Early History—Discovery

Columbus discovered Haiti on December 5, 1492, two months after his first landfall at San Salvador and later Cuba. Reminded of Spain he called the island “La Isla Espanola” (the Spanish Island)—later known by its Latinized name Hispanola. Landing on December 6, he named the fine harbor on Haiti’s western tip after the feast day of St. Nicholas (today Mole St. Nicholas). Skirting the coast the caravel Santa Maria was wrecked on Christmas Eve at the eastern mouth of Cap-Haitien. From the wreckage the first European fort in the new world was constructed (near the present site of Bord-de-Mer Limonade) and called La Navidad.
In this isolated fortress Columbus placed a garrison of forty men. Early in January 1493, he set sail along the northern coast of the island, cruising as far as the Bay of Samana, from which point he sailed to Spain and into history.

The natives Columbus had met were very friendly Arawak (Taino) Indians who called their island “Hayti”—the mountainous country. They had originated from the Amazon basin in South America and are thought to have migrated northward during the seventh century, replacing the North American Guanahatebi Indians whose artifacts have been found at Fort Liberte and Tortuga.
Another more aggressive Indian tribe, the Carib Indians, who had overrun Puerto Rico in their sweep northward from South America, had only barely reached the eastern tip of Hispanola by 1492.
Among the immediate results of Columbus’ voyage were the four Papal Bulls of Alexander VI. These divided the lands beyond the horizon between Spain and Portugal.
Spain was awarded all of its past discoveries and whatever future discoveries its captains might make beyond a pole-to-pole line one hundred leagues west of the Azores (subsequently increased to 370 leagues). Since the line sliced through what is now Brazil, the eastern part of that land was handed to Portugal along with all of Africa. The entire West Indies became the province of Spain.

Columbus Second Voyage

On his return the following year, Columbus found the Fort at Navidad burned and the garrison massacred by the Arawaks who had revolted under the harsh treatment of the Spaniards. He founded a new city further East (in the present-day Dominican Republic) call La Isabela after the Queen. Using Hispanola as a base, Columbus discovered practically every island in the Caribbean, while searching for India.

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