Fake News vs Fascinating Facts About Haiti

A photograph of the author, Molly Mitchell.

By Molly Mitchell

March 6, 2019

Fake News vs Fascinating Facts About Haiti

Hearsay and misconceptions abound when it comes to Haiti. Despite its proximity to the United States, the country seems to be shrouded in mystery. Here are a few myths about Haiti busted, and a few fascinating facts to replace the gap they leave.

Fiction: Haiti and AIDS

In the early days of the AIDS epidemic, Haiti was labeled as a locus for the mysterious disease. In truth, the deadly virus was brought to Haiti by tourists from other countries. 

Destruction from the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Photo by Logan Abassi

Fiction: Rebuilding

"Build Back Better" was the mantra in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake. But experts say Haiti has only just gotten back to the place they were before the disaster. Which still amounts to unteneable living conditions for most of the population living there.

Photo by Jon Cellier on Unsplash

Fiction: Voodoo

Maybe you've heard the saying that Haitians are 70 percent Catholic, 30 percent Protestant and 100 percent Voodoo.

Close, but the Voodoo part is exaggerated. Despite the popular imagination, Voodoo is not the primary religion in Haiti. In fact, most Haitians (about 80 percent) are Catholic. 

That said, about half the population practices some aspect of Voodoo, so there is admittedly a significant overlap. 

Fiction: Rising Tides Lift Neighboring Countries

Proximity to the U.S. saves Haiti from severe poverty? Nope. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world–2 out of 3 Haitians live on less than $2 per day. 

Fact: Haitian Folklore is the Coolest Folklore

Haitian folklore is the coolest. The zombie myth originated in Haiti, and the country is home to the infamous pirate haven Tortuga.

Photo by Gregory Culmer on Unsplash

Fact: Conch isn't just for deciding who gets to talk

Lambi, the Haitian preparation of conch, is a guaranteed crowd favorite at dinner.

Fact: Creole speaks volumes

Born of the contact between French colonialists and African slaves, Haitian Creole is emblematic of the country's rich and painful history. The Haitian idiom "Li pale franse" means "He cannot be trusted," or, translated literally, "He speaks French." 

The Battle for Palm Tree Hill, a Battle at San Domingo, a painting by January Suchodolski, depicting a battle between French soldiers and black revolutionaries.

Fact: The only successful slave revolution

It's true. Haiti is the only country in the world established by a successful slave rebellion. Led by former slave Toussaint l’Overture, the revolution led to the sovereign nation of Haiti beginning in 1804. This revolution was a signficant blow to the institution of slavery and shook Western notions of white superiority.