|This article does not cite any references or sources. (May 2008)|
The beach resort of Club Indigo near Saint-Marc
|Population (2003 Census)|
Saint-Marc (Haitian Creole: Sen Mak) is a coastal port town in western Haiti in the Artibonite Department. Its geographic coordinates are . At the 2003 Census the municipality had 160,181 inhabitants. It is the biggest city between Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien.
The port of Saint-Marc is currently the preferred port of entry for consumer goods coming into Haiti. Reasons for this may include its location away from volatile and congested Port-au-Prince as well as its central location relative to a large group of Haitian cities including Cap-Haïtien, Carrefour, Delmas, Fort-Liberté, Gonaïves, Hinche, Limbe, Pétionville, Port-de-Paix, and Verrettes. These cities, together with their surrounding areas, contain nearly eight million of Haïti's ten million people (2009).
In 1905 the Compagnie Nationale or National Railroad built a 100 km railroad north to Saint-Marc from the national capital of Port-au-Prince. The track was later extended another 30 km east to Verrettes.
St. Marc is a large port town surrounded by mountains. At all times, there are many boats in the port, typically sail boats.
The actual town itself is not hilly as it is located closer to the sea. But there are areas where the town starts to extend into the foothills. From these vantage points, the ocean is sometimes viewable. The city also has a few park spaces dispersed throughout, including Place Cite Nissage Saget. These parks are often surrounded by vendors with carts full of goods.
Local residents like living in St. Marc because of its rich culture. It is a city safer than larger cities such as Port-au-Prince where people cannot leave home past dark. St. Marc is generally considered a safe place to live by Haitian standards. About 60% live in the communal section, meaning outside of town. This is to say that they have no access to infrastructure, i.e. drainage systems, electricity or potable water.
There are many recent developmental projects taking place in St. Marc, however, with assistance and funding from USAID and IOM. They include: grading and paving roads, implementing a sewage/drainage system and providing access to potable water at various points throughout town. In addition, a USAID project trained youth to map the town on OpenStreetMap, a free, editable online map.
The way to get from the capital of Port-au-Prince through St. Marc is by means of Route Nationale # 1( Haiti Highway 1) and extends all the way up to the coastal towns of Montrouis and Gonaïves, before reaching its terminus at the northern port Cap-Haïtien.
The most prevalent mode of transportation is the motorcycle (mobylette) (due to the inexpensive maintenance and low gas consumption). Generally, people fit as many as four on a bike even though the mobylettes are designed for a maximum of two people. Bikes are another common source of transport. Cars are considered a luxury mode of transportation.
St. Marc is known for being a unique blend of city and rural lifestyles. For many living in Port-au-Prince, it is considered the start of the “country”. Goats are rampant and can be seen roaming about the city streets. Many people in St. Marc also own cows or chickens.
Haitians in general are a very hospitable and welcoming population, including those in St. Marc. It is said here that “Bonjou is the passport”, meaning that saying hello opens doors. Every time you see someone you know or are have only just met, you must say either “bonjou or bonswa”, literally meaning ‘good day’ or ‘good evening’. Typically it is the person entering a room who makes the greeting.
Although St. Marc is known as the “pleasure city” as many young people reside in St. Marc, the majority of people in St. Marc live in abject poverty and work extremely hard to make ends meet.
Haitians also tend to have very powerful voices which carry very far. From an outsider’s perspective it appears as if they are angry when in fact this is not the case. People in St. Marc are very jovial; they enjoy exchanging jokes with each other. Comedy is a favorite past time.
There are three main types of music listened to in St. Marc:
- Troubadou or twoubadou is very similar to Salsa music and includes drums, trumpets, and guitar.
- Haitian folk music is strongly associated with Vodou. It is often played as processional music in the streets between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.
In St. Marc, many people also listen to popular American music. However there have been quite a few popular Haitian groups who have developed over the years, such as Les Formidables. This group is no longer together as most members live overseas, but the group’s music lingers on. Virtuose is currently a very popular group in St. Marc. BC and Gwoup 703 are other popular Haitian groups.
RapCreole is an emerging popular style among the youth. Typically this kind of rap utilizes beats from Haitian folk or popular music. Popular ‘RapKreyol’ artists include BC (Barikad Crew), Skwardy, Izolan, Fantom. and Sebastien Pierre is a popular R&B artist.
Food plays a large role in the life of people in St. Marc. People are always eating; it is an important part of normal daily social interaction. For the most part, cooking is done outside to avoid overheating and moisture collection inside.
The diet in St. Marc is very starchy; plantains, rice and pasta are present in almost every meal. In St. Marc, seafood is also consumed regularly. For instance, crab, dried cod and fresh fish are available.
Goat is perhaps the most common meat, but chicken and beef are also consumed regularly. Haitians have an affinity for either very spicy food (even peanut butter is spicy) or very sweet food (sugar is added to sugary cereals). Spices and spicy peppers are used abundantly in Haitian cuisine.
A significant amount of produce is also grown locally, specifically bananas, plantains, mangoes, cherries, corn, manioc, rice, and tomatoes. The typical St. Marc resident consumes a lot of fruit. A dish very specific to St. Marc consists of rice with sauce “pois” (beans), crab/goat meat mixed in, or both. Other dishes include bananne pesse (fried plaintains) which are accompanied with piklese, a spicy “gardiniera” mixture that consists of carrots, cabbage, and peppers.
Soup is typically prepared on Sunday which makes use of all the weeks leftovers. It usually consists of several types of meat, potatoes, and carrots. Fresh fish, typically sole, is also consumed regularly. This fish is cooked over an open fire with a mayonnaise based marinade mixed with various spices. Riz du let is a common dessert. It is essentially a rice pudding made with cinnamon, milk, sugar, and butter.
Religious believers follow mostly Catholicism and Voodou. Both are prevalent throughout the country. Catholicism/Christianity is the most widespread and generally accepted religion in St. Marc. Most Haitians attend church on Sundays. Roman Catholicism was the first form of Christianity brought to Haiti and now is the most prevalent Christian denomination with 80% of Haitians practicing. Evangelical,
Protestants, and Baptist churches are also very common in St. Marc. The majority of residents are very involved in their church as it helps them maintain their cultural identity. On any given day, groups of people singing hymns can also be heard throughout the streets.
Thought to be brought over by African slaves and developed over time, the word Voudou is derived from an African word meaning spirit. It is the most widely practiced religion and is considered the official religion of Haiti. Although a few devout Catholics denounce it, the majority of Haitians practice both religions simultaneously. Because of this Voudou is often resorted to for explaining illness. Voudou is more strongly rooted in the rural areas, and this population is more reluctant to accept Western medicine.
Commerce is the largest trade in St. Marc. Many find work as a merchant, either with their own stand in the market or at a boutik “convenient store” stand. There are also a multitude of ambulant sellers who carry baskets of goods or candy on their heads as well as canned milk to passers-by. It is interesting to note there are not many products manufactured in St. Marc.
Nearly all products sold are received as donations or surpluses from second-hand stores in the US. St. Marc. markets are open everyday and one can find almost any type of fruit or vegetable grown locally. St. Marc hosts a charcoal market for cooking material. As charcoal is used for much of the cooking in St. Marc and throughout Haiti in general, it is manufactured locally and thus supports a large work force. Aside from the charcoal market, St. Marc’s economics revolve a great deal around agricultural products produced in the area. In Deye Legliz, an area near St. Marc harbor, food markets are open everyday and one can find almost any type of fruit or vegetable grown locally. Most residents frequent the market every Saturday to stock up on food supplies for the week.
The Boulevard area houses a large flea market with a variety of mostly second-hand items sold, including clothing, electronic equipment, shoes, toys, bicycles, etc. The marche’s (markets) are open everyday but are typically frequented on Saturdays. Many people from Port-au-Prince come to the markets in St. Marc because of the inexpensive costs.
There are a few different types of stores in St. Marc. These include:
Pharmacies that sell medicinal products, open air markets that sell food and many other types of goods, bakeries with wheat and cassava bread and various sweet baked goods, convenience stores, and magazins or specialty shops for such items as fabric, hardware, beauty salons and car parts.
In St. Marc there are also people who carry baskets of goods with them (typically on top of their heads). When driving by, vendors will approach cars for purchases.
According to ARCHIVE Research: In general, people from St. Marc would distinguish between two different classes: a Middle class and a Lower Class (the poverty class). Perhaps the largest distinction between the two is the ability to read/write in French. In St. Marc, the more languages spoken, the better the education is acknowledged by others. Many of the better schools teach both French and English. When children finish with these schools, they are fluent in three languages, including Creole. Poorer schools only teach in Creole.
With most people living in poverty, everyday becomes a struggle to survive. Individual aspirations are restricted to being able to feed children and send them to school. Long-term planning goals are not on the forefront of the minds of most people living in St. Marc. It is perhaps the goal of many families that their children’s children will be able to live a better life. For people living in the “middle class”, the dream is to one day be able to afford a Concrete Masonry
- Unit house.
A CMU house is associated with security and wealth. Middle-class families may also wish to save enough money to send themselves and their children out of the country. Since life in St. Marc generally revolves around money, which is placed as a priority above even personal health and individual survival, there is not the same sense of community that people in the developed world might be used to. A desire for the betterment of the city is not typically shared and there is a general lack of patriotism and pride in the larger community. This is perhaps a response to the corrupt political system in which public officials pocket money coming into the community.
Going to the beach is a popular activity for families and friends on the weekend. The most popular time to go, is on Sunday after church. The most important beach in St. Marc is called Amani-y. Amani-y beach is a beautiful pristine white sandy beach which was abandoned for over 25 years and the current developer acquired it through purchase. Amani-y is also the site of the infamous "Zombie hole", 200 meters deep reef which features large "Elephant Ears" fan coral, sponge tubes, black coral, blue tang, sea urchins, and many more. It provides for easy access to the region’s famous historical sites such as: The Palace with 365 doors and 52 windows in Petite-Riviere de l’Artibonite; the forts in Marchand Dessalines; the pilgrimage site of Saut d’Eau; the port of Saint-Marc which is currently the preferred port of entry for consumer goods coming into Haiti because of its location to the capital.
An experienced diver has described the diving at Amani-y as follows:
|“||The diving at Amani-y is remarkable and unique. On the east end of the beach, walking out to chest -high water brings you to a dramatic drop-off, a wall going down hundreds of meters. At about 120 feet, a series of giant sponges begins. Making this dive easy is the fact that to the immediate west, a gradual slope takes you up to 30 feet, then 15-20, then ten feet or less, so decompression can be done in a very exciting and relaxing way. The shallower water is perfect snorkeling for non-divers.||”|
Saint-Marc is the capital of the lower Artibonite Region and has 6 Communal sections (section-communal) under its jurisdiction:
- Commune of Saint-Marc
- Commune of Verrettes
- Commune of Dessalines
- Commune of Petite Riviere de l'Artibonite
- Commune Desdunes
- Commune of Grande Saline
Media in Saint-Marc
- 89.1 2.5 kW Radio Media 89 - Saint-Marc
- Radio Saint-Marc (4VLF) - Saint-Marc music (local),news
- 99.1 - RTC-Radio Tele Caleb - Saint-Marc
- 99.9 - Radio Vision 2000|rep - Saint-Marc soca,reggae,hip-hop,jazz
- 101.3 1 kW Radio Super Gemini - Saint-Marc
- 102.9 - Radio Tète a Tète - Saint-Marc
- 105.7 500W Radio Delta Stereo - Saint-Marc
- (FM) - Radio Sonic Plus - Saint-Marc
- 105.5 Radio Megalexis
- 97.9 500w Radio L'Union Stéréo-Saint-Marc