Monasterio de San Francisco

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 14 September 2016

.

Architecture, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monasterio de San Francisco, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

The Monasterio de San Francisco was the first monstery in the Americas.  It was first built in wood in 1508 and rebuilt in stone between 1523 and 1556.

.

Architecture, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monasterio de San Francisco, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

It was sacked by Drake in 1586 and fully repaired in 1664.  Then it was destroyed again by a cyclone in 1673.

.

Architecture, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monasterio de San Francisco, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

Beehive on a wall.

.

Architecture, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monasterio de San Francisco, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

In 1808, in a particularly tumultuous period of Dominican history, the French were in control but had just lost the Battle of Palo Hincado about a hundred kilometres away to Spanish insurgents.  They mounted a cannon on a wooden platform atop the vault and fired two rounds.  On the second, the vault collapsed and was never reconstructed.

.

Architecture, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monasterio de San Francisco, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

Pigeons adding their own particular brand of mortar to the building.

.

Architecture, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monasterio de San Francisco, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

Remaining parts of the buildings were used as an insane asylum from 1880 until 1930 when Cyclone San Zenón laid waste to much of what remained and that was never repaired either.

.

Architecture, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monasterio de San Francisco, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

Currently on Sundays, live bands play Merengue, Bachata, Salsa and Son, but we were unfortunately not there on a Sunday.

.

Architecture, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monasterio de San Francisco, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

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.

What I would like to do now is to cover the effect of Karma in that history, from a modern social democrat perspective.

.

Architecture, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monasterio de San Francisco, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

First the Spanish came to an island with one to two million Taino Indians, living in peace, certainly by the standards of what followed.  The Spanish may not have been socially more advanced but they had armour, steel, horses and guns.  After fifty years there were not many Taino left. Many of them died of disease incubated by the insanitary conditions the Spanish lived in in their homeland.  Had they retained more of the town planning even of the Romans and had they learned more from the Arabs they conquered in Andalusia, this may have been less of an issue.

.

Architecture, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monasterio de San Francisco, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

 

Many Taino were slaughtered and many others perished in inhumane servitude, a consequence of the Spanish greed for Power and Gold.  So since they had wiped out most of the Taino, they reverted to importing Africans as slaves.  Of course they treated them just as savagely and many escaped to live with Taino in the mountains.  After only fifty years the settlers needed armed bands to travel between settlements with some safety.

.

Architecture, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monasterio de San Francisco, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

Then in Europe, the Dutch fought them for their independence and began trading with Spanish settlers on the north and west coasts of Hispaniola for salt they were excluded from.  The Administration catastrophically pulled back their settlers from these coasts to prevent this trade and opened the door to the French, who took over what is now Haiti (then called Sainte-Domingue).  Sainte-Domingue because the wealthiest corner of the Caribbean but it was built on brutal slavery and 90% of the population were slaves (6% were white and 4% free coloureds who might own slaves).

.

Architecture, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monasterio de San Francisco, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

Then of course the slaves revolted and took over all of Hispaniola for a while but if you have a tradition of authoritarian government and instability it’s not so easy to replace.  Even today, Haiti has become one of the poorest countries in the world and political stability is tenuous while the Dominican Republic, though not without problems, is in a much better place.

.

Architecture, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monasterio de San Francisco, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

Wiping out most of the Indians and introducing slavery may have seemed like a good idea at the time to some but it was quickly destructive and counter-productive to all, and authoritarian political systems create their own catastrophes sooner or later.

So what could they have done?  The basic problem was the greed, violence and intolerance of the time and that wasn’t restricted to the Spanish.  The gold was ultimately a delusion, they wasted that on unwinnable wars in Europe anyway.

.

Architecture, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monasterio de San Francisco, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

So let’s contemplate an extreme counterfactual alternative history.  First, before they turned up in the West Indies, they needed to have developed a society characterised by democracy and social justice with good planning, sewerage, medical knowledge and education for all.  Then they could have offered a partnership to the Taino Indians and if they needed additional labour, they could have offered paid employment to Africans and full citizenship of a multicultural society.  Instead of supressing the Dutch they could have negotiated independence for them and a naval partnership.  Then Hispaniola would have been likely to have had a much more successful history.

.

Architecture, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monasterio de San Francisco, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

Of course the Spain of Ferdinand and Isabella was just slightly different than that.  And it’s easy for us to say, living in a society where there is no greed, income and wealth are equitably distributed, everyone is well-educated  and we take good care of the environment.

.

Architecture, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monasterio de San Francisco, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

Hold on a sec, maybe that’s not quite right.  How will the future look on us?  Will they consider us any better or even worse?  How much and who will even be left?

We clearly need to improve in terms of arresting global warming, industrial and agricultural pollution, economic & social inequity and general overpopulation.  It all hangs in the balance and notwithstanding our individual cocoons of comfort or discomfort, it’s up to us to generate as much positive effect as we can, both collectively and as individuals.

.

6 comments on “Monasterio de San Francisco

  1. ourcrossings says:

    Wow, such a beautiful place! Love the natural colours and the soft light, it would be a joy to photograph the site! Is that a real beehive? That’s amazing! Thanks for sharing and have a good day 😀 Aiva

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Robert Hayes says:

    Wonderful work Murry. And I too, was impressed by the beehive. A rare phenomenon to me.

    Like

  3. Robert Hayes says:

    Oops…forgot to tell you, I could see a nice nude in a lot of those windows and doorways. 😉

    Like

  4. […] Monasterio de San Francisco. […]

    Like

  5. […] Monasterio de San Francisco […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s