Haiti’s influence on the world, a primer

[Many thanks to Michael O’Neal (Society for Caribbean Studies) for bringing this item to our attention.] Noah Augustin writes about Haiti’s influence on the world, including Cuba, Dominican Republic, and other Caribbean nations, as well as Central America, France, Greece, South America, Spain, and the African continent. Read the full article at The Haitian Times. Here are excerpts:

Whether culturally or politically, Haiti has had a great influence on many countries around the world. Here’s a look at a few of those places.

Dominican Republic

Haiti and the Dominican Republic are connected in innumerable ways, the most obvious of which is that the two nations share the island of Hispaniola. However, because of antihaitianismo, these connections are often overlooked, distorted or forgotten.

Take merengue, for example, the national music of the Dominican Republic. Some historians say it is a version of méreng, a style of Haitian music of Bantu origin, that was introduced to DR during the unification of Hispaniola. The music was modified and mixed with Dominican melodies over Spanish lyrics to form merengue. 

Another connection is the roster of notable Dominicans who are of Haitian descent, though some often hide that part of their heritage. Among those of Haitian descent are:  Politicians such as early President Ulises Heuraux and anti-Haitian dictator Rafael Trujillo had significant Haitian ancestry. Dominican athletes such as boxer Fernando Guerrero, among other famous baseball players.

Even today, an estimated 600,000 to 1,000,000 Haitians currently live in the Dominican Republic. Over the years, it has been a fairly accessible and stable  option for many Haitians seeking work, schooling, business opportunities and even leisure. Haitian vendors, for example, travel daily across the porous border to buy or sell goods.


The first Haitians in Cuba arrived during the Haitian Revolution, when whites fleeing the revolt took with them about 30,000 enslaved people. Since then, a steady flow of Haitians have landed on the crocodile-shaped island, the largest in the Caribbean, just 380 miles west of Cap-Haitien. When they arrived in eastern Cuba, the Haitians were isolated from the rest of the community due to racism and their practice of Vodou, which was perceived as witchcraft. Despite this, Haitian-Cuban culture continued to develop, birthing one of Cuba’s most important features: Tumba Francesa.

Tumba Francesa, which translates to the French Drum, is a mix of classical European dances with Afro-Carribean melodies and rhythms. Its songs are sung in a mix of Spanish and Kreyol, known as Kreyol Cubano. The dances closely ​​resemble the Spanish and French Contradanza (Contredanse). The instruments used, clearly, are Haitian in origin.  Today, there are about ​​300,000 Haitians in Cuba where Creole is the second most spoken language. Haitian-Cubans are now more accepted and their rich culture is celebrated throughout the country.

Other Caribbean Nations 

Many other Caribbean nations have both diplomatic and cultural ties with Haiti.

The Lesser Antilles, for example, are connected to Haiti through music and language:

Zouk, a popular genre of music throughout the French Antilles, has origins in Haitian konpa. When konpa groups such as Tabou Combo toured in Guadeloupe, Martinique and Saint Lucia in the 70s to 80s, local musicians adopted the genre and renamed it Zouk .  

Many forms of Antillean Creoles closely resemble Haitian Creole, sharing similar grammar, vocabulary, thus facilitating conversations.

Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Dominica and St. Marten are all home to small Haitian communities. Much larger Haitian communities exist in countries like the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos, making up ​​25% of the Bahamian population and 21% of the Turks and Caicos population. Many Haitians moved there for jobs, making them vital to those nations’ economies. 

In the Bahamas, products such as mangoes and coffee are imported mainly from Haiti.  

South America & Central America

In 1808, General Simón Bolivar started the Latin American Revolution that culminated with the liberation of all of South America from Spain. By 1815, however, Spain had the upper hand and managed to drive Bolivar out into the Caribbean. 

Haiti, a newly-freed republic led by President Alexandre Pétion, welcomed Bolivar with open arms. He provided the general with strategists, thousands of rifles, supplies and hundreds of soldiers. In turn, Pétion asked that Bolivar abolish slavery from all of Latin America.

With this economic boost, Bolivar won the war. Although he abolished slavery, Bolivar maintained heavy anti-black regulations out of fear that the former slaves would revolt and seize power; just like they had in Haiti. Nowadays, large Haitian communities all over South America exist in countries like VenezuelaPeru and Brazil.

United States

During the Haitian Revolution, one place the French sought refuge was the U.S., especially modern-day Louisiana. About 10,000 enslaved Haitians arrived in New Orleans alongside the fleeing French, carrying their cuisine and religion, Vodou. Eventually, their cooking merged with Southern cuisine, forming Creole food, and their religion adopted into Louisiana Voodoo.

A century later, as Haitians immigrated to America, communities grew on the East Coast and now parts of the Midwest, often playing a role in shaping American culture. 

American historical figures of Haitian descent are writers and activists W.E.B. Dubois and the first Black college professor, Charles L. Reason, to name a few. Musicians such as Wyclef,  Jason Derulo and  Bibi Bourelly  as well as politicians Karine Jean-PierreKarl Racine and Kwame Raoul are all Haitian-American. [. . .]

[Photo above by Oldjy Francois for The Haitian Times: Participants of the Cap-Haitien Haitian Flag Day parade walking on the Boulevard on May 18, 2022. ]

For full article, see https://haitiantimes.com/2022/05/21/haitis-influence-on-the-world-a-primer/

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