Nov 01, 2020

Uniquely Haitian : Okap

On the northern edge of Haiti, near the historic town of Milot, lies the commune of Cap-Haïtien. Often referred to as Okap (Au Cap), this port city, home to 190,000 residents, is the island nation’s primary center of historic monuments. In this article, we’ll take a look at the history of this exceptional community and some of the important historical sites it holds.

Okap was once called Guárico, in the 16th century during the Spanish occupation of the island. From 1711-1770, it served as capital of the then French-occupied island of Saint Domingue, until the revolution when Port-Au-Prince was named as the new capital of a free Haiti. As a matter of fact, the revolution started in Okap, in a place called Bois Caïman.
Bois Caïman (“Alligator Forest” in Haitian Creole) is a forest on the outskirts of Okap, that served as a place for the enslaved peoples of the island to meet in secret. It was here, on August 14, 1791, that the first antislavery meeting was held. Beneath the shroud of the trees, a vodou ceremony was held by the houngan priest Dutty Boukman and mambo Cécile Fatiman, a ceremony which sparked the beginnings of the Haitian Revolution. The site of this ceremony is now marked by a towering ficus, and can be visited by tourists seeking to see the birthplace of the first successful slave rebellion.
Okap is not only the site of the start of the revolution, but the site of its end as well.
Just south of the city rests the site of the Battle of Vertières, the final battle in the Haitian Revolution. On November 18th, 1803, resistance leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines led Hatian troops against the French army one last time. They were able to push the last 7,000 French soldiers into a retreat, leaving the rebel forces victorious and the island finally free of French occupation. The location is still visited today, particularly on November 18th, to celebrate this defining victory.
We’ll end our journey through Okap, back in the city proper. a place that is not only historically significant, but a beautiful vacation destination as well. The coast is home to a number of renowned beaches, including the ParadisBelli and Labadie beach resorts. Here you’ll find some of the most popular areas of Haitian tourism. Beautiful beaches surrounded by Haitian markets, watersports and even ziplines for the thrillseekers among you.
The historical commune of Okap boasts a wealth of beauty, culture, knowledge and tremendous historical significance. It is a place that must be experienced to be believed.
Marleen Julien

Marleen Julien - Author

Marleen is a Haitian Creole translator and Language Advocate.  After completing her Graduate Studies at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris (SciencesPo), she decided to launch Creole Solutions to focus on her mission to promote Haitian language and culture. She worked for the Consulate General of Haiti in Chicago and the United Nations Environment Program in Haiti. Marleen se yon  tradiktris k ap travay pou defann dwa lang. Apre li te fini ak etid siperyè li nan Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris (SciencesPo), Marleen te deside lanse Creole Solutions pou konsantre sou misyon li pou voye lang ak kilti lakay monte.  Avan sa li te travay pou Konsila Jeneral Ayiti nan Chikago ak Pwogram Nasyonzini pou Anviwònman an Ayiti.

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