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Symbol of national freedom, strength of the Haitian people

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The Haiti flag is the national flag of the Republic of Haiti. The Republic of Haiti is a country located on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean Sea. Haiti is the third largest country in the Caribbean by area, with an estimated population of 11.4 million. This means the country is one of the most populous in the Caribbean. Its capital is Port-au-Prince.

Haiti was originally inhabited by the indigenous Taíno people, who originated in South America. However, Italian explorer, Christopher Colombus and his voyage became the first Europeans to arrive on December 5, 1492. Haiti was later claimed by Spain and named La Española, forming part of the Spanish Empire until the early 17th century. The western portion of the island was ceded to France in 1697, and subsequently named Saint-Domingue.

During the French Revolution, (1789–1799), slaves, maroons and free people of colour launched the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804). They were led by a former slave and the first black general of the French Army, Toussaint Louverture.  Louverture’s successor, Jean-Jacques Dessalines (later Emperor Jacques I) declared Haiti’s sovereignty on January 1, 1804, making the country the first independent nation of Latin America and the Caribbean. Haiti also became the first country to abolish slavery in the Americas and the only country to stage a successful slave revolt.

Haiti is a founding member of the United Nations, the Organisation of American States (OAS), the Association of Caribbean States, and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie. In addition, Haiti is a member of the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.

Unfortunately, the country has been burdened by years of political instability, ostracism by the international community, economic woes and an increase in gangsterism. As of February 2023, there is no elected government official. Hence, Haiti has been declared a failed state. 

What is the Haiti flag?

What is the Haiti flag?
Photo credit: Shutterstock

The Haiti flag is the national flag of the Republic of Haiti. It is a red and blue flag with the Haitian coat of arms in the centre. The coat of arms includes a hilltop, a cannon, hatchets, anchors, masts in the background and a palm tree. There is also the French slogan: “L’Union fait la force” translated into English to mean “Union makes strength.” The Haiti flag is one of the only seven national flags in the world that features itself in the design.

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Haiti flag history

Haiti flag history

Haiti’s flag has a long history. The first flag was reportedly created by Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who ripped out the white centre of the French tricolour. He then asked his goddaughter, Catherine Flon, to sew the remaining bands together. The flag was officially adopted on May 18, 1803, on the last day of the Congress of Arcahaie, which is located north of Port-au-Prince. As a result, May 18 has been declared the Haitian Flag Day. Even Flon is celebrated on the day and her images have appeared on Haitian currency and stamps.

Emperor Jacques I, Dessalines instituted a new constitution on May 20, 1805. In the constitution, he altered the colours of the flag to black and red. The flag was subsequently adopted by Henri Christophe, the only monarch of the Kingdom of Haiti. However, the Alexandre Pétion-led Republicans returned the colours to blue and red and horizontally rearranged them. The Republicans also added the newly adopted Haitian coat of arms.

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Between 1811 and 1814, the President and later Emperor of Haiti, Faustin I, added his coat of arms to the flag. But it was later removed after his removal from office. Between 1964 and 1986, Dessalines’ black and red colours were re-adopted by the family dictatorships of François “Papa Doc” and Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. They included the coat of arms, which consists of a trophy of weapons, a hilltop and the royal palm tree which replaced the previous central image of two lions carrying a shield with a bird.

Haiti flag meaning

Haiti flag meaning

According to Haiti’s local history, the blue colour represented Haiti’s black African citizens while the red represented citizens of mixed European and African descent. However, another account said that Dessalines chose the colours based on the Vodun religion when he was in the Vodun temple in Merote. Hence, the red and blue symbolise the Vodun god of war, Ogou.

For the coat of arms, the trophy of weapons represents protection of the freedom of the Haitian people. The royal palm tree is a symbol of Haiti’s political independence.

Haiti flag colours

The Haiti flag colours are blue and red, with a white rectangular panel bearing the coat of arms.

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