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Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The city was established in 1496 and is the oldest European city in the New World.

Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic, situated on the southern coast of an island shared with Haiti in the Caribbean Sea. With a population of just under one million people, the city is the largest city in the Dominican Republic, as well as the political capital of the country it is also its cultural and economical center.

The History of Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo was established after the destruction of the first settlement on the island. The city was founded in 1496, and was an important strategic and logistical stop for the Spanish on their trips to the New World. However, when the great silver mines in Mexico and Peru were established, Santo Domingo’s power and influence were greatly reduced. An earthquake all but destroyed the city in 1562, and in 1586 the British explorer and privateer, Sir Francis Drake looted and burned the city down. It was from this moment that the city never truly recovered to its previous glory, and was subject to constant attacks by the British and French.

The most serious event to occur in Santo Domingo happened between 1822 and 1843, when the leader of Haiti, François Dominique Toussaint Louverture, invaded the city and occupied it during that period. Many Dominicans fled to neighboring islands while many wealthy people were stripped of their land. The country finally realized its struggle for autonomy when in 1843 when Juan Pablo Duarte, considered the father of the Dominican Republic, declared independence. However, a lack of governmental control or any state framework meant there were competing rival factions and a series of short lived caudillos (military dictators), a process that finally ended with the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, after whom Santo Domingo was renamed as Ciudad Trujillo in 1936 – it was only changed back when Trujillo died in 1961.

Santo Domingo Attractions

Santo Domingo has lots of attractions to keep anyone busy. The oldest colonial military edifice in the New World is located in Santo Domingo: the Fortaleza Ozama. This military fortress was constructed in 1502 and was in use officially for over four hundred years, having been occupied by Spain, England, France, Haiti, Gran Colombia, the United States and the Dominican Republic. Other sites to see are the Catedral Primada de América, the oldest cathedral still in use in the western hemisphere. The Casa de Francia is an important residence, having served as the home of the conqueror of present-day Mexico, Hernan Cortes. Another attraction found in the city is its Botanical Gardens, a two-square-kilometer area containing various species of beautiful and rare plants.

The weather in Santo Domingo is pleasant all year round, but hot for people not used to a tropical climate; the temperatures range from daytime highs of 84ºF in winter (29º C), increasing to 89ºF (88ºC) in the summertime. At nighttime, these figures fall to about 66ºF (19ºC) and 72ºF (22ºC) respectively. The wet season occurs between May and October, while November through to April are the driest months.