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View of Jacmel
View of Jacmel
Jacmel is located in Haiti
Location in Haiti
Coordinates: 18°14′7″N 72°32′12″W / 18.23528°N 72.53667°W / 18.23528; -72.53667Coordinates: 18°14′7″N 72°32′12″W / 18.23528°N 72.53667°W / 18.23528; -72.53667
Country Flag of Haiti.svg Haiti
Department Sud-Est
Arrondissement Jacmel
Demonym Jacmelien(ne)
Founded by Spain 1504
French settlement 1698
Founded by Nicolás de Ovando
 • Mayor Edwin Zenny
Population (2003)[1]
 • Commune 26,077
 • Metro 40,000
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC-4)

Jacmel, (Haitian Creole: Jakmèl; Spanish: Yáquimo) is a commune in southern Haiti founded by the Spanish in 1504[2] and repopulated by the French in 1698. It is the capital of the department of Sud-Est and has an estimated population of 40,000, while the commune of Jacmel had a population of 137,966 at the 2003 Census. The town's name is derived from its indigenous Taíno name of Yaquimel. In 1925, Jacmel was dubbed as the "City of Light," becoming the first in the Caribbean to have electricity.[3]

The city has well-preserved historical French colonial architecture that dates back from the early nineteenth century and has little changed. The town has been tentatively accepted as a World Heritage site and UNESCO reports that it has sustained damage in the 2010 Haiti earthquake.[4]


The town was founded by Dominicans ("Compagnie de Saint-Domingue") in 1698 as the capital of the southeastern part of the French colony Saint-Domingue. The area now called Jacmel was Taíno territory, part of the Xaragua chiefdom ruled by cacique Bohechio. With the arrival of the French, and the later establishment of the town, the French renamed Yaquimel as Jacmel.

The city was developed to boost sugar production and trade, but soon it evolved into a coffee trading centre. In 1896 it suffered a major fire that destroyed most of the buildings in the city. The city was rebuilt, often using prefabricated cast-iron pillars and balconies shipped from France. Many ornate mansions of wealthy coffee merchants from this time have been preserved up to this day without much change and the whole central part of the city has changed little over the last 100 years[when?].

The mansions of Jacmel, with their cast-iron pillars and balconies, would later influence the homes in much of New Orleans. Today, many of these homes are now artisan shops that sell vibrant handicrafts, papier-mâché masks, and carved-wood animal figures. In recent years, efforts have been made to revitalize the once flourishing cigar and coffee industries. The town is a popular tourist destination in Haiti due to its relative tranquility and distance from the political turmoil that plagues Port-au-Prince.

Over the years, this rather small town experienced a number of noted historical events. Some of these occurrences are:

War of Knives[edit]

Toussaint Louverture fought over Jacmel in the so-called War of Knives between him and his fellow countryman André Rigaud, who wished to maintain authority over the city. This war began in June 1799. By November the rebels were pushed back to this strategic southern port, the defence of which was commanded by Alexandre Pétion. Jacmel fell to Toussaint's troops in February 1800, during which the American warship USS General Greene bombarded the city.[5] After which the rebellion was effectively over. Pétion and other mulatto leaders subsequently went into exile in France.

Creation of the Venezuelan flag[edit]

A Venezuelan predecessor of Simón Bolívar in the liberation struggle against colonialism in Venezuelan and much of Spanish-ruled South America, Francisco de Miranda, created the first Venezuelan flag near Jacmel. Anchored in the Bay of Jacmel (Baie de Jacmel), he first raised the flag on March 12, 1806, on the corvette Leander. This day is still celebrated as Venezuelan Flag Day. The flag created by De Miranda is often referred to as the "bandera madre" (mother flag) due to its role as inspiration and resemblance to the flags of Colombia and Ecuador.

Ramón Emeterio Betances[edit]

Puerto Rican pro-independence leader Ramón Emeterio Betances spent a short interval in Jacmel in 1870, from where he gathered support for an uprising in the Dominican Republic, seeking to install a liberal government there. Then-president of Haiti Nissage Saget supported Betances's ideals of a pan-Antillean union, and gave the uprising his support.

Modern Jacmel prior to the 12 January 2010 earthquake[edit]

The port town is internationally known for its very vibrant art scene and elegant townhouses dating from the 19th century. Among the wealth of art and crafts available in Jacmel are the papier-mâché, done by nearly 200 artisans and the reknow Atelier created by Moro Baruk. In recent years Jacmel has been host to a large film festival, the 'Festival Film Jakmèl', started in 2004, and in 2007 the international music festival 'Festival Mizik Jakmèl' was successfully launched. Its carnival, the nearby Bassin Bleu (Haiti's most famous natural deep pools), and the scenic white sand (Timouillage, Cabic, Raymond-les-bains, located primarily in Cayes-Jacmel) beaches attract many visitors. The town is regarded as one of the safest in the country, and foreign visitors that come to Haiti seeking tranquility often go for Jacmel. Its urbanization has been increasing in large part due to the income generated by tourism. Royal Caribbean, the leading tourism company whose cruise ships regularly dock at Labadee, plans to add stopovers at Jacmel. In February 2007, Edwin Zenny became the town's newly elected mayor. In addition, the Jacmel Film Festival is held there annually. On January 11, 2010, Choice Hotels announced they would open a 120-room Comfort Inn in Jacmel, the first chain hotel to be opened there in a decade.[6]

2010 Haiti Earthquake[edit]

On 12 January 2010, Haiti experienced a magnitude 7.0 earthquake that caused heavy damage and casualties in Jacmel.[7] The first temblor rocked the city at 4:40 pm, but the later temblor at 5:37 pm stopped the cathedral's clock. A Jacmel radio station estimated that at least 5000 were dead from the quake itself, although mayor Zennie Edwin later reported that the figure was closer to 300-500 deaths and 4,000 injured. About 70 per cent of the homes were damaged, with most of the heavier damage being in the poorer neighbourhoods.[8] Town Hall was so severely damaged that it had to be demolished.[9] A small tsunami hit Jacmel Bay, with the ocean receding, leaving fish high and dry on the seabed, and rushing back in, four times.[10]


In December 2010, the Capponi Construction Group, a Miami-based construction company, decided to help with the revitalization of Jacmel.[11][12] This initiative was created to help stimulate a self-sustaining tourism economy for Haiti.[13] Michael Capponi, founder of the Capponi Group, formed the Jacmel Advisory Council, to help revitalize Jacmel, while preserving its arts, culture and traditions.[14] The board promotes best practices to provide a socio-economic system for thousands of Haitians living in the southeast region.[15] Capponi Group Haiti is also restoring a 200-year-old coffee sorting house at the port of Jacmel.[16] The project hopes to again make Jacmel a commercial and tourist center.[17]

Seaside in Jacmel

Notable residents[edit]

  • René Depestre, a famous Haitian poet and essayist who fled from the Duvalier dictatorship. He was born in Jacmel. The city is the setting for much of his fictional work.
  • Préfète Duffaut - painter
  • Michaëlle Jean, Secretary-General of La Francophonie and former Governor General of Canada, was born in Port-au-Prince to a Jacmel family.[18]
  • Magloire Ambroise
  • Jørgen Leth, Danish filmmaker, writer and former Danish honorary consul in Haiti.
  • Jean-Fritz Chancey, Teacher and Legend who works at École Secondaire Catholique Franco-Cité.
  • Dr. Yolanda Fleurantin, Psychologist, Family Psychiatric/Mental Health Provider, Adult/Geriatric Nurse Practitioner, was born in Jacmel.


The Port of Jacmel (HTJAK)[19] is a small, relatively shallow port and is unable to harbour large ships.[20] There is also a pleasurecraft dock as part of the port, which survived the quake.[21] It is run by the Autorité Portuaire Nationale.

Also located in Jacmel is a small airstrip (MTJA)[22] capable of handling small to medium-sized planes. The airstrip is unable to handle large aircraft.[20]

Jacmel has now two hospitals, Hôpital Saint-Michel and the "Complexe Médico Chirurgical Rose Marie Paul" recently founded by the philanthropist Dr. Leon Paul, and becomes the highest equipped surgery center in the city, with highly qualified international and national professionals. The "Hôpital Saint-Michel" which locals had nicknamed "the morgue" prior to the earthquake.[23] The hospital is the largest hospital or health centre in the region.[24] It has a staff of six doctors and ten nurses. The quake half-collapsed the hospital, including the maternity ward;[23][25] however, the hospital continues to operate.[26] The radiology department was the only undamaged portion of the hospital.[24]

Jacmel had a civil court building, which was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake.[27]

The town's main square is Place Toussaint Louverture, named after the Haitian revolutionary leader.[28]

Sister cities[edit]


  1. ^ www.citypopulation.de: based on Institut Haïtien de Statistique et d'Informatique
  2. ^ Carl Ortwin Sauer (2008). The Early Spanish Main. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 153. ISBN 978-0-521-08059-0. Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
  3. ^ Leeder, Jessica (2012). "Lighting the way forward in Haiti". The Global and Mail. Retrieved 4 February 2015. 
  4. ^ "Heritage in Haiti". UNESCO.org. 2010-01-20. Retrieved 23 January 2010. 
  5. ^ http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/g3/general_greene-ii_.htm
  6. ^ "Chain Hotels Coming Back to Haiti". ABC News. January 11, 2010. Retrieved January 11, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Magnitude 7.0 - HAITI REGION", United States Geological Survey
  8. ^ AFP, "In Haiti, the Jacmel cathedral clock stopped at 5:37 pm", 20 January 2010 (accessed 20 January 2010)
  9. ^ Globe and Mail, "Welcome to Jacmel", Jessica Leeder, 9 February 2010 (accessed 10 February 2010)
  10. ^ Washington Post, "In Jacmel, Haiti, parties give way to aftershocks and rescue missions", Susan Kinzie, 24 January 2010 (accessed 24 January 2010)
  11. ^ Fagenson, Zachary. "Haiti's President huddles privately with developers in Miami". article. Miami Today. Retrieved week of June 30, 2011.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  12. ^ Adams, David. "The Pied Piper of Jacmel". Magazine. Poder. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  13. ^ "The Pied Piper of Jacmel". Poder Magazine. Poder. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Jacmel Advisory Council". Discoveringhaiti.com. Retrieved March 2011.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  15. ^ Schaaf, Bryan. "Envisioning a New Jacmel". Haiti Innovation. haitiinnovation.com. Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  16. ^ "New Haiti". forum. Lonely Planet. Retrieved June 2011.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  17. ^ Adams, David. "Man with Plan, for Haiti". Miami Herald. The Miami Herald. Retrieved June 13, 2011. 
  18. ^ (French) Le Devoir, "Haïti: les soldats canadiens déployés à Jacmel", GUILLAUME BOURGAULT-CÔTÉ, 18 January 2010 (accessed 24 January 2010)
  19. ^ World Port Source, "HTJAK" (accessed 24 January 2010)
  20. ^ a b Globe and Mail, "Canada's big task in Haiti starts on small airstrip", Gloria Galloway, 19 January 2010 (Accessed 19 January 2010)
  21. ^ Woodinville Weekly, "Matching good deeds to worthy needs", Deborah Stone, 22 February 2010 (accessed 23 February 2010)
  22. ^ World Aero Data, "MTJA" (accessed 24 January 2010)
  23. ^ a b Wall Street Journal, "Smaller Towns Struggle As Help Is Slow to Arrive", Christopher Rhoads, 19 January 2010 (accessed 20 January 2010)
  24. ^ a b (French) IRIN, "HAÏTI: Les craintes d’un tremblement de terre persistent", 02 February 2010 (accessed 02 February 2010)
  25. ^ Washington Post, "Virginia medical team reaches Haitian city, begins to treat patients", Susan Kinzie, 20 January 2010 (accessed 20 January 2010)
  26. ^ (French) La Voix du Nord, "Médecin et pompier professionnel à Berck", RENÉ DURIEZ, 27 January 2010 (accessed 27 January 2010)
  27. ^ (French) Metropole Haiti, "Le système judiciaire paralysé trois semaines après le séisme", LLM, 5 February 2010 (accessed 6 February 2010)
  28. ^ Christian Science Monitor, "Haiti earthquake jolts a million city-dwellers to head for 'home'", Howard LaFranchi, 29 January 2010 (accessed 29 January 2010)

External links[edit]