Hispaniola, an island in the West Indies. It lies between Cuba and Puerto Rico. Its western third is occupied by Haiti, the remainder by the Dominican Republic.
Hispaniola is about 400 miles (640 km) long and 150 miles (240 km) wide. It has an area of 29,530 square miles (76,482 km2). It is a tropical, mountainous island. The highest peak on the island, as well as in the West Indies, is Pico Duarte, which reaches 10,417 feet (3,175 m). In the low-lying, sheltered regions, the heat is intense, but in higher areas the climate is moderate.
The luxuriant forests are still largely inaccessible. Cedar, mahogany, lignum vitae, logwood, and fustic are the more valuable woods. Sugarcane, tobacco, cacao, bananas, sisal, and cotton thrive in Hispaniola's rich valleys, plains, and coastal areas. Coffee is raised in the mountains. Other products include honey, molasses, rum, and leather.
Archeological discoveries show that humans have lived on Hispaniola for thousands of years. Christopher Columbus sighted the island on December 6, 1492. His brother Bartholomew established on it the first permanent European settlement in the New World, the city of Santo Domingo.
The native Indians on Hispaniola were forced into slavery by the Spanish and gradually died out. In the early 17th century, the western third of Hispaniola was seized by French buccaneers. Spain failed to dislodge them and ceded this area to France in 1697. Both the French and the Spaniards brought in thousands of African slaves to replace the diminishing Indian labor force. By the 18th century the blacks outnumbered the whites ten to one.
The French colony won independence in 1804, becoming the Republic of Haiti. The Spanish colony proclaimed its independence in 1821, but was controlled by Haiti until 1844, when it became the Dominican Republic.