Jacmel, City of Portals

Jacmel is one of the only cities in Haiti that has multiple functioning routes into its historic district. The Ministry of Tourism counts 4 “Portails” or Portals. the Portail Léogane which leads one from Port-au-Prince, the Portail St Cyr which leads to the Jacmel Airport (currently being expanded), the Portail La Gosseline, and the Portail Bainet.

Simultaneously, Jacmel showcases a lot of  thresholds. One of my architectural teachers who has visited Jacmel in the early 80s described his experience with entering a place, having to climb a small set of stairs, reach a porch and experience colorful interiors. The frames of the thresholds themselves, are remarkable….

In his book “Jacmel, sa contribution a l’histoire d’Haiti” or Jacmel and its contribution to Haiti’s history, Professor Jean-Élie Gilles, Jacmel native describes the town as a “city of portals”, literally and metaphorically. He aligns his analysis with the city’s ability to attract many foreigners throughout time.

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