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Fort Saint Joseph
Fort Castries
Aerial view of Fort-Liberté
Aerial view of Fort-Liberté
CountryFlag of Haiti.svg Haiti
0 m (0 ft)
 (7 August 2003)[1]
 • Total30,110
  1. Institut Haïtien de Statistique et d'Informatique (IHSI)

Fort-Liberté (Kreyòl: Fòlibète) is the administrative capital of the Nord-Est Department, Haiti. It is close to the border of the Dominican Republic and is one of the oldest cities in Haiti. The city’s historic importance is because Haiti’s declaration of independence was made from here on November 29, 1803.[1][2] Fort-Liberté’s turbulent historical importance prior to 1803 is traced to its original inhabitants of the indigenous Indians and later by several colonial rulers starting with the Spanish. It was founded as a city in 1578 by the French, was occupied by the British in 1790, captured by the Spanish forces in 1794 and restored to the French in 1801 until independence in 1803. The city has undergone a succession of name changes, in the order of Bayaha (1578), Fort-Dauphin (1732), Fort St. Joseph (1804), Fort-Royal (1811) and finally as Fort-Liberté since 1820.[1][3][4] The town is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort-Liberté.

Demographics and social norms

Population of Fort Liberte is 11,465.[4] The language spoken in this region is French, apart from the Haitian patois language of the natives. Religion as per Law of the Land is Roman Catholic. Educational institutions have been established from time to time in various parts of the island.[5]


Fort-Liberté is part of North Est department, which borders the Dominican Republic. Nord-Est (English: North-East, Haitian Creole: Nòdès) is one of the ten departments (French: départements) of Haiti. Nord-Est has an area of 1,805 square kilometres (697 sq mi) and a population of 283,800 (2002). The arrondissement consists of the three municipalities of Fort-Liberté, Ferrier and Perches. In the colonial era, it was a major plantation area and remains an important coffee producing area. Its pine forests are heavily exploited for charcoal. In addition, several era colonial forts, mostly in ruins, are situated here.[3]

Fort Liberté is a natural harbour of the Saint Domingue. It is strategically located in the centre of the bay facing the Atlantic Ocean. It was once a strategic naval base of the French, which was established by them in 1731. The town was militarily fortified by the French with four fort structural bases that “guarded the bay like beads on a string.” Two of the larger forts are Fort Lachatre and Fort Labourque. The fort was captured by Toussaint Louverture (May 20, 1743 – April 7, 1803), the leader of the Haitian Revolution, in 1793 who later proceeded to the north and conquered the Spanish. Its historic importance is also because it served as the antislavery movement that started here. Now, it is an economically weak territory.[3]

The fort is 40 nautical miles (74 km) from Port-de-Paix (the capital of the département of Nord-Ouest in Haiti) and290 kilometres (180 mi) from Port-au-Prince (capital of Haiti). The average elevation of the town is about1 metre (3.3 ft).[4][6]

Fort Liberte Bay

The coast line between Fort Liberte Bay and Point Yaquezi is about 8 miles (13 km). It has a low sandy beach. It has reefs with mangrove forests, and two hills (spaced at 0.5 miles (0.80 km)) about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) to the west of the entrance to the bay. The hills are the markers for the entrance to the port. Land locked, Fort Liberte Bay is spread over a length of5 miles (8.0 km) in the east west direction and has a breadth of about of 1 mile (1.6 km). The shallow waters that extends to 1 mile (1.6 km) provides for adequate draft and safe anchorage conditions. The entrance to the fort is stated to be “about 1.25 miles (2.01 km) long with not less than 15 fathoms depth of water in the fairway but is narrow and tortuous, so that a sailing vessel entering requires the wind to be well to the northward of east, and its leaving must have a commanding land breeze.” The coast line from the entrance to the bay extends to 6.5 miles (10.5 km) in an easterly direction extending to Manzanillo Bay. There is no wharf. The tides are high – spring rise is 5.75 feet (1.75 m) and neap is 3.5 feet (1.1 m). Vessels anchor at the port in 12 fathoms deep water which provides manoeuvring space of 600–1,200 yards (550–1,100 m) on the east and northeast direction of the Bayon Islet, which is in the midst of the bay. Another anchorage point with 9 fathoms depth is found to the east of the fort. The tidal current at the entrance is said to be low in the morning hours when it is the best time to enter the port.[7]

Fresh water resource

Marion River empties into the bay about 1 mile (1.6 km) to the west of the Fort Liberte and is the source of water supply to the town.[7]


The city has a pleasant climate with a cool ocean breeze and an average temperature of 86 °F (30 °C). Hispionala island as a whole is subject to varying weather changes, which result in severe storms such as hurricanes and sunshine. It is the typical intensity of tropical climate which exasperates the natives.[5]


A View from the north of Fort Liberte

Between 1503 and 1505, Nicolás de Ovando, Spanish governor of the Hispaniola, founded the town of Puerto Real (English, "Royal Port") , which today lies around the town of "Caracol", to the west of Fort-Liberté.[8] However, soon this town was abandoned and the people moved to the east and in 1578 a new town was founded with the Taíno name of the region, Bayajá. Caracol was thought to be near the location where Santa Maria, Columbus’s flagship struck a reef and sank on Christmas day in 1492. The shipwreck was salvaged for its wood to build settlements known as La Navidad, which was decimated by Taino Indians after Columbus left the place. This was discovered by the American Archaeologist William Hodges while excavating at Puerto Real, a city founded at the same spot years later. Relics gathered from this site are displayed at museum Limbe. However, no trace of the site is visible at the location.[9]

In 1606, the persons living in the old Spanish towns of Bayajá and Yaguana under the orders of the Spanish king, moved to the eastern part of the island, to a new town called Bayaguana, combining the two old names.[10] Thus, the Spaniards founded the city of Bayaha, now known as Fort Liberte, one of the several towns of Hispaniola. It bore other names such as the Fort–Royal and Fort Dauphin. The location became the historic site of Fort Liberte as it was built in 1731 under the orders of Louis XV, King of France. Successive changes happened in the naming of the town reflecting the shift of power from Spanish to French colonization. The town was witness to the Haiti’s first declaration of independence on November 29, 1803.[11]


The fort at the edge of the city overlooking the bay
The fort at Laferrière

The fort, as such, within the city limits was constructed in 1731 at the port near the land end facing the bay, built under the directive of Louis XV, King of France, in order to defend against invasions. Fort Liberte is on the southern shore of the bay. It is about 0.5 miles (0.80 km) north from the city centre. The shoal in front of the fort is steep and extends to about 20 yards (18 m). Now, only the fort ruins are seen as evidence of the ingenious design of the architects who selected the most strategic point on the island to build it overlooking the turquoise blue ocean waters. However, efforts have been made during the middle of 1990s to restore the fort and the structures within it. Pilferage has seen the loss of the cannons and the cannon balls, apart from removal of stones imported from Nantes, France for pecuniary benefits without realising the gravity of the vandalism act. An issue of concern is the appearance of fissures in the fort walls, which are endangering the protection of forts from rains.[1][7]

The fort has a colonial cathedral, which is now the renovated entrance to the city. It is called the “Belle Entrée(Beautiful Gate). In the vicinity, other forts are the Fort la Bouque, the Batterie de l'Anse, the Fort Saint Charles and the Fort Saint Frédérique. Bayau Island is also another important place.[1]

The Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Culture, the Haitian representatives and the Royal Caribbean officials have launched a project to encourage tourism to Fort-Liberté and its fort and Port-au-Prince by building facilities of hotels and other infrastructure.[1]


The bay was the site of Caribbean's largest sisal plantation until nylon was invented.[9] From the time of colonization, the economy of the island has been essentially agriculture centric. Plantation tillage has been the main occupation which encompasses sugar-cane, coffee, cocoa, and cotton. In 1789, in the French part of the island there were 793 sugar plantations, 3,117 coffee plantations, 789 cotton plantations, and 182 establishments for making rum, besides other minor factories and workshops. In 1791, investments were largely oriented towards these cultivations.[5] Trade and economy of the city and its precincts, at present are – coffee, cacao, honey, logwood, pineapple, and sisal, which are the principal products.[6]

Other historical places of interest in the vicinity

Haiti island has many historic cities linked to the turbulent historic events which evolved in both parts of Haiti namely, the eastern part under the Spaniards and the west and south with the French. Some of the most prominent towns, villages and historical sites are the following.[11][5][2]

Cap Haiten

A view of the city of Cap Haitien
A Cathedral in Cap Haitien

History of Haiti has a tumultuous past. The antislave movement is traced to the Cap Haitien (also spelt ‘cap’ or ‘o’ Kap). Cap Haiten derives its name from the 3 metres (9.8 ft) high cape on the south-eastern side. It is Haiti’s second biggest city – once one of the richest colonial ports in the world laid out in a square grid pattern. It was the capital of the colonial times when it was known as Cap Francais, called the ”Paris of the Antilles”. It was the biggest port (called the mother of all ports) in the north and commercial centre of the northern plains, the biggest sugar-producing region. The city was torched three times, during 1734, 1798 and 1802, the last time by Christopher to prevent it falling into the hands of the French. It was destroyed again by an earthquake in 1842 when more than half its population perished. The city is now influenced by Spanish architecture with barrel tile roofs, porches, arcades and interior courtyards. A castle perched on a hill Fort Lierte is to the east part of France’s was a futile effort to keep hold of its colony. Independence was declared in Gonaives on the road back to Port-au-Prince. To the west lies the Isle de lau Tortue (Tortuga (Haiti) Island) known for its pirate adventurers. The city retains a parochial and relaxed atmosphere.[12] The sugar plantation named Habitation Le Normand de Mezy known for the many slave labourers who worked on the plantations is located 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) southwest of Cap. It has ruins of two aqueducts and walls to its west, near the town of Plaine Du Nord.[13]

Bois Caïman and Vodoo

Vodoo rites in progress

Bois Caiman ( Haitian Creole: Bwa Kayiman), 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) south of road RN 1, is the village where Vodoo rites were performed under a tree. This was the venue where Dutty Boukman (a magician) held the first antislavery movement secretly on August 14, 1791 and a Vodoo, a planned uprising ceremony, was also performed. Haiti's famous antislave leader African chief’s son was Mackandal called Dutty Boukman who became an Houngan and led a brigand of maroons. Following this rite, the insurrection was started on the night of August 22–23, 1791. He terrorized the northern plain area by poisoning food and water. He was captured and burned alive in January 1758. Another leader who followed Boukman was Jean-Francois. This was the beginning of the uprising by the slaves, which is said to be the Haitian equivalent of the storming of the Bastille. During this uprising, the plantation and cane fields were torched and French settlers were massacred. This was a successful revolt that led to the independence of Haiti. The place is now identified only by a ficus tree. Adjoining it is a colonial well, which is credited with mystic powers.[9][11]


Vertières is an outlying district on the Port-au-Prince Road where French were defeated by Dessalines army on November 18, 1803 in the Battle of Vertières. French left the place after 12 days and a monument erected here records the historic event. It is very ill maintained town with no municipal facilities with hardly any semblance of municipal administration. To the south and east of the Cap, there were thousand plantation houses of the colonial period.[13]

Beaches in Cap
Labadee beach and village

Beaches in Cap are good but maintained badly – Cormeier Page and Labadee are the well-known beaches. Labadee (also Labadie) is a port and a beach located on the northern coast of Haiti. It is a private resort leased to the Royal Caribbean International. Belli Beach is a small sandy cove with boats and hotels. Labadie village could be visited from here.[13]

Morne Rouge

Morne Rouge is 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) to the south of Cap. It is the “Habitation Le Normand de Mezy”, a sugar plantation known for the several slaves who led rebellion against the French.[14]

Plaine Du Nord

Limbe Museum

The town of Plaine Du Nord, 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) southwest of Cap is a pilgrimage centre where a Catholic festival of St James who is linked to Ogou is held on 24–25 July. People from all over Haiti camp here on the road celebrating by continuous drumming and dancing. The revellers then move on to Limonade, 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) south west of Cap for another night of celebrations.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Fort-Liberte: A captivating Site". Haitian Treasures. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Exposition de l'événement du Fort-Liberté, des causes qui l'ont produit, et analyse des pièces y relatives (1799)". American Libraries: Archives. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 17: bad argument #1 to 'old_pairs' (table expected, got nil).
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Population of Fort Liberté, Haiti". Retrieved 2010-07-01.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 John Relly,(1800-1876). "Toussaint L'Ouverture: A Biography and Autobiography: Electronic Edition". Documenting the American South. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Trade promotion series, Issue 122. Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce. p. 222. Retrieved 2010-06-01.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 United States. Hydrographic Office (1918). West Indies pilot, Volume 1. G.P.O. pp. 367–369. Retrieved 2010-07-03.
  8. de Saint-Méry, M.L.E. Moreau (1797–1798). Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie française de l'isle Saint-Domingue (in French). Philadelphia, Paris, Hambur.CS1 maint: date format (link) CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Cameron, Sarah (2007). Footprint Caribbean Islands. Footprint Travel Guides. p. 409. ISBN 190477797X. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
  10. Moya Pons, Frank (1977). Manual de Historia Dominicana (in Spanish). Santiago: UCMM. p. 59.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Coupeau, Steeve (2008). The history of Haiti. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 16–27. ISBN 0313340897. Retrieved 2010=07-01. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  12. Clammer p. 330
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Cameron, p. 406
  14. Cameron, p. 409

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