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Cap-haitien History, Haiti

The port city of Cap-haitien lies along the sunny coast of Haiti and was founded in 1670 during the French colonial rule; its former name was understandably Le Cap or Cap-Français, christened thus by Bertrand de Orgeron when it was the capital of St.Domingue (a small colony). It assumed this present after gaining the independent country status in 1804 and is considered one of the oldest Haitian cities besides being regarded as the Paris of St. Domingue at one time and now the largest commercial port of Haiti. 

Glory days and factors

Cap-haitien current enjoys the status of being the second largest city of Haiti and much of this importance comes from the various historical, cultural and economic aspects endowed to it by virtue of its many places of tourist interest that bring in sustained revenue, placing it on the world map. For example, there are several awe-inspiring sites such as the fortress (Citadelle Laferrière and Fort Liberté), palace (Sans-Souci) and local church (Notre Dame) that are of major historical significance as these played a crucial role in defining the history of Cap-haitien through the 1700s right up till the 1900s.

Recapturing the past

The city suffered some turbulent times during the years 1734, 1798, 1802 and 1842, with wars, infighting and mutinies galore and an earthquake in the last year mentioned that wiped out more than half its population while also destroying the beautiful Sans Souci Palace in nearby Milot town.

Mainly, there are 5 periods in the history of Haiti, which affected Cap-haitien; these include the Colonization Period (Spanish and French infiltration and colonization efforts) followed by a bloody Slave Revolution Period (1791, under the leadership of Toussaint Louverture).

Vertières, in close proximity to Cap-Haitien, is the battle site for the bloody and history defining clash by the same name, which was a major part of the Haitian Revolution. Jean-Jacques Dessalines led the rebel Haitian army on 18th November, 1803 into the Battle of Vertières to victory against the French colonial army led by Comte de Rochambeau, which led to Haiti acquiring a proud, independent status thereafter. Capois La Mort act of bravery further redefines the glorious history of Cap-haitien as in this final battle for Haitian Independence, he is believed to have survived all French bullets aimed at him and even after his horse was captured and his hat fell off, he is said to have kept on the march forward, encouraging his men with the war-cry, “Annavan,” meaning ‘let’s move onwards!’

US occupation of Haiti between the years 1915 to 1934 resulted in the port city’s streets being named according to a strange convention: avenues named after a single letter in the heart of the city where narrow streets are arranged in a grid-like pattern, which is followed till date.

Radical leaders like François Duvalier (1957-71) and Jean-Claude Duvalier (1971-86) were accredited with having a period in Cap-haitien history named after them: the Period of the Duvaliers, which was followed by the Period of Aristide, (the Haitien president Jean-Bertrand Aristide whose rule was abruptly ended by a militant uprising in February 2004).

Cap-Haïtien's attraction as a tourist destination has increased considerably thanks to the capital city of Port-au-Prince constantly suffering political instability besides the significance of its diverse historical sites.

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