Medicine and Health Sciences


In 1492 the Admiral of the Sea, Christopher Columbus landed on the eastern shores of Hispaniola, today’s Haiti and Dominican Republic. Known as “Cristobal Colon” by the Spanish-speaking world, the explorer brought Spanish troops, and disease. In the early settlement period from 1492-1520, both the natives and Spaniards suffered great losses. The natives did not live amongst domesticated animals which are natural reservoirs for disease1,2. Therefore, when Spaniards brought livestock to Hispaniola, the indigenous people were exposed to novel diseases, such as smallpox and influenza, to which they had no immunity. Meanwhile, the Spaniards struggled to adapt to the new environment’s climate and microbial population, such as syphilis. Food and medicine were lacking for all survivors2. The Spanish leaders established trade and exploited the labor of the natives. Within 30 years, the European intrusion eliminated the population of the Island’s natives. Flash forward 200 years and battles between Britain, France, and Spain ensued, eventually resulting in France developing Haiti in the west and Spain establishing the Dominican Republic in the east. The development of the island of Hispaniola was profoundly influenced by the incidence of disease as exemplified by the loss of the indigenous people, the importation of African slaves, their sources of economic prosperity, and divisions of the island with the French.