Hundreds of years of instability and natural disasters have left Haiti buried in poverty and vulnerability. For that reason, Haiti’s outstanding landscape remains a secret for most international tourists who visit other Caribbean countries instead. Here are 15 interesting facts you probably didn’t know about Haiti.
Haiti’s Impressive Cave Systems
Haiti is a rocky, mountainous country. However, it also has an impressive cave system, one of the largest in all of the Caribbean. Most of these caves have not been mapped out, but a good few caves are open to visits, like the Marie-Jeanne cave, in Port-a-Piment. It was discovered in 2009 and, due to the lack of human activity in the area, it remains very well preserved. It’s a 2.5-mile long labyrinth with three levels of galleries. Most importantly, it bears strong evidence of pre-historical human activity, such as pictographs and pottery, making it an Archaeological goldmine. It’s one of the few Archaeological sites that can be visited daily without any control.null
The Real Pirates of the Caribbean. Jack Sparrow and his fellow pirates spent most of the first movie (and part of the second) trying to get to Tortuga to recruit new sailors. Most of the locations shown in the movie are fictitious, but Tortuga is not; Tortuga is a real, tiny island that belongs to Haiti. In fact, it was one of the major hotspots for real-life Caribbean piracy in the 17th century! However, the sequences taking place on the island weren’t really shot there – they were filmed entirely in St. Vincent.
Haiti’s Street Art. When we think of Haiti, we think of beautiful, virgin beaches and torn down houses. Did you know that Haiti has an incredible street art scene? Lots of graffiti artists walk around Port-au-Prince drawing their worries and social commentaries on every wall. Haiti counts with a surprising amount of art galleries and museums, but its best art can be experienced outdoors.
70% of Haiti’s Beaches Are Still Virgin
One of Haiti’s main attractions are its incredible natural beaches. Haiti one of the few nations in the Caribbean where most of its coastline remains intact. Around 70% of Haiti’s beaches are virgin and almost completely deserted.
Obscure Art. Port-au-Prince houses what is, perhaps, the oddest art gallery in the Caribbean. Aziz Rezistans is a collective art exhibition that portrays sculptures made out of human bones and metal. The whole exhibit shows a feel of Haiti’s voodoo culture.
Least Number of Trees. Haiti is a seriously deforested country. In fact, it’s the country in the world with the least number of trees, despite being the most mountainous in the Caribbean. In 2013, Haitian government aimed at planting 50 million trees a year in order to get their verdant forests back.
Discovering Haiti with José Andrés
José Andrés is one of the most renowned chefs in the world. He owns five restaurants in Washington D.C., along with a dozen more internationally. And he’s responsible for every dish served on NBC’s Hannibal! The Spanish chef led a tour around Haiti to discover the country’s best kept secrets and, most importantly, its food. Ex-president Bill Clinton joined Andrés in his Caribbean adventure too. Andrés’ culinary route was shot and aired on PBS.
Smallest Number of Prisoners. According to a study carried out in 2010 in all of the Americas, Haiti is the Caribbean country with the smallest number of people imprisoned, with only 5,331, or 55 per 100,000 people. The rate in Dominican Republic is 21,050. Despite its bad reputation, Haiti’s murder rate is also one of the smallest in the Caribbean.
Biggest Variety of Mangos. Haiti is a fruit paradise. The country has the finest and biggest variety of mangoes, with a total of 143 varieties. Although they only export 10% of their production, it’s still the largest mango exporter in the Caribbean and the 16th largest in the world.
Just Four Radio Stations. Haiti counts with four radio and five TV stations only. Surprisingly, Haiti proved to be the most advanced Caribbean country in terms of analog to digital transitioning, according to Jean Marie Guillaume, Director General of CONATEL, the country “is the most advanced country in this process of transition throughout the Caribbean, both technically and economically.”
High Infant Mortality Rate
It’s a big accomplishment for a Haitian child to reach adulthood. Over 10% of Haitian children die before turning five, making Haiti the country with the highest infant mortality in the Western hemisphere.
First Country to Abolish Slavery. Haiti, like most American nations, was built on slavery after Christopher Columbus colonized most Caribbean territories. It became the first nation in the world to abolish it, 65 years before the U.S. did.
Mobile Payment Leader. Surprised? Paradoxically, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere is also one of the most technologically advanced in some particular fields. Haiti has quickly adopted mobile phone payment. More Haitians use this service than North Americans do! And they also have a wider number of services available to choose from.
Most Number of NGOs. Haiti is, definitely, a republic of NGOs. It is estimated that there are around 7,000 operating NGOs in the country (more than there are prisoners!) Most of these were created before the earthquake took place in 2010.
One of the most obscure peculiarities of Haiti’s voodoo culture is the use of ‘zombie powder.’ Haitian ‘zombies’ have been said to be dead people resurrected and used as slaves. The closest thing to a rational explanation that has been provided explains that this ‘powder’, which the person inhales, leaves them in a state of near-death consciousness. In this physical state, the affected person will obey to anything, often being enslaved by the attacker. The word ‘zombie’ actually comes from Haitian French due to this practice.