The capital of the West Indian republic of Haiti is in the southwest on the Gulf of Gonaïves. Haiti occupies the western third of the island of Hispaniola. Port-au-Prince is the chief port, commercial centre and seat of the Ouest department. The city has suffered from numerous civil wars, fires and earthquakes.
Nomadic hunter-gatherers occupied the territory around 2600 BC. The ancient Arawaks reached the island around 250 BC and by the fifteenth century several hundred thousand Taino and Ciboney Indians lived. Christopher Columbus landed in 1492. Realising the potential for gold mining he made the island a Spanish colony. Disease and cruelty killed off the Indian population and African slaves were imported. The French arrived in the sixteenth century and after much fighting the Spanish ceded the western end of the island to the French in 1731. In 1749 they founded the city of Port-au-Prince which they called L’Hôpital. In 1770 it replaced Cap Haïten the capital of...