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Topographic map
Topographic map
Waters Caribbean Sea
Archipelago Greater Antilles
Geographical location 19 ° 0 ′  N , 70 ° 40 ′  W Coordinates: 19 ° 0 ′  N , 70 ° 40 ′  W
Location of Hispaniola
area 76,480 km²
Highest elevation Pico Duarte
3098  m
resident 21,748,227 (2017)
284 inhabitants / km²
main place Santo Domingo / Port-au-Prince

Hispaniola (also Hispañola ; Spanish La Española , the Spanish ) or Kiskeya (in the language of the Taínos ), Spanish Quisqueya , is the second largest of the Greater Antilles and at the same time of the entire West Indies , with an area of ​​around 76,480 km² . The states of Haiti and Dominican Republic are located on the island .


About 90 km to the west is the largest Antilles island, Cuba and 190 km to the west of Jamaica , 120 km to the east of Puerto Rico , 250 km to the north of the Turks and Caicos Islands and 180 km to the north-northwest of the Inagua group of islands . The island extends 600 km in east-west and 250 km in north-south direction. It has the shape of a hand opened to the west, with two mountainous peninsulas protruding far towards Cuba and into the Jamaica Channel . Only the east and a longitudinal valley running through between two mountain ranges in the north are relatively flat .

Political structure

Dominican Republic and Haiti

The larger eastern part of the island today forms the Dominican Republic , the smaller western part the Republic of Haiti . ( See also: List of Shared Islands )


With more than twenty-one million inhabitants, Hispaniola is the most populous island in the Antilles .

country Area
Population (2017) Population density
(inh / km²)
Dominican RepublicDominican Republic Dominican Republic 48,730 10,766,998 221
HaitiHaiti Haiti 27,750 10,981,229 396
Hispaniola 76,480 21,748,227 284

Origin of the names

The native Tainos called the island Kiskeya (translates as "wonderful land") or Ayití (translates as "mountainous country"), from which the current names "Quisqueya" and "Haiti" arose. So Haiti originally referred to the entire island. The term quisqueya can be found in the first line of the Dominican national anthem ("Quisqueyanos valientes, alcemos: Nuestro canto con viva emoción ...") and is also used as a brand name for various products. There is also a smaller, not very significant political movement that seeks to unite the two states under the common name “Quisqueya”.

Christopher Columbus named the island La Isla Española ("the Spanish island"). The English corrupted the name to Hispaniola ("Little Spain").

The island of Hispaniola was politically divided into a Spanish eastern part, Santo Domingo (or San Domingo ) (after the city ​​of the same name ), and a French western part, Saint Domingue (or Saint-Domingue ), during the colonial period . The eastern part became the Dominican Republic , the western part Haiti , which was at times divided into northern North Haiti and the southern Mulatto Republic.

In this article, if the city is not explicitly mentioned, Santo Domingo always means the eastern part of Hispaniola. For the sake of clarity, Haiti always refers to the state in the western part of the island.


Hispaniola as seen from the ISS .

Hispaniola, Jamaica, Cuba, and Puerto Rico are collectively known as the Greater Antilles . The largest offshore islands are Île de la Gonâve and Île de la Tortue on the Haitian side and Isla Saona on the Dominican Republic side .

There are five large mountain ranges on the island, which are more or less connected and extend over a total of more than 600 km stretch.

  • The Cordillera Central extends from the southern coast to the northwest of the island. The five highest mountains in the Caribbean are located in the Cordillera Central:
    • the Pico Duarte (3098 m),
    • the Loma La Pelona (3097 m),
    • the Loma Rucilla (3039 m),
    • the Loma de la Viuda (2802 m) and
    • the Yaque (2760 m).
  • The Cordillera Septentrional runs parallel to the Cordillera Central on the northern coast and extends as the Samaná peninsula into the Atlantic. The highest point of this mountain range is Pico Diego de Ocampo (1249 m) between Santiago and Puerto Plata .
  • The Cordillera Oriental (highest elevation: 736 m) and Costera del Caribe extend in the east of the Dominican Republic .
  • The Sierra de Neiba rises in the southwest of the Dominican Republic and runs northwest to Haiti as Montagnes Noires, Chaîne des Matheux and Montagnes du Trou d'Eau. The central plateau lies between the North Massif and the Montagnes Noires. The "Plaine de l'Artibonite" lies between the Montagnes Noires and the Chaîne des Matheux and extends westward to the Gulf of Gonâives. The highest point is 2177 m high (north of Lake Enriquillo ).
  • The southern mountain range begins as Sierra Baoruco and extends westward under the name Massif de la Selle and Massif de la Hotte and forms the southwestern peninsula of Haiti. At 2715 m, Morne de la Selle is the highest point in the mountain range and the highest peak in Haiti. On the Dominican side, the highest peaks are 2368 m and 2085 m high. A low plain runs parallel to the southern mountain range, known in Haiti as the Plaine du Cul-de-Sac and at the western end of which is Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince. There are several saltwater lakes in the lowlands, including the Saumatre Lagoon in Haiti and Lake Enriquillo in the Dominican Republic.

The sometimes large differences in altitude on the island of Hispaniola in connection with tropical rainfalls have led to severe floods with thousands of deaths more frequently, most recently twice in 2004: In May 2004, the region around Jimaní in the south of the island, the Arroyo Blanco, was affected burst its banks (north of the Massif de la Selle / Sierra de Baoruco, between the lakes Étang de Saumatre and Lago Enriquillo ), in September 2004 the north, especially the Cibao Valley near the Río Yaque del Norte , and on heaviest the region around the Haitian city of Gonaïves .

The island lies on the border of the North American and Caribbean plates and is therefore a potential earthquake area. On August 4, 1946, there was an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.1 in the Dominican Republic (epicenter on the Samana peninsula), and on September 26, 2003 a tremor with a magnitude of 6.8 (epicenter near Puerto Plata). On January 12, 2010, a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti (near Carrefour, Port-au-Prince, Delmas).

Flora and fauna

Landscape in Haiti

The climate on Hispaniola is generally humid and tropical. The island has four different ecoregions . Moist forests cover about 50% of the island, especially the northern and eastern parts, mainly the lowlands, but also up to an altitude of 2100 m. The region of the dry forests covers about 20% of the island in the rain shadow of the mountains in the south and west as well as in the Cibao Valley in the north-central part of the island. The Hispanic pine forests cover the most mountainous 15% of the island above 850 m. The Enriquillo Wetlands are a region of flooded pastures and savannas that form the chain of lakes of Enriquillo Lake , Rincón Lagoon, Caballero Lake, Saumatre Lagoon and of the Trou Cayman. In the part of today's Dominican Republic the animal world is very diverse. B. seabirds, hummingbirds , reptiles (land and sea turtles, whorletail iguanas ), amphibians (frogs etc.), herons, flamingos and many species of fish. The Republic of Haiti puts less emphasis on the protection of its ecological resources and did not recognize the important potential for tourism. Forests are cut down without hesitation; Land karsts or avalanches form.


Pre-Columbian period

Up until 1492, Hispaniola was mainly inhabited by the Arawak , Ciboney and Carib Indian peoples . In his records, Las Casas estimated the number of Indians from 1494 to be a good 3 million. Due to insufficiently available historical material, historians only give imprecise estimates of the number, they assume 400,000 to 8 million inhabitants.

Perhaps the highlight of pre-colonial cultural history was the culture of the Arawak, who came from Venezuela and had been around since the 7th century BC. Immigrated via the Lesser Antilles . The Arawak died out around 1600.

Spanish colonization

The first settlements on Hispaniola
Nautical map from 1639
Haiti and Dominican Republic - territorial development from 1492

On December 5, 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered Hispaniola. Searching for gold deposits, Columbus discovered the ports of Valparaiso (now Port-de-Paix) , Punta Santa and, before returning to Europe, built a small fort near the latter with the help of the Arawak from the rubble of the stranded ship Santa Maria , La Navidad , in which he left a crew of 40 men. La Navidad was the first Spanish colony in America .

On his return to Hispaniola on November 28, 1493, he found the fort in ruins; Arawaks led by the cacique Caonabo had - irritated by the violence and pillaging of the 40 Spaniards - destroyed the fort and end the occupation. Columbus then had many of them enslaved and sent to Spain in a campaign against the Arawaks , which did not meet with the approval of the Spanish royal couple. The Spaniards established the city of La Isabela in the east of Cape Monte Cristi in January 1494 , from where they took possession of the rich gold mines of Cibao and built Fort St. Thomas to protect them.

When Columbus started his journey home in 1496, his brother Bartolomeo founded a new city in the south, at the mouth of the Ozama River , Santo Domingo , which became the capital of the island and later gave its name to it (or the eastern part). Since La Isabela was abandoned, Santo Domingo is the oldest surviving European-founded settlement in America.

On August 31, 1498, Columbus reached the city of Santo Domingo again. He tried to settle disputes between the settlers and his brother and intensified Christianization and the search for gold. Due to negative reports, the Spanish court replaced Columbus as governor with Francisco de Bobadilla , who reached Hispaniola on August 23, 1500. He captured Christopher and Bartolomeo Columbus and sent them in chains to Spain. Here the two men were pardoned by the royal couple, but not reinstated in their former offices.

Under the encomienda system introduced in 1503 , which obliged the Indians to do forced labor , they suffered greatly. According to the records of the witness Las Casas , only 60,000 Indians lived on Hispaniola in 1508. In addition to the inhumane working conditions in slave labor and the persecution of refugees, many Indians also died from epidemics brought in from Europe and Africa , against which they had no defenses. One of the sites of this rapid death were the gold mines of San Cristoforo , which were found by Francisco de Bobadilla and exploited by him and his successor Nicolás de Ovando , which yielded rich yields.

In 1517 Pedro d'Atenza brought sugar cane from the Canary Islands to Haiti, and Gonzalez gave the impetus to build plantations and sugar mills. To operate it, Ovando brought 40,000 Tainos from the Bahamas , as many of the native Indians had already perished . But even these soon died as a result of the epidemics, whereupon (from 1503 or 1505) people were brought from Africa and imported as slaves . Anacaona , the Kazikin of Jaragua and widow of the resistance leader Caonabó, was captured by Spanish troops under Alonso de Ojeda in 1503 ; her followers were arrested or burned (Jaragua massacre). Accused of conspiracy, Anacaona was hanged a few months later.

In 1509, Diego Colón , the son of Christopher Columbus, became governor and later also viceroy of Hispaniola. In 1512 the inauguration of the University of Santo Domingo, the first university in the New World , took place.

In the period between 1519 and 1533 the surviving Indians (around 4000 ) rose unsuccessfully against the Spaniards under their leader ( caciques ) Enriquillo (or Enrico). Their people were almost completely exterminated in the years and decades that followed. After a peace treaty at the behest of the Spanish Crown, the Spaniards gave them a small area near Boyà or Azua , about 100 kilometers northeast of Santo Domingo. The fact that descendants of the caciks have survived there to this day is based on a legend. Rather, the Indians mixed with the mulattos and lost their cultural and ethnic identity over time. According to other reports, they became extinct due to an epidemic in the late 16th century.

From 1537 to 1548 there were also uprisings of fled black slaves, who were called Cimarrones . In 1542 there were 200 Indians, 5,000 Spaniards and 30,000 black slaves living on the island. In 1586 the English privateer Francis Drake conquered and sacked the city of Santo Domingo. Another English attack took place in 1655 under Admiral William Penn .

French colonization

From 1625, French and English pirates (called buccaneers or flibustiers ) settled on the nearby island of Île de la Tortue in the north . They were later expelled, but a predominantly French remnant settled as planters on the deserted north coast of Hispaniola and asked France to support them against the Spaniards. Louis XIV then sent Bertrand d'Ogeron as governor to Hispaniola in 1661 and founded a French colony in the western part of the island in 1665 , which was destroyed by the Spanish in 1686. As early as 1691, however, a new French colony was founded by Jean Baptiste du Casse . In the Treaty of Rijswijk in 1697, Spain renounced the western part ("Saint Domingue") of the island in favor of France.

Spanish and French rule until Haiti became independent

Historical map from 1723

The French and the remaining Spanish part of Hispaniola developed very differently.

In 1776 the border between the two parts of the country was regulated (which roughly corresponds to today's).

Santo Domingo

In Santo Domingo, development came to a standstill. The gold finds that had drawn many Spaniards to the colony were running out. Many Spaniards moved away, and those who stayed often became impoverished and often released their slaves. Of the 125,000 inhabitants counted in 1790, 15,000 were slaves.

On July 22, 1795, the Treaty of Basel was passed between Spain and France , in which Spain had to cede Santo Domingo to France. The country was attached to the French Saint Domingue, which exercised sovereignty over Santo Domingo only theoretically.

On January 26, 1801, Toussaint L'Ouverture occupied (also with the help of whites) the de facto still Spanish Santo Domingo. Slavery was abolished.

Saint Domingue

After Saint-Domingue many slaves were imported, according to the adopted 1685 noir code had to live. The plantations grew immensely. The economy flourished and the colony flourished after the War of the Spanish Succession by 1714. On November 26, 1749, Port-au-Prince was founded and made the capital. Saint Domingue was at times the richest colony in France. In a census in 1788, 455,089 people lived there, including 27,717 Europeans (upper class), 21,808 mulattos (mixed race, mostly free, but not recognized as socially equal to Europeans), and the overwhelming majority - almost 90% - blacks and slaves at the same time the bottom layer.

The treatment of the slaves was very bad and there were repeated uprisings. For example, in March 1758 the slave Mackandal , who had fled 18 years earlier and who had led numerous uprisings, was burned alive as punishment.

On February 19, 1788, the Société des Amis des Noirs ( German : "Society of Friends of Blacks") was founded in Paris . Their goal was the abolition of the slave trade and a gradual abolition of slavery . It should have a great ideological influence on the history of Saint Domingues.

Stimulated by the French Revolution, the Europeans of the colony demanded more autonomy from France, the mulattoes their equality and the slaves their freedom.

The numerically small European population of Haiti (approx. 6%) was divided into “great” and “little whites” (landowners and tradesmen), constitutionals and monarchists as well as supporters and opponents of the colonial government as a result of the French Revolution.

On March 8, 1790, the resolution was passed on the formation of "colonial assemblies" (in which only colonists, i.e. Europeans, were represented), which gave the colonies a kind of autonomy. They did not want to share their power with mulattos or even blacks (one spoke of a “degenerate human race”).

The attempt of the mulattos under the leadership of Vincent Ogé and Jean-Baptiste Chavannes to enforce their demands ended with the suppression of the uprising in October 1790 and the torture and execution of the two in Cap Français in February 1791.

August 14, 1791, when several slaves met for a voodoo ceremony in the Bois-Caïman , the “crocodile forest” in the northern plain of today's Haiti , is considered to be the beginning of the uprising of the slaves, which ultimately led to Haiti's independence. The uprising broke out on the 22nd or 23rd of the month and was led by Boukman , Biassou and Jean-François . It began in the area around Cap Français and after the capture of Cap Français by the slaves (June 21-23, 1793) spread over the entire colony. The plenipotentiaries Polverél , Santhonax (the spelling Sonthonax is also used) and Ailhaud , who arrived in September 1792, could not and did not want to intervene , sent by France to organize affairs in the colony . Rather, they issued the abolition of slavery in August and September 1793, respectively.

François-Dominique Toussaint L'Ouverture on an engraving from 1802.
Anne Louis Girodet-Trioson : Portrait of Citizen Belley, Member of Parliament for Saint Domingue, c. 1797, Versailles, Musée national du château et de Trianon

In the following years of the European coalition wars (also known as Revolutionary Wars), especially between France and Great Britain , Toussaint L'Ouverture (also spelled Louverture), a freed slave and today's national hero of Haiti, who joined a few weeks after the start of the uprising, made it into changing alliances to achieve extensive independence for the colony.

When the Spanish and English occupied several places in the colony in 1793, the army of slaves joined with that of the French troops who had landed under General Étienne Lavaux to maintain the island.

The white colonists were finally forced by the insurgent generals Rigaud and Toussaint in 1797 to leave the island entirely, whereupon the French Directory on February 4, 1798 granted the blacks in the French colonies complete freedom and equal rights with the whites. At the same time, Toussaint was appointed chief general of all forces in Haiti. In 1799 he became governor of the colony.

From 1799 to 1800 a civil war raged between blacks and mulattos, in which the latter were defeated.

Toussaint not only occupied Santo Domingo, but also defeated the English privateers. He strived for independence from France and gave the island its own constitution on May 9, 1801 (a source mentions July 1801). Toussaint became governor and sole ruler for life. The plantations were put back into operation and farmed by former slaves in forced labor. Another source acknowledges Toussaint's economic measures as land reform.

In 1801, Napoléon Bonaparte sent General Charles Victoire Emmanuel Leclerc as Capitaine général with 25,000 men to Haiti, where he arrived in February 1802. Toussaint initially resisted his landing at Cap François, but soon had to retreat inside. On February 25, 1802, Santo Domingo was occupied and slavery restored, although Bonaparte did not reinstate slavery in the French colonies until May 20, 1802. Toussaint was captured on June 6 or 7, 1802 and deported to France, where he died in custody on April 7, 1803.

Clever military operations, a British naval blockade and a yellow fever epidemic made Napoleon's intervention troops difficult to deal with. Leclerc also died from it. Rochambeau was his successor . Since the remaining white planters tried to enforce slavery, there was another uprising - this time under the black general Jean-Jacques Dessalines . He defeated the French under Rochambeau on November 18, 1803, inflicting his first defeat on Napoleon. The French and other whites had to evacuate the island.

Haiti until the independence of the Dominican Republic

On January 1, 1804, Jean-Jacques Dessalines proclaimed the independence of Saint Domingue. In the following four decades, Santo Domingo was repeatedly under the control of the western part of the island. On February 27, 1844, with the proclamation of the Dominican Republic ( República Dominicana ), Santo Domingo finally achieved its independence.

Hispaniola from the independence of the Dominican Republic

See also

Web links

Commons : Hispaniola  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Hispaniola  - Sources and full texts
Wiktionary: Hispaniola  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. maximum expansion after measurement using the GoogleMaps map: the largest mountains on earth
  2. ^ A b Howard Zinn: A People's History of the United States , Harper Perennial, 2005, p. 7
  3. PC Emmer: Economy and trade of the colonial empires , p. 672. Verlag CH Beck, Munich, 1988.