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News from Haiti Vol. 2 About the Republic of Haiti

 General Overview part 2

Contributed to by Japanese Embassy of Haiti, Yoshiaki HATTA

(Indented coastline of southern Haiti)

In the previous volume, I gave a condensed introduction of Haiti’s past and present. In this volume, in order to better understand Haiti I will go into more depth about current social conditions and the Haitian lifestyle.  

◆Meaning Behind the Name “Haiti”
First off, the country name “Haiti” is pronounced “hi-chi” in Japanese, but in French, “Haïti” is pronounced “eye-ti” (there is no “h” sound in French). In Créole, it is spelled Ayiti and pronounced almost the same as in French, with a slight difference in tone and intonation. The name Haiti (Ayiti) comes from the Taino indigenous people, who originally named the island Ayiti meaning “land of high peaks”. Haiti re-named it after gaining independence from its French colonizers in 1804, and just like its name it is rich in rugged, mountainous landscapes.

◆The only French-speaking Country in the Region
In Haiti, Créole (French) or kreyòl (Creole), is a widely spoken language, but was not recognized as one of the official languages until much later in its history. Creole is a mixture of the indigenous Taino languages, African languages, French, Spanish, and English combined to make a language unique to Haiti.

◆Climate and Nature

Taking a look at Haiti’s weather, it is a tropical maritime climate with temperatures at a peak in the daytime under the sun, and hot days and nights during July and August. During the other months and the rainy season, the evenings become cooler after the sun has set, and it can even feel cold in the early morning. There is not much of a temperature difference on the lowlands, but the temperatures decrease in higher elevated areas. If you go from Port-au-Prince and go upwards towards the neighboring upper-class city of Pétion-Ville, the elevation is already over 400 meters, and the temperature is two degrees lower. Going up further to the wealthy residential area of Morne-Calvaire, the temperature drops even further. Keep on going south towards Furcy and the Selle mountain range, and you will come across Mt. Kenscoff at the 1,500 meter level, a cooler area that is the home to many vacation homes. This area has also become the main fresh fruit and vegetable producer and supplier to the metropolitan area, with quality improving every year, along with rumors that coffee farms are the next challenge.

Additionally, the coastline is full of beautiful beaches; however, because the coastline is indented not all of the shores are picturesque white sand beaches that are typical of Caribbean islands. Looking out from the airplane window, the coastline seems to have no direct access, leaving the area largely untouched. It would seem to be a potential source for tourism if care is taken not to harm the environment.

(Kenscoff Mountain Range)

◆Transportation in Haiti
 Haiti is split into ten departments, with the capital Port-au-Prince at the center of the sideways horseshoe-shaped nation, and La Gonave bay near the north. There is a fairly well-paved road connecting the major cities of the north, central, and southern areas of Haiti, but as of yet no paid expressways connecting the cities. Furthermore, there are no trains or subways in either the rural areas or major cities. For those who do not have their own car, they may rely either on the “tap-tap", which is a Haitian shared taxi (or bus), or a motorcycle taxi to get around. Additionally, there are large coach buses that travel between the neighboring Dominican Republic and other major cities in Haiti. The tap-taps are pick-up trucks turned into taxis, where people get on and off at the back and sit on wooden benches made with plywood. They are brightly painted with Christian sayings, lyrics to songs, motivating words from soccer players and other scenes. There are also minibus versions that travel further distances, from the city center to rural areas. Motorcycle taxis usually hold around three to five people including the driver. Motorcycles are more expensive than tap-taps, but everyone from women to kids going to school uses them (I have even seen seven people on one bike!). The majority of these bikes are Chinese brands, which do pretty well on mountain roads with three, four people on the back at once considering the size and stability of the bikes. Privately owned motorcycles and bicycles do not seem to be popular in the cities, but are quite common in provincial cities, especially with students.

(Haitian taxi: Tap-Tap)

(Overload: 3 people on a motorbike)

Political Map of Haiti
(Political Map of Haiti) Click to enlarge

◆General Architecture
Architecture and buildings depend greatly on one’s income bracket. For example, small huts in the slums are put together haphazardly with wooden poles and galvanized iron sheets, or cinder blocks stacked together with the same tin sheets as roofs. Buildings in the cities are built in a similar manner to those in southern Europe, with iron pillars and concrete flooring laid down first, then continuing on to the next floor with another layer of iron pillars. Cinder blocks are laid in after the pillars are set in place. When looking at construction sites, these buildings do not look like they are earthquake-resistant. Laying the tin sheet roofs is a perilous job, with square pieces of wood or blocks laid on top of the walls, and the roof is laid on top of a scaffold-like frame work. Many structures leave the space between roof and wall open so as to improve the flow of air through the building, and it is also common to see window frames with only lattice, but no glass in place; glass windows and metal frames are reserved for those with higher incomes. This type of construction may account for the fact that when a hurricane hits, wind goes inside through the open spaces and lifts the roof off the house, leaving walls intact but no roof. Although it may seem that these iron roofs are easy to replace, rebuilding is delayed when housing is flooded, and flooding provides a breeding ground for cholera, making the surrounding inhabitants vulnerable to disease and destruction.


(Schoolhouse in the countryside with typical tin roofing)

(A house in a farming village)

This concludes volume two on the topics of climate, transportation, general housing, and lifestyle. This volume is not enough to satisfy those who are interested in Haiti; however, next month I will focus on a different subject so please look forward to volume three.

(*All photos taken by the author)
(*This column reflects the personal views of the author and not the opinions of their employer)

Back numbers are here


-2017.7.25 Update
EVENTS "Minister of Education, Youth and Information Invitation Program"

-2017.6.21 Update
EVENTS "MoU Signing Ceremony with Toyo University"

-2017.6.15 Update
EVENTS "APIC has invited Principal of Cave Hill Campus of The University of West Indies"

-2017.6.15 Update
EVENTS "The 337th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"

-2017.5.18 Update
EVENTS "The 336th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"

-2017.5.16 Update
EVENTS "Micronesia Photo Exhibition "Tropical Light" Opening Ceremony and Reception"

-2017.5.16 Update
EVENTS "Lecture by Photographer / Writer Floyd Takeuchi"

-2017.4.24 Update
EVENTS "The Reception Party Held for the Caribbean Leadership Program"

-2017.4.21 Update
EVENTS "MoU Signing Ceremony with Tsuda Univesrity"

-2016.4.20 Update
EVENTS "The 335th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"

-2017.4.12 Update
EVENTS "The Reception Party for the Pacific Young Leaders"

-2017.3.27 Update
EVENTS "The Second the Pacific Youth Leaders program"

-2016.3.24 Update
PROJECTS "Micronesia Photo Exhibition ~“Tropical Light” -- Photographs by Floyd K. Takeuchi~"

-2016.3.16 Update
EVENTS "The 334th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"

-2017.3.15 Update
PROJECTS "APIC Short-term Internship Program"

-2016.2.16 Update
EVENTS "The 333th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"

-2017.1.23 Update
EVENTS "The 2nd Pacific Islands and West Indies Students Invitation Program"

-2016.1.19 Update
EVENTS "The 332th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"

-2017.1.10 Update
EVENTS "The 2nd Pacific Islands and West Indies Students Invitation Program"

-2016.12.15 Update
EVENTS "The 331th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"

-2016.11.17 Update
EVENTS "The 330th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"

-2016.11.14 Update
EVENTS "6 journalists from the Pacific Islands and Caribbean visited Japan"

-2016.11.8 Update
EVENTS "Environment Seminar in Caribbean"

-2016.10.31 Update
EVENTS "Micronecia Students Exchange Program"

-2016.10.25 Update
PROJECTS "Xavier High School Scholarship Students participate in Rotary October Festival"

-2016.10.20 Update
EVENTS "The 329th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"

-2016.10.6 Update
EVENTS "Micronesia Intercultural Experience Tour"

-2016.10.4 Update
EVENTS "Interview with CEO of Save the Children Japan (SCJ)"

-2016.10.4 Update
EVENTS "Sophia Internship students interview Mr. Yamamoto, President of Aon Japan Ltd."

-2016.9.21 Update
PROJECTS "The 3rd Xavier Exchange Student Attend the Entrance Ceremony"

-2016.9.15 Update
EVENTS "The 328th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"

-2016.9.8 Update
EVENTS "Thank-you Letters from Students at Shotoku Gakuen Junior and Senior High School"

-2016.8.10 Update
PROJECTS "Water Tank Support for the Isolated Islands of Micronesia"

-2016.7.28 Update
EVENTS "The 327th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"

-2016.7.19 Update
EVENTS "A Dinner in Honor of Mr. Mitsuhiko Sakamoto"

-2016.6.16 Update
EVENTS "The 326th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"

-2016.6.7 Update
EVENTS "The 8th APIC International Cooperation Discussion Gathering"

-2016.5.24 Update
EVENTS "The 325th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"

-2016.4.21 Update
EVENTS "The 324th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"

-2016.3.29 Update
PROJECTS "Xavier High School Scholarship Students Deliver Appreciation Speech at the Regular Meeting of the Rotary Club of Tokyo South"

-2016.3.17 Update
EVENTS "The 323th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"

-2016.3.3 Update
EVENTS "Pacific Islands Young Leadership Program"

-2016.3.1 Update
EVENTS "Interview with the Representative of Asian Development Bank (ADB)"

-2016.2.23 Update
EVENTS "Welcome Reception for the Pacific Islands Young Leaders"

-2016.2.18 Update
EVENTS "The 322th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"

-2016.2.2 Update
EVENTS "Pacific and West Indies Student’s Presentation & Farewell Party"

-2016.1.21 Update
EVENTS "The 321th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"

-2016.1.12 Update
EVENTS "Kamakura tour for the “Pacific Islands and West Indies Students Invitation Program”"

-2014.12.15 Update
Website renewal

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