The beautiful city of Jacmel : Haiti’s cultural capital

Jacmel, main town of the South Department, is known throughout the world for its culture and crafts. It is the birthplace of many writers and poets like René Depestre, Charles Moravia, Alcibiade Pommayrac, Michelet Divers, Jean-Élie Gilles, Émile Célestin Mégie.

Among these various poets and writers, the prominent poet Émile Célestin Mégie celebrated last Monday, October 17, his 94th birthday. On this great occasion, the Ministry of Culture and Communication gave a plaque of honor and merit to the poet in the presence of several personalities of the city.

Jacmel has a public library dating back several years which is the research area for young people, adults and academics. With the Alliance Française which is an institution that promotes the French language, it has a library, a computer room, a cafeteria, a large conference and exhibition room but also, through this space, various authors, poets, musicians can parade on a podium designed for large-scale shows. There is also the library called Aux Toits Dumas that welcomes young pupils and students with a room where they organize films and documentaries screenings. Jacmel has a potential that no city in Haiti has and that’s why, very often, they say that the inhabitant of Jacmel is different.

In 1954, the government of General Paul Eugène Magloire had contributed to the repair of the City Hall, undertaken by the municipal administration of the day for an amount of three thousand gourdes. On September 29, 1966, Cyclone Inès had carried the tin roof and knocked down the left wing of the building. The City Hall is a common heritage of which Jacmel’s children are so proud. We also have to remember that on December 4, 1904, is the date of the laying of the first stone of the City Hall.

The importance of education

The city of Jacmel has two high schools. The Mayor of Jacmel, Condorcet Leroy, had decided to offer a high school to the young girls. A secondary school called Célie Lamour opened in 1956. Pinchinat high school was first a municipal high school, it worked at the expense of the municipality. It had different names “Fabre Geffrard National High School” then “Nicolas Geffrard High School” and finally they changed the name and they called it “Pinchinat High School” and it was nationalized in 1882. The Lycée Pinchinat was managed by three French citizens : Debray Aine in 1961, Father Jules Castel (1884-1886) and Alfred Bajeux (1889-1892).

This city has also a county office of the Ministry of Culture : throughout the country, the Ministry installed two offices, one in Jacmel, the other in Cap Haitien, in the hope of doing the same thing in the other cities.

We cannot present the city of Jacmel without mentioning some names but we will pay attention to avoid the slightest jealousy. There are : Michelet Divers, the departmental director of the Ministry of Culture, it was him who first proposed that Jacmel has a ministerial office ; Michael Craan, they call her “Lady Jacmel” ; Jean-Élie Gilles ; the late Madam Timoy, to name but a few.

Today, daughters and sons of the city have grown up, some of them have left it because of life circumstances, but the others are very attached to the heritage of this clean, quiet and beautiful city… Sursum Corda Jacmel.

Special correspondent in Jacmel (Haiti) : Jacob Janvier