Monasterio de San Francisco

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 14 September 2016

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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.

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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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Architecture, Calle Hostos, Dominican Republic, History, Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

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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Architecture, Calle Hostos, Dominican Republic, History, Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

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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Architecture, Calle Hostos, Dominican Republic, History, Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

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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Architecture, Calle Hostos, Dominican Republic, History, Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

The ruined monastery of San Francisco in the background.

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Architecture, Calle Hostos, Dominican Republic, History, Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Calle Hostos, Dominican Republic, History, Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

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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Architecture, Calle Hostos, Dominican Republic, History, Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Calle Hostos, Dominican Republic, History, Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

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

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Architecture, Calle Hostos, Dominican Republic, History, Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

Architecture, Calle Hostos, Dominican Republic, History, Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, Landscape, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

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

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.

 

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

Evidently the grave of an archbishop, dated 1569.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Old doors on the street.

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Woman feeding pigeons, I think near the cathedral.

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From Havana to Santo Domingo

Havana, Cuba to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 12 September 2016

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I’ve just come back from a weekend covering the Thredbo Blues Festival and now have 3,000 images to process, so these posts may slow down a bit for a while.

On Monday around 12:30pm we were driving back from Thredbo. Normally I would have been playing table tennis and have had my car parked outside the centre. Had that been the case, the car would have been pulverised by hail, golf-ball sized or even larger. The windows would have been broken, all the panels dented and the car may have been written off.

Such are the incidents of the unfolding Climate Crisis. Especially with the current political corruption and paralysis, particularly in the US and Australia, it is merely a foretaste of what is to come, and not just in Australia.

Today there was also a fire burning on the edge of Canberra, just a few kilometres from where I live (though blowing in the opposite direction). Homes and an industrial area were threatened. A recycling centre is burning, creating hazardous smoke and Canberra Airport was closed for much of the day. Today was a high wind day. That fire is relatively under control but further high winds are forecast, including for a large area of south eastern New South Wales where there are several large fires burning out of control. Conversely, conditions may also be easing from tomorrow and the Indian Ocean Dipole (a major trigger) has now moved to neutral.

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OK, back to the Cuba/ Caribbean trip. This post shows images taken from the plane between Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

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Aerial Photography, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel

We have taken off from Havana and are now flying east over Cuba.

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Aerial Photography, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel

The farm land looks productive.

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Aerial Photography, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel

Perhaps you have read of the insect apocalypse.  80% decline in insect numbers over the last forty years, perhaps worldwide, at least Europe and the US.  Global warming is a factor but probably a greater cause is use of insecticides and other agricultural poisons.  Perhaps Cuba is fortunate here, because US sanctions may mean they have no access to modern toxic chemicals from companies such as Monsanto.

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We’re still over Cuba, but now the coast and islands at the eastern end.

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Aerial Photography, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel .

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Aerial Photography, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel .

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Aerial Photography, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel .

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Aerial Photography, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel

I’m pretty sure this is the western tip of Haiti.

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Aerial Photography, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel

For those with limited knowledge of geography, the island to the east of Cuba is Hispaniola, which is divided into Haiti to the west and the Dominican Republic to the east.

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I have read that you can see the boundary between Haiti and the Dominican Republic from space.  Haiti is quite deforested and the Dominican Republic not at all.

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This goes back to the days of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic (1930-1961).  Dictators are usually bad news but he preserved the forests and sent the army in to ruthlessly suppress illegal logging.  Haiti on the other hand is one of the poorest countries in the world with little effective government and the whole countryside was stripped bare.

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Aerial Photography, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel

It was too cloudy for me to see the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  We are by now over the Dominican Republic (and probably for one or two of the previous images).

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A large dam with a city near by.

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Agricultural land

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Aerial Photography, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel .

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Aerial Photography, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel

Probably the coast near Santo Domingo.

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Cuba and the Caribbean

14 August to 7 October 2016

Another trip beckons, this time to Cuba and the Caribbean and some other places as well.

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Antigua, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Flinders Ranges, Flores, Guatemala, Havana, Jamaica, Los Angeles, Mexico, Montserrat, Salton City, Santo Domingo, St Martin, USA

First, I am attending a photographic workshop in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, organised by Keith Seidel, who I met in the Southwest Canyonlands trip in 2014.

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Antigua, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Flinders Ranges, Flores, Guatemala, Havana, Jamaica, Los Angeles, Mexico, Montserrat, Salton City, Santo Domingo, St Martin, USA

After returning to Canberra, I head off with my partner Jools to Mexico City, Flores in Guatemala, Cancun overnight, Cuba including a 7-day photographic tour, Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), Saint Martin/ Sint Maarten, Antigua, Montserrat, Jamaica and finally Southern California staying with Jeni Bate of Skyscapes for the Soul in Salton City by the Salton Sea.

Click on the maps for a larger size if you need to see more detail.  A few of the pins are spurious, just to create straight lines (so the route doesn’t follow roads).

I made temporary posts as I travelled or just after I returned and am now replacing them with permanent posts.

Flinders Ranges, South Australia (14 to 21 August)

Mexico City, Mexico (22 to 25 August)

Flores, Guatemala (25 to 31 August)

Cancun, Mexico (31 August to 1 September)

Cuba (1 to 12 September)

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (12 to 15 September)

St Martin/ Sint Maarten (15 to 18 September)

Antigua (18 to 22 September)

Montserrat (22 to 25 September)

(Antigua overnight 25 to 26 September)

Jamaica (26 to 30 September)

California, USA (30 September to 5 October)

Canberra, Australia (7 October)