Culture can be defined as knowledge and behaviors peculiar to people who are united territorially. As the representatives of the Caribbean region, Haitians are drastically different from the U. S. citizens in terms of habits and philosophy, which has implications to military operations. This paper reviews facts about the Republic of Haiti and its culture with reference to religion, mythology, language, ethnicity, and economic situation.
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Cultural Characteristics and the People
Despite stereotypes concerning the popularity of native religions in Haiti, the majority of Haitians practice Christianity. In decreasing order, the most popular denominational families include Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Baptism, Pentecostalism, Adventism, and Methodism (“Haiti religions,” 2018). About two percent of the population name Haitian Voodoo as the basis of their philosophical views, and numerous Haitians manage to combine the elements of Christianity and Voodoo (“Haiti religions,” 2018).
Voodoo was given the status of an official religion only fourteen years ago, and it lies at the heart of Haitian mythology (Montgomery, 2019). The most common myths peculiar to the culture refer to the Loa – different families of great spirits that act as intermediaries between Haitians and Bon Dieu or the creator of everything (Montgomery, 2019). Thus, despite the impact of Western religions, Haitians still respect the beliefs of their remote ancestors.
The next elements are ethnic composition and languages spoken by the population. As of 2019, the population size exceeds eleven million people, and over ninety-five percent of people in Haiti are of Sub-Saharan African origin (“Haiti population 2019,” 2019).
In the Republic of Haiti, there are two official languages. French is commonly used in written and formal communication, including mass media. Haitian Creole, the language that shares common traits with French, is spoken and understood by people regardless of their level of education (“Haiti population 2019,” 2019). Therefore, the country’s population is ethnically homogeneous to a great extent and speaks two languages with similar lexico-grammatical features.
The next major characteristic helping to understand Haitian people’s mentality is the country’s economic life. Haiti has a free-market economy and relies on the tourism and agricultural industries to foster economic development (“Haiti population 2019,” 2019).
Despite profits derived from the industries, Haiti belongs to the number of the poorest countries (Tobin, 2015). Particular factors associated with poverty in Haiti include low literacy rates, access to healthcare, and damage from natural hazards that are not uncommon in the region (“Haiti population 2019,” 2019). Haiti also has very low income equality rates, which is typical for economically disadvantaged countries that depend on foreign partners’ financial help (“Haiti population 2019,” 2019). Based on the aforementioned facts, Haitians’ attempts to foster economic growth meet with multiple obstacles.
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The countries of the Caribbean region experienced the influence of different Western civilizations. However, the common cultural traits of the region include the trace of African traditions in music and cuisine that are thoroughly protected as a response to the Caribbean countries’ colonial past (Nixon, 2015). For instance, carnivals to celebrate different occasions are among the most well-known cultural features of the region (Nixon, 2015). As for Haitians’ interests linked to culture, they include different forms of self-expression through music (bongo drums and other traditional instruments), literature, street art, and appearance (Cox, Brawner, & Echard, 2016). Also, religious practices of Haitians are a significant part of the region’s cultural heritage.
As for society and social structure, there are significant inequalities between different subgroups of the population. Social stratification still exists in post-dictatorship Haiti, as it is clear from income inequality rates (Marcelin, 2015). The largest part of the workforce is presented by people younger than twenty-five, but their opportunities for self-promotion are scarce (“Haiti population 2019,” 2019). Despite recent declines in the rural population, peasants still present the largest group in Haiti (Steckley & Weis, 2017). Therefore, the social structure in the country is reflective of the income distribution rates discussed earlier.
Geography, Power, and Past Conflicts
The Republic of Haiti is located in the Caribbean region. It occupies the western part of Hispaniola, one of the largest islands in the Caribbean Archipelago (“Haiti population 2019,” 2019). The most known military conflict in the history of the republic is the Haitian Revolution of the 1790s since the event brought an end to European domination and slavery and led to the creation of an independent government (“Haiti population 2019,” 2019).
Other prominent conflicts include the U. S. occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934 leading to the centralization of power and changes to infrastructure and approaches to education (Bellegarde-Smith et al., 2016). As for authority, Haiti utilizes a dual executive system, in which power is distributed among the president and the parliament (Taft-Morales, 2017). The weather in Haiti is typically hot and humid, and both geographic characteristics and poor construction standards increase its exposure to different natural hazards (Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, n.d.).
Concerning civil considerations, before entering Haiti, friendly forces are to analyze different political groups’ (patriotic/nationalist organizations) areas of concentration and structures in which they reside. As for capabilities, such factors may include civilians’ access to financial resources or the strength of national ties, and the presence of other military and civilian organizations also requires consideration. Finally, the way that influential people (Voodoo priests/Christian priests, etc.) and social events (celebrations, rituals) affect citizens’ attitudes to friendly forces is significant.
In summary, Haiti is a country with two official languages and an ethnically and racially homogeneous population. Despite external cultural influences that still take place today, people in Haiti are respectful towards their ancestors’ mythology and religious beliefs. When analyzing Haiti’s culture, it is also pivotal to pay attention to the country’s unfavorable economic situation and income inequality that may influence people’s sense of unity.
Bellegarde-Smith, P., Dupuy, A., Fatton Jr, R., Renda, M., Jacques, E. S., & Sommers, J. (2016). Haiti and its occupation by the United States in 1915: Antecedents and outcomes. Journal of Haitian Studies, 21(2), 10-43.
Cox, A., Brawner, K., & Echard, K. (2016). Experiencing the culture of Cap-Haïtien: A trip to Haiti. Purdue Journal of Service-Learning and International Engagement, 3(1), 1-5.
Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery. (n.d.). Haiti. Web.
Haiti population 2019. (2019). Web.
Haiti religions. (2018). Web.
Marcelin, L. H. (2015). Violence, human insecurity, and the challenge of rebuilding Haiti. Current Anthropology, 56(2), 230-255.
Montgomery, E. J. (2019). Gothic “Voodoo” in Africa and Haiti. eTropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 18(1), 11-28.
Nixon, A. V. (2015). Resisting paradise: Tourism, diaspora, and sexuality in Caribbean culture. Jackson, MI: University Press of Mississippi.
Steckley, M., & Weis, T. (2017). Agriculture in and beyond the Haitian catastrophe. Third World Quarterly, 38(2), 397-413.
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Taft-Morales, M. (2017). Haiti’s political and economic conditions. Web.
Tobin, K. A. (2015). Feeding a population: Agricultural education priorities in Haitian history. Journal of the Indiana Academy of the Social Sciences, 18(1), 103-124.