The slave trade with the New World was started not long after the Discovery of America. For more than three centuries, slave-ships continued with their sinister voyages loaded with their dreadful human cargo. Millions of people were captured in Africa and sold in America. By the end of the 18th Century, in Haiti alone, there was a population of more than 2,900,000 African slaves. After becoming a French possession in 1697, Haiti soon became America’s biggest producer of sugar and also one of the places with the highest number of slaves in the world. Now, some of the old sugar plantations have been converted into museums with enormous stills for distilling the rum, presses where the juice of the sugar cane was extracted and raised tanks where the fruits of slave labour were kept. Slave labour carried out under the constant cracking of the whip. The living conditions of the Africans confined in these yards were atrocious. After suffering the hardships of a voyage, where normally 20% of the slaves died, they arrived at the auctions exhausted and ill. Families were separated and the individual members were sold to different settlers. Parents and children would never meet again. The overseers meted out severe punishments to those who did not work flat out and the hunters of fugitive slaves subjected their prisoners to exemplary treatment which often resulted in death. Many succumbed to the wounds caused by heavy shackles, or dehydrated in the sun whilst chained to these sinister crosses. Cape Haitien was the point where the slavers would unload their ebony merchandise, as they called their foul-smelling load of dying slaves that survived the voyage Today it is one of the most beautiful colonial cities of Haiti. Its houses speak loudly of the opulent past of the French settlers who managed the sugar plantations. By the end of the 18th Century the black population had reached about 3 million and there were ever-increasing problems controlling them. The blacks that escaped, known as “browns”, hid in the mountains and organised themselves in very large rebel groups. The rumours about the French Revolution gave new strength to the rebels. Boukman, the leader of the browns, organised a great secret ceremony in BOIS CAIMAN That night on 14th August 1791, a black pig was sacrificed and all those present drank its blood. The revolution of the slaves had begun. The message was very clear: cut off heads, burn houses and destroy plantations. In a few days more than a thousand whites were killed. The terrified white settlers started the legend that the blacks had made a pact with the devil that night in BOIS CAIMAN. Many slaves were captured and executed. The “brown” Makandal was burnt alive, so becoming a legendary martyr who is still called on in voodoo ceremonies today. Toussaint Louverture became the leader of the blacks and started up a rebellion that lasted for 10 years, until on the 1st January 1804, Haiti proclaimed its independence, so becoming the first black republic in the New World. Two years later, General Henry Christophe proclaimed himself King and constructed the Citadell in the North, while a mulatto, Petion, took control of the South. The construction of this enormous fortress built to defend them from the French, who never came back, took 14 years. Each stone had to be transported by hand up to a site that was 980 metres above sea level. 20,000 people died during its construction. The story goes that Christophe ordered that those who refused to work should be impaled against the enormous walls of the citadel. It could house up to 10,000 people and its geographical situation made it virtually impregnable. King Christophe built up an arsenal of more than 250,000 cannon balls for the various types of cannons that he had installed in hundreds of embrasures. The Citadell, the largest fortress in the Caribbean, was left anchored in the mountains as a testimony to the struggle of the Haitian people for their independence. The landscape of the North contrasts with the idea that one may have of Haiti as an arid land. In this region where King Christophe seems still to reign, the forests are luxuriant and leafy and full of life.