Caribbean, islands in the stream









Alonso de Ojeda conquer Aruba in 1499 on behalf of the Spanish crown but reached there by accident, or should I say found it straight in front of his bow while drifting dragged by aliseo and his crew was mending the ship after a tropical storm.  He planted the spanish flag on the highest sand dune, looked around and saw a beautiful wild land but very dry, not a tree to shade, strong wind, wonderful sea and implacable heat of the sun.
Aruba was inhabited by Arubaes, arawak tribes came there from south america continent.
Spanish didn't care so much about arawak, except deport some of them to work in hisponiola's mines after netherlands - french war, in 1636 Aruba was given to dutch, and at the end of the 17th century dutch people were sent to colonize the isle.
Dry and poor ground saved the isle from plantation's economy and from slaves trade.

Windward Islands: ARUBA - Alonso de Ojeda

Dutch people let the arawak kept on grazing cattle, usins the isle to store the meat to be allocated to the other netherlands territory english people reached here in 1805 during the napoleonic wars but stayed only for a decade ten years later Aruba met his first economic boom: the discovery of a gold vein near balashi; hordes of immigrants coming from Venezuela and from Europe filled the isle and the mining activity went on profitably until 1916 as the mines became unproductive Aruba got another big deal with the petroleun refining.

Windward Islands: ARUBA - Raffineria

The biggest world 's oil refinery was built in the south-east part and inaugurated in 1929. The budget was positive until the forties when Aruba was overtaken by Curacao in the leadership of the "Dutch antilles" (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao and Suriname).
In the next 40 years was fought the battle to conquer autonomy and in 1986 Aruba separated from windward islands whilst maintaining close relationships indipendence took Aruba on the edge of a serious economic crisis, due to the refinery' s closing. After having exploited the yellow and the black gold, Aruba's government turned into a tourism economy for his future.

Important investments in tourism infrastructure were allocated and nowadays Aruba can claim 60.000 hotels rooms and almost one milion visitors a year. The oil refinery reopened in 1991, though the tourism is actually the pillar of the local economy. Reaching the economic autonomy, Aruba put aside the old project for the total political indipendence. Netherlands is still responsable for foreign and defense policy, and economic links are still strong.


The first original population leaving traces of themselvese were the caiqueito, an arawak branch, which came from venezuela approximately in the 11th century d.c..
In the surroundings of the capital and in the " lac " bay were found traces of their settlements, and in the northern caves are still visible their recordings on the rocks. Twenty years from the first contact with europeans ( 1499 d.c.) were enough to delete 500 years of their history in a flash  they died starving, illnesses or deported as slaves to Hispaniola after having lost St. Martin for the benefit of the spanish, the netherlands took their revenge by conquering Bonaire in 1633.The isle became the company of the west indies granary until 1791 when the dutch government took direct control in addition to the african slaves imported by the company to harvest the corn, salt and timber, the future inhabitants were multicolored immigrants, soldiers prisoners and fugitives from south america.

The slavery abolition took the economy to bust, even if the foreign trade kept on with castor oil, aloe and salted goat meat;  but  everybody breathe a sight of relief when a good deal of oil was discovered in Venezuela Bonaire took benefit from petroleum refineries in Aruba and Curaçao: Kralendijk Harbour was enlarged and builted an airport the male population of the isle got the right to vote in 1936 and started remonstrade for greater political autonomy from the dutch crown in 1954 Giuliana Queen transformed Bonaire in an indipendent protectorate.
Looking for new economic resources, tourism were encouraged, the second world war internment camps, settled up for german prisoners, were partly transformed in hotels.
The Washington-Slagbaai Marine Park was created in the seventies to conserve part of the territory and the conservation policy was carried forward with the salina's flamingos reserve in the south part of the isle.


Dutch Antilles BONAIRE: parco marino Washington-Slagbaai

Bonaire's population didn't fight as strong as their Aruba's brothers to gain complete independence from netherlands, on the other hand they took advantage of their wonderful coral reefs and diving tourism.In 2004 the Windward iIslands, including Curaçao, Saint maarten, Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius, announced a vote to state the confederation's future.
Commission voted to dissolve windward islands and from 2007  Bonaire,  Saba and St. Eustatius got  a

special status like a netherland municipality including the right to vote in the national elections.


After discovering Aruba, in 1499, don Alonso de Ojeda found Curaçao on his route in front of the Venezuelan coast. The isle was lived by the caiquetios indians, that suffered the spanish invasion without resistance. The slavers raids reduces the local population and those who escaped from confinement and the following transfer to Hispaniola were killed or died for disease. Finally, in 1526, the spanish conquerors abandoned the isle for the lack of minerals, water source and general richness. They didn't leave more than 400 indians still alive on the whole isle.

Dutch Antilles: CURAÇAO

In 1642 Curaçao became a Netherlands colony, under control of the company of the west indies; they developed agricultural production and salt extraction. Willemstad, heart of the slaves trade, became curacao 's capital. In 1795 the living indians were 5.

During the whole 18th century the was was crowdy with a constant jewish immigration, most of them were merchants, and the Sant' Anna bay of Willemstad rised and became one of the most important harbors of the caribbean sea, trading raw materials from South America and articles coming from Europe and North America.

The abolition of slavery, announced in 1863, carryed an economic decline and the crisis protract until 1915: in this year the shell company opened an oil refinery that brought a new pulse and development the following boom lasted about a decade. In 1954 Curaçao was chosen as the head office of the new self government of the  DUTCH ANTILLES. In this period the " off- shore " financial activity grew up to be one of the island' richness.

Negli anni '70, la crisi del petrolio e il calo degli investimenti internazionali resero inevitabile il declino dell’isola accentuato nel 1985, dalla chiusura della raffineria della Shell.

During the seventies the oil crisis and the declive in foreign investmnent led to an inevitable decline emphatized by the shell refinery's closure.

Dutch Antilles: CURAÇAO

During the nineties the central government got the decision to take the place of Shell and gave it to a Venezuelan company through a leasing contract, helping the Curaçao economy to get out of the crunch.
The big
Curaçao' harbor,also famous for his shipyard, is coming back on top.

In 2007 the Dutch Antilles ended their existence and Curaçao togethere with Sint Maarten should become a separate legal entity within the Netherlands' crown. Negotiations are still in progress. In the last period the isle's authorities are making noteflights investment on the historical and cultural heritage to develop tourism resource more and more.


The very uncommon situation of saba is that his history did not originate in blood but in peaceful feeling. In the beginning was populated by little tribes of arawak. As in the isle there was nothing to raid and climbs hard to walk on, the fierce caribi didn't consider Saba as an important spot.

The first european to sight Saba was Cristoforo Colombo, during his second journey to the new world in november 1493. He circumnavigates it ,saw rocks and high hills, sent two life boats to stock up on water, weigh anchor and sailed on to other destinations.

The dutch claimed rights on the isle in 1632, nobody was contrary to this decision and so, in 1640, a group of colonies disembarked from Sint Eustatius to establish a permanent settlement.
These people initially settled in Middle island and Mary's point, where even nowadays you see traces of tanks and stone walls. Then they moved down to The Bottom, still the isle's administrative center.
Due to the steep slopes that prevented from create large-scale plantations, Saba didn't know virtually the slavery violence. Slaves were only a few, well looked after and worked in the plantations side by side with owners,laying the foundation for a racial integration never noticed elsewhere around. there are no reminds of assaults, robbery etc, even the whip was unknown.

Windward Islands: SABA

Windward Islands: SABA

Until the forties of 20th.century, Saba's villages were jointed only by paths. Dutch engineers argued that because of the isle's disconnected territory, it was impossible to build bigger roads, and it took more than 20 years to fulfill the first.
Slowly and peacefully, cyclon George striked Saba in 1998, but as he noticed that this was a special place didn't cause any death or destruction.
Just luck or a happy doom ?
Afore Etienne Ys and Frits Goedgedrag, Dutch Antilles prime minister and governor, in december 2002 the new airport, entitled to Remy F. de Haenen, was inaugurated, that was the first pilot that landed in Saba in 1959.


The isle was sight by Cristoforo Colombo in 1493. The " Caribi" called it "alo" that means cashew tree, while colombo dedicated the isle to Santa Anastasia. Even if french begun a fortification building in 1629, the first permanent settlement was established when the dutch drove out the french in 1636. Afterwards changed hands 22 times between dutch, french and english. In the 18th century, while english and french were burying their colonies with taxes, dutch gave to Sint Eustatius the status of free port. The result was that the west indies and north american colonies circumvented the duties and carryed all the goods "Via Statia", and the isle knew a blooming period and became an important point of storage and a florid commercial hub between the old and the new world.At the top, late in the 18th. century, the harbour received every month something like 300 ships and the isle's population raised up to 20.000 this richness  gave  to Statia the nick name of "gold rock"  of the caribbean as  Sint

Windward Islands: SINT EUSTATIUS
Windward Islands: SINT EUSTATIUS

Eustatius was selling weapons and munitions to eveybody with the right money, the isle became one of the few support points used by the 13 american colonies for war supplies during the American Revolution the good relationships between Sint Eustatius and United States emerged clearly with the so called " flag incident" when the isle commander Johannes de Graeff reply to the fire blanks of the american ship "Andrea Doria" (16 novemberm 1776).
United States gave prominence to the episode cause, de facto, it meant the fully recognition of the new nation moreover the  United  States

indipendence  and the following peace treaty with England, in 1783, allow to establish new trade routes and this meant that Sint Eustatius found itself bypassed by this new situation even nowadays statia is well out of the normal paths, but unfortunately not out of the hurrycanes ones.
"Georges" hurrycane caused much material damages but not victims in 1998 since 1954 statia has been a windward municipality with Bonaire, Curacao,Saba and Sint Maarten.
In 2004 a government commission suggested to make a revision to the statute that should have carryed to windward islands dissolution.

Windward Islands: SINT EUSTATIUS

Statia adopted a new flag the same years,  but in 2005 voted to remain united to dutch crown as a result of this Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius got in 2007 a status very similar to the Netherlands municipality, including the right to vote in elections.




Looking for fresh water... but finding lots of pineapples. First European to land in Guadalupe was, of course, Colombo during his second trip to west Indies in november 1493. Colombo gave the name of Santa Maria de Guadalupe de Extremadura,   in homage to the Virgin Mary venerated at theSpanish monastery of Extremadura. Colombo took a short trip inward just to notice that the form was like a butterfly whose wings are completely different with each other.
He also realize that a lot of Indians Caribi were living there, people hard to bend; so he decided to abandon the isle before fighting and didn't leave any Spanish settlement.

French Antilles: GUADALUPE

But earlier he discovered pineapple, tasted it, fell in love with its flavor ,he suddenly gave the name to this fruit calling it " Indies pina", filled his "Caravella" with them and sailed for other lands. When sighted for the first time by Colombo, the Caribi Indians called it " Karukera" : isle of the marvelous waters. Spanish tried to conquer it twice in the early 16th century but were rejected by the proud and determined resistance of the local population and so they abandoned their projects in 1604.

French Antilles: GUADALUPE

Thirty years later some french colonies,financially supported by a contractors company : the " Compagnie des Iles de Amerique " landed and laid the foundations for the first European settlement. They landed at Basse Terre in 1635, on the south-east coast and took possession of the island on behalf of the French crown, ejecting the Caribi Indians,launching the first crops and building the first plant for the production of sugar. When french officially enclosed Guadalupe, in 1674, the system of slave labor was well under way.
Great Britain invaded Guadalupe several times and between 1759 and 1763 and transformed the little Pointe-a-Pitre in a big harbour, inserting Guadalupe's sugar in the florid English and north American markets and allowed the landowners to import timber and cheap food from America. Many French colonies grew rich under English control due to this little economic boom. But the situation changed radically with the signing of the Paris treaty of 1763 whereby France gave up to its ambitions in Canada in exchange for Guadalupe.
Exploiting the chaos of the French Revolution, the British invaded the island once more in 1794. France sent in response a military contingent led by Victor Hugues, a black nationalist who freed and armed the slaves. The day that English troops left Guadalupe, Hugues run wild and slaughtered 300 royalists , most of them were landowners.

 This act signed the beginning of an era of terror that led to the death of more than 1000 settlers. Following the Hugues attacks to U.S. ships , America declared war against France, forcing Napoleon to send a general to put down the rebellion and restore the pre-revolutionary government and the system of slavery.

During the whole XIX century, Guadalupe became the most 'prosperous of the west indies and English kept on taking care about it, invading and occupying repeatedly Between 1810 and 1816. The Vienna treaty gave back Guadalupe to France that since that time maintained continuously its sovereignty. Slavery was abolished in 1848, following a political campaign led by Victor Schoelcher. In the following years the landowners imported workers from Pondicherry, a French colony in India, to work on plantations. From 1871, Guadeloupe has a legal representation in the French parliament and since 1946 became officially one of the overseas departments.

Both Guadalupe and Martinique use French currency, stamps and flag but his political status does not satisfy everybody and a local secessionist movement made ​​occasional acts of terrorism. The rest of the archipelago has also been undermined by the La Soufriere volcano, which erupted in the 70's and still nowadays emit sulphurous smokes.

Although agriculture remains the main economic sector, the importance of tourism has greatly increased in recent years. In february 2007 Saint-Barthelemy and the French part of Saint Martin,that were part of the jurisdiction of Guadeloupe, have become French overseas collectivity.


A long history of isolation, rocky Desirade, so different from the other surrounding islands. Since the XVIII century this was the place where banish all the French undesirable men. But until 1725 la Desidade remained almost completely deserted. But in 1725, due to a large outbreak of leprosy who hit Guadeloupe, the French governor of the Little Antilles had the idea to carry there the incurably ill. (correggere in italiano trasportare)This little island seems to be the ideal spot to build a leprosy hospital.

The sick were left to themselves in a terrible state of malnutrition and very few survived to this terrible misery.
But the leprosy hospital, in the following years, got another very sad use. Here, together with lepers,were deported from Guadalupe every sort of criminals, thieves, illegitimate children and political enemies.
The situation of all these derelicts, abandoned byfate and by mankind, Improved with the strong hurricane of 1928 that caused so much damage that forced France to reconstruct the leprosy hospital giving also some form of assistance until 1952, when the lepers were integrated in the health services of Guadalupe. Among the ruins, in memory of this, still remains the well preserved crematorium.

French Antilles: LA DESIRADE: lebbrosario
Les Saintes is part of the French overseas territories, located 10 miles southwest of Guadeloupe in the Little French Antilles.

To name it this way ; "los Santos" has been Cristoforo Colombo the first of November 1493, that is "omnisanti " day. The first French settlement is dated 1648 as a result of the treaty of Westfalia. Due to the strategic importance of its location and harbour, was disputed for a long time between French and Great Britain. The English fleet prevailed in the great naval battle fought off the coasts in 1782, but starting from 1816 Les Saintes returned under French control and so remained until the present day. With a strange peculiarity; Les Saintes stands out as one of the few islands of the Litlle Antilles to have a majority white population. Many inhabitants have "Breton" roots and you see these specific traits in the features of their faces.

French Antilles: LES SAINTES

From the earliest prehistoric settlements of the Indians Huecoides, the Arawak, the Caribbean, Columbo, passed thousands of years. Then, with Colombo, who reached the island during his second voyage to the Indies,came also the name: Maria Galanda, taken by the caravel sign. After the Westfalia peace, in 1648, the isle became a French territory and changed the name in Marie Galante. Then the first 50 colonies were driven there.

In 1660 the peace treaty of Basse-Terre Chateau was signed among the few Caraibi Indians surviving , French and England which allowed the transfer of the Caraibi Indians to Dominica and St. Vincent.

Achieved peace, the sugar cane plantations multiplied, then appeared the first mills powered by oxen and European attention for this small island's economy got increased.

To contend , loot, and raid in turn the isle for the next century were Netherland and Great Britain but then, in 1763, Marie Galante returned definitely to France.

In 1780 the first mills were sited and in 1830 Marie Galante was called the hundred mills island, one each Rum distillery.

Slavery was abolished in 1794, restored in 1802 and finally abolished in 1848 after many rebellions of African slaves and the constant pressure from the abolitionist party.
In 1946 Marie Galante joined the French overseas territories together with all the Guadeloupe' archipelago.  

French Antilles: MARIE GALANTE

In 1502,during his fourth vojage to the new world, Colombo sighted Martinica for the first time; the island was inhabited by the Caribi Indians that called it "Madinina": the island of flowers.

Thirty years later a group of French colonies led by Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc landed on the north coast. The first French settlement and the beginning of the construction of the capital Saint-Pierre are dated 1635, while the following year Louis XIII signed a decree which allowed the slavery in the French Antilles.

French people colonized the territory and in 1640 extended their domain south of Fort-de-France where they placed a military fortress on the height overlooking the harbour. As the forests were cut down to make room for sugar plantations, conflicts with Caribbean Indians degenerated into a bloody war that ended with the forced exile of the survivors indigenous.

The British also wanted to seize the island and they invaded and controlled the island in the period between 1794 and 1815. During this period Matinica's economy bloom like a flower as the landownwers sold their sugar in the richer English markets. The situation allow even to avoid the bloodshed of the French revolution; when Martinica was returned to France in 1815, the Napoleonic wars were over and the French empire was reaching a new established period.

Just a few years later the gold period of the sugar cane was going to an end as the prices collapsed for the introducion of the sugar beet cultivation in the continental France. With the decrease in wealth of the aristocratic landowners took root an abolitionist movement leaded by Victor Schoelcher, until the 1848 emancipation which abolished slavery in the French Antilles. In 1902 Mont Pelee,a still active volcano,shattered Saint-Pierre emitting a cloud of hot burning ashes developing an energy equal to that of 40 atomic bombs. Only one of the whole population of 30.000 survived, he was simply in prison. Saint-Pierre was rebuilt but the new capital is now Port de France.
.Martinique became in 1946' one of the French overseas possessions, and in 1974 was further treated to the motherland to become a French region.

French Antilles: MARTINICA: Montagne Pelèe

Martinica and Guadalupa use currency, stamps and French flag, but even nowadays there are 'pressures for greater autonomy by separatist groups


At the end of the Thirty years war Spain lost a lot of territory.

One of the less important,in the Caribbean sea, was Saint Bartelemy island. Claimed by France with the Treaties of Westphalia in 1648, was sold to Sweden in 1784.

French Antilles: SAINT BARTHÉLEMY: re Gustav III

Less than a century after,in 1878, the Swedes resold to France. When the French ceded the island to King Gustav of Sweden in return for port charges of Gothenburg, he called the capital Gustavia, tracked and paved roads, built three military fortress and transformed the capital into a thriving free port.This status remained unchanged even when France rebought it. Today is still free port and ,depending from Guadalupe, is is' part of the French overseas departments.

Dry, sunny, rocky and almost exclusively inhabited by the descendants of Norman and Breton settlers living here three centuries ago'.I It catches the eye the almost total absence of black people even though the well civilized Swedes employed slaves in farm work. The Swedish period has left its mark in many street's name as well as in the name of the capital: Gustavia, and in the signs of several military corps, including the Cross of Malta and Cornflower.  

French Antilles: SAINT BARTHÉLEMY: Croce di Malta

The island was already inhabited by the Arawaks Indians more than 3500 years ago. Millennia later other Arawaks came from teh Orinoco's mouth; they called the island "Sualouiga" : the island of salt.

Civilization was based on fishing and agriculture, with high artistic and spiritual values, and what's more therir villages with straw roofs were strong enough to resist hurricanes. In short, they were artistic and practical.

They were massacred by the fierce Caribs, a warlike people who did not care about the artistic aspects of life. As was the normal practice, they slaughtered men and enslaved women.

When Europeans began to explore the Caribbean area, the Arawak race was already disappeared.

In 1493 Colombo,during his second voyage to west Indies, gave the island the name of St.Martin because it was the 11 of november, S. Martino's day.

But St. Martin was not a priority 'of the Spanish crown and was contested between France and Netherland that considered the isle strategically important as it was close to the other islands in their possession.

Then Spain turned to be interested in St. Martin in the first half' of 1600, when the long war against the Netherlands had given strategic value to the island.

Infact they kicked away the Dutch and occupied the isle in 1633 and built fortifications to defend the territory. But it was totally unnecessary because 'the Franco-Dutch war in Europe ended fifteen years later and St. Martin didn't give any income and had no more importance as a naval base.

Now it was free again, and again French and Dutch began to fight for its possession.

 But after an initial conflict with much bloodshed, they decided to share peacefully with a race,or should I say, a march competition between their best champions.

The legend says that to win more land was the Frenchman who had been drinking wine, prevailing on the beer swollened dutch. But historians also note that during the race a powerful French naval squadron cruised off the island and probably the Dutch runner felt this presence.  


HAITI by Wikipedia

From Christopher Columbus to the 2010 earthquake

The recorded history of Haiti began on December 5, 1492 when the European navigator Christopher Columbus happened upon a large island in the region of the western Atlantic Ocean that later came to be known as the Caribbean Sea. It was inhabited by the Taíno, an Arawakan people, who variously called their island Ayiti, Bohio, or Kiskeya. Columbus promptly claimed the island for the Spanish Crown, and renamed it La Isla Española ("the Spanish Island"), or Hispañola (later Anglicized as Hispaniola). Columbus established a small settlement, but, when he returned in 1493, the settlers had disappeared, presumably killed. He claimed the whole island for Spain, and left his brother Bartolomeo Columbus to found a new settlement. Following the arrival of Europeans, Haiti's indigenous population suffered near-extinction, in possibly the worst case of depopulation in the Americas. A commonly accepted hypothesis attributes the high mortality of this colony in part to Old World diseases to which the natives had no immunity. Taínos were able to survive and set up villages elsewhere. Spanish interest in Hispaniola began to wane in the 1520s, as more lucrative gold and silver deposits were found in Mexico and South America. Thereafter, the population of Spanish Hispaniola grew at a slow pace. Fearful of pirate attacks, the king of Spain in 1606 ordered all colonists on Hispaniola to move closer to the capital city, Santo Domingo. The decision backfired, as British, Dutch, and French pirates then established bases on the island's abandoned northern and western coasts.

French Saint-Domingue

French buccaneers established a settlement on the island of Tortuga in 1625. They survived by pirating Spanish ships and hunting wild cattle. Although the Spanish destroyed the buccaneers' settlements several times, on each occasion they returned. The first official settlement on Tortuga was established in 1659 under the commission of King Louis XIV. In 1664, the newly established French West India Company took control over the colony, which it named Saint-Domingue, and France formally claimed control of the western portion of the island of Hispaniola. In 1670 they established the first permanent French settlement on the mainland of Hispaniola, Cap François (later Cap Français, now Cap-Haïtien). Under the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick, Spain officially ceded the western third of Hispaniola to France. By that time, planters outnumbered buccaneers and, with the encouragement of Louis XIV, they had begun to grow tobacco, indigo, cotton, and cacao on the fertile northern plain, thus prompting the importation of African slaves. Slaveinsurrections were frequent and some slaves escaped to the mountains where they were met by what would be one of the last generations of Taíno natives. After the last Taíno died, the full-blooded Arawakan population on the island was extinct. Prior to the Seven Years' War (1756-1763), the economy of Saint-Domingue gradually expanded, with sugar and, later, coffee becoming important export crops. After the war, which disrupted maritime commerce, the colony underwent rapid expansion. In 1767, it exported 72 million pounds of raw sugar and 51 million pounds of refined sugar, one million pounds of indigo, and two million pounds of cotton. Saint-Domingue became known as the "Pearl of the Antilles" – one of the richest colonies in the 18th century French empire. By the 1780s, Saint-Domingue produced about 40 percent of all the sugar and 60 percent of all the coffee consumed in Europe. This single colony, roughly the size of Maryland or Belgium, produced more sugar and coffee than all of Britain's West Indian colonies combined. The labor for these plantations was provided by an estimated 790,000 African slaves (accounting in 1783-1791 for a third of the entire Atlantic slave trade). Between 1764 and 1771, the average importation of slaves varied between 10,000-15,000, by 1786 about 28,000, and, from 1787 onward, the colony received more than 40,000 slaves a year. However, the inability to maintain slave numbers without constant resupply from Africa meant the slave population, by 1789, totaled 500,000, ruled over by a white population that, by 1789, numbered only 32,000. At all times, a majority of slaves in the colony were African-born, as the brutal conditions of slavery prevented the population from experiencing growth through natural increase. African culture thus remained strong among slaves to the end of French rule, in particular the folk-religion ofVodou, which commingled Catholic liturgy and ritual with the beliefs and practices of Guinea, Congo, and Dahomey. Slave traders scoured the Atlantic coast of Africa, and the slaves who arrived came from hundreds of different tribes, their languages often mutually incomprehensible. To regularize slavery, in 1685 Louis XIV enacted the Code Noir, which accorded certain human rights to slaves and responsibilities to the master, who was obliged to feed, clothe, and provide for the general well-being of their slaves. The code noir also sanctioned corporal punishment, allowing masters to employ brutal methods to instill in their slaves the necessary docility, while ignoring provisions intended to regulate the administration of punishments. A passage from Henri Christophe's personal secretary, who lived more than half his life as a slave, describes the crimes perpetrated against the slaves of Saint-Domingue by their French masters. Thousands of slaves found freedom by fleeing into the mountains, forming communities of maroons and raiding isolated plantations. The most famous was Mackandal, a one-armed slave, originally from Guinea, who escaped in 1751. A Vodou Houngan (priest), he united many of the different maroon bands. He spent the next six years staging successful raids and evading capture by the French, reputedly killing over 6,000 people, while preaching a fanatic vision of the destruction of white civilization in St. Domingue. In 1758, after a failed plot to poison the drinking water of the plantation owners, he was captured and burned alive at the public square in Cap-Français. Saint-Domingue also had the largest and wealthiest free population of color in the Caribbean, the gens de couleur (French, "people of color"). The mixed-race community in Saint-Domingue numbered 25,000 in 1789. First-generation gens de couleur were typically the offspring of a male, French slaveowner and an African slave chosen as a concubine. In the French colonies, the semi-official institution of "plaçage" defined this practice. By this system, the children were free people and could inherit property, thus originating a class of "mulattos" with property and some with wealthy fathers. This class occupied a middle status between African slaves and French colonists. Some Africans also enjoyed status as gens de couleur. As numbers of gens de couleur grew, the French rulers enacted discriminatory laws. Statutes forbade gens de couleur from taking up certain professions, marrying whites, wearing European clothing, carrying swords or firearms in public, or attending social functions where whites were present. However, these regulations did not restrict their purchase of land, and many accumulated substantial holdings and became slave-owners. By 1789, they owned one-third of the plantation property and one-quarter of the slaves of Saint-Domingue.Central to the rise of thegens de couleur planter class was the growing importance of coffee, which thrived on the marginal hillside plots to which they were often relegated. The largest concentration of gens de couleur was in the southern peninsula, the last region of the colony to be settled, owing to its distance from Atlantic shipping lanes and its formidable terrain, with the highest mountain range in the Caribbean.

Revolutionary period

The outbreak of revolution in France in the summer of 1789 had a powerful effect on the colony. While the French settlers debated how new revolutionary laws would apply to Saint-Domingue, outright civil war broke out in 1790 when the free men of color claimed they too were French citizens under the terms of theDeclaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Ten days before the fall of the Bastille, in July 1789, the French National Assembly had voted to seat six delegates from Saint-Domingue. In Paris, a group of wealthy mulattoes, led by Julien Raimond and Vincent Ogé, unsuccessfully petitioned the white planter delegates to support mulatto claims for full civil and political rights. Through the efforts of a group calledSociété d'Amis des Noirs, of which Raimond and Ogé were prominent leaders, in March 1790 the National Assembly granted full civic rights to the gens de couleur.' Vincent Ogé traveled to St. Domingue to secure the promulgation and implementation of this decree, landing near Cap-Français (now Cap-Haïtien) in October 1790 and petitioning the royal governor, the Comte de Peynier. After his demands were refused, he attempted to incite the gens de couleur to revolt. Ogé and Jean-Baptiste Chavennes, a veteran of the Siege of Savannah during the American Revolution, attempted to attack Cap-Français. However, the mulatto rebels refused to arm or free their slaves, or to challenge the status of slavery, and their attack was defeated by a force of white militia and black volunteers (including Henri Christophe). Afterwards, they fled across the frontier to Hinche, at the time in the Spanish part of the island. However, they were captured, returned to the French authorities, and both Ogé and Chavennes were executed in February 1791. On August 22, 1791, slaves in the northern region of the colony staged a revolt that began the Haitian Revolution. Tradition marks the beginning of the revolution at a vodou ceremony at Bois Caïman (Alligator Woods) near Cap-Français. The call to arms was issued by a Houngan (Vodou priest) named Dutty Boukman. Within hours, the northern plantations were in flames. The rebellion spread through the entire colony. Boukman was captured and executed, but the rebellion continued to spread rapidly. In 1792, Léger-Félicité Sonthonax was sent to the colony by the French Legislative Assembly as part of the Revolutionary Commission. His main goal was to maintain French control of Saint-Domingue, stabilize the colony, and enforce the social equality recently granted to free people of color by the National Convention of France. On August 29, 1793, Sonthonax took the radical step of proclaiming the freedom of the slaves in the north province (with severe limits on their freedom). In September and October, emancipation was extended throughout the colony. On February 4, 1794 the French National Convention ratified this act, applying it to all French colonies. The slaves did not immediately flock to Sonthonax's banner, however. White colonists continued to fight Sonthonax, with assistance from the British. They were joined by many of the free men of color who opposed the abolition of slavery. It was not until word of France's ratification of emancipation arrived back in the colony that Toussaint Louverture and his corps of well-disciplined, battle-hardened former slaves came over to the French Republican side in early May 1794. A change in the political winds in France caused Sonthonax to be recalled in 1796, but not before taking the step of arming the former slaves. With the colony facing a full-scale invasion by Britain, the rebel slaves emerged as a powerful military force, under the leadership of Toussaint Louverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, and Henri Christophe. Louverture successfully drove back the British and by 1798 was the defacto ruler of the colony. In 1799, he defeated the mulatto General André Rigaud, who controlled most of the south and west and refused to acknowledge Toussaint's authority. By 1801, he was in control of the whole island, after conquering Spanish Santo Domingo and proclaiming the abolition of slavery there. He did not, however, proclaim full independence for the country, nor did he seek reprisals against the country's former white slaveholders, convinced that the French would not restore slavery and "that a population of slaves recently landed from Africa could not attain to civilization by 'going it alone.' In 1802, Napoleon Bonaparte sent a massive invasion force under his brother-in-law Charles Leclerc. For a time, Leclerc met with some success; he also brought the eastern part of the island of Hispaniola under the direct control of France in accordance with the terms of the 1795Treaties of Bâle with Spain (it had earlier been controlled by Toussaint since 1801). With a large expedition that eventually included 40,000 European troops, and receiving help from white colonists and mulatto forces commanded by Alexandre Pétion, a former lieutenant of Rigaud, the French won several victories after severe fighting. Two of Toussaint's chief lieutenants, Dessalines and Christophe, recognizing their untenable situation, held separate parleys with the invaders, and agreed to transfer their allegiance. At this point, Leclerc invited Toussaint to negotiate a settlement. It was a deception; Toussaint was seized and deported to France, where he died of pneumonia while imprisoned at Fort de Joux in the Jura Mountains in April 1803.
On May 20, 1802, Napoleon signed a law to maintain slavery where it had not disappeared, Martinique, Tobago, and Saint Lucia. A confidential copy of this decree was sent to Leclerc, who was authorized to restore slavery when the time was opportune. At the same time, further edicts stripped the gens de couleur of their newly won civil rights. None of these decrees were published or executed in St. Domingue, but, by midsummer, word began to reach the colony of the French intention to restore slavery. The betrayal of Toussaint and news of French actions inMartinique undermined the collaboration of leaders such as Dessalines, Christophe, and Pétion. Convinced that the same fate lay in store for Saint-Domingue, these commanders and others once again battled Leclerc. Intent on reconquest and reenslavement of the colony's black population, the war became a bloody struggle of atrocity and attrition. The rainy season brought yellow fever and malaria, which took a heavy toll on the invaders. By November, when Leclerc died of yellow fever, 24,000 French soldiers were dead and 8,000 were hospitalized, the majority from disease. Afterwards, Leclerc was replaced by Donatien-Marie-Joseph de Vimeur, vicomte de Rochambeau. Rochambeau wrote to Napoleon that, to reclaim Saint-Domingue, France must 'declare the negroes slaves, and destroy at least 30,000 negroes and negresses.' In his desperation, he turned to increasingly wanton acts of brutality; the French burned alive, hanged, drowned, and tortured black prisoners, reviving such practices as burying blacks in piles of insects and boiling them in cauldrons of molasses. One night, at Port-Républican, he held a ball to which he invited the most prominent mulatto ladies and, at midnight, announced the death of their husbands. However, each act of brutality was repaid by the Haitian rebels. After one battle, Rochambeau buried 500 prisoners alive; Dessalines responded by hanging 500 French prisoners.Rochambeau's brutal tactics helped unite black, mulatto, and mestizo soldiers against the French. As the tide of the war turned toward the former slaves, Napoleon abandoned his dreams of restoring France's New World empire. In 1803, war resumed between France and Britain, and with the Royal Navy firmly in control of the seas, reinforcements and supplies for Rochambeau never arrived in sufficient numbers. To concentrate on the war in Europe, Napoleon signed the Louisiana Purchase in April, selling France's North American possessions to the United States. The Haitian army, now led by Dessalines, devastated Rochembeau and the French army at theBattle of Vertières on November 18, 1803. On January 1, 1804 Dessalines then declared independence, reclaiming the indigenous Taíno name of Haiti ("Land of Mountains") for the new nation. Most of the remaining French colonists fled ahead of the defeated French army, many migrating to Louisiana or Cuba. Unlike Toussaint, Dessalines showed little equanimity with regard to the whites. In a final act of retribution, the remaining French were slaughtered by Haitian military forces. Some 2,000 Frenchmen were massacred at Cap-Français, 900 in Port-au-Prince, and 400 at Jérémie. He issued a proclamation declaring, "we have repaid these cannibals, war for war, crime for crime, outrage for outrage." One exception was a military force of Poles from the Polish Legions that had fought in Napoleon's army. Some of them refused to fight against blacks, supporting the principles of liberty; also, a few Poles (around 100) actually joined the rebels (Władysław Franciszek Jabłonowski was one of the Polish generals). Therefore, Poles were allowed to stay and were spared the fate of other whites. About 400 of the 5,280 Poles chose this option. Of the remainder, 700 returned to France and many were – after capitulation – forced to serve in British units. 160 Poles were later given permission to leave Haiti and were sent to France at Haitian expense. Today, descendants of those Poles who stayed are living in Casale and Fond Des Blancs. Despite the Haitian victory, France refused to recognize the newly independent country's sovereignty until 1825, in exchange for 150 million gold francs. This fee, demanded as retribution for the "lost property,"—slaves, land, equipment etc.—of the former colonialists, was later reduced to 90 million. Haiti agreed to pay the price to lift a crippling embargo imposed by France, Britain, and the United States—but to do so, the Haitian government had to take out high interest loans. The debt was not repaid in full until 1947.

Independent republic

Haiti is the world's oldest black republic and the second-oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere, after the United States. Although Haiti actively assisted the independence movements of many Latin American countries – and secured a promise from the great liberator, Simón Bolívar, that he would free their slaves after winning independence from Spain – the nation of former slaves was excluded from the hemisphere's first regional meeting of independent nations, held in Panama in 1826. Furthermore, owing to entrenched opposition from Southern slave states, Haiti did not receive U.S. diplomatic recognition until 1862 (after those states had seceded from the Union) – largely through the efforts of anti-slavery senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts. Upon assuming power, General Dessalines authorized the Constitution of 1804. This constitution, in terms of social freedoms, called for:
1. Freedom of Religion (Under Toussaint, Catholicism had been declared the official state religion);
2. All citizens of Haiti, regardless of skin color, to be known as "Black" (this was an attempt to eliminate the multi-tiered racial hierarchy that had developed in Haiti, with full or near full-blooded Europeans at the top, various levels of light to brown skin in the middle, and dark skinned "Kongo" from Africa at the bottom).
3. White men were forbidden from possessing property or domain on Haitian soil. Should the French return to reimpose slavery, Article 5 of the constitution declared: "At the first shot of the warning gun, the towns shall be destroyed and the nation will rise in arms."
In January 1804, Dessalines, preferring Napoleon’s style rather than the more liberal yet vulnerable type of political government of the French Republican Radicals (see liberalism and radicalism in France), proclaimed himself Emperor Jacques I. Yet two of his own advisers, Henri Christophe and Alexandre Pétion, helped provoke his assassination in 1806. The conspirators ambushed him north of Port-au-Prince at Pont Larnage, (now known as Pont-Rouge) on October 17, 1806 en route to battle rebels to his regime. After the Dessalines coup d'état, the two main conspirators divided the country in two rival regimes. Christophe created the authoritarian State of Haiti in the north, and the Gens de couleur Pétion helped establish the Republic of Haiti in the south. Christophe attempted to maintain a strict system of labor and agricultural production akin to the former plantations. Although, strictly speaking, he did not establish slavery, he imposed a semi-feudal system, fermage, in which every able man was required to work in plantations (similar to Latifundios) to produce goods for the fledging country. His method, though undoubtedly oppressive, produced the most revenues of the two governments. By contrast, Pétion broke up the former colonial estates and parceled out the land into small holdings. In Pétion’s south, the Gens de couleurminority led the government and feared losing popular support, and thus, sought to assuage class tensions with land redistribution. Because of the weak international position and its labor policies (most peasants lived through a subsistence economy), Pétion’s government was perpetually on the brink of bankruptcy. Yet, for most of its time, it produced one of the most liberal and tolerant Haitian governments ever. In 1815, at a key period of Bolívar's fight for Venezuelan independence, he gave the Venezuelan leader asylum and provided him with soldiers and substantial material support. It also had the least of internal military skirmishes, despite its continuous conflicts with Christophe’s northern kingdom. In 1816, however, after finding the burden of the Senate intolerable, he suspended the legislature and turned his post into President for Life. Not long after, he died of yellow fever, and his assistant Jean Pierre Boyer replaced him.  In this period, the eastern part of the island rose against the new powers following general Juan Sánchez Ramírez’s claims of independence from France, which broke the Treaties of Bâle attacking Spain and prohibited commerce with Haiti. In the Palo Hincado battle (November 7, 1808), all the remaining French forces were defeated by Spanish-creole insurrectionists. On July 9, 1809, Santo Domingo was born. The government put itself under the control of Spain, earning it the nicname of “España Boba” (meaning “The Idiot Spain”). In 1811, Christophe proclaimed himself King Henri I in the North and commissioned several extraordinary buildings. He even created a nobility class in the fashion of European monarchies. Yet in 1820, weakened by illness and with a decreasing support for his authoritarian regime, he killed himself with a silver bullet rather than face a coup d'état. Immediately after, Pétion's successor, Boyer, reunited Haiti through diplomatic tactics, and ruled as president until his overthrow in 1843. Almost two years after Boyer had consolidated power in the west, in 1821, Santo Domingo declared independence from Spain and requested from Simón Bolívar inclusion in the Gran Colombia. Boyer, however, responding to a party on the east that preferred Haiti over Colombia, occupied the ex-Spanish colony in January 1822, encountering no military resistance. In this way he accomplished the unity of the island, which was only carried out temporarily by Toussaint Louverture in 1801. Boyer's occupation of the Spanish side also responded to internal struggles among Christophe’s generals, to which Boyer gave extensive powers and lands in the east. This occupation, however, pitted the Spanish white elite against the iron fisted Haitian administration, and stimulated the emigration of many white wealthy families. Still today, the various memories and interpretations of this occupation fuels animosities between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The entire island remained under Haitian rule until 1844, when in the east a nationalist group called La Trinitaria led a revolt that helped convert the country into theDominican Republic.From 1824 to 1826, while the island was under one government, Boyer promoted the largest single free-Black immigration from the United States in which more than 6000 immigrants settled in different parts of the island. Today remnants of these immigrants live throughout the island, but the larger number reside in Samaná, a peninsula on the Dominican side of the island. From the government's perspective, the intention of the immigration was to help establish commercial and diplomatic relationships with the U.S., and to increase the number of skilled and agricultural workers in Haiti. In exchange for diplomatic recognition from France, Boyer was forced to pay a huge indemnity for the loss of French property during the revolution. To pay for this, he had to float loans in France, putting Haiti into a state of debt. Boyer attempted to enforce production through theCode Rural, enacted in 1826, but peasant freeholders, mostly former revolutionary soldiers, had no intention of returning to the forced labor they fought to escape. By 1840, Haiti had ceased to export sugar entirely, although large amounts continued to be grown for local consumption astaffia-a raw rum. However, Haiti continued to export coffee, which required little cultivation and grew semi-wild.

Political struggles

In 1843, a revolt, led by Charles Rivière-Hérard, overthrew Boyer and established a brief parliamentary rule under the Constitution of 1843. Revolts soon broke out and the country descended into near anarchy, with a series of transient presidents until March 1847, when GeneralFaustin Soulouque, a former slave who had fought in the rebellion of 1791, became President. In 1849, taking advantage of his popularity, he proclaimed himself Emperor Faustin I. His iron rule succeeded in uniting Haiti for a time, but it came to an abrupt end in 1858 when he was deposed by General Fabre Geffrard, styled the Duke of Tabara. Geffrard's military government held office until 1867, and he encouraged a policy of national reconciliation that worked surprisingly well. In 1860, he reached an agreement with the Vatican, reintroducing official Roman Catholic institutions, including schools, to the nation. In 1867 an attempt was made to establish a constitutional government, but successive presidents Sylvain Salnave and Nissage Saget were overthrown in 1869 and 1874 respectively. A more workable constitution was introduced under Michel Domingue in 1874, leading to a long period of democratic peace and development for Haiti. The debt to France was finally repaid in 1879, and Michel Domingue's government peacefully transferred power to Lysius Salomon, one of Haiti's abler leaders. Monetary reform and a cultural renaissance ensued with a flowering of Haitian art. The last two decades of the 19th century were also marked by the development of a Haitian intellectual culture. Major works of history were published in 1847 and 1865. Haitian intellectuals, led by Louis-Joseph Janvier and Anténor Firmin, engaged in a war of letters against a tide of racism and Social Darwinism that emerged during this period. The Constitution of 1867 saw peaceful and progressive transitions in government that did much to improve the economy and stability of the Haitian nation and the condition of its people. Constitutional government restored the faith of the Haitian people in legal institutions. The development of industrial sugar and rum industries near Port-au-Prince made Haiti, for a while, a model for economic growth in Latin American countries.

Foreign intervention

This period of relative stability and prosperity ended in 1911, when revolution broke out and the country slid once again into disorder and debt. From 1911 to 1915, there were six different Presidents, each of whom was killed or forced into exile. The revolutionary armies were formed by cacos, peasant brigands from the mountains of the north, along the porous Dominican border, who were enlisted by rival political factions with promises of money to be paid after a successful revolution and an opportunity to plunder. The United States was particularly apprehensive about the role of the German community in Haiti (approximately 200 in 1910), who wielded a disproportionate amount of economic power. Germans controlled about 80% of the country's international commerce; they also owned and operated utilities in Cap Haïtien and Port-au-Prince, the main wharf and a tramway in the capital, and a railroad serving the Plaine de Cul-du-Sac. The German community proved more willing to integrate into Haitian society than any other group of white foreigners, including the French. A number married into the nation's most prominent mulatto families, bypassing the constitutional prohibition against foreign land-ownership. They also served as the principal financiers of the nation's innumerable revolutions, floating innumerable loans-at high interest rates-to competing political factions. In an effort to limit German influence, in 1910-11, the US State Department backed a consortium of American investors, assembled by theNational City Bank of New York, in acquiring control of the Banque National d'Haïti, the nation's only commercial bank and the government treasury. In February 1915, Vilbrun Guillaume Sam established a dictatorship, but in July, facing a new revolt, he massacred 167 political prisoners, all of whom were from elite families, and was lynched by a mob in Port-au-Prince. Shortly afterwards, the United States, responding to complaints to President Woodrow Wilson from American banks to which Haiti was deeply in debt, occupied the country. The occupation of Haiti lasted until 1934. The US occupation was self-interested, sometimes brutal, and caused problems that lasted past its lifetime. Reforms, though, were carried out. The currency was reformed and the debt stabilized. Corruption was reduced, although never eradicated. Public health, education, and agricultural development were greatly improved. Under Marine supervision, the Haitian National Assembly elected Philippe Sudré Dartiguenave President, who signed a treaty that made Haiti ade jure US protectorate, with American officials assuming control over the Financial Adviser, Customs Receivership, the Constabulary, the Public Works Service, and the Public Health Service for a period of 10 years. The principal instrument of American authority was the newly-created Gendarmerie d'Haïti, commanded by American officers. In 1917, at the demand of US officials, the National Assembly was dissolved, designating officials to write a new constitution, which was largely dictated by officials in the US State Department and US Navy Department.Franklin D Roosevelt, Under-Secretary for the Navy in the Wilson administration claimed to have personally written the new constitution. This document abolished the prohibition on foreign ownership of land-the most essential component of Haitian law. When the newly elected National Assembly refused to pass this document and drafted one of their own preserving this prohibition, it was forcibly dissolved by Gendarmeriecommandant Smedley Butler. This constitution was approved by a plebiscite in 1919, in which less than 5% of the population voted. The US State Department authorized this plebiscite presuming that “The people casting ballots would be 97% illiterate, ignorant in most cases of what they were voting for.” The Marines and Gendarmerie initiated an extensive road-building program to enhance their military effectiveness and open the country to US investment. Lacking any source of adequate funds, they revived an 1864 Haitian law, discovered by Butler, requiring peasants to perform labor on local roads in lieu of paying a road tax. This system, known as the corvée, originated in the unpaid labor that French peasants provided to their feudal lords. In 1915, Haiti had only 3 miles of road usable by automobile outside the towns. By 1918, more than 470 miles (760 km) of road had been built or repaired through the corvée system, including a road linking Port-au-Prince to Cap-Haïtien. However, Haitian peasants forced to work in the corvée labor-gangs, frequently dragged from their homes and harassed by armed guards, received few immediate benefits and saw this system of forced labor as a return to slavery at the hands of white men. In 1919, a new caco uprising began, led by Charlemagne Péralte, vowing to 'drive the invaders into the sea and free Haiti.' The Cacos attacked Port-au-Prince in October, but were driven back with heavy casualties. Afterwards, a Creole-speaking American Gendarmerie officer infiltrated Péralte’s camp, killing him and photographing his corpse in an attempt to demoralize the rebels. Leadership of the rebellion passed to Benoît Batraville, a Caco chieftain from Artibonite. His death in 1920 marked the end of hostilities. During Senate hearings in 1921, the commandant of the Marine Corps reported that, in the 20 months of active resistance, 2,250 Haitians had been killed. However, in a report to the Secretary of the Navy he reported the death toll as being 3,250. Haitian historians have estimated the true number was much higher, one suggested: “the total number of battle victims and casualties of repression and consequences of the war might have reached, by the end of the pacification period four or five times that-somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 persons.” In 1922, Dartiguenave was replaced by Louis Borno, who ruled without a legislature until 1930. That same year, General John H. Russell, Jr.was appointed High Commissioner. The Borno-Russel dictatorship oversaw the expansion of the economy, building over 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of road, establishing an automatic telephone exchange, modernizing the nation's port facilities, and establishing a public health service. Sisalwas introduced to Haiti, and sugar and cotton became significant exports.[20] However, efforts to develop commercial agriculture had limited success, in part because much of Haiti's labor force was employed as seasonal workers in the more-established sugar industries of Cuba and the Dominican Republic. An estimated 30,000-40,000 Haitian laborers, known as braceros, went annually to the Oriente Province of Cuba between 1913 and 1931. Most Haitians continued to resent the loss of sovereignty. At the forefront of opposition among the educated elite was L'Union Patriotique,, which established ties with opponents of the occupation in the US itself, in particular the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The Great Depression decimated the prices of Haiti's exports, and destroyed the tenuous gains of the previous decade. In December 1929, Marines in Les Cayes killed ten Haitian peasants during a march to protest local economic conditions. This led Herbert Hoover to appoint two commissions, including one headed by a former US governor of the Philippines William Cameron Forbes, which criticized the exclusion of Haitians from positions of authority in the government and constabulary, now known as the Garde d'Haïti. In 1930, Sténio Vincent, a long-time critic of the occupation, was elected President, and the US began to withdraw its forces. The withdrawal was completed under US President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), in 1934, under his "Good Neighbor policy". The US retained control of Haiti's external finances until 1947 All three rulers during the occupation came from the country's small mulatto minority. At the same time, many in the growing black professional classes departed from the traditional veneration of Haiti's French cultural heritage and emphasized the nation's African roots, most notably ethnologist Jean Price-Mars and the journal Les Griots, edited by Dr. François Duvalier.

Democratic elections

The transition government left a better infrastructure, public health, education, and agricultural development as well as a democratic system. The country had fully democratic elections in 1930, won by Sténio Vincent. Sténio Vincent was succeeded as President in 1941 by Élie Lescot.


In 1946 increasing economic difficulties led to a military coup. The military junta handed over power to Dumarsais Estimé, a black Haitian, who introduced major reforms in labor and social policy.[citation needed] In 1949, Lescot tried to change the constitution to allow for his own reelection, but in 1950 this triggered another coup. General Paul Magloire led the country until December 1956, when he was forced to resign by a general strike. After a period of disorder, elections were held in September 1957, which saw Dr. François Duvalier elected President.

The Duvalier era

A former Minister of Health who had earned a reputation as a humanitarian while serving as an administrator in a U.S.-funded anti-yawscampaign, Duvalier (known as "Papa Doc") soon established another dictatorship. His regime is regarded as one of the most repressive and corrupt of modern times, combining violence against political opponents with exploitation of Vodou to instill fear in the majority of the population. Duvalier's paramilitary police, officially the Volunteers for National Security (Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale – VSN) but more commonly known as the Tonton Macoutes, named for a Vodou monster, carried out political murders, beatings, and intimidation. An estimated 30,000 Haitians were killed by his government.[23] Incorporating many houngans into the ranks of the Macoutes, his public recognition of Vodou and its practitioners and his private adherence to Vodou ritual, combined with his reputed private knowledge of magic and sorcery, enhanced his popular persona among the common people and served as a peculiar form of legitimization. Duvalier's policies, designed to end the dominance of the mulatto elite over the nation's economic and political life, led to massive emigration of educated people, deepening Haiti's economic and social problems. However, Duvalier appealed to the black middle class of which he was a member by introducing public works into middle class neighborhoods that previously had been unable to have paved roads, running water, or modern sewage systems. In 1964, Duvalier proclaimed himself "President for Life." The Kennedy administration suspended aid in 1961, after allegations that Duvalier had pocketed aid money and intended to use a Marine Corpsmission to strengthen the Macoutes. Duvalier also clashed with Dominican President Juan Bosch in 1963, after Bosch provided aid and asylum to Haitian exiles working to overthrow his regime. He ordered the Presidential Guard to occupy the Dominican chancery in Pétionville to apprehend an officer involved in a plot to kidnap his children, leading Bosch to publicly threaten to invade Haiti. However, the Dominican army, which distrusted Bosch's leftist leanings, expressed little support for an invasion, and the dispute was settled by OAS emissaries. In 1971, Papa Doc entered into 99-year contract with Don Pierson representing Dupont Caribbean Inc. of Texas for a free port project on the oldbuccaneer stronghold of Tortuga island located some 10 miles (16 km) off the north coast of the main Haitian island of Hispaniola.

The Duvalier Jr. era

On Duvalier's death in April 1971, power passed to his 19-year-old son Jean-Claude Duvalier (known as "Baby Doc"). Under Jean-Claude Duvalier, Haiti's economic and political condition continued to decline, although some of the more fearsome elements of his father's regime were abolished. Foreign officials and observers also seemed more tolerant toward Baby Doc, in areas such as human-rights monitoring, and foreign countries were more generous to him with economic assistance. The United States restored its aid program in 1971. In 1974, Baby Doc expropriated the Freeport Tortuga project and this caused the venture to collapse. Content to leave administrative matters in the hands of his mother, Simone Ovid Duvalier, while living as a playboy, Jean-Claude enriched himself through a series of fraudulent schemes. Much of the Duvaliers' wealth, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars over the years, came from the Régie du Tabac (Tobacco Administration), a tobacco monopoly established by Estimé, which expanded to include the proceeds from all government enterprises and served as a slush fund for which no balance sheets were ever kept.[24] His marriage, in 1980, to a beautiful mulatto divorcee, Michèle Bennett, in a $3 million ceremony, provoked widespread opposition, as it was seen as a betrayal of his father's antipathy towards the mulatto elite. At the request of Michèle, Papa Doc's widow Simone was expelled from Haiti. Baby Doc's kleptocracy left the regime vulnerable to unanticipated crises, exacerbated by endemic poverty, most notably the epidemic of African swine fever virus—which, at the insistence of USAID officials, led to the slaughter of the creole pigs, the principal source of wealth for most peasants; and the widely-publicized outbreak of AIDS in the early 1980s. Widespread discontent in Haiti began in 1983, when Pope John Paul II condemned the regime during a visit, finally provoking a rebellion, and in February 1986, after months of disorder, the army forced Duvalier to resign and go into exile.

Aristide era

From 1986 to early 1988 Haiti was ruled by a provisional military government under General Namphy. In 1987, a new constitution was ratified, providing for an elected bicameral parliament, an elected president, and a prime minister, cabinet, ministers, and supreme court appointed by the president with parliament's consent. The Constitution also provided for political decentralization through the election of mayors and administrative bodies responsible for local government. Elections held in early 1988 under the control of the provisional government and with scant popular participation led to Professor Leslie Manigat becoming President, but three months later he too was ousted by the miltary. Further instability ensued. In December 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a populist Roman Catholic (Salesian) priest, won 67% of the vote in elections that international observers deemed largely free and fair. Aristide's radical populist policies and the violence of his bands of supporters alarmed many of the country's elite, and, in September 1991, he was overthrown in a violent coup that brought General Raoul Cédras to power. There was violent resistance to the coup, in which hundreds were killed, and Aristide was forced into exile. An estimated 3,000-5,000 Haitians were killed during the period of military rule. The coup created a large-scale exodus of refugees to the United States. The United States Coast Guard interdicted (in many cases, rescued) a total of 41,342 Haitians during 1991 and 1992. Most were denied entry to the United States and repatriated back to Haiti. According to Mark Weisbrot, Aristide has accused the United States of backing the 1991 coup. The military regime governed Haiti until 1993. Various initiatives to end the political crisis through the peaceful restoration of the constitutionally elected government failed. In July 1994, as repression mounted in Haiti and a civilian human rights monitoring mission was expelled from the country, the United Nations Security Council adopted United Nations Security Council Resolution 940, which authorized member states to use all necessary means to facilitate the departure of Haiti's military leadership and to restore Haiti's constitutionally elected government to power. In mid-September 1994, with U.S. troops prepared to enter Haiti by force for Operation Uphold Democracy, President Bill Clinton dispatched a negotiating team led by former President Jimmy Carter to persuade the authorities to step aside and allow for the return of constitutional rule. With intervening troops already airborne, Cédras and other top leaders agreed to step down. In October, Aristide was able to return. Elections were held in June 1995. Aristide's coalition, the Lavalas (Waterfall) Political Organization, had a sweeping victory. When Aristide's term ended in February 1996, René Préval, a prominent Aristide political ally, was elected President with 88% of the vote: this was Haiti's first ever transition between two democratically elected presidents. In late 1996, Aristide broke with Préval and formed a new political party, the Lavalas Family (Fanmi Lavalas, FL), which won elections in April 1997 for one-third of the Senate and local assemblies, but these results were not accepted by the government. The split between Aristide and Préval produced a dangerous political deadlock, and the government was unable to organize the local and parliamentary elections due in late 1998. In January 1999, Préval dismissed legislators whose terms had expired – the entire Chamber of Deputies and all but nine members of the Senate, and Préval then ruled by decree. Aristide has accused the U.S. of deposing him.[ In a 2006 interview, he said the U.S. went back on their word regarding compromises he made with them over privatization of enterprises to ensure that part of the profits would go to the Haitian people and then "relied on a disinformation campaign" to discredit him.

Increasing human rights abuses

Elections for the Chamber of Deputies and two-thirds of the Senate took place in May 2000. The election drew a voter turnout of more than 60%, and the FL won a virtual sweep. However, the elections were flawed by irregularities and fraud, and the opposition parties, regrouped in the Democratic Convergence (Convergence Democratique, CD), demanded that the elections be annulled, that Préval stand down and be replaced by a provisional government. In the meantime, the opposition announced it would boycott the November presidential and senatorial elections. Haiti's main aid donors threatened to cut off aid. Aristide's party had controlled the Provisional Election Commission. It had declared the official results when counting had barely even began. It had ignored the constitutional requirement for run-off elections. As a result of this impasse, the November 2000 elections were boycotted by the opposition, and Aristide was again elected president, with more than 90% of the vote, on a very low turnout. The opposition refused to accept the result or to recognize Aristide as president. Major disorders were prevented by the continuing presence of U.S. and other foreign forces, under U.N. auspices. The initial 21,000-strong force became a U.N. peacekeeping force of 6,000 troops in 1995, and was scaled back progressively over the next four years as a series of U.N. technical missions succeeded the peacekeeping force. In January 2000, the last U.S. troops departed. Aristide launched widespread violence and human rights abuses. He employed his police and paramilitaries to attack opposition.[29] Radio stations were firebombed and journalists murdered. Aristide suppressed peaceful rallies by opposition members and civil society organizations. Arbitrary arrest, arbitrary detention, summary executions and police brutality became everyday reality. At the same time Aristide and his allies enriched themselves. Aristide oversaw extensive construction of mansions in Port-au-Prince, just above the slums. Drug trafficking emerged as a major source of money. Canadian police arrested Oriel Jean, Aristide's security chief and one of the most trusted friends, for money laundering Beaudoin Ketant, a notorious international drug trafficker, Aristide's close partner, and his daughter's godfather, confessed that Aristide "turned the country into a narco-country; it's a one-man show; you either pay (Aristide) or you die". The continuing political deadlock between Aristide and the opposition prevented legislative elections being held as scheduled in late 2003, and consequently the terms of most legislators expired in January, forcing Aristide to rule by decree. On December 5, 2003 after Fanmi Lavalas supporter's attack on the students at the State University, "Faculte des Sciences Humaines", under increasing pressure, Aristide promised new elections within six months. He refused demands from the opposition that he step down immediately.

The 2004 rebellion

Anti-Aristide protests in January 2004 led to violent clashes in Port-au-Prince, causing several deaths. In February, a revolt broke out in the city of Gonaïves, which was soon under rebel control. The rebellion then began to spread, and Cap-Haïtien, Haiti's second-largest city, was captured. A mediation team of diplomats presented a plan to reduce Aristide's power while allowing him to remain in office until the end of his constitutional term. Although Aristide accepted the plan, it was rejected by the opposition. On February 29, 2004, with rebel contingents marching towards Port-au-Prince, Aristide departed from Haiti. Aristide insists that he was essentially kidnapped by the U.S., while the U.S. State Department maintains that he resigned from office. Aristide and his wife left Haiti on an American airplane, escorted by American diplomats and military personnel, and were flown directly to Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, where he stayed for the following two weeks, before seeking asylum in a less remote location. Investigators discovered extensive embezzlement, corruption, and money laundering by Aristide. Aristide had stolen tens of millions dollars from the country. However, none of the allegations about Aristide’s involvement in embezzlement, corruption, or money laundering schemes could be proven, and the much publicized court case brought against Aristide was quietly shelved. Aristide's lawyer, Ira Kurzban, said, "No wrongdoing, of any kind, has been found. Although scores of Haitians have been working day and night to find the money that the President supposedly took, it's now obvious, there is none." The Haitian government suspended the suit against Aristide on Jun. 30, 2006 to prevent it from being thrown out for want of prosecution. The government was taken over by supreme court chief Boniface Alexandre. Many political organizations and writers, as well as Aristide himself, have suggested that the rebellion was in fact a foreign controlled coup d'état. Caricom, which had been backing the peace deal, accused the United States, France, and the International community of failing in Haiti because they allegedly allowed a controversially elected leader to be violently forced out of office. The international community stated that the crisis was of Aristide's making and that he was not acting in the best interests of his country. They have argued that his removal was necessary for future stability in the island nation. Boniface Alexandre petitioned the United Nations Security Council for the intervention of an international peacekeeping force. The Security Council passed a resolution the same day "[t]aking note of the resignation of Jean-Bertrand Aristide as President of Haiti and the swearing-in of President Boniface Alexandre as the acting President of Haiti in accordance with the Constitution of Haiti" and authorized such a mission.[37]As a vanguard of the official U.N. force, a force of about 1,000 U.S. Marines arrived in Haïti within the day, and Canadian and French troops arrived the next morning; the United Nations indicated it would send a team to assess the situation within days. On June 1, 2004, the peacekeeping mission was passed to MINUSTAH and comprised a 7,000 strength force led by Brazil and backed byArgentina, Chile, Jordan, Morocco, Nepal, Peru, Philippines, Spain, Sri Lanka, and Uruguay. Brazilian forces led the United Nations peacekeeping troops in Haiti composed of United States, France, Canada, and Chile deployments. These peacekeeping troops were a part of the ongoing MINUSTAH operation. In November, 2004, the University of Miami School of Law carried out a Human Rights Investigation in Haiti and documented serious human rights abuses. It stated that "summary executions are a police tactic."[39] It also suggested a "disturbing pattern." On October 15, 2005, Brazil called for more troops to be sent due to the worsening situation in the country.After Aristide's overthrow, the violence in Haiti continued, despite the presence of peacekeepers. Clashes between police and Fanmi Lavalas supporters were common, and peacekeeping forces were accused of conducting a massacre against the residents of Cité Soleil in July 2005. Several of the protests resulted in violence and deaths.

The Préval era

In the midst of the ongoing controversy and violence, however, the interim government planned legislative and executive elections. After being postponed several times, these were held in February 2006. The elections were won by René Préval, who had a strong following among the poor, with 51% of the votes. Préval took office in May 2006 and is the current president of Haiti. In the spring of 2008, Haitians demonstrated against rising food prices. In some instances, the few main roads on the island were blocked with burning tires and the airport at Port au Prince was closed.[44] Protests and demonstrations by Fanmi Lavalas continued in 2009. On January 12, 2010, Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake, magnitude 7.0 with a death toll in the tens of thousands (some reports suggest it may be over 100,000). Millions are homeless; thousands of people are starving and aid needed. Later that week an aftershock of around 6.0 magnitude hit Port-Au-Prince. The earthquake has caused massive devastation with most buildings crumbled, including Haiti's presidential palace. People have now been found dead on every corner of every street in Port-Au-Prince, causing them to resort to mass graves. Most bodies are unidentified and no pictures where taken, so no one will know what has happened to their loved ones and proper burials were not performed. The spread of disease is a major threat to the people of Haiti, many survivors have been treated by the emergency makeshift hospitals, but the amount of people who have been injured is overwhelming. Doctors are saving lives just to have the people die of gangrene disease, malnutrition, and untreatable injuries.[46] There were aftershocks, including one measuring 5.9. The capital city Port au Prince was effectively leveled.

Already devastated by the earthquake of 12/01/2010, the state of Haiti is again hit by a natural disaster: the hurricane "Tomas" that hit the 06 november 2010 and added pain to pain. It seems that this very unfortunate nation can not find peace and tranquility.


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