Haiti and the Dominican Republic: One Island, Two Worlds Questions


1.  Write one or two paragraphs in which you explain how the physical geography of Hispaniola favors the Dominican Republic (DR) over Haiti? Your explanation should include the terms: Trade winds, leeward, precipitation, mountains, rivers, valleys, soils.

The DR is on the eastern side of Hispaniola. This is the windward side.  Haiti is on the leeward side of the island. Therefore, the Trade winds, when they blow moist air up the interior mountains, bring larger amounts of precipitation to the DR than to Haiti. Large rivers carry this precipitation from the highlands to the eastern lowlands of the DR.  Over time these rivers have developed broad river valleys composed of rich alluvial soils.  These valleys became the core of a productive agricultural economy in the DR. Haiti, in comparison, on the leeward side is drier than the DR.  It is mostly mountainous topography and has only scant broad river valleys.



2. Because this is an abridged version of DiamondÕs chapter, it is choppy. Beneath ŌSocial and political differencesĶ Diamond points out that a profitable agricultural economy emerged earlier in Haiti than the DR. How was this a problem?

Early during the French colonial period, Haiti forests were cleared for plantation agriculture and its soils were quickly degraded.  Meanwhile, on the DR side of the island, the Spanish did not commit to plantation agriculture and the physical environment was relatively untouched.



3. Write one or two paragraphs in which you explain how the policies of France and Spain determined the different economic developments and demographics and environmental modifications of Haiti and the DR? Use the term population density in your answer.

Haiti became FranceÕs most important Caribbean colony as they imported large slave populations and utilized them to clear the forests and establish sugar cane plantations.  Meanwhile the Spanish neglected the DR and did not import large populations of slaves. Haiti is only one half the DRÕs size, so during the colonial period Haiti had a much higher population density than the DR. This difference in population density resulted in very different levels of environmental modification.  HaitiÕs physical environment was dramatically modified (deforestation and soil loss) in comparison to that of the DR.



4. Why was the DR more appealing to European migrants and investors than Haiti?

After Haiti gained independence in 1804 in a slave revolt, the country was shunned by the US and European colonial powers.  Also, Haiti included an anti-immigration law in its constitution.  As a result, the DR received a much larger of stream of immigrants and investors than did Haiti.  Some of these immigrants to the DR brought business skills and capital that were key to the development of the countryÕs economy.


5. How did post-Colonial relationships with their former European masters vary between Haiti and the DR?

The DR actually chose to periodically reject independence from Spain, while Haiti completely closed off relations with France. The result was that post-independence Haiti was isolated from emerging trade networks and investment.  The DR, conversely, benefited from investment and these trade networks.



6. How did post-Colonial patterns of land ownership and land-use on Haiti make its economy very different than that of the DR?

After independence, HaitiÕs land was divided up among its citizens into relatively small plots. These citizens used the land for subsistence agriculture. HaitiÕs elite class and government did not pursue the continuation of plantation agriculture.  In the DR large blocks of valley lowland remained intact and were converted to plantation agriculture, a process that was supported by the government and investors.  



7. How did the development of energy resources differ on Haiti and the DR?  And, how did these different paths produce very different forest cover?

The primary energy resource on Haiti was and is charcoal, which accelerated deforestation and undermined re-forestation. The government of the DR developed hydroelectric power and related forest protection laws to ensure the health of watersheds.  The DR also imported fuel to prevent its people from turning to charcoal as an energy source.