Port-de-Paix and the Ile de la Tortue , North West of Haiti



Port de Paix and the Ile de la Tortue, a nearby island that was once a hotbed of piracy. Below is a summary of the area's past, present, and also its potential.


According to the Touissant Louverture Project, the area around what is now Port de Paix was originally given the nameValparaíso by Christopher Columbus after landing here on December 6, 1492.  The city itself was founded in 1665 by French pirates who were driven from Ile de Tortue by the British.  In 1679, one of the first recorded slave revolts took place here, led by Padre Jean.  Port de Paix is said to have been prosperous during the 19th century, but in 1902 a fire destroyed almost all of the city -  an event from which it never fully recovered.  Port de Paix is notable for being the birthplace of Francois Capois, a leader in the Haitian revolution.  On April 12, 1803 Capois stormed Port de Paix and routed the French army, a major victory in the fight for independence.   

The island that you see is the Ile de la Tortue.  Sailboats travel between Port de Paix and Ile de la Tortue from early morning until about five o clock.  The island has a compelling history, especially for those interested in piracy.ParaphrasingCindy Vallar, when the Spanish drove the French boucaniers (hunters of wild pigs and cattle who smoked meat on boucans) from Hispaniola, they migrated to an island shaped like a turtle. It was named Tortuga by Christopher Columbus, and attracted all manner of unsavory characters.  The boucaniers preyed on Spanish ships using small boats.  These pirates became known as buccaneers.

When the French took control of Ile de la Tortue, they allowed the pirates to continue to plunder so long as a share was provided to the French governor.  Eventually, the Spanish took control of the island and the buccaneers fled.  The British later took control of the island in 1656 and invited the pirates to return.  Three years later, the French regained control and were at war with England.  During this time, they depended on the buccaneers for military assistance.  In the 1670s, Petit Goave replaced Ile de la Tortue as the main base for piracy.  Some raids continued from Tortuga but ceased by the 1688. Click here to learn more about the history of the island.


Port-de-Paix is also the chief town of anarrondissement of the same name.  The arrondissement consists of four communes: Port-de-Paix, Bassin Bleu,Chansolme and Tortuga Island.  The commune of Port de Paix itself is divided into the following communal sections: (1) Baudin; (2) La Pointe; (3) Aubert; (4) La Corne; (5) Mahotieres; and (6) Baie de Moustiques.  The Ile de la Tortue is dividied into two communal sections : (1) Aux Palmistes and (2) Mare Rouge.  The hospital and police station on Ile de La Tortue are both located in Aux Palmistes.

Port de Paix and the Ile de la Tortue are afterthoughts to the Haitian government and the international community.  People here know that.  But Haiti is much different country than it was before the earthquake.  Over 500,000 Port au Prince residents have fled to the regions they are originally from.  While the situation in Port au Prince is a tragedy, many of the displacd are not finding access to economic opportunities and health care in other departments. They also require protection and assistance, which has been slow in coming.  Haiti’s future depends not just on the extent to which Port au Prince can be reconstructed, but on the extent to which all of its departments, including the northwest, are developed.


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