San Marcos (French: Saint-Marc, Haitian Creole: Sen Mak) is a coastal, port town in western Saint-Domingue, modern Haiti, on the island of Hispaniola. The recorded history of Hispaniola began on December 5, 1492 when the European navigator Christopher Columbus happened upon a large island in the region of the western Atlantic Ocean that later came to be known as the Caribbean Sea. It was inhabited by the Taíno, an Arawakan people, who variously called their island Ayiti, Bohio or Kiskeya. Columbus promptly claimed the island for the Spanish Crown, and renamed it La Isla Española ("the Spanish Island"), or Hispañola (later Anglicized as Hispaniola).
Columbus established a small settlement, but, when he returned in 1493, the settlers had disappeared, presumably killed. He claimed the whole island for Spain, and left his brother Bartholomew Columbus to found a new settlement. Following the arrival of Europeans, Hispaniola's indigenous population suffered near-extinction, in possibly the worst case of depopulation in the Americas. The high mortality in the colony can be attributed at least in part to murder, forced labour and repression. But experience elsewhere suggests that the natives were exposed to Old World diseases, from which they had no immunity. However, a significant number of the Taínos survived and set up villages elsewhere, away from European settlements.
Spanish interest in Hispaniola began to wane in the 1520s, as more lucrative gold and silver deposits were found in Mexico and South America. Thereafter the population of Spanish Hispaniola grew slowly. Fearful of pirate attacks the king of Spain in 1606 ordered all colonists on Hispaniola to move closer to the capital city, Santo Domingo. The decision backfired, as British, Dutch and French pirates then established bases on the island's abandoned northern and western coasts.
French buccaneers established a settlement on the island of Tortuga in 1625, before going to Grande Terre (mainland). They survived by pirating Spanish ships, eating wild cattle and hogs, and selling hides to traders of all nations. Although the Spanish destroyed the buccaneers' settlements several times, on each occasion they returned due an abundance of natural resources: hardwood trees, wild hogs and cattle, and fresh water. The settlement on Tortuga was officially established in 1659 under the commission of King Louis XIV.
Among the buccaneers was Bertrand d'Ogeron. He played a big part in the settlement of Saint Domingue. He was able to support the plantation of tobacco, thus allowing to turn into a sedentary population number of buccaneers and freebooters who didn’t gently accept the royal authority until 1660. d'Orgeron also attracted many colonists of Martinique and Guadeloupe, like Jean Roy, Jean Hebert and his family and Guillaume Barre and his family, driven out by the land pressure which was generated by the extension of the sugar dwellings. But in 1670, short after Cap François (later Cap Français, now Cap-Haïtien) had been established, the crisis of tobacco intervened and a great number of places was abandoned. The rows of freebooting grew bigger; plundering, like those of Vera Cruz in 1683 or of Campêche in 1686, became increasingly numerous and Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Marquis de Seignelay, elder son of Jean Baptist Colbert and at the time Minister of the Navy, brought back some order by taking a great number of measures. Among those appeared the creation of plantations of indigo and of cane sugar. The first sugar windmill was created in 1685.
Under the Treaty of Ryswick (1697), Spain officially ceded the western third of Hispaniola to France. Prior to the Seven Years' War (1756-1763), the economy of Saint-Domingue gradually expanded, with sugar and, later, coffee becoming important export crops. After the war, which disrupted maritime commerce, the colony underwent rapid expansion. In 1767, it exported 72 million pounds of raw sugar and 51 million pounds of refined sugar, one million pounds of indigo, and two million pounds of cotton. Saint-Domingue became known as the "Pearl of the Antilles" — one of the richest colonies in the 18th century French empire. By the 1780s, Saint-Domingue produced about 40 percent of all the sugar and 60 percent of all the coffee consumed in Europe. This single colony, roughly the size of Maryland or Belgium, produced more sugar and coffee than all of Britain's West Indian colonies combined.