National Geographic : 1920 Dec
HAITI, THE HOME OF TWIN REPUBLICS BY SIR HARRY JOHNSTON THE best general name for the sec ond largest of the Greater Antilles is that which Columbus gave to it after its discovery in 1492-Hispaniola. He christened his first settlement there "San [or Santo] Domingo" because it was discovered on a Sunday. As to a great extent the Spanish colo nization of the island proceeded from this fortified town, now the capital of the Dominican Republic, "San Domingo" to a great extent superseded Hispaniola (Espaiiola) as the name of the whole island. The French pirates and bucca neers (Boucaniers, or the people who visited the island to kill the wild cattle and dry the strips of beef-boucan-in the sun) generally called the island "Saint Domingue." The aborigines seem to have lingered longest in existence in the northwestern parts of Hispaniola, and the name which they gave to their country, or to one of its districts, was Haiti. Eventually the French pirates were succeeded by a regular French colonial administration in the reign of Louis XIV, and an arrangement was come to with Spain by which the western third of His paniola became a French colony, the east ern two-thirds being almost forsaken, owing to the superior attractions to the Spaniard of his vast empire in Central and South America. THE ISLAND IS DIVIDED INTO TWO INDE PENDENT STATES The French continued to use the name Domingue down to the close of the eigh teenth century; but when the negro revolt became victorious in 1804 the Arawak name of Haiti was revived and applied by the French-speaking negroes to the whole of the island. Then, when the Spanish element in eastern Hispaniola revived and shook itself free of negro domination, it became,, in 1844, the Re public of Santo Domingo, or the Domin ican Republic. Now this large island of 28,249 square miles is very sharply and definitely di- vided into two States-the Republic of Haiti in the west and of Santo Domingo in the east.* Santo Domingo speaks Span ish, either the classical Castilian or a slightly corrupted dialect, and Haiti uses French as its official language, while 2,000,000 of its negro peasantry speak a creole language, which, though founded on French, has become an absolutely dis tinct tongue. It is somewhat awkward, therefore, to give the name of "Haiti" or of "San Domingo" to the whole island. Hispaniola would be preferable. It is highly improbable that the whole of Hispaniola ever will be under one cen tral government. Santo Domingo will become a yellow or even a white State. Haiti will always be a land of the blacks. A LAND OF MANY MOUNTAINS AND WONDERFUL SCENERY The scenery of Haiti-and indeed of Hispaniola generally-when this island becomes better known, will take a very high rank among the beautiful and de lectable regions of the world. The cli mate, though hot, is healthful, and for six months of the year, at least, delightful; while everywhere above 2,000 feet in alti tude it is ideally temperate all the year round. Haiti is extraordinarily mountainous, though its ranges or peaks do not reach to the altitudes attained by two or three points in Santo Domingo, where the high est peak-Loma de la Tina-possibly ex ceeds Io,o00 feet in altitude. The highest point as yet measured within the limits of Haiti is about 8,920 feet (the Saddle Mountains, or Mont de la Selle). The splendid range of the Cibao Moun tains (which begins in the northwest of Haiti) extends from northeast to south west and is really the spine of the island; but the great altitudes of this range are reached within Dominican limits in the * See also in THE GEOGRAPHIC, "Haiti: A De generating Island," by Rear Admiral Colby M. Chester, U. S. N ., March, 1908, and "Wards of the United States," August, 1916.