A Brief History of Haiti

1492: On December 6th 1492 Christopher Columbus first laid eyes on the pristine shores of this island, first named Hispaniola. Lush with fruits and towering mahogany trees, Haiti became known as “the pearl of the Caribbean”. What was France’s richest colonies has today become one of the world’s poorest nations, hindered by dictatorships, depleted natural resources, and overwhelming spiritual darkness.

1791: A slave rebellion is launched, leading to a 13 year war liberation against colonists and Napoleon’s army.

1804: Haiti’s ecology has been significantly damaged since it’s independence in 1804. Only 7% of the country’s forests remain. Most of the trees have been cut down for fire wood and cooking. Some wood was sold to other countries for income. Massive soil erosion has occurred due to the deforestation. Leaving the soil in Haiti depleted of vital minerals. Most of the fresh water is also polluted and parts of the coastal areas are polluted and completely fished out. The water throughout Haiti is non- potable.

1838: France recognizes Haiti’s independence in exchange for financial indemnity of 150 million francs. Most nations including the US shunned Haiti for almost 40 years. Over the next few decades Haiti is forced to take out loans of 70 million Francs to repay the indemnity and gain international recognition.

1915: President Woodrow Wilson orders the US marines to occupy Haiti and establish control over customs houses and port authorities. The Haitian National Guard is created by the occupying Americans. Marines force peasants into labor building roads. Resistance grows until marines assassinate the leadership.

1957: After several attempts to move forward democratically ultimately fail, military controlled elections lead to victory for Dr. Francois Duvalier, in 1964 declares himself President-for-life. The corrupt dictatorship of Devalier marks one of the saddest chapters in Haitian history with thousands killed or exiled.

1971: “Papa-Doc” Devalier dies in office after naming his 19 year old son Jean-Claude “Baby-Doc” as his successor. Baby-Doc proves more ruthless than his father. Democratic elections finally take place in 1990. Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide, parish priest, well known for his support of the poor, is elected president with 67.5% of the popular vote.

1991: President Aristide is inaugurated on February 7th. A new government is formed promising to uproot the corruption of the past. In December the president addresses the UN General Assembly. Three days after he returns he is ousted by the corrupt military. Over 1,000 people are killed in the first days of the coup.

2004: The crisis sparked by the allegedly fraudulent election deepens amid the failure of international mediation efforts, a floundering economy and growing political violence. A few weeks after the nation celebrates its 200th anniversary in January, a rebel movement seizes control of a number of towns in an uprising that leads to the resignation of Aristide on February 29th 2004.

2008: New Generation Ministries partners with The Good Shepherd Children’s Village to care for and feed the least of these. Thousands are killed as Haiti is hit hard by a series of devastating storms and hurricanes. The UN says “the country has been overwhelmed, and calls for international help.

2010: January 12th saw one of the worst disasters in recorded history as a 7.0 earthquake hit just southwest of the capital Port-au-Prince, Haiti. An estimated 250,000 people died. It will take years for the country to recover.

Presently: Haiti is the poorest and most densely populated nation in the western hemisphere. Haiti’s population is approximately 11 million, almost entirely of African origin. Haiti is the oldest black republic in the world, with a life expectancy of 52 years. Over 80% of its citizens are unemployed. One child in five will live past the age of five. Starvation, oppression, and a dark spiritual shadow hangs over its people on a daily basis. The only real hope that these people have is the saving grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we are compelled to help.

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