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Fri, 09.22.1820

The Citadel La Ferrière is Built

Citadel La Ferrier

*On this date in 1820, the Citadel La Ferrière was completed.  Sometimes called the Citadelle it is a mountaintop fortress in Nord, Haiti. 

Haitian King Henri Christophe ordered the construction beginning in 1805; the Citadel La Ferrière is located on top of the mountain Bonnet a L’Eveque.  It is one of the largest fortresses in the (western hemisphere) Americas and was designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage Site in 1982.  The mountaintop fortress has itself become an icon of Haiti.

The Citadel was built during the Haitian slave rebellion (1791–1804) after Haiti gained independence from France at the beginning of the 19th century. The Citadel is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Directions to and history of the fortress are provided by self-appointed guides from the town of Milot; visitors may be asked to pay a small fee.  Visitors are also encouraged to rent a horse for the uphill trek. The first portion of the 7 mi trail is navigable by 4WD vehicles, although infrequent landslides and construction projects sometimes make this unreliable. Numerous people live along the trail and are vendors. Drinks are a necessity in the tropical heat. The trail is paved stone, generally smooth, and in good condition.  

About three-quarters of the way up from the parking lot, visitors must complete the final portion on horseback or on foot. Starting in Milot, The 11-kilometer (7 mi) trail is almost completely uphill.  On a clear day, the city of Cap-Haitian and the Atlantic Ocean can be seen to the north.  Though the turbulent political situation in Haiti (principally in the central region) has deterred visitors in recent years, the regions of the north and south of the country remain largely peaceful, making travel to the Citadel less challenging or hazardous than travel within the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.  

After visiting the Citadel in July 2012, Haitian President Michel Martelly heavily criticized the Haitian National Institute for Historic Preservation (ISPAN), describing the site as in a state of disrepair and calling ISPAN's efforts "unacceptable."  His visit was intended to assess the state of the Citadel for conservation, but he refused to visit its upper levels, deeming them unsafe for visitors. Despite Haiti's shortcomings in preserving its own cultural artifacts, international organizations have stepped in to assist, such as the Global Heritage Fund, a California-based non-profit organization, which has investigated the Citadel for monument conservation, community development, training, and cultural heritage revitalization.  

The project would focus on the Citadel and nearby Sans-Souci Palace, hoping to preserve the structures as safe tourism sites to promote sustainable local economic growth.  We chose this date because the first empire of Haiti was declared on September 22, 1804

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