974.

Lafontant, Julien J. Montesquieu et le problème de l'esclavage. Sherbrooke, 1979.

Pierre, Webster, Gabriel Nicolas, and Wilfrid Joseph. Livre ouvert sur le développement endogène d'Haïti. Port-au-Prince, 1999.

Salien, Jean-Marie. "Francophonie et sousdéveloppement: Aspects Historiques et Sociolinguistiques du Français en Haïti." In Contemporary French Civilization, 1981.

Trouillot, Hénock. "L'instruction publique sous Pétion." In Le Nouveau Monde, December 20-23, 1983.

Vernet, Pierre. "Quelques Réflexions Méthodologiques sur l'enseignement du Français en Haïti." In Conjonction: Revue Franco-Haïtienne, No. 168.

Weinstein, Brian, and Aaron Segal. Haiti: Political Failures, Cultural Successes. Stanford, CA, 1984.

Jean-Marie Salien

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Republic of Haiti

République d'Haïti



Haiti occupies the western third of the island of Hispaniola, between the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Haiti has an area of 27,750 square kilometers (10,714 square miles), slightly smaller than Maryland. It shares a border of 275 kilometers (171 miles) with the Dominican Republic and has a coastline of 1,771 kilometers (1,100 miles). Its capital and largest city, Port-au-Prince, is in a bay on the country's southwestern coast.


Haiti's population was estimated at 6,867,995 in July 2000, showing a growth rate of 1.39 percent and a total rise of 36 percent since the last official census of 1982, when the population stood at 5,053,792. The country's demographic statistics reveal the effect of extreme poverty and an HIV/AIDS epidemic. These conditions have reduced life expectancy to 49.2 years, contributed to high infant mortality and general death rates, and slowed population growth. At current growth rates, Haiti's population will stand at approximately 7 million in 2010.

Despite slow growth rates, Haiti is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, estimated at 270 persons per square kilometer (699 per square mile) in 1997. Land shortages and urban overcrowding have led to many Haitians attempting to emigrate , either to the neighboring Dominican Republic or to the United States. The net migration rate stood at 2.97 persons per 1,000 in 2000. The capital, Port-au-Prince, had an estimated population of 850,000 in 1995, but much settlement in slum areas is unregulated, and the population probably exceeds 1 million.

Haiti's population is a young one, with 41 percent estimated to be between 0 and 14 years of age in 2000. Most Haitians are of African descent, with approximately 95 percent of the population defined as black. The remaining 5 percent is comprised of mulattos (people of mixed European and African ancestry), and a small community descended from immigrants from the Middle East.


Haiti has long been the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, a consequence of its unique historical development, generations of misrule, and declining natural resources. Since its slave revolution and war of independence, which culminated in the founding of the nation in 1804, the country's economy has been dominated by small-scale agricultural production. Rural over-population, the increasing division of small farms, and disastrous ecological degradation caused by tree felling and soil erosion have destroyed the traditional economy in some parts of the country and threaten it in others. Traditionally, most small farmers and peasant laborers have had little to do with the state, other than to pay taxes on export commodities such as coffee. The machinery of government, the political parties, and the country's business and cultural life are almost exclusively concentrated in Port-au-Prince, a small city until the 1950s but now a rapidly growing area of shantytown development (shantytowns are dwellings constructed primarily of found materials, including cardboard and pieces of metal). A huge gulf has existed between a poor, black, peasantry, who are mainly illiterate and Creole-speaking, and a small, lighter-skinned, urban elite who speak French and, increasingly, English.

In the 1970s the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier tried to capitalize on Haiti's huge unemployment and low wage rates by inviting foreign companies, principally from the United States, to establish manufacturing bases near Port-au-Prince. In the 1980s this sector grew substantially, producing clothing, sports goods, and electronic parts for the North American market. However, intense political turmoil in the late 1980s and 1990s, coupled with the deterioration of the country's infrastructure , has since reduced the number of foreign companies operating in Haiti.

Haiti is, therefore, a country of largely impoverished peasant farmers and urban slum dwellers, with a small minority of lighter-skinned, wealthier people who tend to control import-export businesses, the financial sector, and a small tourist industry. There are few national companies, but family-run enterprises, often working as agents for U.S. businesses, dominate commerce. Since the 1950s Haiti has also been dependent on foreign aid, although its political violence and occasional periods of international isolation have often prevented that aid from reaching its intended beneficiaries. Government expenditures far exceed government revenues through taxation, and this shortfall is usually met by grants and loans from multinational agencies, totaling US$353 million in 1998 alone. Haiti's foreign debt stood at approximately US$1 billion in 1997.

In recent years Haitian governments have come under pressure from international aid agencies to liberalize the economy in return for continuing aid. Successive governments had retained control over important sectors of the economy, leading to huge inefficiency and persistent corruption. Several state monopolies , such as cement and the national flour mill, have been privatized , and others are expected to be sold off. These moves have increased unemployment as private owners cut payrolls.

Haiti's economy is essentially a survival one, where unemployment was officially estimated at 70 percent in 1999 and the informal sector provides the only work opportunities for most urban Haitians. In the countryside, many peasants operate almost outside the official cash economy, aiming for self-sufficiency and small surpluses for sale or barter at the many rural markets across the country. Not surprisingly, with approximately 80 percent of Haitians living in absolute poverty, pressures to emigrate, usually illegally, are strong. Other Haitians choose to cross the border into the Dominican Republic to work on sugar plantations or as manual laborers, for low wages. Remittances , estimated at US$150 million annually sent home from family members living abroad, are a vital means of support for many communities. Another unregulated source of income, earned by a small clique of influential individuals, derives from Haiti's importance as a trans-shipment point for cocaine and other narcotics en route from South America to the United States.


Haiti's political system is notoriously volatile and prone to violence. Since gaining its independence from France in 1804, the country has experienced little democracy and has suffered at the hands of many dictators and corrupt regimes. The most enduring of these dictatorships was that of François "Papa Doc" Duvalier (1957-71) and his son Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" (1971-86). Since the overthrow of Jean-Claude Duvalier, the country has been ruled by a succession of unstable governments and military juntas. The political landscape changed dramatically in 1991 with the presidency of Jean-Bertrand Aris-tide, a radical Catholic priest, who was elected by a landslide majority in the country's first free elections. He was ousted by the military after only 8 months and spent 3 years in exile before being returned to power by a joint United Nations/United States military force in 1994. In the meantime, Haiti suffered a 3-year period of political repression, compounded by increased economic hardships as the result of an international economic embargo orchestrated by the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations (UN). In December 2000 Aristide again won election by an overwhelming majority.

The dominant political force in Haiti today is Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas (FL), which means "landslide family" in Creole. The FL has an extended network of activists but is held together by the charismatic personality of Aristide, who won 91.8 percent of the vote in the November 2000 elections. Other political groupings are weak and unpopular in comparison. The main group is the Organization of People in Struggle (OPL), formerly allied to Aristide but now bitterly opposed to FL. All other parties boycotted the 2000 presidential elections, claiming that intimidation and electoral malpractice were rife. By early 2001 FL was in control of 103 out of 110 seats in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies.

Aside from its promotion of Aristide as a "savior," FL tends to vacillate between supporting the rural economy through infrastructural investment and state subsidies , and pursuing a course of liberalization and privatization. In the wake of Aristide's return to power in 1994, for instance, the government presided over the removal of many trade barriers and the beginning of a privatization program, but Aristide later criticized these measures. Aristide's populist appeal runs counter to the demands placed on his government by international donors, who wish to see the Haitian economy further opened to foreign investment.

Revenue collection in Haiti has always been inefficient and plagued by corruption and tax evasion. Aristide's threats to tax the tiny wealthy minority were instrumental in his overthrow in 1991. Indirect taxes and excise duties were 3 times greater than income tax receipts in 1997, while punitive taxes have traditionally been levied on export commodities such as coffee.

Because the government is heavily dependent on foreign aid, its ability to forge independent economic policy is limited by donor demands for agreed economic programs as a precondition for releasing aid. The main policy of the FL government focuses on land distribution and attempts to regenerate agricultural production damaged by low productivity and environmental degradation. The government also promises higher wages in the small manufacturing sector, a proposition that has caused several companies to relocate to the Dominican Republic.


Haiti's infrastructure is primitive and poorly maintained, the result of decades of under-investment and environmental damage. Most roads, even those linking

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Haiti 3 55 5 N/A 0 N/A N/A 0.00 6
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Jamaica 62 480 182 73.1 22 N/A 39.4 1.04 60
Dominican Republic 52 178 95 15.5 31 0.3 N/A 7.63 25
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

Port-au-Prince to other large towns, are often impassable to ordinary vehicles. Of a total of 4,160 kilometers (2,585 miles) of roads, only 1,011 kilometers (628 miles) are paved, and these are frequently pot-holed and damaged by landslides. There is no railway other than a stretch attached to an ex-sugar plantation. Several ports are capable of dealing with container shipping, but most foreign trade passes through Port-au-Prince. Port-au-Prince International Airport is situated 5 miles from the capital and has regular connections with North America and Europe. The only other modern airport is near Cap-Haïtien, in the north of the country.

Deforestation and the resulting soil erosion have silted up Haiti's main hydroelectric power generating system. The 677 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electrical power consumed in 1998 was barely enough to keep industries going, and most wealthy people and companies have private generators. Only 10 percent of city dwellers and 3 percent of the rural population have access to electricity. The main fuel is charcoal, produced by smallholders at often enormous environmental cost.

Poor road conditions have had disastrous effects on farmers, who face serious problems in taking their goods to markets and towns. The crumbling infrastructure, erratic power supplies, and constant threat of unrest have also been cited by foreign manufacturers as a discouragement to locating companies in Haiti. What little public transport there is consists of tap-taps, colorfully painted buses that link towns and villages.

Telephone and television access is almost non-exis-tent in the countryside, while mobile phones and Internet connections are the preserve of the wealthy minority and business interests in the capital. In 1996 there were only 60,000 phone lines recorded in the country. The state-owned Téléco company is highly profitable as it holds a monopoly on the lucrative business in international calls.


Haiti is a traditionally agricultural economy, and almost two-thirds of the workforce (over 2 million people) are employed in farming, much of it on tiny properties. But agriculture, which is plagued by primitive techniques, soil erosion, and low commodity prices, contributed only 32 percent to the GDP in 1998. It also provided less than half of the country's food needs and less than 10 percent of export earnings. The agricultural sector is in deep crisis and is the first priority of the Aris-tide administration.

Industry is mainly based on low-wage assembly plants producing goods for export to the United States. Contributing 20 percent to the GDP in 1998, manufacturing was badly hit by the political turmoil of the 1980s and 1990s but has stabilized somewhat since 1994. About 35,000 people, or 1 percent of the total workforce, are employed in the export sector, while the domestic market is so small and poor that only essentials such as cooking oil, cement, and beverages are produced locally.

Services accounted for 48 percent of the GDP in 1998 and largely involved retail , transportation, and government services. Approximately a million people work in trade, transport, and personal services, many of them as domestic servants. Haiti's once important tourism sector collapsed in the 1980s due to political unrest and fears about HIV/AIDS.


Declining soil fertility, natural disasters, and cheap imports from abroad have all contributed to agriculture's decline. It is calculated that only one-third of Haiti's land is arable, but nearer one-half is under cultivation, adding to deforestation and soil erosion. The land is often too mountainous to produce sufficient yields while, in the more fertile valleys, disputes over land ownership have often led to violence. Technology is largely lacking.

The main export crop is coffee, but it contributed less than 6 percent of earnings in 1999. Many small-scale coffee farmers have switched to food crops because of high taxes and exorbitant percentages demanded by the middlemen who buy the coffee from the peasants to sell on the international market. Other small export crops include mangos and essential oils for the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries in the United States. Subsistence farming is also in decline, hit by an influx of rice and wheat, some of it smuggled in from the Dominican Republic and some sent to the country as humanitarian aid. Most of what is produced by small farmers is consumed or sold locally, but Haiti's main imports continue to be basic foodstuffs.


Haiti's industrial sector is almost exclusively export-oriented, revolving around assembly plants producing consumer goods for the U.S. market. In the 1970s and 1980s this sector grew rapidly, and Haiti was briefly one of the leading producers of baseballs and other sporting goods, with 60,000 people employed around Port-au-Prince. The political violence of the late 1980s and 1990s and particularly the embargo imposed on the military regime between 1991 and 1994 severely affected this sector, and many companies relocated to the Dominican Republic or Mexico.

By 1999 the manufacturing sector was estimated to employ 35,000 workers, mostly women, producing clothing, toys, and electronic parts. The value of manufactured exports in 1999 was estimated at almost US$250 million and accounted for most overall exports.

Other manufacturing takes place on a small scale and is either directed at the small local market or involves artisans who produce goods such as artworks, furniture, and souvenirs, which are normally exported to tourist destinations elsewhere in the Caribbean.


Haiti has long had a large and unproductive government service sector, a legacy of the Duvalier dictatorship, which created government jobs for its supporters. Social services, however, are almost non-existent, and recent governments have come under pressure to reduce the state payroll through privatization and by firing workers or giving them early retirement.

Retail and transportation are both labor-intensive and largely primitive economic sectors, with large numbers employed in informal vending and rural markets. There are few modern retail outlets in Haiti, and most rural dwellers depend on their own food production and basic items bought at markets or village stores.

In the 1980s, tourism was a relatively important sector, providing Haiti's second largest source of foreign exchange, but the industry was destroyed by adverse publicity about political violence and the dangers of HIV/AIDS in the country. Some hotels have survived by catering to the large numbers of aid workers and other foreign staff who are posted to work in Haiti, but tourism as such has yet to recover. Tourist arrivals numbered 146,367 in 1998, and cruise ships now call at a specially constructed beach resort, Labadee, in the north of the country. The government has invested in promoting the southern town of Jacmel and the northern area around Cap-Haïtien as tourist destinations.

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Haiti
Exports Imports
1975 .080 .149
1980 .226 .375
1985 .168 .442
1990 .160 .332
1995 .110 .653
1998 .175 .797
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.


Haiti's manufactured exports go almost exclusively to the United States, which accounted for 86 percent of exports in 1998. The rest, in the form of coffee and essential oils, was exported to the European Union (EU). The United States is also the source of most of Haiti's imports and provided 60 percent of the country's import requirements in 1998. In 1999, Haitian exports totaled US$322 million, against imports of US$762 million, creating a substantial deficit of US$440 million.

During the embargo of 1991-94, U.S. trade with Haiti dropped substantially, creating increased hardship in the country and stimulating the growth of a large contraband trade from the Dominican Republic. Trade with Haiti's neighbor is still an important part of the informal sector, but little of this activity appears on official financial records.

Haiti's trade deficit is partly offset by international aid and partly by remittance payments sent back by Haitians living and working overseas.


Following a period of U.S. occupation (1915-34), Haiti's currency, the gourde, was tied at a rate of 5 to the U.S. dollar. Dollars have always circulated freely in Haiti and are often preferred by retailers and others to the local

Exchange rates: Haiti
gourdes per US$1
Jan 2001 23.761
2000 22.524
1999 17.965
1998 16.505
1997 17.311
1996 15.093
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

currency. In 1991, the Aristide administration finally severed the official exchange rate and let the gourde float. It fell from 7.5 to the dollar in 1991 to 16.2 in 1995 and 22.5 in 2000. This means that the cost of many basic imported goods has risen dramatically for Haiti's poorest sectors.

Haiti experienced high levels of inflation during the embargo of the early 1990s, reaching 39.3 percent in 1994. This rate was reduced to 15.4 percent in 1998 and has remained stable since. Growth in the GDP has been modest in recent years. In 1995, in the wake of Aristide's return and an influx of foreign aid, the GDP grew by 4.4 percent, but this fell to 2.7 percent in 1996 and then contracted by 0.9 percent the following year. The GDP growth in 1999 was estimated at 2.4 percent.

The Banque de la République d'Haïti is the country's central bank. It issues currency and holds the government reserves. There are 9 commercial banks, as well as U.S., Canadian, and French banks. Most Haitians, however, never use a bank, dealing only in cash and investing their savings in a tangible asset.


No recent statistics exist, but it is widely accepted that Haiti is not merely the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere but also one of the most unequal. A small elite of no more than several thousand families is extremely wealthy, including many millionaires among their number. In stark contrast, an estimated 80 percent of Haitians live in absolute poverty. There is a small middle class comprised of civil servants and other state-sector employees, but a vast gulf exists between a tiny rich minority and the overwhelmingly poor majority. Class and color have overlapped ever since Haitian independence, with the lighter-skinned minority occupying positions of political and economic power. This status quo was challenged by the Duvalier dictatorship, which promoted some of its black supporters into a growing middle class.

The country's wealthy are clustered around the cooler mountainside suburb of Pétionville, where French

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Haiti 500 607 527 481 370
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Jamaica 1,819 1,458 1,353 1,651 1,559
Dominican Republic 1,179 1,325 1,325 1,366 1,799
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

restaurants and luxury car concessions cater to expensive tastes. Education and medical services are entirely private, and the children of the elite tend to be educated abroad, either in Paris or the United States. Shopping trips to Miami are commonplace, and most of the richest families hold dollar bank accounts in the United States.

Life for the rural and urban poor could not be more different. Most Haitians live in small, often remote, villages or isolated settlements, with no access to electricity, clean water, or social services. Some rudimentary education is offered by church and other charitable organizations, but the distances children must travel to school, the costs of books and uniforms, and the necessity for them to work from an early age means that illiteracy is estimated at over half of the adult population. Illness can often spell financial disaster, as meager savings or investments such as a pig must be sold to pay for medicines. In some areas large numbers of people are dependent on aid agencies for food supplies.

Existence in the teeming slums of Port-au-Prince is perhaps even grimmer, with overcrowding, disease, and squalor widespread. Those who work can expect to earn no more than US$2 a day, hardly enough to buy food, let alone other necessities. The majority, however, must scrape some sort of living from the informal sector. Figures for child mortality, communicable diseases, and life expectancy reveal the country's poverty and deprivation. According to the Pan-American Health Organization, approximately 380,000 Haitiansover 5 percent of the populationwere infected with HIV/AIDS by 2000.


In 1997 the unemployment rate was estimated at 70 percent. Some Haitians have jobs in the formal sector. Yet most are low-wage manufacturing jobs where conditions are basic and trade unions discouraged. International agencies have cited many cases of abusive practices by managers and employers in this sector, where women are employed to stitch clothing or assemble toys for export. Conditions in agriculture are no better, and most small farmers work long hours in highly primitive conditions to produce a precarious livelihood for their families.

The informal sector encompasses almost every area of economic activity from street selling and garbage recycling to taxi driving and handicraft manufacturing. Nearly all this activity is unregulated, and workers have no rights or security whatsoever. There are no effective laws to protect workers' rights, and trade unions are small and divided. The most powerful organizations are those neighborhood or peasant groups which are usually linked to Fanmi Lavalas and which sometimes take militant action against exploiters.


1492. Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus lands on the island of Hispaniola. Spain eventually battles the Arawak Indian population on the islands and establishes a colony.

1697. Spain cedes to France the western part of Hispaniola and founds the colony of Saint-Domingue (which later becomes Haiti). France turns the colony into the center of its slave trade.

1804. Haiti gains independence after a 12-year war against the French led by Touissant L'Ouverture.

1915-34. The United States occupies Haiti in the name of regional security.

1958-71. François "Papa Doc" Duvalier rules the country as a dictator, and the country's economy collapses.

1971-86. Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier continues the dictatorship but encourages the development of manufacturing and tourism.

1986. Opposition groups force Duvalier to flee the country, leading to several years of instability and military rule.

1990. Jean-Bertrand Aristide is chosen president in elections overseen by the United Nations. About 9 months later, in 1991, the military ousts Aristide and places its candidate in office. The international community condemns these actions, leading to international isolation for Haiti.

1994. U.S. and, later, United Nations troops enter Haiti to help the nation return to democratic rule. Aris-tide is returned to serve the remainder of his term in office.

1995. In new elections, from which Aristide is barred, Aristide associate René Préval wins the presidency. His presidency is marred by violence and instability.

2000. Aristide wins the presidency in elections that are plagued by accusations of fraud, but he returns a semblance of political stability to the country.


Haiti faces seemingly insurmountable problems in the years to come. Its environment is damaged, probably beyond repair, and its agricultural sector will require huge investment for regeneration. There is no sign that the country's ecological disaster can be reversed. The government's proposed land reform program would have to guarantee viable farms for many more producers, with assistance with technology. The manufacturing sector will also face huge problems, most notably in competition from other low-cost economies such as the Dominican Republic.

Much will depend on the political relationship forged between the Haitian government and the Bush administration, which contains political figures hostile to Aris-tide and his populism. Haiti will remain dependent on foreign aid in the future and will look to the EU to pay for joint projects with the Dominican Republic. The country's greatest obstacle to sustainable development, however, remains its stubbornly high levels of poverty and deprivation, leading to huge social inequalities and political volatility.


Haiti has no territories or colonies.


Arthur, Charles, and Michael Dash, editors. Libéte: A Haiti Anthology. London: Latin America Bureau, 1999.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Dominican Republic, Haiti and Puerto Rico. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

McFadyen, Deidre, et al., editors. Haiti: Dangerous Crossroads. Boston, MA: South End Press, 1995.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2000 Country Commercial Guide: Haiti. <>. Accessed September 2001.

Welcome to the Embassy of the Republic of Haiti, Washington, D.C. <>. Accessed September 2001.

James Ferguson




The Haitian gourde. One gourde equals 100 centimes. There are coins of 5, 10, 20, and 50 centimes. There are notes of 1, 2, 5, 10, 50, 100, 250, and 500 gourdes.


Manufactured goods (clothing, sports goods), coffee, oils, mangos.


Food, machinery and transport equipment, fuels.


US$9.2 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).


Exports: US$322 million (f.o.b., 1999). Imports: US$762 million (c.i.f., 1999).

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Haiti
Region (Map name): North & Central America
Population: 6,964,549
Language(s): French, Creole
Literacy rate: 45.0%
Area: 27,750 sq km
GDP: 4,050 (US$ millions)
Number of Television Stations: 2
Number of Television Sets: 38,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 5.5
Number of Radio Stations: 67
Number of Radio Receivers: 415,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 59.6

Background & General Characteristics

Haiti is part of an island located in the Caribbean; it occupies the western one-third of the island of Hispaniola, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, west of the Dominican Republic. The country gained its independence from France in January 1804. Haiti's Constitution was approved in March 1987 then suspended in June 1988; Haiti returned to constitutional rule in October 1994.

As of 2002, the president was elected by popular vote to five-year terms. The prime minister was appointed by the president, and then that appointment was ratified by the Congress. The Senate had 27 seats, with members serving six-year terms. One-third was elected every two years. The Chamber of Deputies had 83 seats, and members were popularly elected to serve four-year terms.

The total population in Haiti in 2002 was estimated at nearly 7 million, with a 1.7 percent growth rate. While the birth rate is at 31.4 per 1,000 people, the infant mortality rate is a staggering 93.3 per 1,000, nearly 10 percent. More than 55 percent of the country's population is between the ages of 15 and 64; another 40.31 percent are 14 years old or younger. Blacks make up 95 percent of the population, with the other 5 percent mulatto and white. The vast majority of Haitians (80 percent) are Roman Catholic. French and Creole are the official languages.

While the Haitian Constitution actually provides for freedom of the press, putting the theoretic rights into practice was not necessarily a safe thing for journalists to do, especially in the early 2000s. The country supported several newspapers. Haiti Progress, the largest Haitian weekly publication, was published in French, English, and Creole every Wednesday.

As of 2002, the Haitian Times was the only full-color weekly newspaper distributed in the Haitian community and in Haiti. The Times was the only Haitian-American newspaper with full-time professional journalists. It covered Haitian and Haitian-American news; arts and leisure; entertainment, reviews, profiles and social events. Regarding sports, it covered Haitian and American soccer, basketball, and tennis. Its columns cover news from Boston, New York, and Miami, in addition to Haiti. The Times had a pool of award-winning writers and photographers both in the United States and in Haiti, and they were known for their authority on Haitian and Haitian-American issues.

Journalists in Haiti have long been subject to attacks, particularly by mobs on one side or another of a particular issue. In what Amnesty International called "one of the most high-profile acts of violence in recent Haitian history," prominent radio journalist and long-time democracy and human rights activist Jean Dominique was shot to death by an unknown assailant outside the courtyard of his radio station, Radio Haiti Inter. A station guard, Jean Claude Louissaint, was also killed in the attack, which occurred April 3, 2000.

Jean Dominique's death was a serious blow to Haiti, according to Amnesty International, largely because he had been such an outspoken advocate for change throughout the turbulent previous four decades in the country's history. His radio broadcasts were the first to be done in Creole rather than French, and they created an unprecedented forum for critical thought. The key was that it did so not only for the country's "educated elite," but also for Haiti's poor population, which was considerable at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Dominique had survived imprisonment under dictator Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, who came to power in 1957. He was forced into exile during the reign of Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, who succeeded his father in 1971, and again after Haiti's military coup in 1991. Subsequently, a United Nations peacekeeping force helped restore democratic rule to Haiti and restored President Jean-Betrand Aristide to office. But even after that return to constitutional order in 1994, Jean Dominique was not satisfied, pointing out anti-democratic tendencies within diverse sections of the Haitian political and societal scenes. Haitians were stunned, according to Amnesty International, by the fact such a pillar of democracy could be gunned down by an unidentified killer, after surviving so many conflicts where his adversaries were known.

Acts of violence, particularly killings, where journalists are involved regardless of their political views have a far-reaching effect on society. As noted by the Organization of American States Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, the American Convention of Human Rights which counts Haiti among its membersrequires states to investigate effectively the murder of journalists and punish the perpetrators of such acts.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) said the lack of "an effective and thorough investigation into any criminal sanctions against the primary parties involvedand their accessoriesis particularly serious because of its impact on society." When such crimes go unpunished, not only are all other journalists practicing their craft in the country intimidated, but also it has a detrimental effect on all citizens, who become afraid to report mistreatment, abuse or any other kinds of unlawful acts.

The case of the murder of Jean Dominique led to widespread questioning of the human rights situation in Haiti, even seven years after the restoration of the democratic government in Haiti. Even more significant, according to Amnesty International, was the fashion in which the investigation hit roadblocks and obstacles that illustrated the lack of human rights in Haiti. The obstacles have included lack of independence of the police force and the justice system; the failure of those institutions to confront ruling-party activists responsible for threats and much of the political violence; and acts of violence committed under the auspices of elected officials.

Even more troubling, it would seem from a journalistic standpoint, were the climbing number of attacks on journalists in the two years following the death of Jean Dominique. These started almost immediately and changed, perhaps forever, the climate in which journalists try to do their jobs in Haiti. For example, the same night Jean Dominique was killed, radio station Radio Unite, based in St. Michel de l'Attalaye, was sacked and part of its equipment stolen shortly after reporting Dominique's death. The station had reportedly received threats earlier.

Jean Dominique was buried April 8, 2000. After the funeral, pro-Famni Lavalas (FL) groups set fire to the office of Konfederasyon Inite Demokratik (Democratic Unity Conference), which served as headquarters to the opposition coalition. They also threatened to burn down private radio station Radio Vision 2000, which is critical of the Aristide government. Furthermore, on May 3, 2000, in Place in the Department of the South, community station Radio Via Pelican Sid (Voice of the Peasant Farmers of the South) was sacked. The station had reportedly already received threats. Journalist Adulate Guedeouengue, who was abducted, beaten and robbed in May 2001, was reportedly looking into Dominique's murder at the time of his attack and had been told by his kidnappers to stop investigating.

The Guedeouengue case was a perfect example of how much pressure the media faced in the aftermath of the murder of one of its biggest Haitian stars. Other Radio Haiti Inter journalists reported threats, harassment, and intimidation, including those done by people who were believed to be police. On December 15, 2000, a 34-year-old sports reporter for Port-au-Prince Radio Plus, Gerard Denoze, was shot and killed by a pair of unidentified assailants while stepping out of a car in Carrefour. The Association Haitienne de la Presse Sportive (Haitian Sports Press Association) said he had been receiving death threats for some time.

On December 27, 2000, the Port-au-Prince private radio station Radio Caraibes FM suspended its broadcast temporarily because it received threatening letters and telephone calls. It also reportedly received direct threats to individual journalists within its organization. The threats were allegedly made by members of popular organizations close to FL.

In January 2001, Paul Raymond, leader of Ti Kominite Legliz, a popular organization close to the FL, publicly threatened some 80 journalists, clerics, and politicians if they did not support the party. Moreover, the director of information for the Port-au-Prince-based radio station Signal FM reportedly received death threats over three days in June 2001 for questioning the behavior of some of FL's influential senators.

Later that month, on June 20, a Radio Haiti Inter broadcaster said he was followed, forced out of his automobile and threatened by two armed men. The men claimed they were police, and that they recognized the car as having belonged to Jean Dominique, the murdered director of Radio Haiti Inter. The Haitian National Police denied any of its officers had been involved, but acknowledged the men may have been ex-police. The radio station lodged an official complaint but, of course, never heard back.

On July 28, 2001, Radio Rotation FM reporters Reynald Liberus and Claude Francois did interviews with some of the alleged perpetrators of a series of attacks on police stations around Port-au-Prince. According to sources, they were allegedly arrested without warrants and mistreated by police, who were reportedly trying to get tapes of the interviews.

Jean Ronald Dupont, a journalist for Radio Maxima FM, sustained wounds to the head October 2, 2001, while covering a demonstration in Cap Hatien, the country's second largest city. The wounds were reportedly suffered when police fired at shoulder level in an attempt to disperse crowds. That same day, another radio reporter, Radio Metropole correspondent Jean-Marie Mayard, was assaulted in St. Marc, department of the Artibonite, by members of a popular organization. The attackers broke Mayard's tape recorder and threatened to kill him if he did not stop broadcasting reports critical of the Lavalas Family political party.

To close out what was a tough month for journalists, Radio Haiti Inter journalist Jean Robert Delcine was assaulted and threatened by police October 12, 2001, because he had been investigating the alleged killing of a 16-year-old by police in Port-au-Prince. Police allegedly killed the boy when they could not find his brother, who they suspected of gang activity. Radio Haiti Inter lodged a complaint against the police inspector who had mis-treated their reporter, but the inspector refused to respond to the summons.

A month later, on November 27, 2001, Radio Kiskeya journalist Evrard Saint-Armand was reportedly arrested after trying to report on an incident in which a young boy was killed in suspicious circumstances in Port-au-Prince. He was taken to the local police station, where police officers reportedly beat him and broke his tape recorder to prevent broadcast of any of the interviews he had conducted.

In the most gruesome attack of the year 2001, Radio Echo 2000 news director Brignol Lindor was hacked to death by a mob including members of a pro-FL organization in Petit Goave. Several days before, according to reports, the assistant mayor for FL had called for "zero tolerance" against Lindor, whom the assistant mayor accused of supporting a rival party. Several of the killers admitted to the attack, and arrest warrants were issued. However, no arrests were affected for more than two months. But even after the arrest of FL-elected official Sedner Sainvilus, a member of the Communal Section Administration, Lindor's family continued to protest the failure to arrest anyone else.

Threatening leaflets were then distributed in mid-February around Petit Goave, warning the family and other journalists to stop drawing attention to the case or risk facing the same fate as Lindor. Between October 2001 and Lindor's death in December, the Federation of Haitian Journalist Associations documented 30 cases of threats or aggression against reporters by supporters of President Aristide. At Lindor's funeral, 24-year-old journalist Francois Johnson told Michelle Faul of the Associated Press he was reconsidering his life's work. "The whole profession is traumatized by Lindor's brutal death," he said at the time. "We are afraid of what is in store for us."

When the national palace was attacked by unknown assailants in December 2001, a rush of targeted reprisal attacks took place against opposition headquarters, radio stations, journalists, and leading opposition figures. Reporters and journalists were victims of harassment and attacks, during which the Haitian police were either not present or did not respond. The Association of Haitian Journalists reported that nearly a dozen journalists left Haiti out of fear of persecution following the attack on the palace.

After the coup attempt, Aristide supporters rampaged through Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien, the country's second largest city. Private radio stations were targeted, while other journalists were threatened and, in some cases, forced to join the mobs in singing, "Vive Aristide!" according to a report by OneWorld US. At the time, Garry Pierre-Pierre of the New York-based National Coalition for Haitian Rights as well as the publisher of the Haiti Times, called the events a "major setback to the democratic process in Haiti." Mary Lene Smeets, the Latin America director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said the climate of violence against the press was a tremendous cause for concern. She blamed Aristide for fanning the flames through his statements.

In the early 2000s, some felt that the media is as fragmented as anything else in Haiti, where military coups, government corruption, and political diversion were frequently the norm. In a forum on ethnic media in New York, the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center held a panel discussion on "Haiti's Media: Covering News at Home and Abroad." The discussion centered on media issues related to Haiti, perhaps the Western Hemisphere's poorest country. Participants in the forum disagreed about the problems in the Haitian media. Some observers felt there was no such thing as neutral, fair journalism, even among mainstream media such as the Associated Press and the New York Times. Others felt that the bulk of Haitian media focuses on political coverage (whether fair or not) and not enough time and energy is spent covering essential issues such as ecology, justice, crime and drugs.

Radio Soleil, begun in 1991, broadcasted from Brooklyn, New York as a subcarrier radio station. In the early 2000s it claimed more than 100,000 subscribers and claimed a listening audience of more than 600,000 Haitians spread across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The station broadcasted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in three languages. Although its owner, Ricot Dupuy, agreed not enough time was spent on central issues like the ecology and crime, he pointed out that he did not have the manpower. "We do not have the means to do in-depth coverage," he said. "Everyone in Haiti is a politician. Everything boils down to politics."

Economic Framework

In 1998, it was estimated that more than 80 percent of the Haitian population lived below the poverty line. That fact, combined with the fact that between 50 and 80 percent of the country's population is illiterate, meant most Haitians got their news from broadcast media and not the print press.

Nearly 70 percent of Haitians depend on agriculture, consisting mostly of small-scale subsistence farming and employing roughly two-thirds of the active workforce. After elections in May 2000 that were widely suspected of irregularities, the international community, including the United States and Europe, suspended almost all aid to Haiti. The result was a destabilization of the currency in Haiti and, combined with fuel price increases, a stark rise in prices in general. By January 2001, however, prices had appeared to level off.

Estimates in 1999 regarding the Gross Domestic Product of Haiti divided sources of revenue three ways: agriculture, 32 percent; industry, 20 percent; and services, 48 percent. The inflation rate, according to 2000 estimates, was 16 percent, and in 1995 the labor force was 3.6 million.

Press Laws

The Haitian Constitution, enacted in 1987 and updated in January 2002, guaranteed all Haitians the right to express their opinions freely on all matters and by any means they chooses (Article 28). It also stated that journalists may freely exercise their profession within the framework of the law, and such exercise may not be subject to any authorization or censorship, except in the case of war.

Journalists may not be compelled to reveal their sources; however, it was their duty to verify the authenticity and accuracy of information. It was also their obligation to respect the ethics of their profession. Article 28-3 of the Haitian Constitution stipulated that all offenses involving the press and abuses of the right of expression should come under the code of criminal law.


According to the Haitian Constitution, journalists do not need to reveal their sources, although they are required to verify the authenticity and accuracy of the information they acquire. Part of the obligation includes respecting the ethics of their profession.

As of 2002, more than 200 independent radio stations existed in the country, providing the full spectrum of political views. Unfortunately, self-censorship was fairly pervasive as journalists tried to avoid offending financial sponsors or influential politicians.

State-Press Relations

Two French language daily newspapers frequently criticized the government, but with a 20 percent literacy rate, the majority of the Haitian population did not read these criticisms. Uncensored satellite television was available, but lack of funds prevented it from reaching many people.

Official harassment often happened in the early 2000s in the form of physical abuse by mobs of people. For instance, four journalists were beaten by police at an anti-crime rally in May 2000. A radio director was arrested and charged with defamation and incitement to riot a month earlier.

Regarding state and press relationships, at the beginning of the twenty-first century they are strained and oppositional in purpose. To illustrate, the key suspect in the April 2000 shooting death of Haiti's most influential journalist, Radio Haiti Inter director Jean Dominique, was Lavalas Family Party Senator Danny Toussaint. Try as he may, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was not impressing free press watchdogs with his efforts to make press freedom a reality in his country. Indeed, Reporters Without Borders in May 2002 put Aristide's name, for the first time, on an annual worldwide list of "predators against press freedom." The Reporters Without Borders list put Aristide in some distinct company: Cuba's Fidel Castro, Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Russia's Vladimir Putin, among more than 30 others.

The Paris-based organization criticized Aristide, saying he obstructed the investigation into Dominique's murder. While the investigation centered on prominent figures within Aristide's ruling Lavalas Family political party, the investigating judge, Claudy Gassant, complained of government interference and intimidation. Gassant's mandate to investigate the case ended in January, and Aristide waited three months to renew it, and did so under pressure on the second anniversary of Dominique's murder in April 2002.

The investigation into Dominique's murder provided a chance for the country to change its image. According to Amnesty International, there was "unprecedented civil mobilization to call for justice for the popular and respected murdered journalist." It cut, Amnesty International stated, across the political spectrum and included human rights organizations, journalists, churches, members of the labor movement and grassroots groups. Amnesty International kept a close eye on the investigation. But Haiti's legal system protected the findings in any investigation. Still Amnesty International pointed out the country had an obligation under both international and domestic law to make sure "full, transparent and impartial" justice was served.

Much of the attitude toward a free press in Haiti can probably be traced to all of the political turmoil in the country. Under dictatorships since 1949, including a period from 1957 through 1986, when Haiti was ruled first by Francois Duvalier, who ruled with brutal efficiency through his secret police, the Tontons Macoutes. In the early 1980s, Haiti became one of the world's first countries to face an AIDS epidemic, and the disease wrought havoc on the nation's tourist industry, which collapsed, causing rising and rampant unemployment. Eventually, unrest festered in the economic crisis.

In the early 2000s Haiti's government remained ineffectual, and the country was a major point for drugs. The country also suffered from an approximately 50 percent unemployment rate, and refugees left eagerly for the United States. Aristide won re-election in 2000, and his government quelled an attempted coup in December 2001, in another event that showed the dangers of being a journalist in Haiti. After the attempt was put down, journalists were forced to seek refuge following a series of attacks by supporters of Aristide. According to the Associated Press, at least one radio station stopped broadcasting in the immediate aftermath of the attempt. Five gunmen were killed, and perhaps as many as 18 others escaped as police retook the palace. Aristide militants attacked reporters outside the National Palace the day of the assault, December 17, 2001. One radio reporter had a pistol placed against his head; others were forced by attackers to praise the president. According to Reporters Without Borders, at least a dozen reporters were assaulted outside the palace, all while police simply stood by and watched. Though no serious injuries were suffered, the reporters were forced by the mobs to leave under threat. Police did nothing, and no arrests were made. At the time, Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Robert Menard said: "The systematic character of the assaults shows the protesters have received instructions to attack the press."

Aristide himself condemned the attacks on journalists, but given the treatment of reporters in the country, he did not appear to be taken seriously. At one point, he urged his supporters to respect the rights of the press. But later in the same day, Radio Ti-Moun, an educational station run by Aristide's private Foundation for Democracy, charted that the press had "prepared the people psychologically" for the coup. According to the Associated Press report, at least 10 people were killed in the attack on the palace and the accompanying violence. Opposition forces claimed the coup attempt was staged, and one radio reporter said he received threats after he asked a question reflecting skepticism about the coup's authenticity. Several radio stations stopped broadcasting temporarily after the attack, while others played only music. That indicated the climate in which Haitian journalists had to work.

News Agencies

As of 2002, L'Agence Haitienne de Presse (AHP) was Haiti's only local news agency. Founded in 1989, AHP was created to distribute news and information on Haiti and to build stronger ties with both the diaspora and the rest of the world. AHP published daily news releases in both French and English. The AHP also published an annual synopsis of the year's events. It also prepares reports on subjects of common interest, such as elections, the democratic process, and the press. All of Haiti's radio and television stations, foreign and local press, diplomatic missions and international organizations use AHP's services. AHP, according to its own Web site, has grown to a staff of 12 in its main Port-au-Prince office, with another 10 correspondents positioned around the country and one each in the Dominican Republic, Canada and the United States, where there are large Haitian populations.

Broadcast media

In 1997, Haiti had 67 radio stations, 41 AM stations, and 26 FM stations, which reached an estimated 415,000 radios. Two television stations, plus one cable television service, reached approximately 38,000 televisions.

Electronic News Media

As of the early 2000s, Haiti had about 9 telephones per 1,000 citizens. Comparatively, there were 630 telephones per 1,000 users in the United States. Haiti's largest Internet provider, Alpha Communications Network, claimed a 90-percent market share of Internet users. ACN was shut down in September 1999 by the government's telecommunications regulator, the National Communications (Conatel). The shutdown paralyzed the communications ability of Haiti, stopping an estimated 80 percent of Haitian commerce and leaving government offices, embassies, and nearly everyone without Internet access.

Conatel claimed that ACN had sliced into the international business of Haiti's state-run monopoly, Teleco, by selling international phone lines and cards, causing the shutdown of ACN. The charge was later dropped, and the popular ACN was allowed to resume. ACN's popularity is understandable when one considers the average Haitian's annual salary was only US$250 a month, and that, at US$.70 a minute, Teleco's online charge would cost more than an average Haitian's annual income.


At the beginning of the twenty-first century, journalists in Haiti had good reason to fear for their lives. Although President Aristide said he would do everything in his power to make sure rights were given to the press and the Constitution would be upheld, he had not been willing or able to follow through on that promise. Like Haitians of all ages and walks of life, journalists have at one time or another fled the country. When one of the country's biggest names in journalism can be shot dead in front of his own radio station, and when the government in the best case scenario is slow to investigate and in the worst case scenario actually obstructs the investigation and allows the killer or killers to go free, it does not take much to reach the conclusion that a free press in Haiti was still a long way away.

Significant dates

  • 1957: Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier becomes Haiti's dictator.
  • 1971: "Papa Doc" is succeeded by his son, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier.
  • 1986: Facing an economic crisis brought on by the collapse of the tourist industry in Haiti caused by a burgeoning AIDS crisis, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier flees the country.
  • 1991: Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a Roman Catholic priest, becomes the first elected chief executive. He is deposed in a military coup a few months later.
  • 1994: A United Nations Peacekeeping force restores the Aristide government.
  • 1996: Rene Preval succeeds Aristide.
  • 2000: Aristide is re-elected in elections that were boycotted by the opposition and questioned around the world for their propriety.
  • 2000: Jean Dominique, director of Haiti Radio Inter, is gunned down with a guard in front of the station by unknown gunmen. Radio stations and other journalists are pressured to limit their coverage of the attack.
  • 2001: Reporter Brignol Lindor is hacked to death by a mob said to include members of a pro-Lavalas Family party group. When friends and family openly protest the lack of progress in the case, leaflets warning them they could suffer a similar fate are passed out in Lindor's hometown of Petit Goave.


Demko, Kerstin. Haitian Media Fragmentation Reflects Haiti's reality. Available from

Faul, Michele. "Journalists in Haiti fear for their lives." Associated Press, 22 Dec. 2001.

Freedom House Press Reports 2000. Available from

Haiti History, 2002. Available from

Human Rights Watch World Report, 2002. Available from

"Internet Access in Haiti." Digital Freedom Network, 2000. Available from

Lobe, Jim. "Haiti's independent journalists face uncertain future." OneWorld US, 7 Jan. 2001.

United States State Department Report, 2001. Available from

World Bank Group Reports. Available from

Brad Kadrich

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Bannann Peze (Fried Plantains).................................... 43
Riz et Pois Rouges (Rice and Red Beans) ...................... 44
Riz Djon-Djon (Rice and Haitian Mushrooms).............. 44
Haitian Fruit Salad ....................................................... 44
Pain Haïtien (Haitian Bread)......................................... 46
Pineapple Nog ............................................................ 46
Ti-Malice (Spicy Haitian Sauce).................................... 47
Cornmeal Porridge...................................................... 47


Haiti occupies the western third of the island of Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two thirds). Haiti is slightly larger than the state of Maryland, with an area of 27,750 square kilometers (10,714 square miles) including several islands. Three main mountain ranges, separated by open plains, stretch across the country. The climate is tropical, with some variation depending on altitude. Coffee, cocoa, coconuts, avocado, orange, lime, and mango grow wild. The most important commercial crops are coffee and sugarcane. Other important crops include bananas, corn, rice, sorghum, beans, and cocoa beans. The virgin forests that once covered the entire country have now been reduced to about 4 percent of the total land area.


Spain, France, the continent of Africa, and later the United States, were crucial in shaping traditional Haitian cuisine. Throughout its history, several foreign countries gained control of Haiti, introducing food and ideas from their native lands, many of which significantly affected the foods modern Haitians eat.

The island of Hispaniola, which encompasses both Haiti and the Dominican Republic, was inhabited by hunter-gatherers as early as 5000 B.C. Fruits and vegetables such as guavas, pineapples, cassava, papayas, sweet potatoes, and corn were cultivated by early Haitian tribes, particularly the Arawak and Taino Indians. It was not long before the first European arrived on the island and began introducing oranges, limes, mangoes, rice, and sugarcane. Slaves from Africa were eventually transported to Haiti to work the sugarcane plantations.

On December 6, 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on the island and named it La Isla Espanola (later named Hispaniola), or the Spanish Island, and claimed it for Spain. The Spaniards called it Santo Domingo. The Spanish established sugar plantations and made the native Indians work as slaves. Hard labor and disease nearly wiped out the indigenous population by 1520, forcing the Spaniards to ship slaves from Africa to work the plantations instead. The Africans introduced okra (also called gumbo; edible pods), ackee (red and yellow fruit), taro (edible root), pigeon peas (seeds of an African shrub), and various spices to the diet. They later introduced such Haitian specialties as red beans and rice and mirliton (or chayote ; a pear-shaped vegetable) to Louisiana's Creole cuisine.

By 1700, the French had taken control of Hispaniola from Spain. The French colonists successfully cultivated sugarcane, coffee, cotton, and cocoa with the help of African slaves.

Haitians won their independence and became the first African-American republic in the New World in 1804. French rule, however, remains evident in modern Haitian society, particularly in the wide use of the French language, and in the contributions to the country's cuisine. French cheeses, desserts, and breads are commonly found at local markets and stores.

French-Style Lettuce Salad


  • 1 head lettuce
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons salad oil
  • 1 Tablespoon wine vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice


  1. Wash, drain, and thoroughly dry the lettuce.
  2. Rub a salad bowl with garlic and add the other ingredients to the bowl.
  3. Mix well.
  4. Tear lettuce leaves into bowl.
  5. Just before serving, toss thoroughly.

Serves 4 to 6.

Corn Pudding


  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • Salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Combine cornstarch, flour, sugar, and salt in a saucepan.
  3. Stir in creamed corn and beaten eggs.
  4. Add the milk, vanilla and butter.
  5. Mix well and pour into a shallow casserole dish and bake for about 1 hour.

Serves 2 to 4.

Spiced Cocoa


  • 3 egg whites
  • ¾ cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 to 8 Tablespoons sugar, to taste
  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 11 cups milk


  1. Mix egg whites, cocoa, cinnamon, and sugar into a paste.
  2. Dilute the paste with 1 cup of cold milk.
  3. Boil the remaining 11 cups of milk over low heat.
  4. Gradually add the paste to the boiling milk, beating constantly.
  5. Serve hot and foamy.

Serves 12.

Mango Juice


  • 4 cups water
  • 3 cups orange juice
  • 2 mangoes
  • 1 cup sugar


  1. Boil the sugar and water together until sugar is dissolved; let mixture cool.
  2. Scoop out the mango flesh and combine with orange juice in a blender.
  3. Add the sugar water with puree and continue to blend.
  4. Pour into a pitcher filled with ice cubes and serve.

Serves 8.


Haitian food is often lumped together with other Caribbean islands as "Caribbean cuisine." However, Haiti maintains an independently unique flavor. Unlike its Spanish-influenced counterpart, the Dominican Republic, Haitian cuisine is based on Creole and French cooking styles. Strong pepper flavoring in many dishes also sets Haitian food apart from the other islands.

Several dishes are specifically native to Haiti, including rice djon-djon (jon-JON). It requires Haitian black mushrooms, locally grown fungi. The stems of the mushrooms are used to color the rice black, then the mushroom caps with lima beans are used as a tasty topping. Calalou (kah-lah-LOO), consisting of crabmeat, salted pork, spinach, onion, okra, and peppers, and pain patate (pane pah-TAT), a sweetened potato, fig, and banana pudding, are other native dishes to Haiti. Soup jomou (pumpkin soup) is traditionally served for lunch on Sundays.

In general, the average Haitian diet is largely based on starch staples such as rice (which is locally grown), corn, millet, yams, and beans. However, wealthier residents can afford meats (usually pork and goat), lobster, spiced shrimp, duck, and sweet desserts such as French-influenced mousse and pastries.

Extravagant fare such as frog legs, cold cuts, and French cheeses are available (typically in Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital), but they are not commonly eaten by the average Haitian. Riz et Pois, the country's national dish of rice and beans, is more common fare. It is relatively inexpensive, and the rice and beans provide carbohydrates for field workers. Mayi moulen (cornmeal mush) cooked with kidney beans, coconut, and peppers, and pikliz (spicy pickled carrots and cabbage) can be filling, and its ingredients are usually affordable. Haitians also tend to frequently fry their meals in pig fat to give them greater flavor. Bannann peze (fried plantains, similar to bananas), poule (fried chicken), tasso (deep-fried beef), and grio (fried pork) are common examples.

Haiti's tropical Caribbean climate allows for tropical fruits such as avocados, mangoes, pineapples, coconuts, and guava to grow in abundance. Such fruits are often used to make refreshing fruit juices. Other popular beverages include shaved ice topped with a fruity syrup, Juna (a locally produced orange squash drink), and even sugarcane. Both adults and children enjoy chewing on the stalks to extract its sweet juice.

Bannann Peze (Fried Plantains)


  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 medium-sized green plantains, peeled and sliced


  1. In a heavy 12-inch skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat.
  2. Add as many plantain slices as you can without crowding the pan and brown for about 2 minutes on each side.
  3. As they brown, transfer them to paper towels to drain.
  4. On a board, using a spatula, press each slice flat and round, about ¼-inch thick and 2 inches in diameter.
  5. Heat the oil and fry the rounds again for about 1 minute on each side.
  6. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.
  7. Serves 4.

Riz et Pois Rouges (Rice and Red Beans)


  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup rice, uncooked
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) kidney beans, drained
  • ¼ pound ham, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2½ cups boiling water


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet.
  3. Cook and stir the onion, garlic, and green pepper until tender, about 3 minutes.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine and mix all the remaining ingredients.
  5. Add the onion mixture to the bowl and stir well.
  6. Pour entire mixture into an ungreased 2-quart casserole dish.
  7. Cover and bake until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 55 minutes.
  8. Stir before serving.

Makes 5 to 6 servings.

Riz Djon-Djon (Rice and Haitian Mushrooms)


  • 2 cups long grain rice
  • 1 cup Haitian black mushrooms (or dried, black European mushrooms)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • Salt, pepper, and thyme, to taste


  1. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and soak them in a cup of hot water for 30 minutes.
  2. Soak the heads in a separate cup of hot water.
  3. Sauté the rice and garlic in butter, then add all the other ingredients, including the water used to soak the mushrooms (discard the mushroom stems, which are inedible).
  4. Cook for 20 minutes and serve.

Serves 6.

Haitian Fruit Salad


  • 2 oranges, peeled and sectioned
  • 3 bananas, sliced
  • ½ cup melon balls
  • ½ cup strawberries, sliced
  • 4 slices pineapple, diced
  • ½ cup raspberries
  • ¼ cup roasted peanuts
  • ¼ cup pineapple juice
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • Shredded coconut (optional)


  1. In a large bowl, combine oranges, bananas, melon balls, strawberries, pineapple, raspberries, and nuts.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the pineapple juice, lime juice, condensed milk, and beaten eggs.
  3. Pour the juice mixture on top of the fruit.
  4. Top with shredded coconut.

Serves 4.


Religion is an important part of Haitian life and culture. The two main religions are Roman Catholicism and Voudou (or Voodoo), a mixture of African animism (belief in spirits and nature) and Christianity. In addition to visiting family and enjoying delicious meals together, religious and secular (nonreligious) celebrations are also a time to forget about everyday poverty and hardship.

Roman Catholics observe such holidays as Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Christmasone of the most celebrated of all Christian holidays worldwide. On Christmas Eve in Haiti, Roman Catholics attend midnight mass, followed by a celebration dinner and gift exchanges. Children will also travel through local streets carrying a small house or church that they have made ahead of time with strips of cardboard called a fanal (fah-NAHL). Typically, only the homes of the wealthy will own a Christmas tree, but everyone in a village might get to enjoy pis d'etoil (firecrackers).

Haitians who practice voudou enjoy harvest festivals that take place for two days each November. Haitian peasants observe Manger-Yam (mahn-djay YAM), literally meaning "eat yam" day. Along with singing and dancing, the festival is celebrated by feasting and drinking. The purpose of this day is to recognize the importance of the yam in the rural Haitian diet.

National holidays, holidays observed and celebrated by the majority of the population (regardless of religious beliefs), are also popular. November 2 is All Souls' Day (or the Day of the Dead). On this special day, loved ones who have passed away are honored and their lives celebrated through storytelling, eating, and drinking. Many people choose to place food in front of a loved one's grave or on the table where they used to eat. Only after the food has been offered will the rest of the family enjoy their own meals.

A Typical Christmas Menu

Fried pork or goat

Pikliz (spicy pickled carrots and cabbage)

Fried plantains

Pain Patate (sweetened potato, fig, and banana pudding)

Haitian bread

Pineapple Nog

Probably the most widely celebrated event in Haiti is known as Carnival, or Mardi Gras. Though the main attraction is music, these three days preceding Ash

Wednesday each February (known as "Fat Tuesday" in the United States) are also marked by days of celebratory feasting.

Pain Haïtien (Haitian Bread)


  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1½ cups warm water
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 cups flour
  • ¼ teaspoon instant coffee
  • 2 Tablespoons milk


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Dissolve the yeast in a large bowl in warm water.
  3. Stir in honey, oil, salt, nutmeg, and 2 cups of the flour.
  4. Beat until very smooth, about 1 minute.
  5. Gradually add enough of the remaining flour to make a stiff dough.
  6. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth, about 5 minutes.
  7. Place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until about double in size, about 50 minutes. Punch down on dough.
  8. Press in greased jelly roll plan (about 15x10x1-inch).
  9. Cut dough into about 2½-inch squares with a sharp knife, cutting two-thirds of the way through the dough.
  10. Cover and let rise until double in size, about 30 minutes.
  11. Dissolve the instant coffee in the milk and brush over the dough.
  12. Bake until the bread is golden brown, about 35 minutes.
  13. Break the bread into squares to serve.

Makes 2 dozen squares.

Pineapple Nog


  • 1 can pineapple, crushed
  • teaspoon nutmeg, plus additional for topping
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup milk


  1. Combine all the ingredients in a blender and mix well.
  2. Top the drink with additional nutmeg.

Serves 4 to 6.


Most of Haitian society consists of peasants who live a simple lifestyle. On a small plot of owned or rented land, the peasants usually cultivate beans, sweet potatoes, maize (similar to corn), bananas, or coffee (and sometimes a combination). Men plant and harvest the crops while the women typically take care of the children, prepare meals, and sell the extra crops they have grown (if there are any) at the local market.

Markets are frequently the center of economic and social activity in small Haitian villages, and a place where mostly women can be seen selling produce. Markets located in tourist areas, such as Port-au-Prince, the country's capital, often open for business as early as 5 A.M. It is normal for women to sometimes walk several miles each way to the market carrying large baskets of produce on their heads. Though vegetables and fruits are probably the most commonly sold food, salted codfish, and various meats, and manioc flour are also popular. There are no refrigerators, so seafood and meat is typically covered in salt to help preserve it in the warm, outdoor markets. Other homemade products such as clothing, cooking utensils, and baskets are also sold.

Ready-to-eat meals are also available, usually for the hungry tourist. The most popularly sold dish is a porridge made of a ground corn, sugar, and milk, cooked over a large fire. It is usually eaten immediately after it has been purchased, typically served in a tin cup.

Peasants themselves usually begin the day with a light breakfast of locally grown coffee and bread made of manioc flour (wheat flour is often too expensive for the typical Haitian peasant, who has very little money). Most peasants work in the fields and take a break for a light snack around midday. Another break from fieldwork (as well as a chance to see his family) is in the late afternoon when peasants often return home to eat the main meal of the day. Unfortunately, the main meal of the day may be little more than what was eaten for the midday snackporridge and possibly a freshly grown fruit, such as pineapple, coconut, or mango. Haiti's national dish of beans and rice may also be eaten. Pumpkin soup is traditionally eaten for lunch on Sundays, for those who can afford its ingredients (it is also eaten on New Year's Day for good luck).

Spicy, flavorful sauces are common in several Haitian dishes, particularly to season bland peasant dishes. The most popular sauce is ti-malice (tih-mah-LISS), a very spicy tomato and onion mixture.

Ti-Malice (Spicy Haitian Sauce)


  • 10 large tomatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 3 white onions, quartered
  • 4 red hot peppers (jalapeños work well), seeded
  • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 2 cups malt vinegar


  1. Purée the tomatoes, onions, and peppers in a food processor.
  2. Transfer to a large saucepan and add the brown sugar, salt, and malt vinegar.
  3. Stir well to combine.
  4. Cook the sauce over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it begins to boil.
  5. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, continuing to stir occasionally.
  6. Serve with any Haitian rice or meat dish.

Cornmeal Porridge


  • 6 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, margarine, canola oil, or olive oil


  1. Bring water to boil in a large pot. Add the salt, if desired.
  2. Gradually stir in cornmeal with a whisk. Turn heat down to medium.
  3. Stir briskly to get the lumps out, then cook for another 10 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently (add water if it becomes too thick).
  4. Remove from heat and stir in butter or oil.
  5. Serve immediately or pour into a square pan.
  6. Let cool and cut into squares.

Serves 4 to 6.


About 61 percent of the population of Haiti is classified as undernourished by the World Bank. This means they do not receive adequate nutrition in their diet. Of children under the age of five, about 28 percent are underweight, and nearly one-third are stunted (short for their age).

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with unemployment rates as high as 70 percent of the population. Many families cannot afford healthy, vitamin-enriched meals, although mangoes are frequently eaten to avoid a Vitamin A deficiency. In addition, only about one-quarter of Haitians have access to adequate sanitation.

Although the country is surrounded by an abundance of water, it continues to lack water in both quantity and quality. Poor nutrition and sanitation have caused Haiti to have one of the youngest life expectancies. In 1998, the average life expectancy was 54.4 years of age.



Cheong-Lum, Roseline. Haiti: Cultures of the World. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 1995.

Web Sites

Baptist Haiti Mission. [Online] Available (accessed April 16, 2001).

Culinary Specialties of Haiti. [Online] Available (accessed April 16, 2001).

Recipe Goldmine. [Online] Available (accessed April 16, 2001).

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Haiti (hā´tē), Fr. Haïti (äētē´), officially Republic of Haiti, republic (2005 est. pop. 8,122,000), 10,700 sq mi (27,713 sq km), West Indies, on the western third of the island of Hispaniola. It is bounded on the north by the Atlantic Ocean, on the south by the Caribbean Sea, and on the east by the Dominican Republic. Jamaica lies to the west and Cuba to the northwest. The offshore islands of Tortuga and Gonâve also belong to Haiti. The capital and largest city is Port-au-Prince.

Land and People

The country is mostly mountainous, but about one third of the land is arable. 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. The deforestation has contributed to often deadly and sometimes devastating flooding during hurricanes. In addition to the capital, other important cities include Cap-Haïtien and Gonaïves. Haiti is the most densely populated country in Latin America and has the lowest per capita income, with about two thirds of the people unemployed and three quarters living in poverty. Prolonged economic inequality, political instability and repression, and a near total lack of medical care continue to be serious problems. The economic and political situation have caused numerous Haitians to seek work in the neighboring Dominican Republic, and others to emigrate, especially to the United States and the Bahamas.

About 95% of the inhabitants are descendants of African slaves who still follow West African cultural patterns. Since the mid-19th cent., however, Haiti has been dominated by the mulatto minority, which clings to the French cultural tradition. French and Haitian Creole, a French dialect, are the official languages of Haiti. Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion, but African nature gods are still worshiped, and vodun (voodoo) rites are widely practiced and are an officially recognized religion.


Agriculture is the principal economic activity in Haiti. Subsistence crops include cassava, rice, sugarcane, sorghum, yams, corn, and plantains. Most Haitians own and farm tiny plots of land, and great population density has caused rural poverty and is also a factor in the country's extensive deforestation, which has contributed to the degradation of agricultural land. Haiti's major exports are light manufactures and coffee; other exports include oils, cocoa, mangoes, sugar, sisal, and bauxite. The United States is the country's leading trading partner. Industry in Haiti consists largely of light assembly of imported parts and the manufacture of textiles. There is also sugar refining and flour milling, and other foodstuffs are produced. Some bauxite and copper are mined, but other mineral deposits have barely been tapped. Remitttances from Haitians working abroad are also extremely important. Economic sanctions imposed by the United States and others to force a military regime to return power to the elected government, and again later because of the government's inability to meet aid conditions, further damaged the impoverished economy during the 1990s and early 2000s.


Haiti is governed under the constitution of 1987 as amended; it was suspended and reinstated several times between 1988 and 2006, when the country returned to constitutional rule. The president is the head of state; the prime minister, who is appointed by the president and confirmed by the legislature, is the head of government. Most power resides with the president. Haiti has a bicameral legislature, the National Assembly, with a 30-seat Senate, whose members are elected to six-year terms, and a 99-seat Chamber of Deputies, whose members are elected to four-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 10 departments.


Early History to Independence

The island of Hispaniola was inhabited by the Arawaks prior to the arrival of Columbus in 1492. Disease, ill treatment, and execution by the Spaniards decimated the Arawaks, who gave Haiti ( "land of mountains" ) its name. While establishing plantations in E Hispaniola (now the Dominican Republic), however, the Spanish largely ignored the western part of the island, which by the 17th cent. became a base for French and English buccaneers. Gradually French colonists, importing African slaves, developed sugar plantations on the northern coast. Unable to support its claim to the region, Spain ceded Haiti (then called Saint-Dominque) to France in 1697.

Haiti became France's most prosperous colony in the Americas and one of the world's chief coffee and sugar producers. The pattern of settlement took the French south in the 18th cent. and society became stratified into Frenchmen, Creoles, freed blacks, and black slaves. Between the blacks and the French and Creoles were the mulattoes, whose social status was indeterminate. When French-descended Creole planters sought to prevent mulatto representation in the French National Assembly and in local assemblies in Saint-Dominque, the mulattoes revolted under the leadership of Vincent Ogé. This rebellion destroyed the rigid structure of Haitian society. The blacks formed guerrilla bands led by Toussaint L'Ouverture, a former slave who had been made an officer of the French forces on Hispaniola.

When the English invaded Haiti in 1793 during the Napoleonic Wars, Toussaint maintained an uneasy alliance with the mulatto André Rigaud and cooperated with the remnant of French governmental authority. In 1795, Spain ceded its part of the island to France, and in 1801 Toussaint conquered it, abolished slavery, and proclaimed himself governor-general of an autonomous government over all Hispaniola. Napoleon sent his brother-in-law, Gen. Charles Leclerc, with a huge punitive force to restore order in 1802, but he was unable to conquer the interior.

A peace was negotiated, and Toussaint, taken by trickery, died in a French prison; but the revolt continued and forced the French troops, already ravaged by yellow fever, to withdraw. The rebels received unexpected aid from U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, who feared that Napoleon would use Saint-Dominque as a base to invade Louisiana. In 1804, Haiti became the second nation in the Western Hemisphere, after the United States, to win complete independence.

The Struggles of Nationhood

After independence the remaining French and Creoles were expelled, and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, an ex-slave, proclaimed himself emperor. His assassination (1806) led to the division of Haiti into a black-controlled north under Emperor Henri Christophe and a mulatto-ruled south under President Alexandre Pétion. After their deaths Haiti was unified by Jean Pierre Boyer, who also brought (1822–44) Santo Domingo under Haitian control. Seeking to indemnify French planters, Boyer brought financial ruin to Haiti; he was exiled in 1843. Haiti's last emperor (1847–59) was Faustin Soulouque. Since the end of his reign, the country has been a republic. Political and social conflict persisted, intensified by the mulatto-black hostility, and Haiti's economy, which had never recovered from the violent struggle for independence, declined further.

After the dictator Guillaume Sam was killed in a popular uprising in 1915, the United States, troubled over its property and investments in the country and fearing Germany might seize Haiti, took the opportunity to invade Port-au-Prince. The Haitian congress was forced to accept an agreement permitting U.S. control over customs receipts; two years later the resident American naval commander dissolved the congress and dictated a new constitution. Although financial and general material progress advanced under American military occupation, Haiti protested against U.S. violation of its sovereignty, and a U.S. Senate investigation in 1921 found that the avowed purpose of preparing Haiti for responsible self-government had been ignored. In 1930 a U.S. presidential commission recommended that Haiti be allowed to elect a legislature that would, in turn, name a president. Sténio Vincent, a vocal opponent of U.S. military occupation, was chosen by the legislators. The marines were finally withdrawn in 1934, although U.S. fiscal control was maintained until 1947.

Political instability persisted in Haiti after World War II, and the country's future was clouded by rising turbulence in the Dominican Republic and by the emergence of a Communist Cuba. François ( "Papa Doc" ) Duvalier, who was elected president in 1957, suppressed opposition through the creation of his paramilitary secret police, the tonton macoutes. In 1964 he proclaimed himself president for life. Upon his death in 1971 he was succeeded by his 19-year-old son, Jean-Claude ( "Baby Doc" ), who also became president for life. After 15 additional years of corruption, repression, and inequality under the younger Duvalier, popular discontent became great enough to induce him to flee the country in 1986.

Starting in 1986 there were several brief attempts at civilian democracy, each terminated by a military coup. In Sept., 1991, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced to flee the country only nine months after becoming the first freely elected president in Haiti's history. The United States and the Organization of American States responded with a trade embargo, and in 1993 a UN-sponsored oil embargo was imposed. An accord in 1993 providing for Aristide's return was repudiated by the army, which used terrorist violence to maintain power.

In 1994 the United Nations approved a nearly total trade embargo, and later authorized the use of force to restore democratic rule. On Sept. 18, 1994, as U.S. forces were poised to invade the island, an accord was negotiated. Haiti's military leaders relinquished power under an amnesty, and U.S. forces landed to oversee the transition. Aristide returned on Oct. 15 as president; U.S. troops were largely replaced by UN peacekeepers in Mar., 1995. In the December presidential election that year, René Préval was elected to succeed Aristide. In Apr., 1996, the last U.S. troops left, except for a few hundred in the capital who remained until Jan., 2000; meanwhile, after a wave of political killings, the United States suspended aid to Haiti.

In Jan., 1999, following a series of disagreements with Haitian legislators, Préval declared that their terms had expired, and he began ruling by decree. Parliamentary elections were finally held in May–June, 2000. They gave Aristide's Lavalas Family party an overwhelming majority in both houses, but the method of counting the votes, in which only those won by the four leading candidates were tallied and candidates thus did not need to win an actual absolute majority, was widely criticized.

In Nov., 2000, Aristide was again elected president, winning nearly 92% of the votes cast, but turnout for the election was light. The following year Amnesty International said that human rights and the rule of law had diminished in Haiti, citing harassment of opposition politicians and attacks on journalists. There was an apparent coup attempt against Aristide in Dec., 2001, although it was unclear who was behind it. The political stalemate with the opposition led to the freezing of foreign aid and ongoing economic hardship in Haiti.

Violence between supporters and opponents of the president increased in 2003, and several of Aristide's cabinet ministers resigned bu the end of the year. Parliamentary elections failed to be held, resulting in the dissolution of parliament in Jan., 2004, leaving Aristide to rule by decree and sparking recurring anti-Aristide opposition demonstrations in the streets. In February an armed uprising began in Gonaïves, and by the end of the month armed rebels consisting of disaffected gangs formerly allied with the government, former soldiers, paramilitaries, and police, and others, were on the verge of entering the capital.

Under pressure from the United States and France, Aristide resigned and went into exile, subsequently accusing U.S. and French officials variously of duping, coercing, or kidnapping him. U.S., French, Canadian, and Chilean forces arrived to maintain order, and an interim government headed by Gérard Latortue, a former foreign minister, was established. The Caribbean Community, however, refused to recognize Prime Minister Latortue, and called for a UN investigation into Aristide's resignation. Subsequently, CARICOM decided not to readmit Haiti until after the reestablishment of a democratically elected government. In April Latortue announced that general elections for a new government would be held in 2005, but they were subsequently postponed several times during 2005 due to inadequate preparation. A UN peacekeeping force led by Brazil began replacing U.S., Canadian, and French forces in June, 2004.

Flooding from heavy rains in May killed some 1,700 in the south near the Dominican Republic, and in September Tropical Storm Jeanne caused additional deadly flooding, especially in the area around Gonaïves, where some 2,500 died. The September flooding also caused significant agricultural damage. Unrest and lawlessness on the part of Aristide supporters and opponents continued to be a problem in the country, despite the presence of foreign peacekeepers. In Nov., 2005, the much delayed 2005 national elections were postponed into 2006.

When the presidential election was held in Feb., 2006, René Préval handily led all other candidates (there were more than 30) but appeared to be falling short of the majority required to avoid a runoff. The former president and his supporters charged that there was electoral fraud, an accusation seemingly supported by an unusually high number of blank ballots and by the discovery of charred blank and Préval ballots in a dump near the capital. Amid demonstrations and mounting tension, election officials agreed to assign the blank ballots proportionally to the candidates, giving Préval nearly 51% of the vote. Parliamentary elections were held at the same time, but the investigation of electoral complaints delayed the second round into April, and Préval was not sworn in until May. The following month Haiti was readmitted to CARICOM.

Armed gangs remain a significant problem in Haiti, and in Oct., 2006, the United States partially lifted an arms embargo against Haiti so that the government could buy weapons and other equipment for the Haitian police. In Feb., 2007, the mandate of the UN peacekeepers was again extended; the Security Council called on UN forces to move more strongly against Haiti's criminal gangs. Although UN forces had successes against a number of urban gangs, some relocated to rural areas where they were less likely to be confronted by peacekeepers. Rising food prices led to antigovernment and anti-UN protests and riots in a number of Haitian cities in Apr., 2008; in Port-au-Prince rioters attempted to storm the presidenital palace. The riots led the Senate to dismiss the prime minister; two nominees for the post were subsequently rejected by Haiti's legislature before Michèle Pierre-Louis was elected in July. A series of hurricanes during Aug.–Sept., 2008, caused widespread devastation, especially in the area around Gonaïves; some 800 people died, and damage was estimated at $1 billion.

In Apr. and June, 2009, elections to fill 12 vacant Senate seats that had originally be scheduled for 2007 were finally held; Préval's Lespwa party run a plurality, giving the party a plurality in the Senate. Lavalas Family candidates were barred from running on technical grounds, and the vote was marred by poor turnout and allegations of fraud. By mid-2009 an increase in size in, and improvements in the training of, the Haitian police force had significantly reduced crime. In Oct., 2009, the Senate voted to remove Prime Minister Pierre-Louis; Jean-Max Bellerive, an economist and former planning and external cooperation minister, succeeded her.

An earthquake in Jan., 2010, the strongest to hit Haiti in more than 200 years, caused extensive destruction in the capital and other parts of S Haiti. Estimates of the dead ranged from as low as 46,000 to more than 310,000; some 300,000 were injured, and an estimated 1.5 million people lost their homes. The destruction of much of the limited infrastructure in the area made the massive relief efforts mounted by foreign nations and international aid groups difficult. The United States and the United Nations, both with forces in the thousands, led the effort, and attempted to facilitate aid distribution and help maintain order. The United Nations subsequently estimated that $11.5 billion in aid would be needed over the next decade for reconstruction efforts. International donors pledged more than $5 billion in reconstruction aid in Mar., 2010, to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, but the promised aid was slow in coming. As late as Oct., 2011, the United Nations estimated that only half of the rubble from the earthquake had been removed. Some 85,000 remained homeless five years after the earthquake.

A cholera epidemic that began in N Haiti in Oct., 2010, killed more that 4,500 by the following March; by late 2014, some 700,000 Haitians had been sickened and some 8,600 had died. The source of the epidemic, which spread to the neighboring Dominican Republic, was traced to some of the UN peacekeepers. The epidemic also contributed to the disorganization of the first round of the earthquake-delayed presidential election in Nov., 2010. Preliminary results from that vote, released in December, showed that former first lady Mirlande Manigat and ruling party candidate Jude Celestin had placed first and second, the latter narrowly beating popular singer Michel Martelly. Most candidates accused the government of fraud, and there were violent street protests. A final determination of the top vote-getters was delayed into early 2011, and the election's second round, scheduled for Jan., 2011, was postponed.

A review of the election by the OAS and CARICOM was delivered to Préval in Jan., 2011; it recommended that, based on its verification of the poll, the runoff should be between Manigat and Martelly. The electoral council ultimately decided that they would be the candidates in March, and Martelly won the runoff with two thirds of the vote. In the legislative elections, the preliminary results in 18 races were reversed by the election commission when the final results were published, with the changes overwhelmingly favoring Préval's party. Meanwhile, in February, Préval's expiring term was officially extended until May; former president Aristide returned to Haiti from exile in March.

In office Martelly struggled to get a prime minister approved by lawmakers. Ultimately his third choice for the office, Garry Conille, was approved in October, but he resigned in Feb., 2012, citing a lack of support. In May, Laurent Lamothe, the foreign minister, was confirmed as Conille's successor. Senate elections scheduled for that month were postponed, and the delay continued into 2014 as the president and legislators failed to agree on an election law. A new postponement in Oct., 2014, led to sometimes violent antigovernment protests in December. With the terms of all remaining legislators due to expire in Jan., 2015, Lamothe resigned (one of several measures recommended by a presidential commission), but opposition in the senate to a new election law led to the dissolution of the legislature. Martelly, whose term was not affected, was able to rule by decree; Lamothe's nominated successor, Evans Paul, had not been approved by the parliament but was sworn in by Martelly.


See H. Courlander and R. Bastien, Religion and Politics in Haiti (1966); R. W. Logan, Haiti and the Dominican Republic (1968); H. Schmidt, The United States Occupation of Haiti, 1915–1934 (1971); T. O. Ott, The Haitian Revolution, 1789–1804 (1973); R. D. Heinl, Written in Blood: The Story of the Haitian People, 1492–1971 (1978); B. Weinstein and A. Segal, Haiti: Political Failures, Cultural Successes (1984); J. Ferguson, Papa Doc, Baby Doc: Haiti and the Duvaliers (1987); L. Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (2004) and Haiti: The Aftershocks of History (2012); R. Robinson, An Unbroken Agony (2007); A. White, Encountering Revolution: Haiti and the Making of the Early Republic (2010); P. Farmer, Haiti after the Earthquake (2011).

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Official name : Republic of Haiti

Area: 27,750 square kilometers (10,714 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount La Selle (Chaîne de la Selle) (2,680 meters/ 8,793 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Western

Time zone: 7 a.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 485 kilometers (300 miles) from east-northeast to west-southwest; 385 kilometers (240 miles) from south-southeast to north-northwest

Land boundaries: 275 kilometers (170.7 miles) total boundary length; all with the Dominican Republic

Coastline: 1,771 kilometers (1,098 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Haiti is located in the western third of the island of Hispaniola, which is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, the Dominican Republic to the east, and the Caribbean Sea to the south and west.


Haiti claims the uninhabited island of Navassa, presently a U.S. possession, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Hispaniola.


Haiti enjoys a tropical climate, which changes depending on the season and on the area's elevation. The average annual temperature ranges from 22 to 30°C (70 to 86°F), but is generally lower in highland areas. Rainfall increases with elevation; the higher the region, the greater the rainfall. Haiti has two rainy seasons: April through June and October through November. The dry season runs from November to January. Average annual rainfall near Port-au-Prince is 137 centimeters (54 inches).


Located on Hispaniola, the second-largest island in the Caribbean, Haiti is composed mainly of mountains and hills. About 80 percent of the country is more than 183 meters (600 feet) above sea level, and half of that land lies at elevations about 257 meters (1,500 feet). On the western shoreline is the Gulf of Gonâve (Golfe de la Gonâve). The long and narrow Tiburon Peninsula (sometimes called the Jacmel Peninsula) is located in the south.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

Much of the Haitian shoreline with the Caribbean Sea is rimmed by an underwater sedimentary platform that extends around the island of Hispaniola. Waters close to the shoreline tend to be shallow. Coral reefs are common, especially around Vache Island and the Cayemites.

Sea Inlets and Straits

Haiti is located between the Atlantic Ocean in the north and the Caribbean Sea in the south; the Windward Passage and the Jamaica Channel connect the two bodies of water. The Windward Passage is between Haiti and Cuba; the Jamaica Channel lies between Haiti and Jamaica.

Islands and Archipelagos

Haiti includes the islands of Tortuga, Gonâve, Les Cayemites, and Vache. The largest of these islands is Gonâve, located in the Gulf of Gonâve (Golfe de la Gonâve) off Port-au-Prince. Its approximately 207 square kilometers (80 square miles) is made up of rugged terrain; its highest point, Morne la Pierre, rises to more than 762 meters (2,500 feet). Second in size is Tortuga, with an area of 181 square kilometers (70 square miles). It lies in the Atlantic Ocean off Port-de-Paix.

Coastal Features

Haiti's coastline is irregular, with a long southern peninsula, the Tiburon, as well as a shorter northern one. The peninsulas surround the large Gulf of Gonâve. At its eastern end the Gulf forms the Bay of Port-au-Prince (Baie de Port-au-Prince).


Lake Saumâtre (Etang Saumâtre) is located close to the border with the Dominican Republic. It is a saltwater lake and is the habitat of many exotic species of tropical wildlife. It is the largest lake in the country. Reptiles including crocodiles, lizards, and the rose boa can be found in its waters.


Although over a hundred streams flow throughout Haiti, the only large river is the Artibonite, which is 245 kilometers (145 miles) in length. It is shallow but long, and its flow averages ten times that of any of the others. Second in length is the Les Trois Rivières, which spills into the Atlantic at the town of Port-de-Paix.

Forty miles from Port-Au-Prince, the Saut d' Eau waterfalls stand 30.5 meters (100 feet) tall and are considered sacred by the people of Haiti.


There are no deserts in Haiti.


Cul-de-Sac lowland is a fertile plain that extends from Port-au-Prince to Lake Saumâtre (Etang Saumâtre). Only 20 percent of Haitian land is considered arable (suitable for cultivation). Forest land can be found south of Port-au-Prince, where some pine forests have been preserved. Only 5 percent of Haiti's land is forested.

Rolling hills can be found throughout the country, especially near the mountain ranges that dominate the country's landscape. These hills are not particularly well suited for crop growth.


Many of the mountain ranges of Haiti are shared with the Dominican Republic, since they are located along the border between the two countries.

There are at least five major systems; these ranges meet one another to form a highland area. The highlands are broken in the south where the Cul-de-Sac lowland extends east from the Gulf of Gonâve at Port-au-Prince to the Dominican border.

In the north, the most extensive of the mountain systems is the Massif du Nord, which slants southeastward from the Atlantic Ocean near Port-de-Paix across the Dominican border. It is rugged and has a complex geology including sedimentary, magmatic, and plutonic rock, with limestone cliffs scarring its slopes. To its west, at the extremity of the island, satellite ranges extend to Môle St.-Nicolas. To the southwest, the Noires Mountains have peaks as high as 610 meters (2,000 feet). This range extends across the country to the Artibonite River. Across the Artibonite is the Chaîne de Mateaux, a mountain range that extends from the Gulf of Gonâve into the Dominican Republic, where it is known as the Sierra de Neiba.

Separated from the northern mountains by the Cul-de-Sac is another system that extends the full length of the long southern peninsula of Haiti to the frontier; in the Dominican Republic, this range is called the Sierra de Bahoruco. In the west, it is the Massif de la Hotte, and in the east it is the Massif de la Selle. The latter range contains several peaks with elevations of over 2,133 meters (7,000 feet), as well as the country's highest peak, Mount La Selle (2,680 meters /8,793 feet).


Some caves in Hinche contain drawings that may have come from the island's first inhabitants.


South of the Massif du Nord, the Central Plateau extends east from the Noires Mountains to the Dominican Republic border. Its more than 1,351 kilometers (840 miles) of rolling terrain make it the largest of the country's flatlands. The plateau has an average elevation of about 305 meters (1,000 feet) and its relatively thin soils are useful for raising sheep and goats.


A reservoir known as Lake Péligre (Lac de Péligre) is located in the middle of the country near the Dominican Republic border. A dam constructed on the upper Artibonite River formed this lake.



Arthur, Charles. Haiti: A Guide to the People, Politics, and Culture. New York: Interlink, 2002.

Graves, Kerry A. Haiti. Mankato, MN: Bridgestone, 2002.

Metz, Helen Chapin. Dominican Republic and Haiti: Country Studies. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 2001.

Web Sites

Haiti Tourisme. (accessed May, 2003).

Windows on Haiti. (accessed May, 2003).

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Haiti Independent nation occupying the w third of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola and including the islands of Tortuga and Gonâve; the capital is Port-au-Prince. Much of Haiti is mountainous, with a humid tropical climate. Discovered by Columbus in 1492, the Spanish established settlements on the e of the island (now Dominican Republic) and within a century most native Arawaks had died out. In the 17th century, French colonists set up plantations on the w of the island, and in 1697 Spain ceded Haiti (then Saint Dominque) to France. In the 18th century, the region prospered with the development of sugar and coffee plantations by African slaves, who soon formed the majority of the population. In 1790, Toussaint L'Ouverture led a slave revolt against the French. In 1801, as governor general, he abolished slavery, but the French killed him in 1803. In 1804, Haiti declared independence under Emperor Jean Jacques Dessalines. In the 19th century, assassinations, revolutions, and dictatorships plagued Haiti. From 1915 to 1934, it was virtually governed by the USA. The election of ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier as president in 1957 inaugurated a period of brutality and corruption. In 1971 ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier succeeded his father as dictator. In 1986 ‘Baby Doc’ fled into exile, and the military took power. Jean-Bertrand Aristide became president in 1990 elections, but a military coup removed him the following year. Crippled by sanctions, the military backed down and Aristide returned with US military backing in 1994. In 1995, René Préval became president. Aristide was re-elected in 2000. In 2004, Aristide was forced to resign following severe riots. The UN sent in peace-keeping troops. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere (2000 GDP per capita, US$1800) and relies on food imports. Area: 27,750sq km (10,714sq mi). Pop. (2000) 8,003,000.

Political map

Physical map


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Culture Name



Identification. Haiti, a name that means "mountainous country," is derived from the language of the Taino Indians who inhabited the island before European colonization. After independence in 1804, the name was adopted by the military generals, many of them former slaves, who expelled the French and took possession of the colony then known as Saint Domingue. In 2000, 95 percent of the population was of African descent, and the remaining 5 percent mulatto and white. Some wealthy citizens think of themselves as French, but most residents identify themselves as Haitian and there is a strong sense of nationalism.

Location and Geography. Haiti covers 10,714 square miles (27,750 square kilometers). It is located in the subtropics on the western third of Hispaniola, the second largest island in the Caribbean, which it shares with the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic. The neighboring islands include Cuba, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. Three-quarters of the terrain is mountainous; the highest peak is the Morne de Selle. The climate is mild, varying with altitude. The mountains are calcareous rather than volcanic and give way to widely varying microclimatic and soil conditions. A tectonic fault line runs through the country, causing occasional and sometimes devastating earthquakes. The island is also located within the Caribbean hurricane belt.

Demography. The population has grown steadily from 431,140 at independence in 1804 to the estimate of 6.9 million to 7.2 million in 2000. Haiti is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Until the 1970s, over 80 percent of the population resided in rural areas, and today, over 60 percent continue to live in provincial villages, hamlets, and homesteads scattered across the rural landscape. The capital city is Port-au-Prince, which is five times larger than the next biggest city, Cape Haitian.

Over one million native-born Haitians live overseas; an additional fifty thousand leave the country every year, predominantly for the United States but also to Canada and France. Approximately 80 percent of permanent migrants come from the educated middle and upper classes, but very large numbers of lower-class Haitians temporarily migrate to the Dominican Republic and Nassau Bahamas to work at low-income jobs in the informal economy. An unknown number of lower-income migrants remain abroad.

Linguistic Affiliation. For most of the nation's history the official language has been French. However, the language spoken by the vast majority of the people is kreyol, whose pronunciation and vocabulary are derived largely from French but whose syntax is similar to that of other creoles. With the adoption of a new constitution in 1987, kreyol was given official status as the primary official language. French was relegated to the status of a secondary official language but continues to prevail among the elite and in government, functioning as marker of social class and a barrier to the less educated and the poor. An estimated 510 percent of the population speaks fluent French, but in recent decades massive emigration to the United States and the availability of cable television from the United States have helped English replace French as the second language in many sectors of the population.

Symbolism. Residents attach tremendous importance to the expulsion of the French in 1804, an event that made Haiti the first independently black-ruled nation in the world, and only the second country in the Western Hemisphere to achieve independence from imperial Europe. The most noted national symbols are the flag, Henri Christophe's citadel and the statue of the "unknown maroon" (Maroon inconnu ), a bare-chested revolutionary trumpeting a conch shell in a call to arms. The presidential palace is also an important national symbol.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of a Nation. Hispaniola was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492 and was the first island in the New World settled by the Spanish. By 1550, the indigenous culture of the Taino Indians had vanished from the island, and Hispaniola became a neglected backwater of the Spanish Empire. In the mid-1600s, the western third of the island was populated by fortune seekers, castaways, and wayward colonists, predominantly French, who became pirates and buccaneers, hunting wild cattle and pigs unleashed by the earliest European visitors and selling the smoked meat to passing ships. In the mid-1600s, the French used the buccaneers as mercenaries (freebooters) in an unofficial war against the Spanish. In the Treaty of Ryswick of 1697, France forced Spain to cede the western third of Hispaniola. This area became the French colony of Saint Domingue. By 1788, the colony had become the "jewel of the Antilles," the richest colony in the world.

In 1789, revolution in France sparked dissension in the colony, which had a population of half a million slaves (half of all the slaves in the Caribbean); twenty-eight thousand mulattoes and free blacks, many of whom were wealthy landowners; and thirty-six thousand white planters, artisans, slave drivers, and small landholders. In 1791, thirty-five thousand slaves rose in an insurrection, razed a thousand plantations, and took to the hills. Thirteen years of war and pestilence followed. Spanish, English, and French troops were soon battling one another for control of the colony. The imperial powers militarized the slaves, training them in the arts of "modern" warfare. Grands blancs (rich white colonists), petits blancs (small farmers and working-class whites), mulatres (mulattoes), and noirs (free blacks) fought, plotted, and intrigued. Each local interest group exploited its position at every opportunity to achieve its political and economic objectives. From the mayhem emerged some of the greatest black military men in history, including Toussaint Louverture. In 1804, the last European troops were soundly defeated and driven from the island by a coalition of former slaves and mulattoes. In January 1804 the rebel generals declared independence, inaugurating Haiti as the first sovereign "black" country in the modern world and the second colony in the Western Hemisphere to gain independence from imperial Europe.

Since gaining independence, Haiti has had fleeting moments of glory. An early eighteenth century kingdom ruled by Henri Christophe prospered and thrived in the north, and from 1822 to 1844 Haiti ruled the entire island. The late nineteenth century was a period of intense internecine warfare in which ragtag armies backed by urban politicians and conspiring Western businessmen repeatedly sacked Port-au-Prince. By 1915, the year in which U.S. marines began a nineteen year occupation of the country, Haiti was among the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere.

National Identity. During the century of relative isolation that followed independence, the peasantry developed distinct traditions in cuisine, music, dance, dress, ritual, and religion. Some elements of African cultures survive, such as specific prayers, a few words, and dozens of spirit entities, but Haitian culture is distinct from African and other New World cultures.

Ethnic Relations. The only ethnic subdivision is that of the syrians, the early twentieth-century Levantine emigrants who have been absorbed into the commercial elite but often self-identify by their ancestral origins. Haitians refer to all outsiders, even dark-skinned outsiders of African ancestry, as blan ("white").

In the neighboring Dominican Republic, despite the presence of over a million Haitian farm workers, servants, and urban laborers, there exists intense prejudice against Haitians. In 1937, the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo ordered the massacre of an estimated fifteen to thirty-five thousand Haitians living in the Dominican Republic.

Urbanism,Architecture, and the Use of Space

The most famous architectural accomplishments are King Henri Christophe's postindependence San Souci palace, which was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake in the early 1840s, and his mountaintop fortress, the Citadelle Laferrière, which survives largely intact.

The contemporary rural landscape is dominated by houses that vary in style from one region to another. Most are single-story, two-room shacks, usually with a front porch. In the dry, treeless areas, houses are constructed of rock or wattle and daub with mud or lime exteriors. In other regions, walls are made from the easily hewn native palm; in still other areas, particularly in the south, houses are made of Hispaniola pine and local hardwoods. When the owner can afford it, the outside of a house is painted in an array of pastel colors, mystic symbols are often painted on the walls, and the awnings are fringed with colorful hand-carved trimming.

In cities, early twentieth century bourgeoisie, foreign entrepreneurs, and the Catholic clergy blended French and southern United States Victorian architectural styles and took the rural gingerbread house to its artistic height, building fantastic multicolored brick and timber mansions with tall double doors, steep roofs, turrets, cornices, extensive balconies, and intricately carved trim. These exquisite structures are fast disappearing as a result of neglect and fires. Today one increasingly finds modern block and cement houses in both provincial villages and urban areas. Craftsmen have given these new houses traditional gingerbread qualities by using embedded pebbles, cut stones, preformed cement relief, rows of shaped balusters, concrete turrets, elaborately contoured cement roofing, large balconies, and artistically welded wrought-iron trimming and window bars reminiscent of the carved fringe that adorned classic gingerbread houses.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Nutritional deficits are caused not by inadequate knowledge but by poverty. Most residents have a sophisticated understanding of dietary needs, and there is a widely known system of indigenous food categories that closely approximates modern, scientifically informed nutritional categorization. Rural Haitians are not subsistence farmers. Peasant women typically sell much of the family harvest in regional open-air market places and use the money to buy household foods.

Rice and beans are considered the national dish and are the most commonly eaten meal in urban areas. Traditional rural staples are sweet potatoes, manioc, yams, corn, rice, pigeon peas, cowpeas, bread, and coffee. More recently, a wheat-soy blend from the United States has been incorporated into the diet.

Important treats include sugarcane, mangoes, sweetbread, peanut and sesame seed clusters made from melted brown sugar, and candies made from bittermanioc flour. People make a crude but highly nutritious sugar paste called rapadou.

Haitians generally eat two meals a day: a small breakfast of coffee and bread, juice, or an egg and a large afternoon meal dominated by a carbohydrate source such as manioc, sweet potatoes, or rice. The afternoon meal always includes beans or a bean sauce, and there is usually a small amount of poultry, fish, goat, or, less commonly, beef or mutton, typically prepared as a sauce with a tomato paste base. Fruits are prized as between-meal snacks. Non-elite people do not necessarily have community or family meals, and individuals eat wherever they are comfortable. A snack customarily is eaten at night before one goes to sleep.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Festive occasions such as baptismal parties, first communions, and marriages include the mandatory Haitian colas, cake, a spiced concoction of domestic rum (kleren ), and a thick spiked drink made with condensed milk called kremass. The middle class and the elite mark the same festivities with Western sodas, Haitian rum (Babouncourt), the national beer (Prestige), and imported beers. Pumpkin soup (bouyon )is eaten on New Year's day.

Basic Economy. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world. It is a nation of small farmers, commonly referred to as peasants, who work small private landholdings and depend primarily on their own labor and that of family members. There are no contemporary plantations and few concentrations of land. Although only 30 percent of the land is considered suitable for agriculture, more than 40 percent is worked. Erosion is severe. Real income for the average family has not increased in over twenty years and has declined precipitously in rural areas. In most rural areas, the average family of six earns less than $500 per year.

Since the 1960s, the country has become heavily dependent on food importsprimarily rice, flour, and beansfrom abroad, particularly from the United States. Other major imports from the United States are used material goods such as clothes, bicycles, and motor vehicles. The Haitian has become primarily domestic, and production is almost entirely for domestic consumption. A vigorous internal marketing system dominates the economy and includes trade not only in agricultural produce and livestock but also in homemade crafts.

Land Tenure and Property. Land is relatively evenly distributed. Most holdings are small (approximately three acres), and there are very few landless households. Most property is privately held, though there is a category of land known as State Land that, if agriculturally productive, is rented under a long-term lease to individuals or families and is for all practical purposes private. Unoccupied land frequently is taken over by squatters. There is a vigorous land market, as rural households buy and sell land. Sellers of land generally need cash to finance either a life crisis event (healing or burial ritual) or a migratory venture. Land is typically bought, sold, and inherited without official documentation (no government has ever carried out a cadastral survey). Although there are few land titles, there are informal tenure rules that give farmers relative security in their holdings. Until recently, most conflicts over land were between members of the same kin group. With the departure of the Duvalier dynasty and the emergence of political chaos, some conflicts over land have led to bloodshed between members of different communities and social classes.

Commercial Activities. There is a thriving internal market that is characterized at most levels by itinerant female traders who specialize in domestic items such as produce, tobacco, dried fish, used clothing, and livestock.

Major Industries. There are small gold and copper reserves. For a short time the Reynolds Metals Company operated a bauxite mine, but it was closed in 1983 because of conflict with the government. Offshore assembly industries owned principally by U.S. entrepreneurs employed over sixty thousand people in the mid-1980s but declined in the later 1980s and early 1990s as a result of political unrest. There is one cement factorymost of the cement used in the country is importedand a single flour mill.

Trade. In the 1800s, the country exported wood, sugarcane, cotton and coffee, but by the 1960s, even the production of coffee, long the major export, had been all but strangled through excessive taxation, lack of investment in new trees, and bad roads. Recently, coffee has yielded to mangoes as the primary export. Other exports include cocoa and essential oils for the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries. Haiti has become a major transshipment point for illegal drug trafficking.

Imports come predominantly from the United States and include used clothing, mattresses, automobiles, rice, flour, and beans. Cement is imported from Cuba and South America.

Division of Labor. There is a large degree of informal specialization in both rural and urban areas. At the highest level are craftsmen known as bosses, including carpenters, masons, electricians, welders, mechanics, and tree sawyers. Specialists make most craft items, and there are others who castrate animals and climb coconut trees. Within each trade there are subdivisions of specialists.

Social Stratification

Class and Castes. There has always been a wide economic gulf between the masses and a small, wealthy elite and more recently, a growing middle class. Social status is well marked at all levels of society by the degree of French words and phrases used in speech, Western dress patterns, and the straightening of hair.

Symbols of Social Stratification. The wealthiest people tend to be lighter-skinned or white. Some scholars see this apparent color dichotomy as evidence of racist social division, but it also can be explained by historical circumstances and the immigration and intermarrying of the light-skinned elite with white merchants from Lebanon, Syria, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, other Caribbean countries, and, to a far lesser extent, the United States. Many presidents have been dark-skinned, and dark-skinned individuals have prevailed in the military.

Political Life

Government. Haiti is a republic with a bicameral legislature. It is divided into departments that are subdivided into arrondissments, communes, commune sectionals, and habitations. There have been numerous constitutions. The legal system is based on the Napoleonic Code, which excluded hereditary privileges and aimed to provide equal rights to the population, regardless of religion or status.

Leadership and Political Officials. Political life was dominated between 1957 and 1971 by the initially popular, but subsequently brutal, dictator François "Papa Doc" Duvalier, who was succeeded by his son Jean-Claude ("Baby Doc"). The Duvalier reign ended after popular uprising throughout the country. In 1991, five years and eight interim governments later, a popular leader, Jean Bertrand Aristide, won the presidency with an overwhelming majority of the popular vote. Aristide was deposed seven months later in a military coup. The United Nations then imposed an embargo on all international trade with Haiti. In 1994, threatened with the invasion by United States forces, the military junta relinquished control to an international peacekeeping force. The Aristide government was reestablished, and since 1995 an ally of Aristide, Rene Preval, has ruled a government rendered largely ineffective by political gridlock.

Social Problems and Control. Since independence, vigilante justice has been a conspicuous informal mechanism of the justice system. Mobs have frequently killed criminals and abusive authorities. With the breakdown in state authority that has occurred over the last fourteen years of political chaos, both crime and vigilantism have increased. The security of life and property, particularly in urban areas, has become the most challenging issue facing the people and the government.

Military Activity. The military was disbanded by United Nations forces in 1994 and replaced by the Polis Nasyonal d'Ayiti (PNH).

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The infrastructure is in a very poor condition. International efforts to change this situation have been under way since 1915, but the country may be more underdeveloped today than it was one hundred years ago. International food aid, predominantly from the United States, supplies over ten percent of the country's needs.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Per capita, there are more foreign nongovernmental organizations and religious missions (predominantly U.S.-based) in Haiti than in any other country in the world.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. In both rural and urban areas, men monopolize the job market. Only men work as jewelers, construction workers, general laborers, mechanics, and chauffeurs. Most doctors, teachers, and politicians are men, although women have made inroads into the elite professions, particularly medicine. Virtually all pastors are male, as are most school directors. Men also prevail, although not entirely, in the professions of spiritual healer and herbal practitioner. In the domestic sphere, men are primarily responsible for the care of livestock and gardens.

Women are responsible for domestic activities such as cooking, housecleaning and washing clothes by hand. Rural women and children are responsible for securing water and firewood, women help with planting and harvesting. The few wage-earning opportunities open to women are in health care, in which nursing is exclusively a female occupation, and, to a far lesser extent, teaching. In marketing, women dominate most sectors, particularly in goods such as tobacco, garden produce, and fish. The most economically active women are skillful entrepreneurs on whom other market women heavily depend. Usually specialists in a particular commodity, these marchann travel between rural and urban areas, buying in bulk at one market and redistributing the goods, often on credit, to lower-level female retailers in other markets.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Rural women are commonly thought by outsiders to be severely repressed. Urban middle-class and elite women have a status equivalent to that of women in developed countries, but among the impoverished urban majority, the scarcity of jobs and the low pay for female domestic services have led to widespread promiscuity and the abuse of women. However, rural women play a prominent economic role in the household and family. In most areas, men plant gardens, but women are thought of as the owners of harvests and, because they are marketers, typically control the husband's earnings.

Marriage,Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Marriage is expected among the elite and the middle classes, but less than forty percent of the non-elite population marries (an increase compared with the past resulting from recent Protestant conversions). However, with or without legal marriage, a union typically is considered complete and gets the respect of the community when a man has built a house for the woman and after the first child has been born. When marriage does occur, it is usually later in a couple's relationship, long after a household has been established and the children have begun to reach adulthood. Couples usually live on property belonging to the man's parents. Living on or near the wife's family's property is common in fishing communities and areas where male migration is very high.

Although it is not legal, at any given time about 10 percent of men have more than a single wife, and these relationships are acknowledged as legitimate by the community. The women live with their children in separate homesteads that are provided for by the man.

Extra residential mating relationships that do not involve the establishment of independent households are common among wealthy rural and urban men and less fortunate women. Incest restrictions extend to first cousins. There is no brideprice or dowry, although women generally are expected to bring certain domestic items into the union and men must provide a house and garden plots.

Domestic Unit. Households typically are made up of nuclear family members and adopted children or young relatives. Elderly widows and widowers may live with their children and grandchildren. The husband is thought of as the owner of the house and must plant gardens and tend livestock. However, the house typically is associated with the woman, and a sexually faithful woman cannot be expelled from a household and is thought of as the manager of the property and the decision maker regarding use of funds from the sale of garden produce and household animals.

Inheritance. Men and women inherit equally from both parents. Upon the death of a landowner, land is divided in equal portions among the surviving children. In practice, land often is ceded to specific children in the form of a sales transaction before a parent dies.

Kin Groups. Kinship is based on bilateral affiliation: One is equally a member of one's father's and mother's kin groups. Kinship organization differs from that of the industrial world with regard to ancestors and godparentage. Ancestors are given ritual attention by the large subset of people who serve the lwa. They are believed to have the power to influence the lives of the living, and there are certain ritual obligations that must be satisfied to appease them. Godparentage is ubiquitous and derives from Catholic tradition. The parents invite a friend or acquaintance to sponsor a child's baptism. This sponsorship creates a relationship not only between the child and the godparents but also between the child's parents and the godparents. These individuals have ritual obligations toward one another and address each other with the gender-specific terms konpè (if the person addressed is male) and komè,or makomè (if the person addressed is female), meaning "my coparent."


Infant Care. In some areas infants are given purgatives immediately after birth, and in some regions the breast is withheld from newborns for the first twelve to forty-eight hours, a practice that has been linked to instruction from misinformed Western-trained nurses. Liquid supplements usually are introduced within the first two weeks of life, and food supplements often are begun thirty days after birth and sometimes earlier. Infants are fully weaned at eighteen months.

Child Rearing and Education. Very young children are indulged, but by the age of seven or eight most rural children engage in serious work. Children are important in retrieving household water and firewood and helping to cook and clean around the house. Children look after livestock, help their parents in the garden, and run errands. Parents and guardians are often harsh disciplinarians, and working-age children may be whipped severely. Children are expected to be respectful to adults and obedient to family members, even to siblings only a few years older than themselves. They are not allowed to talk back or stare at adults when being scolded. They are expected to say thank you and please. If a child is given a piece of fruit or bread, he or she must immediately begin breaking the food and distributing it to other children. The offspring of elite families are notoriously spoiled and are reared from an early age to lord it over their less fortunate compatriots.

Tremendous importance and prestige are attached to education. Most rural parents try to send their children at least to primary school, and a child who excels and whose parents can afford the costs is quickly exempted from the work demands levied on other children.

Fosterage (restavek ) is a system in which children are given to other individuals or families for the purpose of performing domestic services. There is an expectation that the child will be sent to school and that the fostering will benefit the child. The most important ritual events in the life of a child are baptism and the first communion, which is more common among the middle class and the elite. Both events are marked by a celebration including Haitian colas, a cake or sweetened bread rolls, sweetened rum beverages, and, if the family can afford it, a hot meal that includes meat.

Higher Education. Traditionally, there has been a very small, educated urban-based elite, but in the last thirty years a large and rapidly increasing number of educated citizens have come from relatively humble rural origins, although seldom from the poorest social strata. These people attend medical and engineering schools, and may study at overseas universities.

There is a private university and a small state university in Port-au-Prince, including a medical school. Both have enrollments of only a few thousand students. Many offspring of middle-class and elite families attend universities in the United States, Mexico City, Montreal, the Dominican Republic, and, to a much lesser extent, France and Germany.


When entering a yard Haitians shout out onè ("honor"), and the host is expected to reply respè ("respect"). Visitors to a household never leave empty-handed or without drinking coffee, or at least not without an apology. Failure to announce a departure, is considered rude.

People feel very strongly about greetings, whose importance is particularly strong in rural areas, where people who meet along a path or in a village often say hello several times before engaging in further conversation or continuing on their way. Men shake hands on meeting and departing, men and women kiss on the cheek when greeting, women kiss each other on the cheek, and rural women kiss female friends on the lips as a display of friendship.

Young women do not smoke or drink alcohol of any kind except on festive occasions. Men typically smoke and drink at cockfights, funerals, and festivities but are not excessive in the consumption of alcohol. As women age and become involved in itinerant marketing, they often begin to drink kleren (rum) and use snuff and/or smoke tobacco in a pipe or cigar. Men are more prone to smoke tobacco, particularly cigarettes, than to use snuff.

Men and especially women are expected to sit in modest postures. Even people who are intimate with one another consider it extremely rude to pass gas in the presence of others. Haitians say excuse me (eskize-m ) when entering another person's space. Brushing the teeth is a universal practice. People also go to great lengths to bathe before boarding public buses, and it is considered proper to bathe before making a journey, even if this is to be made in the hot sun.

Women and especially men commonly hold hands in public as a display of friendship; this is commonly mistaken by outsiders as homosexuality. Women and men seldom show public affection toward the opposite sex but are affectionate in private.

People haggle over anything that has to do with money, even if money is not a problem and the price has already been decided or is known. A mercurial demeanor is considered normal, and arguments are common, animated, and loud. People of higher class or means are expected to treat those beneath them with a degree of impatience and contempt. In interacting with individuals of lower status or even equal social rank, people tend to be candid in referring to appearance, shortcomings, or handicaps. Violence is rare but once started often escalates quickly to bloodshed and serious injury.


Religious Beliefs. The official state religion is Catholicism, but over the last four decades Protestant missionary activity has reduced the proportion of people who identify themselves as Catholic from over 90 percent in 1960 to less than 70 percent in 2000.

Haiti is famous for its popular religion, known to its practitioners as "serving the lwa " but referred to by the literature and the outside world as voodoo (vodoun ). This religious complex is a syncretic mixture of African and Catholic beliefs, rituals, and religious specialists, and its practitioners (sèvitè ) continue to be members of a Catholic parish. Long stereotyped by the outside world as "black magic," vodoun is actually a religion whose specialists derive most of their income from healing the sick rather than from attacking targeted victims.

Many people have rejected voodoo, becoming instead katolik fran ("unmixed Catholics" who do not combine Catholicism with service to the lwa ) or levanjil, (Protestants). The common claim that all Haitians secretly practice voodoo is inaccurate. Catholics and Protestants generally believe in the existence of lwa, but consider them demons to be avoided rather than family spirits to be served. The percentage of those who explicitly serve the family lwa is unknown but probably high.

Religious Practitioners. Aside from the priests of the Catholic Church and thousands of Protestant ministers, many of them trained and supported by evangelical missions from the United States, informal religious specialists proliferate. Most notable are the voodoo specialists known by various names in different regions (houngan, bokò, gangan ) and referred to as manbo in the case of female specialists. (Females are viewed as having the same spiritual powers as males, though in practice there are more houngan than manbo.) There are also bush priests (pè savann ) who read specific Catholic prayers at funerals and other ceremonial occasions, and hounsi, initiated females who serve as ceremonial assistants to the houngan or manbo.

Rituals and Holy Places. People make pilgrimages to a series of holy sites. Those sites became popular in association with manifestations of particular saints and are marked by unusual geographic features such as the waterfall at Saut d'Eau, the most famous of sacred sites. Waterfalls and certain species of large trees are especially sacred because they are believed to be the homes of spirits and the conduits through which spirits enter the world of living humans.

Death and the Afterlife. Beliefs concerning the afterlife depend on the religion of the individual. Strict Catholics and Protestants believe in the existence of reward or punishment after death. Practitioners of voodoo assume that the souls of all the deceased go to an abode "beneath the waters," that is often associated with lafrik gine ("L'Afrique Guinée," or Africa). Concepts of reward and punishment in the afterlife are alien to vodoun.

The moment of death is marked by ritual wailing among family members, friends, and neighbors. Funerals are important social events and involve several days of social interaction, including feasting and the consumption of rum. Family members come from far away to sleep at the house, and friends and neighbors congregate in the yard. Men play dominoes while the women cook. Usually within the week but sometimes several years later, funerals are followed by the priè, nine nights of socializing and ritual. Burial monuments and other mortuary rituals are often costly and elaborate. People are increasingly reluctant to be buried underground, preferring to be interred above ground in a kav, an elaborate multi chambered tomb that may cost more than the house in which the individual lived while alive. Expenditures on mortuary ritual have been increasing and have been interpreted as a leveling mechanism that redistributes resources in the rural economy.

Medicine and Health Care

Malaria, typhoid, tuberculosis, intestinal parasites, and sexually transmitted diseases take a toll on the population. Estimates of HIV among those ages twenty-two to forty-four years are as high as 11 percent, and estimates among prostitutes in the capital are as high as 80 percent. There is less than one doctor per eight-thousand people. Medical facilities are poorly funded and understaffed, and most health care workers are incompetent. Life expectancy in 1999 was under fifty-one years.

In the absence of modern medical care, an elaborate system of indigenous healers has evolved, including herbal specialists know as leaf doctors (medsin fey ), granny midwives (fam saj ), masseuses (manyè ), injection specialists (charlatan ), and spiritual healers. People have tremendous faith in informal healing procedures and commonly believe that HIV can be cured. With the spread of Pentecostal evangelicalism, Christian faith healing has spread rapidly.

Secular Celebrations

Associated with the beginning of the religious season of Lent, Carnival is the most popular and active festival, featuring secular music, parades, dancing in the streets, and abundant consumption of alcohol. Carnival is preceded by several days of rara bands, traditional ensembles featuring large groups of specially dressed people who dance to the music of vaccines (bamboo trumpets) and drums under the leadership of a director who blows a whistle and wields a whip. Other festivals include Independence Day (1 January), Bois Cayman Day (14 August, celebrating a legendary ceremony at which slaves plotted the revolution in 1791), Flag Day (18 May), and the assassination of Dessalines, the first ruler of independent Haiti (17 October).

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. The bankrupt government provides occasional token support for the arts, typically for dance troupes.

Literature. Haitian literature is written primarily in French. The elite has produced several writers of international renown, including Jean Price-Mars, Jacques Roumain, and Jacques-Stephen Alexis.

Graphic Arts. Haitians have a predilection for decoration and bright colors. Wood boats called kantè, second hand U.S. school buses called kamion, and small enclosed pickup trucks called taptap are decorated with brightly colored mosaics and given personal names such as kris kapab (Christ Capable) and gras a dieu (Thank God). Haitian painting became popular in the 1940s when a school of "primitive" artists encouraged by the Episcopal Church began in Port-au-Prince. Since that time a steady flow of talented painters has emerged from the lower middle class. However, elite university-schooled painters and gallery owners have profited the most from international recognition. There is also a thriving industry of low-quality paintings, tapestries, and wood, stone, and metal handicrafts that supplies much of the artwork sold to tourists on other Caribbean islands.

Performance Arts. There is a rich tradition of music and dance, but few performances are publicly funded.


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Timothy T. Schwartz

Herzegovina See Bosnia and Herzegovina

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The people of Haiti are called Haitians. About 95 percent of the inhabitants are black, and 5 percent are mulatto (mixed black and white).

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HaitiAlbacete, eighty, Haiti, Katy, Kuwaiti, Leyte, matey, pratie, slaty, weighty •safety • frailty •dainty, painty •hasty, pastie, pasty, tasty •suzerainty •Beatty, entreaty, graffiti, meaty, Nefertiti, peaty, sleety, sweetie, Tahiti, titi, treaty •beastie, yeasty

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