|Background: One of the poorest countries in the Western
Hemisphere, Haiti has been plagued by political violence for most of its
history. Over three decades of dictatorship followed by military rule
ended in 1990 when Jean-Bertrand ARISTIDE was elected president. Most of
his term was usurped by a military takeover, but he was able to return to
office in 1994 and oversee the installation of a close associate to the
presidency in 1996. ARISTIDE won a second term as president in 2000, and
took office early the following year.
Government type: elected government
Currency: 1 gourde (G) = 100 centimes
Geography of Haiti
Location: Caribbean, western one-third of the island of Hispaniola, between the
Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, west of the Dominican Republic
People of Haiti
Although Haiti averages about 250 people per square kilometer (650 per sq. mi.). Its population is concentrated most heavily in urban areas, coastal plains, and valleys. About 95% of Haitians are of African descent. The rest of the population is mostly of mixed Caucasian-African ancestry. A few are of European or Levantine heritage. About two-thirds of the population live in rural areas.
French is one of two official languages, but it is spoken by only about 10% of the people. All Haitians speak Creole, the country's other official language. English is increasingly spoken among the young and in the business sector.
The state religion is Roman Catholicism, which most of the population professes. Some Haitians have converted to Protestantism through the work of missionaries active throughout the country. Much of the population also practices voudou (voodoo) traditions. Haitians tend to see no conflict in these African-rooted beliefs coexisting with Christian faiths.
Although public education is free, private and parochial schools provide around 88% of educational programs offered, and less than 65% of those eligible for primary education are actually enrolled. At the secondary level, the figure drops to 15%. Only 63% of those enrolled will complete primary school. Though Haitians place a high value on education, few can afford to send their children to secondary school. Remittances sent by Haitians living abroad are important in paying educational costs.
Largescale emigration, principally to the U.S.--but also to Canada, the Dominican Republic, The Bahamas and other Caribbean neighbors, and France--has created what Haitians refer to as the Tenth Department or the Diaspora. About one of every seven Haitians live abroad.
Population: 765,283 (July 2005 est.)
SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State
Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Haiti > Map Economy History