Tropical islands evoke images of sun, surf, and sand, palms swaying gently in the breeze, and happy, carefree people. Some of these stereotypical images hold true for Haiti, a country that shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. Over time, however, this French-speaking land has suffered repeated natural and human-caused hardships. Raging hurricanes are frequent, leaving a wake of destruction. Earthquakes are a constant threat to life, property, and infrastructure. In January 2010, a massive earthquake struck the country's heartland, and Port au Prince, the capital and largest city, was left in ruin. More than 200,000 people died, and several million were left homeless. Though Haiti became independent in 1804, its history is one of tyrannical government, grinding poverty, social turbulence, and massive human-caused environmental destruction. Haiti explains how this beleaguered land has fallen short of becoming an idyllic ""tropical paradise.