At the time of Columbus‘ arrival in 1492, there were five Taíno chiefdoms and territories on Hispaniola, each led by a principal Cacique (chieftain), to whom tribute was paid. Ayiti or Haiti (“land of high mountains”) was the indigenous Taíno name for the mountainous side of the island of Hispaniola, which has retained its name as Haïti in French.
The Taino were at first tolerant of Columbus and his crew, and helped him to construct La Navidad on what is now Môle Saint-Nicolas, Haiti, in December 1492. European colonization of the island began in earnest the following year, when 1,300 men arrived from Spain under the watch of Bartolomeo Columbus. In 1496 the town of Nueva Isabela was founded. After being destroyed by a hurricane, it was rebuilt on the opposite side of the Ozama River and called Santo Domingo. It is the oldest permanent European settlement in the Americas.
The Tiano people are Ancestral to mestizo population
Spaniards took Taíno women for their common-law wives, resulting in mestizo children. Sexual violence in Haiti with the Taíno women by the Spanish was also common. Scholars suggest there was substantial mestizaje (racial and cultural mixing) in Cuba, as well, and several Indian pueblos survived into the 19th century.
Two sovereign nations share the 76,192 square kilometres (29,418 sq mi) island. The Dominican Republic with 48,445 square kilometres (18,705 sq mi) is nearly twice as large as its neighbor, Haiti, which contains 27,750 square kilometres (10,710 sq mi). The only other shared island in the Caribbean is Saint Martin, shared between France (Saint-Martin) and the Netherlands (Sint Maarten).
It is the site of the first European settlement in the Americas founded by Christopher Columbus on his voyages in 1492 and 1493.
The island was called by various names by its native people, the Taíno Amerindians. When Columbus took possession of the island in 1492, he named it Insula Hispana, meaning “the Spanish Island” in Latin and La Isla Española, meaning “the Spanish Island”, in Spanish. Bartolomé de las Casas shortened the name to “Española”, and when Pietro Martyr d‘Anghiera detailed his account of the island in Latin, he translated the name as Hispaniola.
Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo and de las Casas documented that the island was called Haiti (“Mountainous Land”) by the Taíno. D’Anghiera added another name, Quizqueia (supposedly “Mother of all Lands”), but later research shows that the word does not seem to derive from the original Arawak Taíno language. Although the Taínos use of Haiti is verified and the name was used by all three historians, evidence suggests that it probably was not the Taíno name of the whole island. However, Haiti was the Taíno name of a region (now known as Los Haitises) in the northeastern section of the present-day Dominican Republic. In the oldest documented map of the island, created by Andrés de Morales, that region is named Montes de Haití (“Haiti Mountains”). Las Casas apparently named the whole island Haiti on the basis of that particular region; d’Anghiera said that the name of one part was given to the whole island
Due to French and Spanish influences on the island, historically the whole island was often referred to as Haiti, Hayti, St. Domingue, San Domingo or Santo Domingo, which didn’t favor either side of the island as the locality of these names could have been anywhere on Hispaniola. Only recently has the term of Hispaniola come into use as a name for the geographic unit. The colonial terms Saint-Domingue and Santo Domingo are sometimes still applied to the whole island, though these names refer, respectively, to the colonies that became Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Since Anghiera’s literary work was translated into English and French in a short period of time, the name “Hispaniola” became the most frequently used term in English-speaking countries for the island in scientific and cartographic works. In 1918, the United States occupation government presided by Harry Shepard Knapp obliged the use of the name Hispaniola on the island, and recommended the use of that name to the National Geographic Society.
The name Haïti was adopted by Haitian revolutionary Jean-Jacques Dessalines as the official name of independent Saint-Domingue, as a tribute to the Amerindian predecessors. Quisqueya (from Quizqueia) although used on both sides of the island is mostly adopted in the Dominican Republic.
Christopher Columbus inadvertently found the island during his first voyage across the Atlantic in 1492, where his flagship, the Santa Maria, sank after running aground on December 25. A contingent of men were left at an outpost christened La Navidad on the north coast of present-day Haiti. On his return the subsequent year, following the destruction of La Navidad by the local population, Columbus quickly established a second compound farther east in present-day Dominican Republic, La Isabela.
The Taíno population of the island rapidly died, 90% from new infectious diseases, to which they had no immunity. Harsh enslavement by Spanish colonists resulted in the death of most of the remainder. In 1503 the colony began to import African slaves, believing them more capable of performing physical labor. The natives had no immunity to European diseases, including smallpox,and entire tribes were destroyed. From an estimated initial population of 250,000 in 1492, 14,000 Arawaks survived in 1517.