Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Haiti and the Dominican Republic: the Divide


Two countries that share the same Island (Hispaniola), yet they are so different. Here is a recent TIME article that looks at the history, geography and politics of the two countries. It's a short article, but also an interesting synopsis.

Haiti and the Dominican Republic: A Tale of Two Countries
[...] Much of this difference is geographic. The mountains that lie across the island can cut off Haiti's rainfall. The northeast trade winds, and so the rain, blow in the Dominican Republic's favor. Haiti's semiarid climate makes cultivation more challenging. Deforestation - a major problem in Haiti, but not in its neighbor - has only exacerbated the problem. Other differences are a result of Hispaniola's long and often-violent history - even TIME called it a "forlorn, hate-filled little Caribbean island" in 1965. On the eastern part of Hispaniola, you'll probably speak Spanish; in the west, it's more likely to be French or Creole, a division that's the result of centuries of European colonization and numerous power struggles. (Not to mention the decimation of Hispaniola's indigenous Taino people - who, of course, spoke neither.)

When Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492, he named the land La Isla EspaƑola; it served as a Spanish colony and base for the empire's further conquests, though was never particularly profitable. In 1697 the Spanish formally ceded the western third of it to the French, already present and more heavily invested. The Hispaniolan outposts of both empires imported African slaves, though the latter did so to a much greater extent. The colonies - Santo Domingo and Saint-Domingue, respectively - subsequently developed vastly different demographics. According to a study by the American Library of Congress, by the end of the 18th Century there were about 40,000 white landowners, 25,000 black or interracial freedmen, and 60,000 slaves in the Spanish colony, compared with approximately 30,000 whites, 27,000 freedmen, and at least 500,000 black slaves in its French counterpart.

As revolution raged in France in the 1790s, its colonial slaves in Hispaniola revolted; in 1804, they declared independence, and Haiti, which was named after the Taino word for "land of mountains," became the world's first sovereign black republic. The Dominican Republic wasn't established until 1844, after not just European rule but also 22 years of Haitian occupation. Strife between (as well as within) the neighbors, rooted in deep class, racial, and cultural differences, was constant. Interference by foreign powers was often the norm. [...]

What a fascinating history. Read the whole thing.
     

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