After Columbus’s discovery of Hispaniola, the Spanish established the first permanent European settlement on the island. Just before the turn of the 18th century, Spain ceded the western part of Hispaniola—a region that later adopted the name Haiti—to France, and thus began a century of French control in Haiti. Haiti, operating under the iron-fist of slavery, was France’s most profitable colony, the “pearl of the Antilles”. During this time, large numbers of slaves were imported from western Africa, leading to a majority-slave population in Haiti. Haiti’s slave-lead revolution, beginning in the 1790’s, sought to ensure Haitian slaves’ right to freedom, a right ostensibly guaranteed to all French colonies post- French Revolution. Haiti declared independence in 1804, becoming the first republic to have led a successful slave revolt, though France did not recognize its independence until years later. Since declaring independence, Haiti has faced frequent hardship, including forced reparations to France, an American military occupation, brutal dictatorships under father and son Duvalier, widespread poverty, and plentiful natural disasters. The following sections discuss Haiti’s lakou system, an agricultural, spiritual, and cultural model which developed from Haiti’s African roots and in response to its slave history, as well as the right to housing in Haiti as derived from Haitian legal documents.
“Timeline: Haiti.” BBC News. BBC, 03 June 2012. Web. 02 May 2012. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1202857.stm