Jacmel (or Jakmèl in Kréyòl) is a nice city on the southern shore of Haiti. It was founded in 1698 as the capital of the south eastern part of the French colony Saint-Domingue. This was Taíno territory, a part of the Xaragua chiefdom ruled by cacique (chief) Bohechio.
The French established the town and named it Jacmel after the indigenous Taíno Arawak name of Yaquimel. A century later Haili's national hero Toussaint L'Ouverture fought over Jacmel in the so-called War of Knives between him and his fellow countryman André Rigaud, who wished to maintain authority over the city; the war began in June of 1799 but by November the rebels were pushed back to the port and Jacmel fell to Toussaint's troops in March 1800.
It is a picturesque town now with about 40,000 inhabitants and still has many mansions that date back to the late 19th century when it was inhabited by wealthy coffee merchants. These mansions have a strong resemblance to those in New Orleans with their cast iron pillars and balconies, obtained from France: New Orleans architecture was influenced by that of Jacmel. Now artisan shops are selling handicrafts like masks made from papier-mâché and wood carved animal figures. Jacmel is popular as a tourist destination with its quiet, relaxed pace, especially when compared with nearby Port-au-Prince. It has a busy art scene, is host to the "Festival Film Jakmèl", a large film festival and the "Festival Mizik Jakmèl", an international music festival. It has a famous carnival and nearby are white sandy beaches and the "Bassins Bleu", Haiti's most famous natural deep water pools. Because Jacmel is regarded as one of the safest cities in the country it is popular with visitors.
On 12 January 2010, a massive earthquake, 7.0 on the Richter scale, which struck 15 kilometres west of Port-au-Prince also devastated Jacmel: about 70 per cent of the homes were damaged, with most of the heavier damage being suffered in the poorer neighbourhoods; 300-500 people died and the survivors were left without food or water for many days. But a major revitalisation project is currently under way that will re-establish the historical relevance of Jacmel as a commerce and tourist centre once again.