On Christmas eve, December 24, 1492, Columbus’ ship, the Santa Maria, ran aground on the island of Haiti. Columbus left 40 men and named the settlement la Navidad, promising to return the next year.

He wrote that day to Spain’s King and Queen:

“Your Highnesses may believe that in all the world there can be no better or gentler people. Your Highnesses should feel great joy, because presently they will be Christians, and instructed in the good manners of your realms; for a better people there cannot be on earth, and both people and land are in such quantity that I don’t know how to write it…”

The 2010 Haiti earthquake was a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 MW earthquake, with an epicenter near the town of Léogâne, approximately 16 miles west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. The earthquake occurred at 16:53 local time on Tuesday, January 12th 2010.

By January 24th, at least 52 aftershocks measuring 4.5 or greater had been recorded. An estimated three million people were affected by the quake. Death toll estimates range from 100,000 to 159,000 to Haitian government figures from 220,000 to 316,000 that have been widely characterized as deliberately inflated by the Haitian government.  The government of Haiti estimated that 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged.

The earthquake caused major damage in Port-au-Prince, Jacmel and other settlements in the region. Many notable landmark buildings were significantly damaged or destroyed, including the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly building, the Port-au-Prince Cathedral, and the main jail. Among those killed were Archbishop of Port-au-Prince Joseph Serge Miot, and opposition leader Micha Gaillard. The headquarters of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, located in the capital, collapsed, killing many, including the Mission’s Chief Hédi Annabi.

The recorded history of Haiti began on December 5th 1492 when the European navigator Christopher Columbus happened upon a large island in the region of the western Atlantic Ocean that later came to be known as the Caribbean. It was inhabited by the Tai­no, an Arawakan people, who variously called their island Ayiti, Bohio, or Kiskeya. Columbus promptly claimed the island for the Spanish Crown, naming it La Isla Española, the Spanish Island, later Latinized to Hispaniola.

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