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    Dominicana On Line - El Portal de la República Dominicana

    History of Santo Domingo

    Don Bartolomé Columbus, brother of Admiral Christopher Columbus, founded the city of Santo Domingo on the west bank of the Río Ozama on a date that generates controversy even today.

    Some historians say 1496, others 1497 and still others, 1498 as the year of establishment. Its origin is also an object of polemic, as for some the motive was the discovery of gold mines and for others it was the romance of a soldier from Aragon with a Indian queen named Catalina.

    An irrefutable fact is that the first expeditions left from La Isabela, the first villa in the New World. They were organized by Columbus to penetrate the island in search of gold and produced new settlements in the new land.

    A publication of the Centro para la Historia de las Obras Públicas y Urbanas (CEHOPU), cited by historian José Chez Checo in the edition "Dawn and Dusk of the Villa of Santo Domingo" relates:

    "Late in 1493, La Isabel, the first municipality of the New World, was founded. This population had little life as the discovery of gold mines in the south of the territory, next to the Río Haina caused colonization to move toward the southern region. Here, in August 1497, the first of the city's two settlements was raised. Though the date of establishment of Santo Domingo is not proved through documentary evidence, we do know that it was Bartolomé Columbus who erected it, naming it for the day on which he arrived or in memory of the Columbus brothers' father, also named Domingo."

    Destroyed by the hurricane that razed the city in June of 1502, the city was transferred to the western bank of the river by Friar Nicolás de Ovando, the Governor of Hispaniola.

    Ovando created the urban layout of the city, which included a group of streets and military, civil and religious buildings. The historians tell that at the time, the then Commander of Lares designed the first street of America, Las Damas, and the first fort, the Torre del Homenaje.


    The urban enterprise was monumental. Construction masters of great prestige arrived, in addition to experienced masons. Ovando had arrived to the island with express instructions from the Catholic kings that included the restoration of the privileges that the deposed governor Bobadilla had taken from Columbus and his brothers, who were sent back to Spain in shackles. The new governor arrived to the island with 2,500 Spaniards, some nobles and gentlemen, a group of higher quality than the emigrants of the earlier journeys to the Indies, claims Chez Checo.

    During the first years of Ovando, Santo Domingo reached such splendor that it was compared with the most beautiful Spanish cities. Rodrigo de Liendo was one of the masters that constructed, among other works, Monasterio de San Francisco and Iglesia de la Mercedes.

    Catedral de las Américas

    Monaterio de San Fransisco

    The sugar cane crop included the cite of the cabildo, or government, the churches of Santa Bárbara, San Santón, San Miguel and San Carlos and blocks of houses in which the careful masons worked without rest.

    On December 7, 1508, the city of Santo Domingo received a coat of arms by royal decree. A year later, in 1509, the Spanish Crown designated a son of Admiral Columbus, Diego Columbus, governor of the island. This man had inherited the titles of viceroy and governor of discovered lands. With the son of the discoverer arrived his wife, Doña María de Toledo, who belonged to one of the most influential families of Spain at the time. Soon, the steps of Doña María with her court of ladies on Las Damas street would make history. Their residence, the Alcázar de Colón, still retains part of its original furniture.

    Alcázar de Colón

    In 1990, the United Nations (UNESCO) declared the Colonial City of Santo Domingo a "World Heritage Site".

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