Edges of the Old City (Santo Domingo)

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 14 September 2016

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Stepping out from the Museo de las Casas Reales, we encounter a driver with horse and cart, eager to take us for a ride (though we continued on foot).  You may need to click on the image to see it properly but towards the top right is a very old street sign.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it is from the early sixteenth century.

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Walking along the street the horse and cart came from, this is Hostal Nicolas de Ovando, a four star hotel.

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I know approximately where this is but not what it is.  Perhaps an old monastery.

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This is Iglesia de Nuestra Senora del Carmen, attached to Iglesia de los Dominicos, or the Dominican Convent.

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This is a statue of Ingenio Maria del Hostos.  He was a Puerto Rican intellectual who agitated for the independence of Puerto Rico and Cuba at the turn of the twentieth century.  (Instead, they were colonised by the United States).  He ended up living in Santo Domingo.  We are probably in Parque Duarte.

 

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A charming side street.

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An overgrown ruin.  I think, a former religious building.

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The white building bears the sign Fundación Virgen Del Perpetuo Socorro Inc, so I can tell we are in Calle 19 de Marzo, or 19th March Street.  19th March 1844 was the date when an invading Haitian army was defeated in battle.

 

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We are down by the river now and this is Frey Antonio de Ovando.  What can he be shouting out?  Get out of the river?  How do I find my way back to Hostal Nicolas de Ovando?  Help, I’ve got a plant growing on my back and a lightbulb implanted in my head?

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No, it’s Help!  I have a cannon pointed at me!

There could be a reason for that.  He arrived with thirty ships in 1502, became Governor, treated the Indians with great brutality and was recalled for that reason in 1509.

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An ancient door and facade of a religious institution.

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The lizard doorknocker!

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Somewhere around here, a man in dreadlocks appeared and told us it was not safe to walk in this area with cameras, and also invited us to his restaurant that night.

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This is La Puerta del Conde, now the main entrance to El Parque Nacional or Independence Park..

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Some of the detail is interesting.  The statue of the soldier (probably an independence leader).  The soldiers in the shadows at the left.  The cannon pointing down the street.

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We are now in the Altar de la Patria, a mausoleum dedicated to the three founding fathers from the 1844 War of Independence, Juan Pablo Duarte, Francisco del Rosario Sánchez, and Ramón Matías Mella,.

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Still in the same area, we are at El Baluarte del Conde (The Count’s Bulwark), part of the City fortifications dating from 1543.

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With cannons to keep the streets safe…..

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The old and the somewhat new.

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Zonabici, sign for a bicycle rental shop near where we were staying.  This is the last image from our stay in Santo Domingo.

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Museo de las Casas Reales

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 14 September 2016

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Our next stop was Museo de las Casas Reales, or Museum of the Royal houses.  Built in 1511, this was the Real Audience (Royal Audience) or Royal Court of Justice, and also the Palace of the Governors and the General Captaincy until the west side of Hispaniola was ceded to France in 1799 and those functions moved to Cuba.

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These are pages from the first book written in Spanish in the Americas.  It is the navigational diaries of Christopher Columbus and the book of the privileges granted to him by the Crown.

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This must be the Santa Maria.

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The Golden Hind, Drake’s ship.

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The museum houses the history of the island from 1492 until 1821.

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The Pharmaceutical Products industry, founded in the sixteenth century, incorporated both Indian and Spanish knowledge.  It was established by a Spaniard married to an Indian named Antonio de Villa-Sante and featured a balm for many ailments derived from the guacunax tree.

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Rifles from the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries.

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Persian helmet, shield and arm guards.  Also Turkish sword.  Eighteenth to nineteenth centuries.

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Apparently a Grand Reception Hall.

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An eighteenth century warship, I’d say, but I didn’t record the label.

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Santo Domingo in 1785.

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Presumably the “throne” of the Governor.

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The portrait at the left is of Francisco de Vitoria (1486 – 1546), known for his defence of the rights of Indians against the settlers and his advocacy of the limits of justifiable warfare.

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Alcázar de Colón

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 14 September 2016

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On our way from Monasterio de San Francisco to Alcázar de Colón, we passed the doorway to Casa del Cordon (which is not open to the public).  It was built in the very early 16th century and is be3lieved to be the oldest stone house in the Americas.  For a period from 1509 it was home to Diego Columbus, son of Christopher and Governor at the time.

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Now we are inside Alcázar de Colón (or Castle of Columbus) which is now a museum.

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Diego Columbus moved here from Casa de Cordon after it was built.  Wikipedia says that Alcázar de Colón is the only known residence of Diego, which is clearly wrong.

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It was built between 1510 and 1514 of coral rocks, using 1,500 actually or effectively enslaved Taino Indians.

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It once had fifty-five rooms and a number of gardens and courtyards.  It now has twenty-two rooms which are open to the public.

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The Columbus family lived here until 1577.  In 1586 Sir Francis Drake plundered it.

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From the mid-eighteenth century it was abandoned and fell into ruins.

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It was restored between 1955 and 1957 although there was controversy at the time of the historical sensitivity of this project.

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The Palaza houses works of art from the 14th to 17th centuries.

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The painting is presumably Christopher and Diego, and the model the Santa Maria.

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Out on the street again.

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The little metal globes on the kerb were used for the tying of horses.

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Monasterio de San Francisco

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 14 September 2016

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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.

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

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Beehive on a wall.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Wandering in Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 14 September 2016

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This morning we headed on foot to the ruined monastery of San Francisco.  Usually I show the images sequentially but since my shots of the monastery are interspersed with images from nearby streets, I have separated them out for the next post.

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This vehicle was parked in the street right outside where we were staying, in the centre of the old city.  Its headlights are in less than perfect condition, it lacks a front bumper and numberplate, it is held together with twine, the windscreen is cracked and it has a severe case of rust.  Apart from that, it’s probably in perfect condition.  It may be that it’s not a new vehicle off the showroom floor.  I suspect you wouldn’t last very long though driving it around Canberra.

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Just around the corner from where we were staying was an old church which we had noticed the previous day and it was open so we visited.

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It seemed as though it must be The Church of the Working Man because of the figure at the altar.  He appears to be merely cleaning it though.

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It is in fact Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes or the Church of Our Lady of the Mercedes and there is usually an impressively attired female figure at the altar.

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The Señora de las Mercedes is the patron Saint of the island.  This is presumably her, off to the right of the altar, but a different representation usually stands on the altar.

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It is one of the oldest churches in Santo Domingo, constructed between 1527 and 1555.

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Looking up.  (Fisheye HDR).

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It was sacked by Drake in 1586 and damaged by cyclones in the 1590s and 1628, and by an earthquake in 1615.  It was later restored though so much of it is not original.

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Actually deciphering the Latin inscription is another thing, but this appears to be the tomb of a bishop from 1644.

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Old buildings on the street (This one a largely corrected fisheye image).

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The ruined monastery of San Francisco in the background.

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This is now Calle Hostos.

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This section features some very old workers’ cottages, protected by UNESCO listing.

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A corner of the ruined monastery of San Francisco in the background.

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Fortaleza Ozama

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 13 September 2016

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

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

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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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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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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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Catedral Primada de America

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 13 September 2016

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We stayed briefly in the zona coloniale, the old quarter of Santo Domingo, which is the oldest continuously occupied city in the Americas.

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The central area is quite safe, with a heavy police presence but especially coming from Cuba,  it didn’t always feel as safe outside that.

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We went to visit the Cathedral, but what we thought was the entrance was not actually the way to get in.

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So we had to walk around the block to get to the other side of the building.

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This looks like a forgotten side entrance but is actually the way in.  The statue by the door is of Archbishop Merino, 1833-1906.

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The cathedral is known by locals as Catedral Primada de America, though its proper name is Basilica Catedral Santa Maria de la Encarnacion.  It is the oldest cathedral in the Americas, begun in 1514 and completed in the 1540s.

 

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Evidently the grave of an archbishop, dated 1569.

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Santo Domingo is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the Americas.  It was founded by Bartholomew Columbus, brother of Christopher Columbus, in 1498.

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Looking up at the ceiling.

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This is an altar at one end of the cathedral.

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And here it is at the top of this image, with the other end of the cathedral at the bottom..

It takes a lot of heavy machinery operating outside the cathedral to compress it in this way, and you have to hope the stonework does not fall down on you.

A safer and less expensive approach, which is less likely to incur the ire of the authorities, is to stitch together multiple images, six images taken with a fisheye lens for example.

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And this is the far end.

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At the far end, looking up.

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The inscription on the left says something about returning the picture of the Blessed Virgin of La Antigua to the Dominicans and is dated 1862, so it probably refers to the painting on the right.

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This somehow looks almost modernist in an El Greco sense.

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This is below the archbishop’s grave we saw earlier.  It’s a bit hard to translate the Latin because the words run together but I suspect it marks the graves of Don Rodrigo and perhaps his wife Senora Rodriguez, and is dated 1553.

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No idea what this says.  there doesn’t appear to be a date.

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Architecture, Cathedral, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

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Outside of the cathedral.  I think this is the way out.

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Out in the streets again, and we’re heading to Fortaleza Ozama (next post).

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I’m pretty sure this and the next two images are from the Museo Casa de Tostado.

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This is the house of Francisco de Tostado who came to the island with Governor Nicolas de Ovando in 1502, and it was built in the early sixteenth century.  His son Francisco de Tostado de la Pena, who also lived here, became a university professor and was killed by the cannon fire of Francis Drake in 1586.

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Old doors on the street.

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Woman feeding pigeons, I think near the cathedral.

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