Which is correct, “Haiti” or “Santo Domingo”?

April 5, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Geography

Opinion differs whether the second largest West Indian island, which comprises the countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, should be called Santo Domingo or Haiti. It is very difficult to fix an official name for any territory occupied by more than one nation except through international agreement. The inhabitants of the Dominican Republic naturally object to calling the entire island Haiti, just as the inhabitants of the United States would object to calling all North America Canada or Mexico.

Some years ago the Pan American Union declared that Santo Domingo is the correct name of the entire island, while the United States Geographic Board regarded Haiti as the correct name. Haiti, meaning “land of mountains,” was the name applied to the island by the natives when Columbus landed there in 1492.

Some authorities, however, suppose that the word was merely a local name for the western part of the island. They say the natives on the eastern side of the island called their country Quisqueya, meaning “mother of the earth.” For that reason, they argue, it was never correct to call the entire island Haiti.

Columbus, fancying the island resembled Spain, called it La Espagnola, which was later Latinized into Hispaniola and which signifies “Little Spain.” When the French obtained possession of part of the island they named their colony Saint Dominique. In 1795 the French obtained the rest of the island from Spain by treaty and Saint Dominique was then applied to the whole island. Shortly after this the Spaniards re-established themselves in the eastern part of the island and retained the French name modified to Santo Domingo. In 1821 they lost control, and from 1822 to 1843 the entire island was under one government—the republic of Haiti. It was in 1844 that the eastern part declared itself independent of Haiti and set up the present Dominican Republic.

Owing to the long controversy over the name some authorities favor calling the island Haiti-San Domingo or returning to the early Spanish Hispaniola. In 1933 the United States Geographic Board reversed an earlier decision and decided in favor of Hispaniola for official usage in the United States.

Haiti, whose Negro inhabitants speak a patois of French, comprises about one-third of the island and is the only French-speaking republic in the New World, while the Dominican Republic, whose inhabitants speak Spanish, comprises the other two thirds.


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