Formerly known as Espaniola and called ‘Ayiti’ by the native population, is the second largest island of the West Indies, lying within the Greater Antilles.
Christopher Columbus arrived in Ayiti during his first voyage to America in 1492. On his return the following year, Columbus quickly founded the first permanent European settlement in America.
The island was inhabited by the Tainos, one of the Indigenous Arawak peoples. The Taino were at first tolerant of Columbus and his crew, and helped him to construct Fort Navidad on what is now Mole 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 site of the Ozama River and called Santo Domingo. It is the oldest permanent European settlement in the Americas. The Taino population of the island was rapidly decimated, owing to a combination of disease and harsh treatment by Spanish overlords. In 1501, the colony began to import African slaves, believing them more capable of performing physical labor.
As Spain conquered new regions on the mainland of the Americas, its interest in Hispaniola waned, and the colony’s population grew slowly. By the early 17th century, the island and its smaller neighbors (notably Tortuga) became regular stopping points for Caribbean pirates. In 1606, the king of Spain ordered all inhabitants of Hispaniola to move close to Santo Domingo, to avoid interaction with pirates. Rather than secure the island, however, this resulted in French, English and Dutch pirates establishing bases on the now-abandoned north and west coasts of the island. Additionally, French Huguenot settlers fleeing religious persecution came to Hispaniola in the early 1600s and built colonies at Point-de-Paix, Port-au-Prince, and Petit Goave. In 1665, French colonization of the island was officially recognized by Louis XIV. The French colony was given the name Saint-Domingue. In the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick, Spain formally ceded the western third of the island to France. Saint-Domingue quickly came to overshadow the east in both wealth and population. Nicknamed the “Pearl of the Antilles,” it became the richest colony in the West Indies.
Large portions of Hispaniola are essentially wilderness and are populated by excaped slaves,(called Maroons) surviving Taino and small groups of pirates.
A small town of slowly diminishing influence and power on the north coast of the island, Isabella is named for the queen of Spain. Isabella has a sizable population of poor Spaniards, but is mostly forgotten by the Captaincy-General at Havana (which oversees the government of Hispaniola). Isabella is subject to a number of pirate raids each year and rarely has anything other than food to steal.
The titular capitol of Spanish Hispaniola, Santo Domingo is the only major port on the southern coast. Spanish vessels regularly trade between Santo Domingo and nearby San Juan, making Santo Domingo self-sufficient. Santo Domingo is the oldest settlement in the New World. The governor of Santo Domingo rules Hispaniola in the name of the Captaincy-General in Havana.
Puerto De Plata
A prominent port on the northern coast, Puerto de Plata is a vital link to Florida, Havana, and San Juan.
La Vega is a small settlement upriver on the Rio D’yuna. It is a haven for smugglers and buccaneers but is difficult for large vessels to reach. The Rio D’yuna empties into the Mona Passage between Hispaniola and San Juan Island. La Vega serves as a clearing house for illegal and stolen goods.
The largest and most important French settlement in Hispaniola is Port-de-Paix (Port of Peace). It lies on the north coast, within sight of the pirate haven of Tortuga. The majority of the population is French Huguenot, although slaves for agriculture are being imported in astonishing numbers.
The Huguenots enjoy an odd kind of protection from the Spanish, they are protected by the pirates and the Arawak Indians. In exchange for food, the pirate lords of Tortuga keep the waterway clear of Spanish ships (even the merchants!). The pirates are tolerated here, unlike the rest of French Hispaniola.
Port-de-Paix is one of the most ‘civilized’ towns in Hispaniola having a strong rule of law and a structured society. Protestant ministers and elders, along with their followers, hold all political power in French Hispaniola.
Located on the south coast, Petit Goave is the largest of the Huguenot settlements. The town is in the process of driving the local buccaneers inland and east, making the town more ‘civilized.’ Pirates are not tolerated and sailors who do not look presentable and dignified will not be given any kind of notice or service.
Located on the Bay de St. Marc, Port-au-Prince is a small farming and fishing community . The population is almost entirely Huguenot and the town has an attitude of intolerance towards Pirates and sailors in general .