Haiti is known as one of the poorest countries in the world. It is estimated that 80% of the population lives in poverty and all face serious daily challenges. The country has a history of natural disasters, which continually threaten the culture. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, has critically injured an already struggling society. Leaving thousands dead and thousands more homeless and helpless, this disaster still requires a significant response.
Haiti's climate is typically tropical. Temperatures range from 70-90 degrees Fahrenheit. . Haiti's rainy season runs from May to July. During the rainy season, the country experiences showers in the evenings that last a couple of hours at a time. Haiti has two official languages: Haitian Creole and French. Those who are uneducated can only speak Creole; those who are educated can speak both, but French is the preferred and necessary language of commerce.
It is estimated that 40% of the population is unemployed while two-thirds of the labor force do not have formal jobs. The poverty levels create a situation in which many families use subsistence farming (using agriculture to feed only their families) in order to survive. Although subsistence farming is prevalent, there is also an organized agriculture industry. Agriculture, along with fishing and forestry, annually account for more than a quarter of Haiti's gross domestic product. In addition, mining and manufacturing are small contributors to Haiti's economy. The banking and financial situation in Haiti can be described as bleak at best. Banks often crumble under the poor economic foundations that plague the country. The currency in Haiti is the French "gourde" The current exchange rate for the gourde is 40 gourdes to every U.S. dollar.
Primary education is available, but families must pay school fees. School fees range from $100 to $1200 a year. Education in Haiti is seen as a trademark of success in life and opens doors for privileges, social rank, travel and better jobs. Secondary education, such as college or university is available, but often unattainable because of cost.
The Haitian people are known for the wonderful food and amazing hospitality! They rely heavily on starches such as rice, beans, and plantains. The most common Haitian dish, consists of rice and beans, fried plantain, and your choice of meat, most often chicken or pork (or whatever else is available). Lambi is a conch fish that is harvested off the coast of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Tropical fruits are also a fixture in the Haitian diet. Fun and entertainment in the country of Haiti take a backseat to the struggle to survive. As a result of the country's significant African descent and influence, African music is immersed in the Haitian culture. Artwork is also a regular sight; open air galleries line the roads and villages throughout the country. Fútbol (soccer) is the most popular sport on the island.
Voodoo is still practiced by Haitians today. During the transfer of slaves from west and central Africa to Haiti, slaves brought with them their religions, their labor, and their uniting belief in the spirit world. The Haitians' belief in the spirit world was a means of coping with the ravages of slavery, which became a cornerstone of the concept of Voodoo. The term Voodoo literally means divine spirit and comes from the modern day country of Benin, which is one of the countries that provided Haiti with many of its slaves. It's estimated that 80 percent of Haitians are Roman Catholic. The religious spectrum in the country also includes Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists, and others. Voodoo, as a religion, is oftentimes practiced alongside Christianity even today, to appeal to a larger majority of Haitians.