To talk about Haiti today is to talk about a country with problems dragging it down, in circumstances that make life difficult compared with other countries. What characterizes its present must be seen in the context of its past.
Haiti was proclaimed the world’s first black republic on January 1, 1804, at the end of a war of independence, with the victory of former slaves over French troops. As a new country it assumed the name “Ayiti,” originally meaning “Land of the High Mountains,” a land inhabited by the Taïnos or Arawak, a semi-settled people.
The great earthquake of 2010, with an estimated magnitude between 7.0 and 7.2 on the Richter scale, was a tragic event that marks the recent sad history of Haiti. The epicenter was located some 20 kilometers from the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince. The damage was enormous: 400,000 buildings destroyed or damaged, including the National Palace, the official residence of the president, Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Parliament building. But it is mainly the human damage that is devastating: more than 280,000 dead, 300,000 injured and 1.3 million homeless.