Hispaniola is an island in the Caribbean whereby the seventeenth century was colonized by both the Spanish and the French. But long before Europeans settled on this island, a group of people named the Tainos inhabited Hispaniola. These natives called their island “Ayti”, meaning “mountainous land”. Generations before the Spanish arrived in the island, the Tainos migrated from South America to populate the Caribbean.

They lived in large villages governed by male or female caciques or chiefs. According to Choices: The Haitian Revolution, historians estimate that before the arrival of Europeans, the indigenous population on Hispaniola numbered anywhere from 500,000 to a million people (Choices, 2). These people ranged from woodworkers and weavers to agricultural experts.On December 6, 1492, Christopher Columbus arrived in North Hispaniola and established the first European settlement. He built a small fort called La Navidad where he left 39 of his men to search for gold. These men mistreated the Tainos by raiding their villages, capturing their women and committing violent acts.

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In turn, the natives killed the men and burned down their fort. When Columbus returned in 1493 with 1,200 men in order to enlarge their settlement, he finds the ruins of La Navidad. Although, Columbus creates a Spanish colony named Santo Domingo.The Spanish conquistadors, or conquerors, enslaved the Tainos and forced them to mine for gold. After a few decades, most of the native population died due to European diseases and slavery’s harsh conditions. Because of this, the Spanish began importing slaves from Africa in 1502. By 1546, there were around 12,000 slaves in Hispaniola. Once the gold mines were exhausted, the settlers started to raise cattle and grow sugar.

The imported slaves worked in plantations and sugar mills which made the economy of Hispaniola dependent on trade.These riches sparked European interest and by 1640, France sent a representative to establish its claim on Hispaniola. During the 1670s, the French created permanent settlements and began tobacco, sugar, and coffee production. This created a plantation-based economy which required the colonists to import more slaves from Africa in order to create a larger labor force. On September 20, 1697, the Treaty of Ryswick recognized the east side of Hispaniola as the French colony of Saint-Domingue and became the wealthiest colony in the Caribbean. In 1685, King Louis XIV created the Code Noir, also known as the Black Code, which were a set of laws the outlined France’s position on slavery in Saint-Domingue.

(insert picture and as subs or text beside write this:) These set of codes stated that slaves were the private property of their masters, gave the plantation owners the right to shoot anyone they thought to be a fugitive. These runaway slaves were called maroons and if caught, they could have their ears off or killed. In addition, slaves could not gather for marriages, dances or other ceremonies.


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