1. Pumpkin: Pumpkins have long played an important role in Haitian society; in 1807, Haiti’s then president, Henri Christophe, made pumpkins the cornerstone of the country’s currency, which meant that all pumpkins became the property of the state. The currency in Haiti today is called ‘Gourdes’, which means pumpkin
2. Voodoo: Voodoo is practiced today as a folk religion in Haiti – often alongside Christianity. Voodoo is a 6000-year-old religion that was recognized in 1996 on an equal footing with Christianity, Islam, etc.
3. Natural disasters: Throughout history, Haiti has been hit by a myriad of natural disasters such as hurricanes, cyclones, earthquake, torrential rains and flooding. Recent natural disasters include the 2010 earthquake (which killed at least 100,000 people) and 4 hurricanes in 2008
4. Cockfighting: Cockfighting is a traditional sport in Haiti. Roosters are fed raw meat and hot peppers soaked in rum to make them more aggressive and hardy. The winner of a single fight can bring in more than an average monthly income (around 67 dollars)
5. Population: The majority of Haiti’s current population is descended from slaves transported to the country from Africa in the past
Fact: Citadelle Laferrière is a huge mountaintop fortress in northern Haiti
6. Port-au-Prince: The name of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, means ‘Prince’s Port’ and comes from a French ship that was anchored in the city’s harbor. Port-au-Prince was founded in 1749 and today is home to around 950,000 inhabitants
7. Dictators: Haiti has long been a country characterized by dictatorship, unrest and poverty. Between 1804 and 1915, Haiti had more than 70 dictators!
8. Slave rebellion: In 1801, former slave Toussaint L’Ouverture (1743-1803) led nearly 500,000 Haitian slaves in the fight against the French colonialists. Their victory was the first successful slave rebellion and helped Haiti establish itself as the world’s first black republic
9. Flag: In 1803, Haiti’s first ruler, Jean-Jacques Dessalines (1758-1806), created the nation’s flag by ripping the white stripe from the French flag (which consists of three blue, white and red stripes) while proclaiming that he would “rip all white people out of the nation”. The remaining blue and red stripes represented the country’s black and mulatto population. Haiti’s coat of arms is found in the center of the flag
10. Mulatter: In the 18th century, Haitians developed extensive tables of genetic descent that divided the mulattos into hundreds of classifications of black and white. These ranged from the ‘Sacatra’, which was 7/8 black to several varieties of ‘Sangmeles’, which are only 1/16 black. Technically, a mulatto is a person who is half black and half white – but the term is used more flexibly today
The presidential palace in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake