An unknown number of lower-income migrants remain abroad. For most of the nation's history the official language has been French.
However, the language spoken by the vast majority of the people is kreyol, whose pronunciation and vocabulary are derived largely from French but whose syntax is similar to that of other creoles.
Hispaniola was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492 and was the first island in the New World settled by the Spanish.
By 1550, the indigenous culture of the Taino Indians had vanished from the island, and Hispaniola became a neglected backwater of the Spanish Empire.
Three-quarters of the terrain is mountainous; the highest peak is the Morne de Selle. The mountains are calcareous rather than volcanic and give way to widely varying microclimatic and soil conditions.
A tectonic fault line runs through the country, causing occasional and sometimes devastating earthquakes.Haitians refer to all outsiders, even dark-skinned outsiders of African ancestry, as blan ("white").In the neighboring Dominican Republic, despite the presence of over a million Haitian farm workers, servants, and urban laborers, there exists intense prejudice against Haitians.The island is also located within the Caribbean hurricane belt. The population has grown steadily from 431,140 at independence in 1804 to the estimate of 6.9 million to 7.2 million in 2000.Haiti is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.By 1788, the colony had become the "jewel of the Antilles," the richest colony in the world.In 1789, revolution in France sparked dissension in the colony, which had a population of half a million slaves (half of all the slaves in the Caribbean); twenty-eight thousand mulattoes and free blacks, many of whom were wealthy landowners; and thirty-six thousand white planters, artisans, slave drivers, and small landholders.An estimated 5–10 percent of the population speaks fluent French, but in recent decades massive emigration to the United States and the availability of cable television from the United States have helped English replace French as the second language in many sectors of the population. Residents attach tremendous importance to the expulsion of the French in 1804, an event that made Haiti the first independently black-ruled nation in the world, and only the second country in the Western Hemisphere to achieve independence from imperial Europe.The most noted national symbols are the flag, Henri Christophe's citadel and the statue of the "unknown maroon" ( Maroon inconnu ), a bare-chested revolutionary Emergence of a Nation.In the mid-1600s, the western third of the island was populated by fortune seekers, castaways, and wayward colonists, predominantly French, who became pirates and buccaneers, hunting wild cattle and pigs unleashed by the earliest European visitors and selling the smoked meat to passing ships.In the mid-1600s, the French used the buccaneers as mercenaries (freebooters) in an unofficial war against the Spanish.