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Origin of the name

Several versions exist as to the origins of the name Roche-à-Bateau.  Some attribute the name to a foreign navigator who, during an exploration trip, arrived in the harbor of the place. From the ship carrying it, it seemed to him that the city had the configuration of a ship. He baptized it Roche-à-Bateau.

Another version refers to a time when there was a heavy traffic of ships in the area. These brought goods into the city  and on leaving, the workers filled them with stones in order to counterbalance and facilitate navigation. The combination of rocks and boat gives Roche-à-Bateau.

eglise st-michel.jpg

Parish of St. Michael the Archangel

In 1905, some citizens of the city including Théoguste Bois, Pétion Jean, Laurent and Ativio Dumornay met with them and wrote a letter addressed to Monsignor Pichon, bishop of  southern diocese. In this letter, they explained the attachment of the Roche-à-Batelais to God and to the Catholic Church and thus asked him to elevate the city to the rank of parish. The bishop received the request with joy and decided in August of the same year to install the new parish priest in the person of Reverend Father Rimbert who was initially parish priest of St-Jean du Sud.

The construction of the first Roche-à-Bateau church and the presbytery began in 1918 and ended in 1922. The parish was at the time directed by Father Henri Jolivert who had initiated the project after the departure of Father Rimbert. The following year, St. Michael's Day was celebrated for the first and last time in this new church. Indeed, it will not resist the cyclone which swept through the city in 1924 carrying Father Jolivert whose remains were buried under the church. Cyclones have only had a name since 1950.

The current church was built by a French priest named Jaffré who was based in Les Cayes.

The Oblates arrived in Roche-à-Bateau in 1945.

The rectory was destroyed again in August 1980 by Cyclone Allen and rebuilt the same year.

Two words about the Baptists

The Baptists arrived in Roche-à-Bateau in 1937 with Racilien Guerrier, a national of St-Jean du Sud following a stay in Cuba. Construction of the current Baptist Church was completed in 1972. 


Become common and stay that way

The town of Roche-à-Bateau was founded in the year 1800 as a district of the commune of Coteaux. It will not become common itself until towards the end of the American occupation under the presidency of Sténio Vincent in 1933.

Ten years later, in 1943, Roche-à-Bateau was to lose its municipal status for nebulous reasons that have never been fully elucidated. Some will attribute this demotion to jealous elements of the neighboring town, Côteaux, who would have badly digested the loss of income from the Roche-à-Batelais commercial sector. Roche-à-Bateau was considered the breadbasket of the South Coast of Haiti.

In 1953, Roche-à-Bateau regained its place among the communes of the Republic thanks to the insistent approaches of the deputy Henri Gattereau who had promised it to citizens of Roche-à-Batelais such as Monretour Jean & Médel Berger as a reward for their support during his campaign the previous year.

The little story tells this episode with a wealth of detail that we summarize here.

The return of Roche-à-Bateau to the rank of the communes was entered twice on the agenda of the Assembly of Deputies between 1951 and 1952, but each time the attempt failed. Loulou Bourjolly, senator for the Coteaux district and Daniel Fignolé, president of the Chamber of Deputies were the main opponents of the project.

As the reason given was the fiscal incapacity of Roche-à-Bateau, the deputies eventually agreed that the Ministry of Finance should verify the respective revenues of Coteaux and Roche-à-Bateau. The results were astounding because the revenues of the commune of Côteaux barely represented a quarter of those of its neighbor.

On October 10, 1953, President Paul-Eugène Magloire restored Roche-à-Bateau to its municipal status. The news was greeted by the population with outpouring of joy. Rara bands, tree branches, songs and dances, all means were good to celebrate the event.

Jean-Baptiste Godard was appointed provisional mayor of the new town. He was replaced the following year by Oscar Julien, seconded by Monretour Jean who won the 1954 elections.

Roche-à-Bateau became an electoral constituency in 2005. The current deputy is a native of the municipality named Oliva Richard.

A prosperous business past 

From the beginning of the last century until the end of the first American occupation  1915-1934, Roche-à-Bateau was a prosperous port through which transit salt, charcoal, fruits and vegetables. The boats which frequented the port also came to refuel in  food (bananas, real trees, yams) which constitute the main crops of the region still considered today as the breadbasket of the South Coast, from Port-Salut to Tiburon.

The geographical location of Roche-à-Bateau unfortunately remains one of its worst enemies. Regularly hit by cyclones, Roche-à-Bateau was gradually stripped of its infrastructure and cultural heritage. Cyclone Hazel, one of the most devastating Haiti has experienced, completed the work of destruction that began in the 1920s  by destroying in particular the electrical installations with which it was partially equipped,  the telegraph service and Gingerbread houses comparable to those in Port-au-Prince or Jacmel.

Roche-à-Bateau is also the city where the family company Larco was founded, now based in Port-au-Prince and  which produces Cola Larco.

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