Hispaniola is a major island located in the Caribbean Sea. It was discovered along Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to the new world in 1492, and was host to the first European settlements in the New World. Prior to Columbus’ arrival to the island, it was home to the native Arawak and Carib people, who arrived around 650AD. It’s discovery by the Spanish began a longstanding colonial rule over the island which has changed possession many times throughout it’s history. In 1697, Spain ceded the Western third of the island to France, which would later be known as Haiti. French influence over this part of the island can still be seen today, while Spanish influence is noticeable in the Dominican Republic to the East. Its 29,418 square mile area makes Hispaniola the 2nd largest island in the Caribbean, only smaller than the island of Cuba. (Hispaniola, Encyclopedia Britannica) Geography of the island is very diverse. Pristine beaches, lush rainforests, the Sierra de Baoruco mountain range, and coniferous forests (although dwindling) all make up this exciting island. Both nations of the island of Hispaniola boast its own unique culture, heritage, economy, and problems facing it today.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti share many similarities and differences as sovereign nations. Columbus’ discovery of Hispaniola planted a longstanding Spanish influence over the island. Citizens of the Dominican Republic commonly speak Spanish, as it is their national language. A French colonial presence was also on the island, and in 1697, Spain formally ceded the Western third of the island to the French with the Treaty of Ryswick. (Watkins, Political and Economic History of Haiti) This would later become Haiti, where French and Haitian Creole are the national languages. The capital city of Haiti is Port-Au-Prince, and the capital of the Dominican Republic is Santo Domingo. Both economies are heavily reliant upon agriculture.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti provide very different Social, Political, and Economic profiles. “The Dominican Republic has long been viewed primarily as an exporter of sugar, coffee, and tobacco, but in recent years the service sector has overtaken agriculture as the economy's largest employer, due to growth in telecommunications, tourism, and free trade zones.” (Dominican Republic, CIA World Factbook) The economy of the Dominican Republic is heavily reliant upon the United States. Remittances from the U.S. and exports to the U.S. make up high percentage of its $98.74 billion GDP, which is the second largest economy in the Caribbean following Cuba. Additionally, the 10,219,630 person population generates a per capita GDP of $9,600. (Dominican Republic) The GINI index of the Dominican Republic is 47.2, and has been on the decline over the past three years. (GINI Index, World Bank) This decline can be explained by growing the growing wealth of the Dominican people, and the tendency for development and industrialization to create greater income inequality. Their pristine beaches and beautiful weather also drive a large tourism industry focused in the cities of Punta Cana and La Romana. Politically, the Dominican Republic enjoys a democratic republic structured similarly to the United States with Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Branches. Presidents of the Dominican Republic are elected every four years by a popular vote. The president serves as both the head of government, and the head of state. The legislative branch of the Dominican Republic is comprised of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. The judicial branch is headed by the Supreme Court of Justice. The overwhelmingly dominant religion of Dominicans is Roman Catholic. Baseball and Soccer are very popular pastimes among citizens, and many professional athletes in these sports call the Dominican Republic their home.
The story of Haitian independence began with the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804. Inspired by the French Revolution a few years earlier, the slaves who worked the plantations of wealthy white Frenchmen began a successful uprising that not only ended slavery on the island, but also removed the French colonial rule. (Sutherland, Haitian Revolution 1791-1803) Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the Americas. “Haiti is a free market economy that enjoys the advantages of low labor costs and tariff-free access to the US for many of its exports. Poverty, corruption, and poor access to education for much of the population are among Haiti's most serious disadvantages.” (Haiti, CIA World Factbook) Haiti has the 7th highest GINI score in the world, at 59.2. Although there is generally income equality in Haiti, they are still an extremely impoverished nation. A 7.0 earthquake decimated the nation in 2010, and killed an estimated 316,000 Haitians. (Earthquakes with 50,000 Deaths or More, U.S. Geological Survey) Poor infrastructure, flooding, and overcrowding of the population can be attributed to this massive loss of life. Haiti owns a $13.13 billion GDP, and it’s 9,893,934 population generates a $1,300 per capita GDP. 80% of Haitians live below the poverty line. (Haiti) Today, the Haitian government is structured as a republic, but the threat of returning to an elected dictatorship is a very real possibility. The president, Michel Martelly, handles the international politics of Haiti, while the Prime Minister, Laurent Lamothe, focuses his efforts on the operation of the government. The president serves a five-year term, and selects the prime minister who is confirmed by the National Assembly. (Haiti) From 1957 until 1986, however, Haiti was under the dictatorship of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. (Duvalier, François 'papa doc', Haiti Support Group) This dictatorship was somewhat supported by the U.S. Government, primarily because of their strict anti-communist stance. The Duvalier reign was also plagued with much violence committed against the Haitian people. “In 1959, only two years after becoming president, ‘Papa Doc’ created a paramilitary force (Tonton Macoutes) that would report only to him and would be fully empowered to use unremitting violence to maintain the new administration’s authority to summarily dispose of its enemies. This marked the birth of one of the most brutal paramilitary organizations in the hemisphere and was justified by the leader’s profound paranoia towards the threat posed by the regular armed forces. Haiti’s military began to steadily lose a great deal of authority with the consolidation of the François Duvalier regime, which it would not recover until 1986, when the pressure coming from senior military officers played a major role in the fall of Jean-Claude. A spate of coups followed, with military figures occupying the vacancy left by “Baby Doc.” (Aponte, The Tonton Macoutes: The Central Nervous System of Haiti’s Reign of Terror) The legislative branch of Haiti is structured the same as the Dominican Republic, with the Senate and House of Deputies. The Haitian court system is led by the Supreme Court of Haiti. Spiritually, 80% of Haitians are Roman Catholic, 16% Protestant, and 4% other. Additionally, an estimated 50% of the population practice voodoo.