Jacmel Historic District
The modern town of Jacmel was established in 1698, after France wrested control from Spain of what would later become the Republic of Haiti. Located on the south coast of the island of Hispaniola, at the site of an existing Taíno settlement, Jacmel quickly grew into a key port on the Caribbean Sea. In the nineteenth century Jacmel benefitted from the lucrative export of coffee. In 1896, the city was devastated by a fire that destroyed most of its traditional gingerbread architecture. Reflecting fashion and new technology, many new structures were rebuilt with fireproof cast iron and brick imported from Europe.
Like the rest of the country, Jacmel suffered greatly in the earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010. In Jacmel, the earthquake caused hundreds of deaths and injuries, and displaced thousands of residents when their homes were destroyed. In the weeks that followed, a team from Haiti’s Institut de Sauvegarde du Patrimoine National identified more than 100 historic buildings that had been damaged in the earthquake. An association of homeowners is now attempting to find solutions to restore these buildings. The rehabilitation of the historic center will be an important accomplishment. Jacmel has been included in Haiti’s Tentative World Heritage List since 2004, and with its rich cultural history it has the potential to become an attractive destination for cultural tourism.
Since the Watch
On New Year’s Eve 2011, the new Prime Minister, Dr. Garry Conille, announced 2012 to be the “Year of Jacmel.” The government has planned a comprehensive revitalization of the city focusing on preservation and redevelopment to make Jacmel a major cultural tourism destination in the Caribbean. $30 million toward this effort has already been pledged by the government of Venezuela. January 2012
Watch Day 2012
Watch Day was celebrated in Jacmel, together with the launch of Haiti’s “Tourism Week,” with a celebration at the city’s tourist port. An exhibition of photographs taken in the historic district by local children who participated in a photography workshop was on display at a historic home.