Haiti – a brief history
Haiti has been blessed with fleeting moments of glory. From its discovery by Christopher Columbus in 1492, it was one of the first islands in the New World to be settled by the Spanish. Between 1492 and 1550, the indigenous culture of the Taino Indians disappeared, and the island became a lawless pocket in the Spanish empire, populated by all manner of castaways, pirates, buccaneers and fortune seekers. When the French used the buccaneers as mercenaries in a war against the Spanish, Spain was forced to sign the Treaty of Ryswick in favor of the French. The treaty gave the western third of the island to the French, and that third became Saint Dominigue. Before long, the colony became on the richest in the world—known as “Jewel of the Antilles.”
Revolution came to the island in 1789. With a half-million slaves, twenty thousand free blacks and nearly 40,000 white planters, slave drivers and landholders, the island was a hot bed for insurrection. Thirteen years of war saw a thousand plantations razed to the ground. English, Spanish and French armies fought for control of the colony. The superpowers of the time militarized the slaves, and as all on the island fought, destroyed, plotted and played, mayhem emerged.
The last of the European troops were defeated in 1804, and the rebel generals and their coalition of slaves declared independence. The colony became the second in the western hemisphere to do so.
From the highs of an early 18th century kingdom ruled by Henri Christophe, which thrived in the north, to the lows of the sacks of Port-au-Prince by rebels backed by western businessmen—by the time the U.S. Marines started a nineteen year occupation of the country, the former colony was one of the poorest nations on earth.