Fortaleza Ozama

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 13 September 2016

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Architecture, Dominican Republic, Fortaleza Ozama, History, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

Next we visited Fortaleza Ozama, the oldest surviving European military structure in the Americas.  This is the Puerta Carlos III Gate, dating from 1787.

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Architecture, Dominican Republic, Fortaleza Ozama, History, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

A statue of Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés in front of the Tower of Homage.

The tower was built from 1502 to 1505 using forced labour from Taino Indians and black slaves.  It has walls two metres thick, making it invulnerable to cannon balls until the late eighteenth century.  Its purpose was defence against Dutch, English and French seaborne raiders, and against rebellions by Taino Indians and black slaves.  Oveido was a writer and historian who was warden of the Fortress from 1533 until 1557.

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I would guess, originally a barracks.

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Architecture, Dominican Republic, Fortaleza Ozama, History, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

A view from the Fortaleza of the Ozama River, which gave the Fortaleza its name.

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Architecture, Dominican Republic, Fortaleza Ozama, History, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

In 1493, following his first voyage, Christopher Columbus was appointed Viceroy and Governor of the Indies.  After his brother Bartholomew founded Santo Domingo, this became his capital until he was removed by the Spanish crown in 1500.

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Architecture, Dominican Republic, Fortaleza Ozama, History, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

A commission between  1498 and 1500 found Columbus and his brothers culpable of extreme brutality to both settlers and Indians.  On his return from his third voyage in 1500, he was arrested and sent back to Spain in chains.  He was later released but not restored as Governor although his son Diego became Governor from 1520 to 1523.

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Architecture, Dominican Republic, Fortaleza Ozama, History, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

There were numerous large scale rebellions by Taino Indians in the early years but they had no defence against Spanish weapons.  There was also rebellions from black slaves who also escaped and established Maroon settlements in the mountains.  By the mid-16th century, settlers needed large armed bands to travel through the countryside.

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Architecture, Dominican Republic, Fortaleza Ozama, History, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

After 1561 all shipments to Spain left from Cuba and with the settlement of the American mainland, Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti) declined.

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Architecture, Dominican Republic, Fortaleza Ozama, History, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

In 1586, Sir Francis Drake captured the city, laid waste to a third of it, and extracted a ransom for its return to Spanish rule.

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Architecture, Dominican Republic, Fortaleza Ozama, History, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

In 1605 the authorities forcibly resettled their settlers on the north coast of Hispaniola to be closer to Santo Domingo, enraged by large scale trade with the Dutch who at that time were fighting Spain for their independence.  This proved disastrous.  Half the settlers died of starvation or disease, over 100,000 cattle were lost and many slaves escaped.  It also encouraged the French to establish a presence in the area.

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Architecture, Dominican Republic, Fortaleza Ozama, History, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

In 1655, Oliver Cromwell attacked Santo Domingo but was repulsed and successfully occupied Jamaica instead.  However, in 1697, after thirty years of intermittent conflict with French settlers, Spain ceded the western half of the island (now Haiti) to France.

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Architecture, Dominican Republic, Fortaleza Ozama, History, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

The situation deteriorated further at the end of the eighteenth century.  What is now the Dominican Republic was ceded to France in 1795, invaded by Britain in 1796, by black slaves in rebellion from Haiti in 1801 and France in 1802.  The Republic of Haiti declared independence in 1804 and invaded in 1806.  The British invaded again in 1809 and the Spanish returned later that year.

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Architecture, Dominican Republic, Fortaleza Ozama, History, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

In 1821, following the establishment of a liberal government in Spain, Dominican leaders declared independence but their hold was tenuous and Haiti invaded in 1822.  Hispaniola was then united under Haiti until 1844.

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Architecture, Dominican Republic, Fortaleza Ozama, History, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

The Dominican Republic gained independence in 1844 but there were many years of war with Haiti trying to regain control.  In 1861, the economy was so fragile that Spain was invited back to be the colonial master.

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Architecture, Dominican Republic, Fortaleza Ozama, History, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

This was a mistake.  Spain proved to be repressive and insensitive and this led to the War of Restoration.  In 1865 Spain left and there was a Dominican Republic again, though most of the cities were in ruins and political organisation was fractured.  Some stability returned during the dictatorship of Ulises Hereaux, for most of the years from 1882 to 1899.  In the six years after he died there were four revolutions and five Presidents.

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Architecture, Dominican Republic, Fortaleza Ozama, History, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

The United States, concerned instability might affect their economic interests, invaded and occupied the Dominican Republic from 1916 to 1924..

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Architecture, Dominican Republic, Fortaleza Ozama, History, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

Trujillo became dictator from 1933 to 1961, with the support of the US.  He imprisoned and tortured political prisoners here in the Fortaleza Ozama.

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Outside the Fortaleza now, in the streets.

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The end of the Trujillo era was followed by an elected left wing government, a military coup and then a civil war.  The US intervened because the left wing democrats looked like winning.  They invaded and occupied from 1965 to 1966.

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Architecture, Dominican Republic, Fortaleza Ozama, History, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

This is the house of Diego Caballero, who moved to Santo Domingo in 1517, when his cousin was mayor.  He later became treasurer and military governor of Hispaniola.  Then he retired from his offices and for a year made a living capturing and enslaving Indians off the Venezuela coast.  Then he made a career as a ship owner, retiring eventually to Seville.

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Since 1965 there has been a succession of democratic governments of varying persuasions, no coups and no invasions.

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This little fellow outside Caballero’s house looks like a gargoyle from a church or a cathedral.  Perhaps from a building damaged by Drake’s cannon balls.

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Architecture, Dominican Republic, Fortaleza Ozama, History, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

This is a night-time view of the Monastery of San Franciso, the first monastery built in the Americas, sacked by Drake in 1586 and damaged by earthquakes in 1673 and 1751.  We will return here in a later post.

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13 comments on “Fortaleza Ozama

  1. Anna says:

    Brilliant photos!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Robert Hayes says:

    Wow. You’ve done it again! Very impressive. What was the redbrick arches?? Who did the research for that incredible history? The bit about Columbus was shocking. Once again, thanks Murray.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. btb says:

    And Christobel Colombo is such a hero (amongst the white Christian populations at least) elsewhere in South America!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. […] Two posts ago I covered the spectacularly chequered history of Hispaniola and the Dominican Republic.  If you haven’t read that you might like to go back and look at it now. […]

    Like

  5. parkermccoy says:

    Oh wow, I love that statue. I always enjoy old statues like that where they’re green and worn. Such a cool look. Thank you for sharing, Murray!

    Liked by 1 person

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