The Republic of Haiti is located on the western part of the island of Hispaniola, sharing a border with the Dominican Republic.The country is slightly smaller than the State of Maryland.The terrain includes rugged mountains, rain forests, palm tree lined beaches, small coastal plains and river valleys. There are several islands, including the famous island of Tortugas (Ile de la Torture), located off the coast of northern Haiti.French settlement of Hispaniola began in 1625 and was formally claimed in 1664. The fertile island became the richest colony in the Western Hemisphere, exporting sugar and coffee.
In 1790, free blacks and slaves revolted together in the only successful slave uprising in world history. The nation declared its independence in 1804 as the first black-led republic. The free black nation chose to keep the original Taíno-Arawak name “Ayiti,” meaning “mountainous land.”Haiti has struggled with political instability for most of its history. On top of political troubles, Haiti’s history includes terrible earthquakes, hurricanes, and fires.
On January 12, 2010, Haiti endured the most powerful earthquake in the region in over 200 years. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the country’s capital, including the Presidential Palace, Parliament, and the Cathedral, killing more than 300,000 people and leaving more than 1.3 million homeless. Haiti suffered more than $8 billion in loss, just over 120% of the country’s GDP the year before. This disaster required massive international assistance for recovery. (Lisa Gunter)
The people in the north have a Creole accent and are influenced by their Dominican Republic neighbors. The population is 95% black and 5% white. Haitian parents are strict, but are very affectionate. The extended family often lives with the family in tight quarters. Haitians attend folk dances and voodoo ceremonies. Half the population practices voodoo, which is a mixture of African slave traditions and Catholic beliefs. Carnival and New Year's Day are the biggest holidays for most Haitians.
The Haitian diet is made up of the local vegetables and fruits, along with some spicy meat dishes.
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 bitter manioc 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.