Haiti became the world’s first black-led republic and the first independent Caribbean state when it threw off French colonial control and slavery in a series of wars in the early 19th century.
However, decades of poverty, environmental degradation, violence, instability and dictatorship have left it as the poorest nation in the Americas.
A mostly mountainous country with a tropical climate, Haiti’s location, history and culture – epitomised by voodoo – once made it a potential tourist hot spot, but instability and violence, especially since the 1980s, have severely dented that prospect.
Natural disaster struck with full force early in 2010, when the capital Port-au-Prince was hit by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake – the country’s worst in 200 years. Tens of thousands of people were killed and much of the capital and its wider area devastated, prompting a major international aid effort.
Haiti, officially the Republic of Haiti, is a Caribbean country. It occupies the western, smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago, which it shares with the Dominican Republic.
Ayiti (land of high mountains) was the indigenous Taíno or Amerindian name for the island. The country’s highest point is Pic la Selle, at 2,680 metres.
The total area of Haiti is 27,750 square kilometres and its capital is Port-au-Prince.
The flag of Haiti consists of two horizontal bars, blue over red, defaced by a white panel bearing the Haitian coat of arms.
The coat of arms depicts a trophy of weapons ready to defend freedom and a royal palm for independence. The palm is topped by the Cap of Liberty.
The motto is on a white scroll reading L’Union Fait La Force (“Unity Makes Strength.”)
During the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics it was discovered that Haiti and Liechtenstein were using the same flag. This led to the addition of a crown to the design of the flag of Liechtenstein.
La Dessalinienne (The Dessalines Song) is the national anthem of Haiti, honoring Jean-Jacques Dessalines. It was written by Justin Lhérisson and composed by Nicolas Geffrard and adopted in 1904.
Dessalines was a leader of the Haitian Revolution and the first ruler of an independent Haiti under the 1801 constitution. Initially regarded as Governor-General, Dessalines later named himself Emperor Jacques I of Haiti (1804–1806). He is regarded as a founding father of Haiti.
Coat of Arms
The coat of arms of Haiti was originally introduced in 1807, and has appeared in its current form since 1986.
It shows 6 draped flags of the country, three on each side, which are located before a palm tree and cannons on a green lawn. On the lawn various items are found, such as a drum, a bugle, long guns, and ship anchors.
Above the palm tree, there is a Phrygian cap placed as a symbol of freedom.
The ribbon bears the motto: L’Union Fait La Force (Unity Is Strength). This should not be confused with the national motto of Haiti, which according to the Constitution of Haiti is “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.”