Santo Domingo – Cradle of the Americas
Francois and I just spent a few days in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. This was our first time in the city and we were excited to discover the history and culture of the site where Christopher Columbus landed on December 6th, 1492. Did you know that he named the island Hispaniola, meaning “little Spain”?
For our 2 days trip, we stayed in the hart of the Zona Colonial in the beautiful hotel holdepa Nicola de Ovando. Built in 1502, the historic building was the very first to be built on the country’s colonial land and the home of the town’s founder and first Spanish governor of the Americas, Nicolás de Ovando. It is a great example of Spanish colonial design with its archways and big courtyard. It is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To visit the zona colonial, we took a 2 hours walking tour and saw many historic buildings, sites and museums. We started with the National Pantheon built from 1714-1746 as a church that is now the final resting place of the Republic's most honored citizens.
Up next, we visited the Columbus family home that was built for Diego Columbus, Christopher Columbus first born son, who arrived in 1509 as governor of the Americas. The house is the oldest vice regal residence in the Americas and is also a UNESCO's World Heritage Site. It was cool to see the architecture, furniture and household objects used during the period.
Another historical building that was impressive is the Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor, build from 1512 to 1540. It is the first Catholic diocese established in the New World and this makes it the oldest church in the Americas. We were impressed by the architecture and the many chapels inside the Cathedral. Mass is still celebrated every day in the Cathedral.
We also visited the museum dedicated to Juan Pablo Duarte, one of the founding father of the Dominican Republic as we know it today. Duarte is considered a folk hero and revolutionary visionary who organized and promoted the movement that eventually led to the Dominican revolt and independence from Haitian rule in 1844 after 20 years of occupation. I did not know that Haiti occupied the Dominican Republic!
The Zona Colonial has many historic sites but also is a great example of colonial architecture with many building and houses with the typical Spanish archways, courtyard and bright paint colors. A fun fact that the guide share with us is that part of the movie “The godfather – part 2” was filmed in the Zona Colonial. If you remember the scenes that are happening is Cuba, they were shot in the Zona Colonial as it was the closes resemblance to Cuba since the American film producers could not get the necessary permits to film on location!
It’s great to come to the villa and enjoy all the fun activities of a beach town but it was so interesting to learn about this country’s history and feel more connected to it has this is our second home.
Until next time!