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Haiti Lesson for Kids: History & Facts

Instructor: Lindsey Hays

Lindsey has taught Elementary Education, Spanish immersion, and ESL. She has a MS in Elementary Education with a BA in Spanish.

Haiti is an island nation with a rich cultural heritage. Yet it has seen its share of invasions, natural disasters and environmental destruction, helping to make it the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. In this lesson, we'll learn about the land, culture, and history of Haiti.

An Island Nation

Think about the most beautiful beach you imagine. You can feel the breeze on your face and the sand between your toes. Inland, there is mountainous terrain. There is an island country in the Caribbean with these features called Haiti.

Haiti shares an island with the Dominican Republic called Hispaniola. This island is located in the Caribbean, Southeast of Florida.

Map of the Caribbean islands, including Hispanola, which has Haiti and the Dominican Republic
Map of the Caribbean with Haiti & DR

The weather in Haiti is hot with a rainy season (from June-October) and a dry season. Some areas can be very dry, since the mountains block the winds. Haiti sometimes experiences hurricanes.

The main exports are coffee, copper, and gold, though their land has been difficult to cultivate due to environmental destruction.

The capital of Haiti, and the city with the most people, is Port-au-Prince.

Culture

The population in Haiti is 95% black and 5% mixed or white. The people are very family-oriented. Many extended families live together in the same houses.

Voodoo is a large part of Haitian culture, stemming back to African slavery. When Haitians practice voodoo, they invite ''spirits'' into their lives and even make animal sacrifices to them. The most popular religion is Roman Catholicism, but many Haitian Catholics also practice voodoo.

People in Haiti eat spicy meats and harvest fruits and vegetables from the island. They have lots of tasty fruit that only grows in tropical places, like passionfruit, coconuts, avocados, and bananas.

Children eating traditional spicy meat in Haiti.
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The main languages in Haiti are French and Creole. Creole is a language that combines French, Spanish, Portuguese, the native Taino language, and other West African languages.

History

You've probably heard about Christopher Columbus - you know, the man who 'discovered' America in 1492 (even though people had already discovered this land years ago). Well, it was actually this island, Hispanola, upon which Columbus first landed. As you might guess, after this date, things were never the same for the Taino people, those who were living there at the time. The Spanish took over the land, claiming it as their own.

Later in the 1600s, the French took over. They imported African slaves and boosted production of crops. The ruling class grew to be very wealthy.

In 1804, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, a former slave, led a revolt against the French, and Haiti gained its independence and became a separate nation.

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