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Haiti Culture

An Introduction to the Vibrant Culture and Traditions of Haiti

The culture and traditions of Haiti are a mix of French and Spanish cultures. This article provides more information about the same.
Maya Pillai
Last Updated: Mar 8, 2018
Haiti is located in the Western Hemisphere and is surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, the Golfe De la Gonave, and the Atlantic Ocean. It is believed that the first known settlers were the Ciboneys, who occupied the country in 450 AD. Later, in 900 AD, Arawak Indians settled in the large villages of Haiti and called this nation Ayiti, meaning the 'Land of Mountains'.
On December 5, 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered this nation during his voyage. The Spaniards who came later killed the Arawaks, and for many years, this island had no human population. Towards the mid-17th century, the French colonized Haiti, and during the reign of France, it was one of the most popular islands of the Western Hemisphere. The main source of wealth came from coffee, cocoa, sugarcane, and cotton. The French brought the Afrikaans to work as slaves on these plantations.
In 1791, the slaves revolted against the French rule and attained freedom in 1804. Haiti became the first independent black nation and was headed by General Jean-Jacques Dessalines. In 1884, it was divided into Haiti and the Dominican Republic. During World War II, it was occupied by the Americans.
Haitian Culture and Traditions
The culture of Haiti is the fusion of the African, West Indian, and French cultures. The national language of this country is 'Creole', and this language is widely used in arts, literature, drama, music, and dance. The citizens are known as Haitians, and they are very creative and artistic people. Works of art from Haiti are recognized worldwide because of their unique features and colorful portrayal.
Music is a part of Haitian culture and is influenced by French, Spanish, and American music. The drum is the most important musical instrument. The famous and world-renowned music is known as the Haitian Compas or Kompa Direk. Compas is a Spanish word meaning 'rhythm' or 'tones'. This country did not have any recorded music until the year 1937. A Haitian Jazz musician Guignard, first recorded the music in 1937. The music of this country is very unique and is taken from the Vodou ceremony and traditions. It involves medium-to-fast tempo beats accompanied by electric guitars, saxophones, synthesizers, and a horn. Some of the popular music forms are Rara, Mizik Rasin, Mini-Jazz, Zouk, and Haitian Rap.
The festivities begin in the month of February and are known as the Carnival or Kanaval in Creole. At the time of festivities, people get away from their daily routine and are on the streets, dancing and singing. There are parade floats accompanied by music during the festival season. A musical festival known as Rara is celebrated before Easter with great pomp and show.
The religion practiced by the Haitians is Christianity, and most of the natives are Roman Catholics. An ancient religion known as Vodou is still practiced in many parts of the nation. This religion has many traditions and customs that are a fusion of Central and Western Africa, Europe, and Taino religions.
The information about Haitian culture would be incomplete without mentioning the cuisine. Like its arts and religion, the cuisine of this nation is also widely influenced by the cuisines of Africa, Taino, and Europe. The staple food is rice and beans. The other dishes are Griyo, i.e. fried pork, Mayi moulen, i.e. cornmeal, Sòs pwa, i.e. bean sauce, Sos poul, i.e. chicken in sauce, and Poisson, i.e. fish. The dessert consists of sweetened milk and rice, and banana fried in butter.
The arts and crafts made here are very much in demand in the international market. The art works of Haitian artists are colorful and world famous. Some of the craft works include needlework, embroidery, leather goods, papier-mache, pottery, sequin flag-making, and metal crafts. Haiti is, indeed, a magic land that is rich in culture.
Christopher Columbus
Haiti map
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