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is the Anglicized version of the local name, Ayiti. Ayiti is a Taino word that means
"land of high mountains," which was the name the indigenous people called
the entire island of Hispaniola.
WARNING: Diseases are rampant in
Haiti, please read this travel warning
Haiti is a fairly mountainous country in a geographic disaster zone, creating a
country that seems to have to reset every few years as economic progress is slow
and re-building is common. In addition to the economic and political struggles,
the country seems to be also searching for a common culture, despite the country's
Between the mountains, which slows transportation, the earthquakes on land destroying
the infrastructure, and the tsunamis that strike the coast after an off-shore earthquake,
Haiti's economy always seems slow to move forward as the people live a fairly
traditional way of life. This traditional life began thousands of years ago, even
before the arrival of Europeans to the island. The indigenous people that called
this island and region home lived off the lands and seas as most survived as hunters
and fisher. Even with the arrival of the Europeans little changed in this regard,
although most of the indigenous people died from European diseases or wars.
Although the European powers introduced some changes to the people and culture in
what is today Haiti, the greatest influence on the modern day culture came in the
form of slavery. The French brought in many slaves from Africa to work and today
nearly the entire population of Haiti is ethnically African. With these people came
a fairly drastic change in the culture, but not in the lifestyle. Most people continued
to work the land, however the majority of people came from numerous parts of Africa,
creating an odd culture that mixes African and French influences. Although nominally
Catholic, many people also practice aspects of voodoo, which has roots in Africa.
The Haitians' foods, language, dress, and other aspects of life also tend to
be a combination of French and African as most people speak French creole, but eat
foods that more strongly reflect that of the Caribbean and Africa.
Despite sitting in the middle of the Caribbean and sharing an island with the Dominican
Republic, Haiti is very unique in the world as it boasts the first "black republic."
Plus, the French influence stands in contrast to the British and Spanish influence
of neighboring countries, making the country even more unique.
Despite the differences from island to island and between the French and Africans,
the one consistency between these latter two groups is that the center of society
is family, friends, and socialization and this is impossible to miss in Haiti. The
people are friendly and outgoing as personal life is more important than work life.
Between the natural disasters and the preference to enjoy life, there is little
doubt why the economy is stagnant, but to the Haitians that's secondary to enjoying
life so long as they can provide for their families and friends.
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