Haiti is a small island nation cursed by geography. It is part of the island of Hispaniola, located west of the Dominican Republic. Haiti is a very poor country, the poorest in the Western Hemisphere according to some estimates. Like many other Caribbean states, Haiti began as a European colony and developed after independence in isolation from its neighbors. The modern state of Haiti occupies a geographic area roughly the same as it did at independence. Haiti owes its existence to the French empire's demand for sugar, which led to centuries of sugar agriculture on the island. To farm the sugar cane, the French imported tens of thousands of slaves from West Africa. It was from these slaves that the modern Haitian nation was born. Haitian slaves rebelled against their masters in 1791, kicking off a decade of insurgency against the French. The revolution ended in 1804 with the expulsion of French forces and Haiti's independence. Because it lacks profitable minerals (and because the rich aristocracy was destroyed during the violent revolution), Haiti has historically had problems generating capital. The country's origins as a source of sugar and other commodities made it dependent on agriculture for most of its history. The country's mountainous interior made it difficult to conduct profitable agricultural activity. Haiti lies in the United States' near abroad, but its economic development is minimal and its foreign trade remains small by global standards. Haiti's biggest contemporary challenge is poverty. Haiti was isolated from global trade after its slave rebellion by European powers and the United States, who refused to trade with the newly independent state. During the 20th century, Haiti's persistently chaotic politics led to a temporary U.S. occupation but little in the way of economic development. Not surprisingly, people leave the island in droves every year. Historically, hundreds of thousands of migrants have resettled in the United States, though they are now arriving in South America in larger numbers because of stricter U.S. immigration regulations.

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