Christopher Columbus’s First Steps
On December 6, 1492, Christopher Columbus set foot on an island that he named Hispaniola and described the surroundings as a “paradise valley.” A few days later, he founded the first settlement in the country, La Navidad, in the Bord-de-Mer de Limonade area, in the Northern department. The remains of this first city in the country are located in the far west of Haiti, on the edge of a beautiful bay. Around Môle Saint-Nicolas, especially near the port, remnants of English and French forts from the 16th century testify to the rich history of this region. A cross on the seaside marks the spot where Christopher Columbus landed.
Between Land and Sea, the Geography of Môle Saint-Nicolas
With an area of 2,176 km², the chief town of Môle Saint-Nicolas is Port-de-Paix, and the population was 488,500 inhabitants in 2002. The geographical boundaries of the region are defined by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, the Gulf of Gonâve to the south, and the Northern and Artibonite departments to the east. To the west, the Windward Passage separates Haiti from Cuba.
The Canal of Môle: An Underwater Treasure
The Môle Canal, also known as “Passe du vent,” offers visitors the opportunity to observe tuna fishing boats in this renowned fishing area. The town of Môle Saint-Nicolas derives its resources from fishing and the sale of charcoal, obtained from the last remaining trees in the region. The residents dream of seeing cruise ships dock on the beach where Christopher Columbus landed in 1492, on Saint Nicholas’ Day.
A Refuge for Pirates and Buccaneers
Throughout the centuries, this large bay with very deep waters was frequented by buccaneers and privateers who appreciated its well-protected anchorage. In 1764, the French established a small gridded-plan town there. The strategic position of this “Gibraltar of the Caribbean” led them to fortify this excellent refuge, the guardian of the Windward Passage.
Witnesses of the Past: Historical Remains
The remains of the Vallière and Saint-Charles forts, the walls, and the powder magazine of the former barracks to the north are still visible today. Among the eleven batteries and six entrenchments that held 162 cannons and 60 mortars to defend the entrance to the bay, only a few foundation walls remain.
Inhabitants, Guardians of Heritage
The history of Môle Saint-Nicolas is also marked by the inhabitants who settled there. Arcadians expelled from Canada and Germans were settled there, but discouraged by the dryness of the place, the Arcadians left for Louisiana, and the Germans for Bombardopolis. During the struggle for independence, the English, who attempted to occupy Santo Domingo, settled in Môle Saint-Nicolas for two years.
A Peaceful Future for Môle Saint-Nicolas
Starting in 1891, the United States sought several times to establish a military base there, but modern intervention methods dismissed this perspective. Today, Môle Saint-Nicolas is a peaceful town housing a few hundred inhabitants who proudly preserve the evidence of their rich history and historic heritage in deep waters. In this preserved corner of Haiti, the historical treasure remains alive and inspires future generations to protect their valuable legacy.