The first Arab immigrants to arrive in Haiti reached the shores of the Caribbean country during the middle to late 19th century. During the time, Haiti's business sector was dominated by German and Italian immigrants. Many of them migrated to the countryside where they peddled and were very informal economically speaking. World War I, which took place when Lebanon was part of the Germany-allied Ottoman Empire, triggered a Lebanese migration to the Americas, with Haiti receiving a large number of Lebanese immigrants. Haiti received a score of Palestinian refugees during the Arab-Israeli War. The country was estimated to have about 257,000 residents of Lebanese heritage, about 68% of them are mixed-race, mainly mixing with the Haitian mulatto elite.
Arab Haitians are commonly considered as part of the upper class within Haitian society, yet they maintain their own unique presence separate from the very influential and much larger mixed-race and white Haitian populace. For years, they were shunned by the elite mulatto Haitians because of amicable interaction with the poor masses, their willingness to do business with masses and their inability to speak French. This relationship changed gradually over the years as their prominence grew in Haiti's business sector and consequently, a large percentage of them reside and do business in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Middle-class Arab Haitians often are the owners of many of the city's supermarkets.