Haiti Local

Jacmel (Kreyol: Jakmèl; Spanish: Yáquimois) is a coastal city in southern Haïti. Founded in 1698, it is the capital of the of the Southeast Department. It is also the chief city of the arrondissement of the same name. In 2013, Jacmel was ranked eighth by MondoBlog magazine on its Top-ten list of the "most beautiful communes" in Haiti. Jacmel is one of the oldest cities in the Caribbean and has been accepted as a World Heritage Site.


Jacmel, SE, Haiti

The tropical temperature is favorable all year round; the seaside the beaches make Jacmel one of the flagship tourist cities of Haiti as well as the Caribbean. Earning the nickname The "Creative City," it is known for its energetic nightlife, vibrant live-music scene and spicy, exotic cuisine, reflecting its history as a melting pot of Indian, French, African, and Spanish cultures. Embodying its festive spirit is Carnaval, the late-winter carnival famed for animated costumed parades and Rara bands (random street parties).


City center of Jacmel


Location in Haiti



Jacmel is the principal municipality in Greater Jacmel, which had a total population of 340,000 in 2015. It is located in southeastern Haiti, and occupies both sides of the Grande Rivière de Jacmel or Rivière de la Cosse. The heart of the city, with a building style that influenced the architecture of New Orleans' French Quarter, is on the river's east side. It is the 12th largest city (after Léogâne), and the sixth largest provincial capital city in Haiti, with a population of 170,300 people as of the 2015 census.

The city was founded as Villanueva de Yaquimo in 1504 by Spanish settlers, and almost 200 years later rediscovered by the French.


Historic map of Jacmel Market and environs

Jacmel is the home of Ciné Institute, Haiti's only film school - 'a magical place where magic is taught and made'. UPSEJ (Université Publique du Sud'Est à Jacmel) is another university located within the city limits.

The city is known for the distinct architecture of its elegant ‘gingerbread’ townhouses, as well as its cross-cultural and multilingual heritage. Jacmel is famous for its cuisine, its music (particularly as the birthplace of konpa) and its annual celebrations and festivals, most notably Carnaval. The city is often referred to as the "City of Light", being the first to have electricity in the Caribbean. Additionally, Jacmel has played an important role in the liberation movement of South America. The Venezuelan flag was also created in Jacmel.


Women dancing in Jacmel's Historic District

JAC 10822


Main article: History of Jacmel
Jacmel was one of the largest exporters of coffee and oils of the Caribbean ports. Founded in 1698 by the Company of Santo Domingo, and granted municipal status in 1854, Jacmel prospered, thanks to the maritime trade, as one of the most flourishing ports of trade at the time of colonization. Jacmel is one of the oldest cities of the country, yet the past and present mix there harmoniously.


Old town, Jacmel

According to more than one source, Jacmel takes its name from the pre-Columbian period, Yaquimel, which means "Clear water" in the language of the Indians, the original inhabitants of the island. According to other sources, Jacmel is the name of one of the French settlers founding the colony, Jacques de Melo.

One thing is certain, Jacmel in the past centuries to play an outstanding role in the history of the Caribbean.

One of the most flourishing ports of trade at the time of colonization, Jacmel has kept remnants of the colonial defensive system particularly through its forts including: The small battery, Fort Ogé and the Beliot Fort.

In 1804, at the time of the Haitian Revolution, Jacmel was a strategic southern port. It was disputed in 1799 by the generals Toussaint Louverture and André Rigaud. It was the lieutenant of Rigaud, the future president Alexandre Pétion, who handled the defense of Jacmel, during the knife war. A real war of extermination was waged against the Mulattoes of the South; nearly 10,000 of them perished despite the intervention of the superior officer Magloire Ambroise who saved the lives of hundreds of respected families in Jacmel and was considered a hero by the population of this city at that time and who went on to be named commander of Jacmel in 1802 by Jean-Jacques Dessalines. The forces of Toussaint besieged the city in November 1799; its fall in March 1800 guaranteed the triumph of Toussaint. Pétion and Rigaud went into exile in France.


Arriving by boat from Marseille and erected in 1895, the House of the trader Melcour Poux, called Maison Boucard is part of the heritage of Jacmel. The elegant balustrades, the staircases of this construction make this construction one of the most beautiful in Jacmel.

The city also keeps very alive the memory of its role in the movement for the liberation of South America. Indeed, Jacmel participated very actively in struggles for the liberation of the peoples of Latin America. It is in Jacmel that Francisco Miranda created on March 12, 1806, the flag of his country, Venezuela.

Later, in 1816, the town hosted the liberator of Venezuela, Simón Bolívar. In addition, the flag of Miranda has inspired those of Colombia and Ecuador. As such, on March 12, 2013, the city would host an international summit that woult bring together delegations from different countries of the Caribbean and Latin America.

The city was destroyed in large part in a fire in 1895, Jacmel was rebuilt according to a model of prefabricated houses sent from Europe, especially Belgium. This reconstruction of the city gives it a charming and original architecture made of iron and cast iron.

For on the one hand to commemorate these exploits and other hand recognize the architectural uniqueness of the city, the historic district of the city of Jacmel is now on the permanent list of the World Heritage Monuments.



Map of Downtown Jacmel, with Carnaval route highlighted in yellow

Jacmel is located on the beautiful Jacmel Bay, north of the Caribbean Sea, on the banks of the Grand Rivière de Jacmel, approximately 20 km (12 miles) downriver from the mountains. According to the IHSI, the commune's area is 443.88 square kilometers (171.38 sq. miles), of which 304.77 square kilometers (69%) is rural, 135.36 square kilometers (30%) is suburban and 3.75 square kilometers (1%) is urban. It is bordered on the north by the Western Department cities of Grand-Goâve, Léogâne, and Carrefour, on the northeast by the Western town of Kenscoff, on the east by the towns of Marigot and Cayes-Jacmel, on the west by Bainet and La Vallée-de-Jacmel, and bathed on the south by the Caribbean Sea. In terms of land, Jacmel is the largest commune in the Southeast Department and has the 11th largest land area in the republic. Along its path in the mountains, the area along the river is characterized by small cascades opening on several small stream pools. The plains are the dominant relief and the climate is considered normal. The municipality of Jacmel has twelve communal sections and only two extension areas: Lamandou and La monchille. These areas consist of well-built houses.


Hotel de ville Jacmel City Hall

The city is on the east bank of the mouth of the river La Cosse (also called "Grande Rivière de Jacmel"), at the place where it empties in the bay of Jacmel. The Orangers river crosses the city of Jacmel before flowing into the Grande Rivière de Jacmel at its mouth on the bay of Jacmel.

To the west is the mouth of the Petite Rivière de Jacmel and its natural and tourist site of Bassin Bleu.


JAC MtoF ratio
Year Population % +/-
1896 30,000
1950 93,070 +210%
1971 126,473 +36%
1998 135,499 86.7% Rural +7%
2000 137,370 +1%
2004 141,524 +4%
2010 170,289 +17%
2015 187,000 +9%

The economic dynamism of this city is reflected in its demographic growth, but a real policy of urban planning still remains to be carried out, at the risk of seeing the shantytowns proliferate there as it is the case for the rest of Haiti.


Jacmel, the southeast cultural city of Haiti

Communal Sections


Jacmel's Historic District

Jacmel is divided into 12 sections. Urban districts are in the center, while rural are outlying, but still within city limits.


1, 5 and 6.


1 - 11

JAC Jacmel 187,253
VJA Ville de Jacmel 48,248
QMB Quartier de Marbial 566
BCG 1ère Section Bas Cap Rouge 39,127
FDM 2ème Section Fonds Melon (Selle et Michineau) 1,891
CGR 3ème Section Cochon Gras 13,078
LGS 4ème Section La Gosseline 5,333
MBL 5ème Section Marbial 1,895
MLV 6ème Section Montagne La Voûte 21,003
GRJ 7ème Section Grande-Rivière-de-Jacmel 6,806
BCH 8ème Section Bas Coq Chante 10,801
HCH 9ème Section Haut Coq Qui Chante 6,252
LVN 10ème Section La Vanneau 10,591
LMG 13ème Section La Montagne 21,662

Rue Charmant; Jacmel, SE, Haiti


In terms of economic and financial infrastructures, Jacmel has, on the one hand, a minimum of hotels and restaurants that offer their services according to their capacity, to local and foreign visitors; on the other hand, it has two banks, caisses populaires and commercial cooperatives which insure the monetary transactions of the commune.

Jacmel's artisanal production includes paper mâché, woodworking, fabric painting, jewelry and Richelieu style embroidery. At the root of this artistic fervor is the creativity of the artist Moro Baruk who inspired and trained hundreds of craftsmen.


Marche Jacmel



In terms of economic activities two points are to be noted: 1- By the tradition of the town (especially in town), trade remains the most important, agriculture comes after because it is practiced in an archaic way especially in the communal sections. 2- The city itself, with all its craftsmen, is considered a vast workshop. Cosmopolitan and tourist town, many vestiges and specific moments have marked the life or the social, cultural, economic history of the town. We can cite as examples: in 1816, it was considered as land of asylum for Simon Bolivar and in 1826 for Francisco de Miranda; the pre-manufactured iron market, imported from Belgium in 1895. The house where Simon Bolivar lived, the Manoir d'Alexandra built after the fire of the city of Jacmel (September 19, 1896), etc. In addition, the carnival, an annual folk festival that continues to perpetuate the tradition, the various beaches and tourist sites make the municipality of Jacmel a privileged place for both local and foreign visitors.

Rue du Commerce

In front of Hotel Florita. Rue du Commerce; Jacmel, SE, Haiti


Jacmel during Carnival




The Ministry of National Education has been represented for over nine years in the commune of Jacmel. The departmental office is the seat of this representation. It consists of a staff of 39 members (24 men and 15 women) and a departmental director as manager. Two "Kindergarten" and 64 pre-school and primary schools have been inventoried in the commune with: 47% of public schools, 42% of private schools and 11% of congregational or mission schools. For the Secondary level, a total of eleven schools were registered, two public and nine private. For the moment, there is no "Literacy Center" in Jacmel, there are among others four technical and vocational schools with various fields of specialization: cabinet making, mechanics, sewing, haute couture, accounting, computer science, and auto-School, amongst others. At the University level, there is only the Faculty of Law of Jacmel which received nearly 300 students at the time of the collection of information.


The Ministry is represented by a departmental office and a communal office. A hospital, eight dispensaries located in certain communal sections and at least fourteen private clinics serve the population of the commune and its surroundings.


With regard to the water supply, five rivers have been inventoried, three of them are used for watering. Of the listed sources, four of them were collected and distributed by the National Drinking Water Service (SNEP) for domestic use. For electricity, only the city and its suburbs benefit from the current produced by the electric motor of the Electricity of Haiti (EDH).



Jacmelian Mural

Jacmel has a notable carnival activity in the Caribbean region, and one of his characters (the robalagallina, imitation or caricature of the planter's wife) was adopted by the carnival of the Dominican Republic. The festive behavior of the Jacmelians earned them a fame of "dyoles" (exhibitionists).

During the Easter celebrations, a big parade of bands of rara under the rhythms of petro and congo, is organized there. The civil authorities organize it to promote Haitian culture, which is closely linked to that of southern Africa.

Jacmel is also known for its patron day celebrations on the first of May every year. During this festival, the musical groups of Haiti meet in Jacmel and its surroundings for concerts called in Kreyol "ball". On May 18, the Jacmeliens celebrate their flag with large parades of fanfares throughout the city. In November Jacmel perpetuates the traditional "Festival of the Dead" (November 1 and 2).


Jacmel Mardi-Gras

Jacmel also organizes two international festivals (music festival and film festival) that have already hosted internationally renowned


Built in 1859, the Cathedral of St. James and St. Philippe was restored in 1977. It is possible to admire a magnificent altar and a superb pulpit, which is imported from Europe from the 19th century. The first light bulb of the country and the Caribbean was lit at the Cathedral of St. James and St. Philippe at the Christmas Mass on December 24, 1895.


Religion In terms of the number of temples, churches and chapels, Catholicism (30) and Baptism (40) are the most represented in the commune than other religions.


In the field of communication, Jacmel benefits from a telephone service with over a thousand lines available. The postal service operates with a staff of nine members of which two factors ensure the delivery of mail in urban areas. Five radio stations, two magazines and four television stations provide the press service in the municipality.



Haiti remains the outstanding nation in terms of primitive art. The art industry in Haiti brings on board widely varied styles of painting. Jacmel has a rich handicraft creativity that is in great demand worldwide. This craft has a very wide variety: decorative items and utilities (painted wood, scrap, straw, paper mache).

One of the popular styles of art is Papier-mache. In making this, a wet surface is laid on a form. The surface is allowed to dry once the image is created. Distinctive colors are applied on the created image to add life and details. Haiti locals, artists and tourists have embraced this style of art.

Papier-mache has been used to create images for animals, vases, masks, political personalities etc.

Papier-mache masks are common in Jacmel, a three hour drive from the capital.

The town is recognized because of its handcrafted art. Jacmel Papier-mache masks are big and have a hollow back for ease when mounting on the wall. Locals mount these pieces of art in their living rooms to bring a livening spirit and cultural memories.

The Jacmel Carnival, a cultural event rich in color and creativity, thanks to the contribution paper mache, has exceeded our borders.


The beaches of Kabik, Ti Mouillage and Raymond des Bains constitute a strong tourist activity, of local origin and of the Haitian diaspora, in particular during the summer period.

La chute de Bassin Bleu

Les Cascades Pichon (The Pichon Waterfalls)

"Le Trou" ("The hole"), a fountain recognized for its famous annual festival, called "fête 6 janvier".

Urban planning and architectural heritage[]

The economic and urban history as well as the architectural heritage of the old center have been well studied as part of a collaboration between the National Heritage Safeguarding Institute (Haitian Ministry of Culture) and the General Inventory of Cultural Heritage (French Ministry of Culture and Communication). The summary of the inventory work was published in the online journal.


Jacmel has been a twin city of Strasbourg, France since 1991 and is also a twin city of Gainesville, Florida.


Imagine a house that is fully furnished with the exquisite work of local artisans, surrounded by greenery, and is a mere three-minute walk to Kabik beach (45 seconds by car) and a twenty-minute drive from Downtown Jacmel. Now imagine this house has high speed Internet, a 42 inch flat screen tv, dvd player, shelves filled with books, a cook, maid, gardener, invertor, chateau d’eau (always running water) included and is open for rental.

Contact Sophia Paris for info on pricing (sophiastoneparis@gmail.com or 38457585)


Jacmel offers a diverse range of hotels and guest houses

References and Links[]

Jacmel [1]

Kabik House [2]

Presentation Jacmel [3]


The terrace of the Manoir Alexandra offers a spectacular panorama of the bay. Entering the Manoir Alexandra is a trip into the wonderful world of Adriana. The writer René Depestre has indeed been largely inspired by the magical setting of the Manor in her novel (Renaudot 1988) whose real heroine is Jacmel itself, birthplace of the famous poet.


Built in the 19 th century, the former civilian prison in Jacmel will be restored and converted into a municipal museum of the city. Restoration work began in November, 2007.

Jacmel MAP

Communal map of Jacmel, Haiti


JAC Jacmel 187,253
VJA Ville de Jacmel Urban 48,248
QMB Quartier de Marbial Urban 566
BCG 1ère Section Bas Cap Rouge Rural section 39,127 Bois Bayard, Bois-Cassé, Bois Larue, Brémant, Carrefour Marin, Ca Laurent, Catadat, Chérubia, Chevalier, Civadier, Clémence, Delmas, Demotelle, Doceau, Dougé, Fond-Février, Fond-Pierre, Grandin, Grigris, Jean-Boirond, Lan Mandou, Lauture, Mahotière, Mansê-Marie, Méditout, Meyer, Michel, Plateau-Cap-Rouge, Siloe, Thomas-Brun, Wilfrid
FDM 2ème Section Fonds-Melon (Selle et Michineau) Rural 1,891 Bréman, Casimir, Castigant, Ferry, Fond Melon
CGR 3ème Section Cochon-Gras Rural 13,078 Bas-la-Voute, Bassin, Brulaille, Cochon-Gras, La Croix, Macombe, Richard, Royal, Ti Rivière, Tranquille
LGS 4ème Section La Gosseline Rural 5,333 Boucan-Bouteille, Ca Biedo, Ca Bièque, Casimir, Fond-Duline, Fond-Melon, Marbial, Mare-Kindou, Nan Etang, Pomme d'Amour
MBL 5ème Section Marbial Rural section 1,895 Fond-Cuivre, Fond-Rouge, Handral, Janvier, Lacombe
Marbial 120418


MLV 6ème Section Montagne La Voute Rural section 21,003 Areguy, Bas Lavoûte, Bassin-Caïman, Belair, Biscaillant, Boucan Ibo, Cahot, Carrefour Nan Brûlé, Cochon-Gras, D'Haïti, Foucaud, Locadi, Mamouset, Nan Brûlé, Neron, Opéron, Plaine-Berteron, Plaine-Maréchal, Portail-Léogane, Saint-Hilaire, Tourpine, Voltaire
GRJ 7ème Section Grande-Rivière-de-Jacmel Rural 6,806 Barrère, Beausejour / Beau Séjour, Boucan-Tache, Dibiton, Embouchure
BCH 8ème Section Bas-Coq-Chante Rural 10,801 Bois Cercueil, Castel, Cima, Coq-Chante-Cangreux, Fétiche, Fond-Nabote, Grand-Savane, Nouvelle-Terre, Paco, Trois-Palmistes
HCH 9ème Section Haut Coq Qui Chante Rural 6,252 Gilbert, Nan Piti, Réserve, Rideau, Tapion
LVN 10ème Section La Vanneau Rural 10,591 Bodin, Desmarattes, Dessources, Grand-Fond, Lavanneau, Lavano, L'Eau Calme, Musac, Nan Bambou, Nan Benjamin, Pegui, Petite-Riviere, Plaine-Munitie, Savanette, Source-Gabriel, Zobodo
LMG 13ème 11ème Section La Montagne Rural 21,662 Baguette, Bassin-Bleu, Bellevue, Casque-Carré, Ca Titi, Corail, Desravines, Grand-Bangnin, La Colline, La Croix, La Montagne, Langlade, La Porte, La Valette, Mahotière, Menan, Nan Abricot, Nan Lafontant, Nan Margot, Nan Marquis, Plaine-Colin, Rampas, Sable-Cabaret, Saint-Rampas, Savane-Mambo, Terre-Rouge, Ti-Place-Bélot, Voûte

The Price Mill, British-made steam engine imported from home Linsay and Co of Liverpool (1818) Hannibal Price, classified World Heritage by the Smithsonian Institute, is one of two specimens listed worldwide.


One is in England and the other in Jacmel, Haiti

Notable residents[]

Jacmel is the birthplace of several notable individuals such as

  • André Pilié, former administrator in Jacmel, secretary of state at the time of Boyer's overthrow.
  • Joseph François
  • Ultimo Lafontant, mentioned in the Mémoires du Général Toussaint-L'Ouverture
  • Désilus Lamour, senator, March 8, 1870
  • Hannibal Price, diplomat and author
  • Thimagène Lafontant,
  • Louis Tanis, former borough commander of Jacmel, started a revolution on March 7th, 1875.
  • Massillon Lauture, distinguished citizen, former Deputy of the Haitian Congress and Finance Administrator of Jacmel
  • Labidou, member of the Jacmel insurrectional council
  • Normil Chicoye, liberal Bazelaisist, inaugurated the Jacmel insurrection of July 23, 1883.
  • Seymour Pradel, Poet, journalist, teacher, and politician.
  • Michel Oreste Lafontant, 21st president of Haiti, 1913-1914
  • Emmanuel Morel, Deputy of the Legislative Body for Jacmel in 1899, Secretary of State for the Interior and Public Works in 1913, and Counsel to the National Bank of Haiti in 1915
  • Delabarre Pierre-Louis, Secretary of State, 1925
  • François Visière
  • Benjamin Ogé, owned a habitation in Bas Cap-Rouge
  • Charles Moravia, poet, dramatist, teacher, and diplomat.
  • Monsignor Antoine de Souffrant served as the prince of Jacmel under Faustin I in 1849, passing away in Port-au-Prince on January 28, 1851, with military honors bestowed upon him.
  • C.N. Céligny Ardouin, in his work Essays on the History of Haiti, wrote about The Siege of Jacmel following the involvement of Longchamp, a senator, in the siege.
  • In 1897, L. Gentil Tippenhauer published a geological study on Jacmel in Gotha. Mr. Vilvert Delva, the Dean of pharmacists of Haiti in 1898, mentioned that Senator Bayard of Jacmel, during President Boyer's term, had published a brochure for the government highlighting the presence of mercury at the Gabette habitation near Jacmel. Lastly, during President Borno's administration in 1925, new school buildings for the Sisters and a hospital were constructed.

Michael Vedrine