There’s a Whole lot More You Didn’t Know About the Island where it all Started
It’s safe to say that most of the people on the planet have heard of or have been told the story of how Christopher Columbus discovered new land and a peaceful giving people, and how African abductees were forced into slavery while the indigenous were decimated.
However, there are tons of pretty interesting facts about La Hispaniola, modern-day Haiti and Dominican Republic, that has been overlooked recently by historians, but we managed to narrow it all down to 10 of the most interesting details that everyone should know.
- First to Free African Slaves in the New World
Shortly after gaining independence from the French, Spanish, and English rulers in the Haitian revolution of 1804, self-proclaimed Haitian Emperor and “General for Life” Jean-Jacques Dessalines (a former slave himself) declared the freedom of all Africans on the island and the abolition of their captivity.
- A haven for Jews and Asians during and after WW II
During the 1938 Evian Conference, attended by 32 nations from around the world, the goal was to entice other countries to take in Jewish German refugees.
Ironically enough, Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo was the only one to agree on accepting 100,000 Jewish people into his country, with the intention that they tend to the land, eventually placing only a few hundred in the town of Sosua, Dom. Rep.
After the war, the new Japanese leadership wanted to change the global perception of Japan by sending Japanese families across the globe to live, work, and construct in new lands, the Dominican Republic was one of those nations.
- Largest Lake in the Caribbean
On the southwestern region of the Dominican Republic bordering Haiti, Lake Enriquillo is the largest concentration of natural water in all of the Caribbean, with a surface area of 265 square kilometers, resting some 29 to 39 meters below sea level.
- First Trace of Human Life on the Island was 6,000 B.C.
According to DNA studies conducted in the Florida Museum, traces of stone-tool wielding inhabitants were found to be dated about 6,000 B.C. in the Archaic age.
But it wasn’t until 3,000 B.C. that the Arawak Civilization, which would later become the Taino Nation, would begin to flourish and show clear signs of advancement in agriculture and pottery.
- Tortuga is a Real Island
Discovered on Columbus’s first voyage in 1492, Tortuga (Turtle) was given its name for its resemblance to a turtle’s shell, with an area of 180 square miles of mountainous and mostly rocky shores, off of the Northwestern Coast of Haiti.
Tortuga would later really become a haven for pirates and buccaneers, where they created a “safe space” for their time out of piracy activities.
- First in the Caribbean to have Electricity
South west of La Hispaniola in the town of Jacmel (founded in 1504), Haiti, was the first to receive electrical power in Caribbean circa 1895, and at the time being dubbed the “City of Lights”.
The capital city of Port-au-Prince would also be the first to have telephone service in the Caribbean.
- There are No Living Tainos
You might think that maybe a small portion of the Taino People (formerly the Arawak people) would have survived the mass invasion of European settlers, but the sad reality is that their entire civilization was assimilated, and their only trace lives on with the Haitian and Dominican People.
However, all hope isn’t lost, as you can still find small patches of the original Arawak tribes that migrated to la Hispaniola in the Jungles of Venezuela today.
- Largest Gold Mine in the Americas
I don’t think that even locals were aware of the sheer size of the Barrick Gold Mine in the town of Pueblo Viejo, just north of the Province of Santo Domingo, with an 80% increase in exports for 2021, and only 3% of that is left to the Dominican People.
The mine has been the center of controversy for environmental and human rights abuses by contaminating vital river water supplies.
- Highest Mountain Peaks
Hispaniola is so spectacularly diverse that it houses the highest mountain peaks in all of the Caribbean: Pico Duarte (3,087 meters high) in the Armando Bermudez National Park, San Juan Province, D.R., and Pic La Selle (8,700 feet high) in La Visite National Park, Massif de la Selle mountain range, southeast Haiti.
- Freemason Founders
Juan Pablo Duarte, also known as the father of the Republic, and General Gregorio Luperon, who is credited with saving the Republic throughout its long and brutal revolution, were not only practicing members of Freemasonry, but were themselves Master Masons who expanded the secret society throughout La Hispaniola.