Location in Haiti

Dessalines (Kreyòl: Desalin), commonly referred to as Marchand-Dessalines (Kreyòl: Machan Desalin), is a commune in the Artibonite department of Haiti. Founded after the Haitian Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, the City of Dessalines was named after Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the first Head of State of Haiti and Founding Father. Dessalines is the principal city of the Dessalines Arrondissement, which has a population of 412,906. Dessalines has been described as an important historical city, owing to its status as the First Black Capital of the New World.


Dessalines is one of Haiti's tourist destinations, attracting numerous annual tourists.

According to the number of forts in the commune, this area was a strategic point for the fighters of the war of independence. Originally called Marchand, in 1804 the town was made capital of the newly independent state of Haiti. It was shortly renamed after Jean-Jacques Dessalines in honor of the first Haitian leader of the first Black Free Country, which was established in 1804. He lived there for two years, with his wife Marie-Claire Félicité Bonheur Dessalines. The main street of the commune's Downtown area, which until recently was called Marchand-Dessalines, bears the name of Jacques 1er.

The commune is situated on a plantation and was named after a settler named Marchand. Marchand owned his habitation on this site before the arrival of Dessalines. The land was zoned to form the communal district, which included the pre-existing settlements of Fosse Naboth and Villars. Named in honor of Emperor Jean Jacques Dessalines, the City of Dessalines was founded in 1804 to serve as the new national capital. Jean Jacques Dessalines was the first person to lead Haiti after gaining its independence. He was a key figure in giving freedom to the black race by opposing slavery and colonialism. The imperial constitution of May 20, 1805 was proclaimed from the city of Dessalines. When Jean-Jacques Dessalines was assassinated in 1806, Port-au-Prince became the capital of the mulatto-dominated south (Cap-Haïtien was the capital of the black-dominated north). Port-au-Prince was re-established as the capital of all of Haiti when the country was unified again in 1820.


Dessalines 822 Michael Vedrine

Dessalines is located in the Artibonite Plain region, just inland of Haiti's Arcadian Coast. According to the IHSI, the commune has a total area of 474 km² (183 square miles) of mostly flat land and hills, making it Haiti's tenth largest commune by land area, with a distribution that is 86% (408.95 km²) rural, 13% (63.12 km²) suburban, and <1% (2.22 km²) urban. The municipality is bordered by L'Estère and Gonaïves to the north, Saint-Michel and Maïssade to the east, Petite Rivière de l'Artibonite to the south, and Saint-Marc, Grande-Saline, and Desdunes to the west.

The east bank of the Artibonite River forms the commune's border with Saint-Marc and has two major tributaries: the Rivière Salée and Rivière de l'Estère. Lagon Zérine, a natural lagoon, is an intermittent lake near this border. This region also has many canals, some of which allowed passage through the to the Artibonite River. The Canal l'Artibonite Nord starts in Villard and was used to bypass the Duclos Canal, located at the western edge of Dessalines, ultimately draining to the Gulf of Gonâve Seaboard fall line.

The highest natural elevation in the commune is 1000 m (3,280 ft) above sea level in the city's (5th) Petit-Cahos section. The average elevation is 30 m (98 ft) above sea-level.


Aerial view of Marchand (Dessalines)

Demographics Change

Year Population +/-
1998 157,820
2004 178,000 +13%
2009 127,529 -28%
2015 181,903 +43%

The Downtown area is populated by 31,915 inhabitants on 2.2 km² (0.85 mi²) of land, resulting in a density of 19,032 per km²(37,547 per square mi.). This population is very young: more than 60% of the population is under the age of 18, especially in rural sections (census by estimate of 2015). For every 97 men, there are 100 women.


DES Dessalines 181,903
VDS Ville de Dessalines (ou Marchand) Urban 31,915
VL 1ère Section Villars Rural 29,972
DUV 2ème Section Duvallon Ou Fossé-Naboth Rural 31,587
OGE 3ème Section Ogé Rural section 36,026
POP 4ème Section Poste Pierrot Rural 21,378
FIF 5eme Section Fiéfé (ou Petit-Cahos) Rural 11,483
LCX 6eme Section Lacroisé (ou Grand-Cahos) Rural 19,543



Dessalines, Haiti

Dessalines has a growing, diversified economy with an increasing percentage of agribusiness and ecotourism service jobs. Regarding Economic and Financial Institutions, ten restaurants, a credit union and a marketing cooperative were counted in this municipality.

The Artibonite is Haiti’s rice basket, capable of producing enough grain for the whole country. The rice grows in standing water, which requires irrigation and drainage. The canals also support other goods produced in the town such as tomato, onion, pepper, lalo (okra), beans, coffee, sugar, cotton, banana, mango, and wood used to make cabinets.

Eglise Saint-Claire 910

Eglise Saint-Claire; Marchand-Dessalines, Haiti



Route 112 travels on a north-south path through town, crossing the Rivière Coupe a l'Inde and Rivière de l'Estère at the point where it begins to straighten as it approaches Petit-Rivière. Dessalines is also crossed by Route Nationale 1, which enters the town on a bridge at Pont-Sondé, a bridge crossing over 100 years old.

Route 107, a short, 10 mile (16 km) road runs concurrently with Route 112 on Rue Turling and connects with Route Dessalines-Saint Michel and Route Petit Rivière-Dessalines. The town's retail center is located at this intersection, and includes several stores, markets, and restaurants, and is the main retail center for neighboring Petite-Rivière and l'Estère as well.

Tap-taps provide bus service between Gonaïves and Saint-Marc, as well as taxis and motorcycles on routes between the town and Route Nationale 1. The town has no rail or air service. Anse-Rouge is the location of the nearest airport to Dessalines, the Anse-Rouge Airport. The nearest national air service is at Cap-Haïtien International Airport.


The Ministry of National Education of Youth and Sports is represented by a school inspection office. The manager is an inspector responsible for coordinating the ministry's activities in the area. The commune has two schools at the kindergarten level, 16 at primary level with numerous private and three congregational. For the secondary level, there were one public school, seven private schools and a congregational school.


The Ministry of Public Health and Population is not represented in the commune of Dessalines. The community has a hospital and two clinics. In addition, six doctors and dentists, 47 nurses and auxiliaries, 36 matrons and two laboratory technicians provide the sanitary service at the communal level.


As for water availability, seven rivers, 35 springs and a lagoon have been inventoried. For the other water points, 30 single wells, 25 artesian wells, two taps and 18 pumps were recorded. Water taps is the most used, it is used for domestic use and especially for drinking. The city of Dessalines and some localities of the communal sections are electrified. Electricity of Haiti (EDH) is the institution responsible for the distribution of electricity in this municipality. It provides an average of 42 hours per week.


With regard to the Administrative and Judicial Infrastructures, the commune of Dessalines has a court of peace, located in the city at the rue Morolie. There is no prison, but preferably a guard room.


When it comes to health services, meanwhile, the town has one hospital, the Claire Heureuse Hospital. It offers pediatric, obstetric, surgical and general medical services. It can accommodate 50 in-patients.



More than 143 temples of all beliefs were counted in the commune of Dessalines. These confessions are: Catholic, Baptist, Adventist, Pentecostal and Jehovah's Witness.


In terms of communication, the commune of Dessalines has neither newspapers nor television station, but has six radio stations.


As for the political parties and organizations, they are distributed throughout the municipality. Eight grassroots organizations, three peasants groups, a women's group, three non-commercial co-operatives and an NGO were counted in this commune.

Thanks to the help of partners of international cooperation, especially the French department of Savoy, the small town located at the foot of the Cahos mountains, in the plain of Artibonite, teems with original initiatives to ensure its development . The commune of Dessalines has signed two partnership agreements with the Youth Platform - an umbrella organization grouping 87 youth associations - and is working to implement a local development plan drawn up after consultation with the entire population, a rarity in Haiti


As for the places of entertainment and leisure, the gaguères are six in number. For other types of entertainment, a movie theater, six football (soccer) fields and a basketball court have been counted in the municipality. Concerning the cultural patrimony, six monuments and sites of historical and natural type, located in the different communal sections of the municipality, have been registered.


DES Dessalines 181,903
VDS Ville de Dessalines (ou Marchand) Urban 31,915
VL 1ère Section Villars Rural 29,972 Acul-Dipson, Beaufort, Bérard, Cadeau, Carrefour-Cadeau, Charron, Daubeze, Fougère, Gressel, Jean-Denis, La Couture, Loursin, Moreau, Péyen, Pisto, Sannois, Védery, Villard.
DUV 2ème Section Duvallon Ou Fossé-Naboth Rural 31,587 Bac d'Aquin, Bois Gérard, Bois Jour, Décosse, Déseaux,

Duvallon, Fabias, Fermùe-de-Bois-Dehors, Gilbert, Gravé, Hatte-Chevaux, Hauttes-Feuilles, Painson, Renard, Savane-La Hatte, Trois-Bornes, Vincendiaire.

OGE 3ème Section Ogé Rural section 36,026 Bobin, Bois Jour, Bois Pin, Brunet, Cajoux, Carrefour-Fourneau, Carrefour-Masson, Carrefour-Ogé, Carrefour-Sévère, Carrefour-Ti Bois, Cauze-Piti, Coquière, Coupe-à-l'Inde, Coutant, Damnous, Fabias, Falaise-Rouge, Fin-du-Moinde, Fond-Alezan, Fourneau, Gaspard, Hatte-Grammont, Jour, La Place, Mahotière, Malon, Martin, Masson, Naguesse, Niel, Notier, Odijé, Passe-à-Roche, Passe-Décoste, Pélissier, Platon, Quatre-Villes, Simonette, Ti l'Etang, Tonette, Vannos, Vielle Hatte.
POP 4ème Section Poste Pierrot Rural 21,378 Bambou-Rigaud, Bois-Marie, Borin, Candy, Carien, Criotte, Dano, Galilée, Garien, Gaspard, Grande-Hatte, Grande-Savane, Haut-Bouc, Haut-Garien, Jeanton, June-Paillet, La Cour-Chocho, L'Acul, La Gainelle, Lan Mahot, La Source, Ligneul, Marché, Oranger, Platon-Gine-Paille, Poste-Pierrot, Saint-Pré, Savane-Brulée, Serber.
FIF 5eme Section Fiéfé (ou Petit-Cahos) Rural 11,483 Bastien, Belair, Bois Carré, Bois Comte, Bois-de-Lance, Bois Michel, Bois Neuf, Boulaille, Cassénave, Chaino, Cléto, Débauché, En-Bas-Lagon, Grand-Detour, Gros Coui, Hilaire, La Hatte, La Saut, Lory, Maquis, Marlbaro, Mathurin, Medecnien, Michaud, Réposoir, Ti Canos.
LCX 6eme Section Lacroisé (ou Grand-Cahos) Rural 19,543 Avocat, Bastien, Berard, Bonbongnin, Boulaille, Ca Bayard, Canvé, Carrefour Joseph, Cirouelle, Coundou, Coutan, Coutant, Dahomey, Dène, Dos l'Amour, Fantaisie, Ferry, Gouignan, Grand-Fond, Guabite, Haut-Garien, Henry, Hopital, Jean-Jacques, La Croix, Laferrière, Landry, Lan Mat, Medecignin, Miraculé, Mouette, Nan Colas, Nan Glacis, Roc-Blanc, Savane-Plate, Tedhomme, Tête-Platon, Valton, Vaudreuil.

Map of the Commune of Dessalines


The town's tourism potential is also good, as it houses several attractions and fortifications that remain in pretty good condition. Though its roads were damaged by the 2010 earthquake, Dessalines is still considered a great tourist site.

Monuments and sites

The city center of Dessalines, inhabited by about 20,000 people, is surrounded by six forts that are part of a score of military works built on the territory of Haiti after independence in 1804: this defensive system was directed against a possible return of the French, former masters of the colony of Santo Domingo.

The historic sites are made up of forts, located at the top of the mountains that guaranteed the safety of the ancient imperial city and were residences of famous people in the history of Haiti. Among the listed historic sites, it is worth highlighting the five forts made by engineer Lafayette on the summit of the mountains overlooking the city and the valley of Artibonite. Located on the highest point of the doldrums, the fort "The End of the World" is the largest fort of the imperial city. The fort "Innocent" was placed under the orders of the first son of Dessalines, who was called Innocent. Its location allowed to control the whole valley of Artibonite. The fort "Ti Madam" was the hobby place of the Empress while the "Doco" fort, located in Morne Docomond, was designed to secure the Fort "Ti Madanm". Finally, the fort "Culbuté" rose on the slope of the morne adjoining the Imperial Source. It was destroyed in 1946 during the construction of the Marchand-St Michel-de-l'Attalaye road. Today, only La Poudrière remains, but the place is frequented for voodoo ceremonies.

City of Dessalines

The whole city is dotted with pretty houses that belonged to historical figures or places of memories marked by famous people whose house (with a tiled roof) of Marie-Claire Heureuse Félicité, wife of the Emperor, the house of Charlotin Marcadieu, the tomb of General Brutus, the tomb of Colonel Gabart, the tomb of Benoît Batraville, and the remains of the house of Dessalines, amongst others.

Dessalines Center

La Ville de Dessalines map (Dessalines urban area)

Michael Vedrine

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