Port-au-Prince (pôrt-ə-prĭnsˈ, Fr. pôr-tō-prăNsˈ) [key], city (1995 est. pop. 846,200), capital of Haiti, SW Haiti, on a bay at the end of the Gulf of Gonaïves. The country's chief seaport, it exports mainly coffee and sugar. The city has food-processing plants; soap, textile, and cement industries; and other light manufacturing. Port-au-Prince is laid out like an amphitheater, with business and commercial quarters along the water and residences on the hills above. The Univ. of Haiti is there.

The city was founded in 1749 by French sugar planters. In 1770, it replaced Cap-Haïtien as capital of the French colony of Saint-Domingue (as Haiti was then known), and in 1804 it became the capital of newly independent Haiti. Port-au-Prince has remained unsanitary and economically backward, however, and has suffered frequently from earthquakes, fires, and civil warfare. In Jan., 2010, a devastating earthquake destroyed or damaged many of the city's buildings, including landmarks such as the National Palace, the National Assembly building, and other government buildings and the cathedral.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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