Haiti is located in the Caribbean, sharing the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. It is just 750 miles southeast of Miami, less than a two-hour plane ride from there.
Haiti was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492 and endured Spanish and French domination before the many slaves brought from Africa revolted. Haiti became the first black republic when the slaves gained independence on January 1, 1804. The common language spoken in Haiti, Creole, reflects this history. Haitian Creole mixes French with Spanish, African dialects, English, and even some other languages.
A typical day in Haiti is hot, sunny, and full of life! People start the day early, are always in community, and are surrounded by the sounds of traffic, animals, and neighbors chatting and singing.
The mountainous country is only about the size of Maryland, but is home to more than 11 million people. Sixty percent of Haitians live in urban areas, including the 2.5 million who live in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Life expectancy is currently around 65 years. Only about 5% of the general population is older than 65.
There is an elite class in Haiti, but about 60% of Haitians live below the poverty line. Many of those live in abject poverty, causing Haiti to maintain its status as the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Over 40% of Haitians are unemployed. The majority of the employed work as service workers, physical laborers, or sustenance farmers. Many of the employed still struggle financially.
The widespread poverty in Haiti leaves many continually vulnerable to the impact of political discontent, economic shifts, and natural disasters. In 2019, political protests crippled the nation for months, inhibiting much needed employment as the economy suffered from extensive inflation and the devaluation of their currency (the gourde). In 2015, Hurricane Matthew decimated parts of western Haiti. The catastrophic earthquake of 2010 greatly affected Haiti, taking the lives of about 300,000 people and displacing more than a million.
Haiti is 55% Roman Catholic, 30% Protestant, and (as they say in Haiti) 100% Voodoo. Voodoo is not only a religion in Haiti, it is a mentality. It has been said that it takes nine years of constant discipleship for a Haitian Christian to be freed from the superstitious web of voodoo.
For more information on Haiti, visit the CIA World Factbook at: