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The native Arawak Amerindians - who inhabited the island of Hispaniola when it was discovered by Columbus in 1492 - were virtually annihilated by Spanish settlers within 25 years. In the early 17th century, the French established a presence on Hispaniola, and in 1697, Spain ceded to the French the western third of the island - Haiti. The French colony, based on forestry and sugar-related industries, became one of the wealthiest in the Caribbean, but only through the heavy importation of African slaves and considerable environmental degradation. In the late 18th century, Haiti's nearly half million slaves revolted under Toussaint L'ouverture and after a prolonged struggle, became the first black republic to declare its independence in 1804. Haiti has been plagued by political violence for most of its history since then, and it is now one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. Over three decades of dictatorship followed by military rule ended in 1990 when Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected president.
Location: Caribbean, western one-third of the island of Hispaniola, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, west of the Dominican Republic
Climate: Tropical; semiarid where mountains in east cut off trade winds
Borders: Dominican Republic 360 km
Haiti consists of two peninsulas, separated by the Golfe de la Gonāve. Gonāve Island is the largest of Haiti's offshore islands and sits in the Gulf; sheltering the capital.

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Haiti hotels, hostels and youth hostels worldwide. May 5