Anthony Jean-Claude: The Historical Caribbean Town Port Royale

June 14, 2013

With a Haitian heritage, Washington D.C. entrepreneur Anthony Jean-Claude enjoys boating trips throughout the Caribbean. One of the region’s most historical ports is Port Royale, which is situated at the end of the narrow Palisadoes sand-spit peninsula that protects Kingston harbor, Jamaica. Now a fishing village, the city was fortified by the British in the mid-17th century as a way of protecting the harbor from Spanish or French invasion, and as a trading port for sugar and raw materials.

Port Royale was the most significant economic hub in the English-controlled Americas, and contained a king’s house, governor’s house, and several churches and cathedrals. The city was also known for its lawlessness, as British privateers were commissioned to raid French, Dutch, and Spanish ships. Despite the official end of the practice in the 1670s, piracy continued well into the 18th century and it is estimated that, in 1689, approximately half of the town’s population was involved in the pirate trade. As a result, a recreation of Port Royale features prominently in the Disney movie “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

In 1692, Port Royale’s fortunes were dramatically reversed, with a major earthquake causing two-thirds of the city to sink underwater. Recurrent fires and hurricanes caused major subsequent damage. Today the sleepy fishing town has a few remaining above-water historical sites of importance, including the Naval Hospital, while dozens of submerged buildings lie just below the water’s surface. Recognizing its cultural importance, Jamaica applied in 2009 for UNESCO inclusion of Port Royale as among the organization’s World Heritage sites.

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