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Jacmel, (Jakmèl in Kréyòl) also known by its indigenous Taíno name of Yaquimel, is a city in southern Haiti founded in 1698. The city is the capital of the department of Sud-Est and has an estimated population of 40,000, while the municipality (commune) of Jacmel had a population of 137,966 at the 2003 Census.

The buildings are historic and date from the early nineteenth century; the city has been tentatively accepted as a World Heritage site and UNESCO reports that it has sustained damage in the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

The city was founded in 1698 as the capital of the south eastern part of the French colony Saint-Domingue. The area now called Jacmel was Taíno territory 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 has not changed much since the late 19th century when the town was inhabited by wealthy coffee merchants, who lived in gracious mansions that adorned the town. These mansions would later come to influence the home structure of much of New Orleans; the architecture of the city boasted cast iron pillars and balconies purchased in France. 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 notable occurrences are:


War of Knives

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 of 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 March 1800 and the rebellion was effectively over. Pétion and other mulatto leaders subsequently went into exile in France.

Creation of the Venezuelan flag

A predecessor of Simón Bolívar in the liberation struggle from colonialism in 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 ship; Corvette Leander. This day is still celebrated as Venezuelan Flag Day.

Ramón Emeterio Betances

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

Modern Jacmel prior to the 12 January 2010 earthquake

The port town is internationally known for its very vibrant art scene and elegant townhouses dating to the 19th century. 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 Bassins Bleu (Haiti's most famous natural deep water pools), and the scenic white sand beaches attract many visitors. The port city is regarded as one of the safest cities in the country and many incoming foreigners that enter the country in hope of a tranquil time, often head for Jacmel. Jacmel's urbanization has been increasing in large part due to economic finance generated through tourism. Royal Caribbean, the leasing tourism company whose cruise ships regularly dock at Labadee, plans to add stopovers to Jacmel. In February 2007, Edwin Zenny became the city'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.


2010 Haiti Earthquake

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Earthquake damage in Jacmel

On 12 January 2010, Haiti experienced a magnitude 7.0 earthquake that caused heavy damage and casualties to Jacmel. The first tremblor rocked the city at 4:40pm, but the later tremblor at 5:37pm stopped the Jacmel cathedral's clock. A Jacmel radio station estimated that at least 5000 are dead from the quake itself, although mayor Zennie Edwin later reported that the figure was closer to 300-500 deaths and 4,000 injured. In the earthquake around 70% of the homes were damaged, with most of the heavier damage being suffered in the poorer neighbourhoods of Jacmel City Hall was so severely damaged, that though it survived, it has to be demolished. A small tidal wave hit Jacmel Bay, with the ocean receding, leaving fish high and dry on the sand of the seafloor, and rushing back in, four times.

Among the facilities destroyed in the earthquake is Pazapa (Creole for "Step by step"), a charity run from two buildings in downtown Jacmel, which helped disabled children. The charity's two rented buildings suffered condemning damage, just after the children left for the day, in the quake. The Ciné Institute, Haiti's sole film school, was also destroyed in the quake. Also destroyed was the Fosaj art school.

Relief efforts had been slow because of the lack of supplies and focus on the capital Port-au-Prince. However, efforts by the Ciné Institute drew rescue and relief workers to Jacmel. Colombian rescue workers, Chilean doctors, a French mobile clinic, and Sri Lankan workers answered the call. The Haitian government had requested to the Canadian government that they concentrate relief efforts on the area of Jacmel. Canadian Governor General Michaëlle Jean's parents were born in Jacmel, which she visited frequently as a child.

The Jacmel Airport suffered incapacitating damage during the earthquake and was initially unable to receive the C-130 aircraft, though it was expected to open for C-130's on January 20. However, it has been used since 14 January 2010 as a base of operations for scouting the area with Canadian CH-146 Griffon helicopters, in advance of the relief efforts. The small, 1 km (3,300 ft) airstrip in Jacmel is too small to process the larger C-17 aircraft that were to fly in supplies. As of January 18, 2010 the Canadian navy frigate HMCS Halifax with a crew of 225, has been deployed at Jacmel to help in the relief efforts. The crew of the Halifax will be assisting Canada's Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) which was brought to the area by helicopter on January 18 as well. The port is shallow, and was not large enough to handle the Halifax so supplies had to be shipped to the shore and back again. Together DART and the Halifax crew primarily concentrated on setting up a field hospital and a water purification system. The first Canadian CC-130 flight into Jacmel Airport occurred on 19 January 2010. Also sent to Jacmel, is a mobile surgical hospital donated by a Swiss relief agency. The Cuban military set up a field hospital in the region.

A 22-day-old baby girl was found in the ruins of the hospital, on 19 January 2010, by Colombian rescuers. Her parents were unable to get news about her since the earthquake struck. The girl was found many days beyond the usual survival period of three days without water.

As of the 22nd, the DART facility moved from next to the Saint-Michel Hospital to the harbourfront. The DART field hospital was set up on the pier, as is operating full out. The DART water production plant that cleans sea water or river water was set up on a jetty.

As of the 24th, refugee camps have started to get organized, with the start of construction of proper latrines. Food distribution is delivered by the UN, with Canadian soldiers providing security, and Haitian Girl Guides and Boy Scouts handling crowd control and organization. Canadian military firefighters are inspecting buildings in Jacmel to ascertain which are structurally sound and usable. A Canadian Army clinic has been set up on the beach. The Canadian Army has set up a tent city for residents who have lost their homes.

As of the 26th, the first wave of rescue workers have started rotating out of Jacmel. The DART water production plant has started producing water, though the river water was less usable than sea water, so production is slower. River water has 900ppm of dissolved solids while sea water has 35,000ppm.

On the 28th, the first post-quake baby was born at the Canadian clinic. The main wharf at the port is handling two ships a day with relief supplies from the Dominican Republic.

On the 29th, Choice Hotels announced that it would continue with its plans to open two hotels in Jacmel, although opening would be delayed. The 32-room hotel that will be converted into a Comfort Inn was not damaged in the quake, and Choice Hotels is delivering aid supplies to guests and refugees currently housed in the facility. Choice Hotels will also continue with plans to open a 120-room hotel under the Ascend Collection banner as the "Belle Rive". This represents the first time in a decade that a multinational brand hotel chain has come to Haiti (Holiday Inn vacated Haiti, and Hilton cancelled its plans in Haiti).

As of the 2nd February, the École Wolfe Displaced Persons Camp, had been outfitted with a clean water bladder, latrines, and showers. The refugee camp contained more than 200 people, and now had a clean water supply.

As of the 3rd February, Patrimoine Sans Frontière has announced a mission to Jacmel, to attempt to preserve as much heritage architecture as possible, while also ensuring minimal safety standards.

On 19th February, HMCS Halifax finished it operational tour, and left Jacmel.

After seeing the films from Cine Institute, residents of sister city, Gainesville, Florida, USA, voiced a commitment to renew their friendship and commit to help Jacmel. Community leaders arrived in Jacmel on February 20th. Meanwhile, volunteers in Gainesville meet every week and have created a non-profit with the sole intent helping Jacmel recover. A city wide music festival will be held at the Florida School of Massage in Gainesville to raise money for Jacmel.

In early March, airport staff have revealed intentions to expand the runway from 3,300ft to 5000-6000 ft, to allow for large passenger plane access.

As of 4th March, Swiss-based Medair has started provided permanent shelters in Jacmel, that can evolved from metal-framed tents to metal clad sheds. With residents clearing their own lots, Medair would provide the shelter. Residents of the Pinchinat tent city in Jacmel are receiving one meal a day. Pinchinat contains about 6000 residents.

On 9th March, the dockside Canadian walk-in medical clinic closed, after treating more than 10,000 patients.

On 15th March, some schools reopened. As of 16th March, the Canadian military have vacated Jacmel.

In the wake of the Canadian military pullout, Jacmel was left missing many things needed to operate as a reception and distribution hub. The airport could no longer process international flights, as no equipment remained to operate the control tower, nor heavy equipment to process the planes, or security to police supplies at the airport. The seaport was left without heavy equipment to handle cargo on ships, and without security to secure the port.

Notable residents







  departmentdusudDépartement du Sud-Est

Le département du Sud-Est est divisé en 3 Arrondissements et 10 Communes :

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