Friday, April 15, 2011

Santo Domingo - The City Itself in the Dominican Republic

A city of  contrasts - the new Santo Domingo and the old Santo Domingo - called Colonial City

Hussle and bussle every where in the new section

Entering the city of Santo Domino we were struck by the smell of diesel fumes and the loud noises everywhere - especially car horns beeping all over....big city time for certain!  Crazy drivers, cars zipping everywhere without looking.  I think they must close their eyes and beep the horn and just floor it! 
Typical street in the old Colonial City

Natural gas going into the back of the auto

Note the switch - Gasoline or Natural Gas Take your pick!

We needed fuel upon arrival and I was amazed to learn that we were riding in a car that can be fueled with both gasoline and with natural gas -- either /or at any time by just flipping a switch.

Note the photos of the natural gas going into the car and the photo of the interior of the auto with the switch.

The old ‘Colonial City’ is the place to see in Santo Domingo is exactly that...the oldest colonial city in all of the Americas.  We raced around trying to take it all in, managing to see the highlights (we think).  Christopher Columbus, known here as Christopher Colon, first landed here in 1492, thinking he was in the Bahamas, which are much further up.  He left some crew here, telling them to find the gold and that he’d be back.  When he returned a couple of years later (and you thought our boat was slow!), all had died.

The 4 trips taken by Christopher Columbus in his discovery of the Americas

Replica of Christopher Columbus ships

The actual anchor from Christopher Columbus' ship

The history is lively to say the least.  All of these Caribbean islands were fought over time and again and plundered for whatever they had by France, Britain and Spain all in their fighting sailing ships.  The slave trade from Africa grew larger and larger as the European countries wanted more and more sugar, produced from the sugar cane grown here.  Fortunes were made in exporting sugar cane from larger and larger plantations.  Pirates who came to plunder would sell to the highest bidder foreign country so these islands in the Caribbean might be French one day and then claimed by Spain the next day!   Pirate Frances Drake kept the DR himself I'm told for about 50 years.  The French finally beat him out in 1655.   The Haitians finally won out on the island of Hispaniola, led by a Frenchman.  Later, this island was split into Haiti and the Dominican Republic...French Haiti and Spanish DR.   I’m currently reading James Mitchener’s book, Caribbean to gain a better perspective.  Kids, I don’t recommend this book for you -- it is tough slow going, but worth the while if you are really interested. 

Dominican school girls

The Dominicans everywhere are friendly and come in all hues of brown, black, cream and white, reflective of their multi-national backgrounds and history.   The Taino Indians were first here, following by Christopher Columbus from Spain; French; British and of course, the Africans who were brought here as slaves.   The Dominicans are a mix of all these peoples, as are the folks in Puerto Rico and other islands too.
School children in Santo Domingo

Interestingly, all the dolls made here in the DR have NO facial features - no nose, no mouth, no eyes because it is said that no two Dominicans look like the other.  Therefore, the dolls represent the multi-cultural look of the people.  We felt safe everywhere we went, although we were told that is not necessarily the case. 

 In Santo Domingo we ran into the numerous children and adults trying to make a buck, coming up in an attempt to sell us something -- mostly junky stuff.  A firm NO was all it hassling.  A couple little kids, however,  need someone to teach them some manners!  One dropped a tiny flower on our table at an outside restaurant & smiled at me.  Forgetting, I simply smiled back.  Little urchin......quickly held out his hand for $$.  Andy tossed him a coin and a coin clearly wasn’t enough.  Ah well.   Another came up to Andy and wanted his water bottle, which was nearly empty.  Andy refused.  He figured the kid was going to pour it into the other half empty bottle he was carrying and then sell it to some tourist as a full bottle of water.   Ugh.

 Miscellaneous Photos of Santo Domingo

Honor Guard at the National Palace

Ceiling at the National Palace
Heros of the Dominican Republic are buried here inside the Natl Palace

Cathedral Santa Maria, oldest cathedral in Las Americas Located on Colonial Park

Part of old Jesuit convent & monastery

More of convent & monastery

Part of the Fort Ozama complex - Ozama is Taino word for 'navigateable waters or wetlands',  Built 1502 by African slaves & Taino Indians to defend against the marauding pirate attacks

Typical charming street off the main square in Colonial City

One of the oldest sundials in Americas.  One side is for AM time and the other side for PM times.

A press for mashing sugar cane to get the juice

Columbus Place - Don Diego, Christopher Columbus' son, lived here for years

Front view of the Chapel Our Lade of Remedies built by richest man in town for private prayers by his family & for their burials in here.

Wall of old Fort from the top overlooking the ocean.  The walls are made of coral & rock and the 'cement' is made of gypsum, clay, limestone & the blood of animals.  The older this gets, the harder it becomes.

Elephant Tusk carved

A picture of C. Columbus carved into the elephant tusk.  Taking these tusks is why elephants are so endangered in the world now -- killed for their tusks!
Original drawers within a cabinet housing medicinal herbs used to make medicines.  Santo Domingo is site of the oldest pharmacy in the Americas

The Royal Court "Palace of Royal Audiences"  One of the oldest colonial courtrooms.

The Judge sits up on that chair

The accused sit on the small stools & the lawyers on the chairs

An ambulance, carried by people with the injured or sick inside - standing up it looks like!

The Popemobile that Pope John Paul rode in when he was here helping to place the remains of Christopher Columbus on the 500th anniversary of his founding of the DR

The Popemobile is being repainted on the lawn of the Christopher Columbus Lighthouse in anticipation of a visit by the new Pope.  Inside is a red velvet chair that the Pope sits on to wave to the crowds.

Map shows the route of the slave trading.  Tools were used on slaves during this terrible period of history.   The Pirates, the French, the Spanish were brutal during those olden days, often beheading men and women of all races & cultures; putting them on racks and stretching them until their bodies fell apart. 

Dominica art - Life on the island

Dominican folk art representative of life on the island

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