officially Republic Of Haiti, Haitian Creole Repiblik Dayti, French République D'haïti, island country of the West Indies, the only independent French-speaking republic in the Americas, occupying the western third of the island of Hispaniola and several nearby small islands. It is situated about 600 miles (970 km) southeast of Florida in the Atlantic Ocean and has a total land area of 10,579 square miles (27,400 square km). The capital is Port-au-Prince. The country comprises two peninsulas separated by the Gulf of Gonaïves. Haiti is bordered on the north by the Atlantic Ocean, on the east by the Dominican Republic, and on the south and west by the Caribbean Sea. The population in 1990 was estimated to be 5,590,000.
Haiti is a mountainous country; about two-fifths of the total land area is above 1,600 feet (490 m) in elevation. The principal mountain system, the Massif du Nord (average elevation 4,000 feet [1,200 m]), extends eastward into the Dominican Republic, where it is called the Cordillera Central. Mount La Selle in the southeast is Haiti's highest point (8,773 feet [2,674 m]). The mountain ranges alternate with fertile but heavily overpopulated lowlands, the largest (150 square miles [390 square km]) b
Haitian Creole and French are the official languages. Haiti's infant mortality rate is among the highest in the Americas, and life expectancy, at 43 years for males and 47 years for females, is by far the lowest in the Caribbean region. Despite an economic decline, continued internal discord, and poor relations with the Dominican Republic, Duvalier ruled as dictator until his death in 1971. Daily maximum temperatures at Port-au-Prince range between averages of 94 F (34 C) in July and 87 F (31 C) in January. Arable land is in short supply (about one-quarter of the rural populace have no land), and rice, corn (maize), and sweet potatoes, the chief staples, are double-cropped. The gross national product (GNP) is among the lowest in the world. The country lies in the rain shadow of the mountains of the Dominican Republic, which block the westward movement of moisture-laden trade winds into Haiti. Production of most foodstuffs falls short of domestic demand. Because of a lack of teachers and adequate facilities, however, a large majority of children cannot attend primary school. The estimated annual rate of population growth is one of the greatest in the Caribbean despite a high emigration rate. From the late 1950s to 1986, all political power rested with the Duvalier family. Whites (mostly British, American, and French) are a much smaller minority. ------------------------------------------------------------------------Bibliography. Only about half the total population age 15 and over is literate.