OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Haiti
FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Republic
OFFICIAL LANGUAGES: French, Creole
AREA: 27,750 square kilometers
Since its independence in 1804, Haiti has had numerous governments. In the early 1900s, the country was disorganized and bankrupt. It is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and the government has been plagued with political violence. To make things worse, Haiti was hit by a massive earthquake in January 2010. Much of the country was destroyed and it still has not recovered. Although Haitians would like their country to become democratic, it is still a republic with a president elected every five years. Many people boycott elections because of they mistrust the government.
Festive occasions such as baptismal parties, first communions, and marriages are celebrated by Haitians with special cakes and drinks. But the most important celebration is Carnival, a festival that takes place every year in February just before Ash Wednesday. The celebration lasts multiple days and people celebrate freely in the streets. The parades, elaborate floats, costumes, music and dance, and the colors are a reflection of Haiti’s rich and beautiful culture.
People and Culture
Haiti has no official religion, but more than half of people are Roman Catholic. Most Haitian Roman Catholics also practice Voodoo, a religion whose gods (lwa) are from West African religions.
The people are very family-oriented. Many extended families live together in the same houses and may also include adopted children or young relatives. Grandparents also often live with their children and grandchildren.
Haiti has a rich tradition of music and dance. Haitians love bright colors and their style of painting became very popular in the 1940s.
Because of the widespread poverty, most Haitians do not have access to the types of organized sports and activities available in other countries. However, the national sport of Haiti is football (soccer) and huge crowds will come out to cheer at games. Children can be seen playing football all over Haiti’s city streets and rural roads. For those who can afford bicycles, cycling is popular. Swimming is more accessible to ordinary Haitians.
The Haitian diet is made up of the local vegetables and fruits, along with some spicy meat dishes. Haitians generally eat two meals a day. They have a small breakfast of coffee and bread, juice, or an egg. Then in the afternoon, they have a large meal dominated by a carbohydrate source such as manioc, sweet potatoes, or rice. The afternoon meal always includes beans or a bean sauce, and there is usually a small amount of poultry, fish or goat.
Fruits are prized as between-meal snacks. Generally, people do not have family meals together, and people tend to eat wherever they are comfortable.