Just like Christopher. (February 2015)


Santo Domingo was our first stop in the Dominican Republic and our port of entry to the Americas.

Christopher Columbus visited here in 1492 and in 1496 his brother, Bartolome, set up a settlement.

At every turn the early history of the Americas leaps out to greet you.

Our hotel was in the old part of the city known as Zona Colonial, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This is a colourful place.

The full time job of most of the locals, including the school kids, is to separate you from your money.

Most of the kids just want you to take their photo, however some want money for the snap and others just ask straight out for a handout of cash.

They haven’t yet leant the more sophisticated scams of their parents.

On our first morning we were having breakfast in Calle El Conde, which is the main pedestrian strip. There were hundreds of school children, of all ages, filing past. We later discovered that they were on an excursion to visit the El Altar de la Patria, or the Altar of the Homeland.

It was originally built to be the mausoleum of the dictator, Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina, but ultimately given over to the three founding fathers of the republic, Juan Pablo Duarte, Francisco del Rosario Sánchez, and Ramón Matías Mella.

The 31 years of the Trujillo tyranny was believed to have resulted in the deaths of over 50,000 Dominicans.

We also walked down Calle Billini, a newly renovated street containing Convento de los Dominicos, the site of the New World’s first university. It’s also a street with some rather original ‘lamp post art’.

Many of the old streets are being rebuilt and there are signs out the front showing what renovations are being done. It’s to be hoped that during the renovations the power and telecommunications cables will find their way underground.

It was then on to Parque Colón, the centre of life in Santo Domingo. To one side of the park is the Cathedral of Santa María la Menor, built between 1512 and 1530, it’s the oldest cathedral in the Americas. On the other side are bars, restaurants and buskers of all varieties.

Fortaleza Ozama (The Fortress) dominates the riverfront and was built between 1502 and 1505. It’s also the oldest European styled medieval fortress in the Americas and was designed to protect the port of Santo Domingo.

The next day we went to the other side of the old colonial town and visited the Panteón Nacional and the Alcázar de Colón.

The Pantheon houses the remains of all the other heroes of the republic, while the Columbus Alcazar is the oldest viceregal building in the Americas and built by Christopher Columbus’s son, Diego.

Santo Domingo is really a family affair.

Then it was down to the ocean to see the waterfront boulevard and it started to pour.

This was tropical rain, the sort we hadn’t seen in months.

Before the deluge I did manage to get a snap of the giant statue of Fray Anton Montesinos.

In 1511 he spoke out about equal rights for the Taino Indians, the original inhabitants of the Island. Sadly the international fight for human rights is still continuing, over 500 years later.

Seeking somewhere to shelter from the rain we sort refuge in the cathedral.

This felt strange, as recently we had been scampering to a bar or pub when the weather turned sour.

However the rain kept up and we reverted to form and eventually found a bar – you can only spend so long in a church.

The skies were clearer for our final morning in Santo Domingo and we took a walk down to the waterfront – it wasn’t worth the effort. The buildings were run down and what beach there was, was awash with garbage.

Leave a Reply