Sugar cane continues to be a very important part of the Dominican Republic’s economy both as an export product as well as, and probably more importantly as, a component of the Dominican rum market.
Taking a step back in history:
The buildings in view behind the ship date back to the original days of Columbus so, as we crossed the river, we were stepping back into the history of Santo Domingo in particular and the Dominican Republic in general. The ‘colonial’ area was replete with stories of Columbus and pirates and wars and gold and religion and over 500 years of Caribbean history and quite interesting to visit. In many ways similar to the old part of Canada’s Quebec City but with less restoration. From Wiki: Santo Domingo is separated from east to west by the Ozama River The river flows 148 kilometers before emptying into the Caribbean Sea. This position was of great importance to the city’s economic development and the growth of trade during colonial times. The Ozama River is where the country’s busiest port is located. Ozama is a Taino word, which means navigable waters or wetlands.
As I stood taking photos from the entrance to the “colonial zone”, I tried hard to imagine what it might have looked like 500 or so years earlier along the banks of the Ozama River here in front of Diego Colon’s expansive home.
“Step through this archway into history” could easily have been a sign to hang above this archway back through time into the “colonial zone” of Santo Domingo.
We left our resort about 6:30AM for the 3.5 hour trip to Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. Our guide, Fausto, didn’t lose any of us during the trip but I wasn’t the only one who occasionally wandered away to get that prized photo. Whenever I ‘lost’ the group, I just looked around for someone tall with a blue cap. Worked every time :-). We were the two tallest so I figured if we couldn’t see the group then there was still a good chance that they would find us :-).
When Columbus arrived on this island in 1492 he called it Hispaniola and that name still applies to the island as a whole. Since Columbus’s time there have been a number of battles over control of the island with the French arriving later and occupying what is now Haiti and the Spanish generally being in control of what is now the Dominican Republic although the amount of Haitian territory and influence has varied substantially at times. The US took control of the island for a period of time. The Palace of Diego Colon played an important role in the colonial history of Santo Domingo.
Alcazar de Colon (Palacio de Diego Colon), Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic:
A great spot for history buffs if you are interested in the Caribbean history since this structure is now operational as a museum and Columbus or his family likely stood where I was standing to take this photo. This two-storey family home was constructed by Christopher Columbus’s son Diego in the period 1510 – 1512 when he was Spanish governor to the region. The building is coralline stonework and reconstructed in the 1950’s and now operated as a museum decorated to reflect Diego’s time. Although smaller than the original building (for safety reasons according to our guide), it is still quite impressive.