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Fort-Liberté (Kreyòl: Fòlibète) is the administrative capital of the Nord-Est Department, Haiti. It is close to the border of the Dominican Republic and is one of the oldest cities in the country. Haiti's independence was proclaimed here on November 29, 1803.

The area around Fort-Liberté was originally inhabited by Indians, and later by Spanish colonists, who founded the city of Bayaja in 1578, but abandoned it in 1605. The site was reoccupied by theFrench in 1732 as Fort-Dauphin; it was captured by Spanish forces in 1794 and then restored to the French in 1801 shortly before the declaration of independence in 1803. The city has undergone a succession of name changes: Bayaja (1578), Fort-Dauphin (1732), Fort St. Joseph (1804), Fort-Royal (1811) and finally Fort-Liberté (1820).The town is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort-Liberté.

Demographics

The population of Fort-Liberté is 11 465. The Haitian Creole language is spoken in this area, with the more educated people also speaking French. The most common religious affiliations are Roman Catholic and Haitian Vodou.

Geography

Fort-Liberté is part of Nord-Est Department, which borders the Dominican Republic. Nord-Est (North-East, Haitian Creole: Nòdès) is one of the ten departments (départements) of Haiti. Nord-Est has an area of 1,805 square kilometres (697 sq mi) and a population of 283,800 (2002). The arrondissement consists of the three municipalities of Fort-Liberté, Ferrier and Perches. In the colonial era, it was a major plantation area, and today it remains an important coffee-producing area. Its pine forests are heavily exploited for charcoal. In addition, several colonial-era forts, mostly in ruins, are situated here.

HISTORY

Between 1503 and 1505, Nicolás de Ovando, Spanish governor of Hispaniola, founded the town of Puerto Real ("Royal Port"), which today lies around the town of Caracol, to the west of Fort-Liberté.However, soon this town was abandoned and the people moved to the east and in 1578 a new town was founded with the Taíno name of the region, Bayajá. Caracol was thought to be near the location where Santa Maria, Columbus's flagship struck a reef and sank on Christmas Day in 1492. The shipwreck was salvaged for its wood to build settlements known as La Navidad, which was decimated by Taino Indians after Columbus left the place. This was discovered by the American Archaeologist William Hodges while excavating at Puerto Real, a city founded at the same spot years later. Relics gathered from this site are displayed at museumLimbe. However, no trace of the site is visible at the location.

In 1606, the persons living in the old Spanish towns of Bayajá and Yaguana under the orders of the Spanish king, moved to the eastern part of the island, to a new town calledBayaguana, combining the two old names. Thus, the Spaniards founded the city of Bayaha, now known as Fort-Liberté, one of the several towns of Hispaniola. It bore other names such as the Fort–Royal and Fort Dauphin. The location became the historic site of Fort-Liberté as it was built in 1731 under the orders of Louis XV, King of France. Successive changes happened in the naming of the town reflecting the shift of power from Spanish to French colonization. The town was witness to the Haiti's first declaration of independence on November 29, 1803.


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