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Haiti Haiti

Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. Haiti occupies the western third of Hispaniola.

Given the situation of Haiti today, one finds difficulty believing that in the 17th and 18th centuries, Haiti was France's most prosperous overseas territory. As the “sugar king”, Haiti was responsible for three-quarters of France's colonial trade. Today, Haiti relies primarily on tourism.

Haiti has many artists who create a style of art peculiar to the island. You have to be careful with buying art—much of the stuff in the stores is junk, but you can find really good stuff if you hunt around.

Haitian Art

This is one of the better examples of Haitian art. It was painted by a young man named Joel Jean Phillipe.

Another of Mark Kurlansky's fine books is A Continent of Islands—a view of the good, bad, and ugly aspects of the Caribbean island communities and their history of colonialism imposed from without, and their current economic and political situations.

One of the chapters in Jared Diamond's book Collapse examines the state of Haiti today as compared with the Dominican Republic which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, showing the Dominican Republic side with well-managed forests as opposed to Haiti with almost total deforestation.

Collapse leads you through a series of analyses of societies that—as Jared Diamond writes—“chose to fail”. They chose to fail? How else can you explain the fate of the Norse Greenlanders who essentially starved to death at the edge of a literal ocean of fish just because their cultural imperatives favoured eating beef?

You read, of course, of the fate of Easter Island and wonder what the islanders were thinking on the day they cut down the last tree. On the other hand, you learn of the success of forestry management in Japan, put in place 400 years ago by the Tokugawa Shoguns.

The reasons to read Collapse are simple: we can learn a lot from history, but only if we choose (get it?) to do so.

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Page Updated 2011 December 10