Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the island of Hispaniola, just 90 miles from Cuba. (RB)

Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the island of Hispaniola, just 90 miles from Cuba. (RB)

Cutting too much forest causes rich topsoil to wash away. (RB)

Cutting too much forest causes rich topsoil to wash away. (RB)

Both Haiti and the Dominican Republic have their own currency.

Both Haiti and the Dominican Republic have their own currency.

People of the Caribbean islands once spoke Taíno. The Taíno word for canoe is knowa, hurricane is hurrah, and hammock is hamaka. (AP)

People of the Caribbean islands once spoke Taíno. The Taíno word for canoe is knowa, hurricane is hurrah, and hammock is hamaka. (AP)

Hispaniola was under Spanish rule for 205 years. Spain brought Roman Catholicism to the island. (RB)

Hispaniola was under Spanish rule for 205 years. Spain brought Roman Catholicism to the island. (RB)

Hispaniola—One Island, Two Nations

Posted: September 3, 2019

Haiti makes headlines, and the news is often hard. But that nation takes up only one half of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern side.

The numbers on these slides tell a story. They tell how one nation can prosper under good government. Meanwhile, another can stumble under unwise leaders.

FLAGS: On Haiti’s flag, a scroll above two cannons reads, “Union Makes Strength.”

On Dominican Republic’s flag, a shield says, “God, Fatherland, and Liberty.” A Bible is open to John 8:32.

LANGUAGE: People of the Caribbean islands once spoke Taino. In Taino, canoe is knowa. Hurricane is hurrah. Hammock is hamaka. The languages of nations that colonized the islands eventually took over. Haitians speak French. People in the Dominican Republic speak Spanish.

NATURAL RESOURCES: These are the things God put in the Earth for people to use to make what they need—everything from medicine to electricity to steel. Haiti has bauxite, copper, calcium carbonate, gold, marble, hydropower, and land for farming. Dominican Republic has nickel, bauxite, gold, silver, and land for farming.

CLIMATE and TERRAIN: Trade winds and the position of mountains give more rain to the Dominican Republic.

LAND USE: The Bible talks about wise land use. Haiti has these problems: Some crops grow for too long. They damage soil. People cut too much forest, causing topsoil to wash away.

SANITATION: More people in the Dominican Republic have the use of flush toilets and sewer lines.

CURRENCY: Trade among nations is good. But both nations have their own money. The value of any currency goes up and down, but Haitians may pay twice as much for goods.

POVERTY: Many more people in Haiti live below the poverty line. Keep this in mind: Countries have different ideas of what it means to be poor. Poor in Haiti or the Dominican Republic is much worse than poor in America.

INFANTS: For every 1,000 babies born, many more die in the first year in Haiti.

LITERACY: A larger percentage of those age 15 and older in the Dominican Republic are able to read and write.

ELECTRICITY USED: The amount of power used by a nation is a hint about the quality of life there. Dominican Republic uses far more electricity than does Haiti.

UNEMPLOYMENT: It can be hard to measure unemployment. The official number shows how many people are actually looking for jobs. It doesn’t try to guess how many people have given up hope. That’s certainly the true of many in both poor countries, but more so in Haiti.

LIFE EXPECTANCY: Length of life can’t always be easily explained. But life expectancy can show the quality and safety of life in one country compared to another. People live longer in the Dominican Republic.

RELIGION: Spain ruled Hispaniola for 205 years. Spain brought Roman Catholicism to the island. Many converted. But pagan practices of voodoo have mixed into the Catholic religion in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic.