An American Abroad

Santo Domingo: The Zona Colonial

My visit to the Dominican Republic was all too short. So as not to spread myself too thin or spend too much of my time in transit, I concentrated on the Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was the first permanent European city in the New World and the only such city founded before 1500. It’s certainly a tourist spot, but it’s also a very real neighborhood that houses the rich, the poor, and those in between.

Since this part of the city was built by the Spanish colonists, it’s not surprising to find monuments and street names honoring Christopher Columbus. Columbus has fallen out of favor in the more developed world for being a plunderer, a colonizer, an initiator of genocide, and an all-around disagreeable person. So it’s ironic that he is still quite popular in the land where he committed the depredations he is so stridently accused of.

One of the things the Spaniards did in pretty quick order was to build fortifications around city to protect it — not from the native population, but from other colonial powers that might try to muscle in on their good thing. This watchtower overlooks the approach to the Santo Domingo harbor. On the day I was there, the watch was kept by a dog enjoying the relative cool of the shade.

The Spanish also brought Catholicism to Santo Domingo, a legacy that lives in the faith of its people and in the ancient churches that dot the Zona Colonial.

Where else could you see Job: The Musical but in a seriously religious country?

Even comparatively recent residential buildings bear a strong Spanish influence.

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