Haiti could be considered one of the least fortunate countries in the world. From being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, to being battered by several earthquakes and hurricanes, to having its president assassinated, it is no question that Haiti is in need of significant economic, political and infrastructural development. However, Haitians are mostly not to be blamed for the current state of their nation.
Haiti was the economic powerhouse of the Caribbean in the 15th century. It had the most slaves out of all the countries in the Greater and Lesser Antilles, yielding the most cash crops and the most profit for their colonizers at the time, the French. However, according to Hyeyoon Chai of abc news, when Toussaint L’ouverture led a slave revolt against the regime in 1804, Haiti would experience an extreme drop in its economy. The French accused their former slaves of committing a ‘crime’ through self-emancipation, and ordered the Haitians to pay reparations as punishment. These reparational demands put Haiti into immense debt (approximately 21 billion USD today), forcing them to rely on American and French banks for loans. Money that could have gone towards building infrastructure and setting the foundation of a brand new country was instead spent on their freedom, leaving them at an immediate economic disadvantage.
Because of natural disaster expenses and existing corruption stemming from national debt, many Haitians are desperate to leave their homeland and go to neighboring countries for a shot at a new life, as seen at the Del Rio, Texas border in September 2021. There were recorded photos of American patrol officers corralling and beating Hatian migrants with whips after they were caught trying to cross the border. The published images posed many striking similarities to when runaway slaves were herded and beaten for fleeing their plantations, an occurrence that happened often during the course of Haiti’s history as a former slave colony.
Haiti never had the opportunity to plan for their future as a newly independent country; they were set back over 100 years, preoccupied with the conundrum of paying the French reparations. This event single handedly prevented the country from capitalizing on their emancipation, leaving them politically, economically and socially stunted to this current day.