Background: The native Indians who inhabited the island of Hispaniola when Christopher Columbus landed in 1492 were nearly exterminated by Spanish colonizers, who then began importing slaves from West and Central Africa. In the early 17th century, the French established a presence on Hispaniola, and in 1697, Spain ceded to the French the western third of the island, which later became Haiti.
The French colony, based on forestry and sugar-related industries, became one of the wealthiest in the Caribbean, but only through the heavy importation of African slaves and considerable environmental degradation. In the late 18th century, Haiti's nearly half million slaves revolted under Toussaint L'OUVERTURE.
After a prolonged struggle, Haiti became the first black republic to declare its independence in January 1st, 1804. Haiti is now subdivided into 10 Departments (Artibonite, Centre, Grand'Anse, Nippes, Nord, Nord-Est, Nord-Ouest, Ouest, Sud-Est, Sud) and 133 cities / towns.