Columbus claimed Hispaniola in 1492, and it later became the major launching base for the Spanish conquest of the Caribbean, as well as the American mainland.
Subsequently, the Spanish conquistadors introduced disease and slavery, and the indigenous Arawak peoples were destroyed.
In the 17th Century, with the Spanish in control, the French established a colony on the island. The Spanish later ceded the western third of Hispaniola in 1697, which in 1804 became known as Haiti, at the conclusion of the Haitian Slave Revolt.
Since then, Haiti has been ruled by a seemingly endless line of dictators; who imposed absolute obedience to their authority. That political turmoil has continually divided Haiti into a very small and wealthy elite, and a large underclass of people with little or no economic or political power.
At the beginning of the 21st century, Haiti did struggle to establish the legitimacy of its government and to improve the economic and social conditions of its people.
In 2004, once again, the people revolted, as they continued to search for freedom and equality - long absent in their beloved country of Haiti.
On Tuesday, January 12, 2010, a massive earthquake struck Haiti. It had a catastrophic magnitude of 9.0, and it devastated many areas of the country.
An estimated three million people were affected by the quake, and the Haitian government reported that an estimated 316,000 people had died, 300,000 had been injured and 1,000,000 were made homeless.
The government of Haiti also estimated that 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged.
The earthquake caused major damage in Port-au-Prince, Jacmel and other settlements in the region. Many notable landmark buildings were significantly damaged or destroyed, including the Presidential Palace.
We hope for the best for Haiti as it struggles to recover. However, if you plan to travel to Haiti, you should be aware of uncertain security situations.
The risk of crime is high, including armed robberies, burglaries, kidnapping, murder and attacks on vehicles. You should also exercise extreme caution at all times of the day and avoid travel after dark.
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This page was last modified on September 29, 2015.