Haiti’s past and how it has affected its present
Haiti is a small Caribbean nation that is located in the South America continent. The country covers a geographical expanse of about ten thousand square miles, and has a population of about nine million five hundred thousand people. Haiti is an island that boasts of high mountains in most regions. The largest city in this nation, which also doubles as the capital city is called Port-au-Prince. Initially, in the early years, the island was named la Isla Espanola meaning the Spanish island (Lehning, 165). Haiti is a French speaking country, a language it inherited from its colonial master, France. Recorded history of this Latin American nation can be dated back to the 15th century when the European navigator, Christopher Columbus visited the country in one of his voyages (McPherson, 174). Haiti was colonized by two European countries, Spain and France. Under the Spaniard rule it never realized its economic potential. It only remained as an area of strategic importance and as a gateway to the Caribbean.
During the scramble for colonies by the European nations, three nations showed great interest in the country. This nations are; Britain, France and Spain. However, as stipulated in their colonial plans, France ended up occupying Haiti in the 17th century. During the French occupation, the country flourished in the agricultural sector. France regarded Haiti to as its most important overseas state as it supplied the mother state with coffee, sugar and cotton. During the colonial period, numerous deaths were experienced especially by the natives who were not immune to the world diseases (Eric, 201).
During the colonial period, Haiti experienced immense racial segregation. The French imposed a three tiered social structure. At the top of this social structure were the white elite. This group was mainly composed of the white settlers in Haiti whose main origin was France. The elite were given a symbolic name “the grand blanks”. The group was composed of elite people who had almost full control over the political, social and economic activities in Hispaniola (Lehning 768). At the middle of the social system, there were the freed men also known as affranchise. The group was composed of slave owners and the slaves. They were also known as mullatoes. This group was relatively wealthy. Some freed men had inherited land and even owned slaves. They were better placed in the society but were inferior to the grand blancs.at the bottom lied the black slaves. Most of these slaves had been sourced from Africa during the slave trade era (Neal 298). The slaves were owned by the white elite or the freed men. They were used as a source of cheap labour in plantations and in industries. There also existed another group of white men called the petite blanks. The group considered itself politically superior to the mullatoes but was placed lower economically.
White landowners, who were politically superior to the other social groups, made legislations that were discriminative and weakened them. There were laws made to forbid the slaves and the mullatoes from taking certain professions to ensure continued supremacy of the white. Other discriminative laws forbade the two weak social groups from wearing whites’ clothing, intermarrying with the whites, carrying weapons and even attending social functions. The increased racial segregation eventually became so detailed that it was called the castle system (Alan 567).