Santo Domingo, known officially as Santo Domingo de Guzmán, is the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic. Its metropolitan population reached exactly 2,907,100 in 2010. The city is located on the Caribbean Sea, at the mouth of the Ozama River. Founded by Bartholomew Columbus in 1496, it is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the Americas, and was the first seat of Spanish colonial rule in the New World. It lies within the boundaries of the Distrito Nacional (D.N.; "National District"), itself bordered on three sides by Santo Domingo Province.
Santo Domingo was called "Ciudad Trujillo", from 1930 to 1961, after the Dominican Republic's dictator, Rafael Trujillo, named the capital after himself. Following his assassination, the city resumed its original designation. Today, Santo Domingo is the Dominican Republic's major metropolis, and is the largest city in the Caribbean by population. Santo Domingo is ranked as a Gamma world city by Loughborough University.
Please note: When this article refers to Santo Domingo it is most likely referring to the Greater Santo Domingo Area (Distrito Nacional plus Santo Domingo Province). In some cases it may state "D.N.", which strictly refers to the city proper, i.e., excluding the surrounding province of Santo Domingo.
Before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492, the Taíno people populated the island which they called Quisqueya (mother of all lands) and Ayiti (land of high mountains), and which Columbus named Hispaniola, including the territory of today's Republic of Haiti. At the time, the island's territory consisted of five chiefdoms: Marién, Maguá, Maguana, Jaragua, and Higüey. These were ruled respectively by caciques (chiefs) Guacanagarix, Guarionex, Caonabo, Bohechío, and Cayacoa.
Dating to 1496, when the Spanish settled there, and officially to 5 August 1498, Santo Domingo is the oldest European city in the Americas. Bartholomew Columbus founded the settlement and named it La Nueva Isabela, after an earlier settlement in the north named after the Queen of Spain Isabella I. In 1495 it was renamed "Santo Domingo", in honor of Saint Dominic. Santo Domingo came to be known as the "Gateway to the Caribbean" and the chief town in Hispaniola from then on. Expeditions which led to Ponce de León's colonization of Puerto Rico, Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar's colonization of Cuba, Hernando Cortes' conquest of Mexico, and Vasco Núñez de Balboa's sighting of the Pacific Ocean were all launched from Santo Domingo.
In June 1502, Santo Domingo was destroyed by a major hurricane, and the new Governor Nicolás de Ovando had it rebuilt on a different site on the other side of the Ozama River. The original layout of the city and a large portion of its defensive wall can still be appreciated today throughout the Colonial Zone, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1990.
In 1586, Francis Drake captured the city, which he held for ransom. Drake's invasion signaled the decline of Spanish dominion over Hispaniola, which was accentuated in the early 17th century by policies that resulted in the depopulation of most of the island outside of the capital. An expedition sent by Oliver Cromwell in 1655 attacked the city of Santo Domingo, but was defeated. It withdrew and took Jamaica, instead. In 1697, the Treaty of Ryswick included the acknowledgement by Spain of France's dominion over the Western third of the island, now Haiti.
From 1795 to 1822 the city changed hands several times along with the colony it headed. It was ceded to France in 1795, captured by rebellious Haitian slaves in 1801, recovered by France in 1802, recovered by Spain in 1809. In 1821 Santo Domingo became the capital of an independent nation: Spanish Haiti. This was two months later conquered by Haiti. The city and the colony lost much of their Spanish population as a result of these events.
Santo Domingo was again the capital of a free nation, when Dominicans gained their independence from Haitian rule on February 27, 1844 led by their national hero Juan Pablo Duarte. The city was a prize fought over by various political factions over the succeeding decades of instability. In addition, the country had to fight multiple battles with Haiti; the Battle of March 19, Battle of March 30, Battle of Las Carreras, and Battle of Beler, are a few of the most prominent encounters, mentioned in the national anthem and with city streets named after them. In 1861 Spain returned to the country, having struck a bargain with Dominican leader Pedro Santana whereby the latter was granted several honorific titles and privileges, in exchange for annexing the young nation back to Spanish rule. The Dominican Restoration War began in 1863 however, and in 1865 the country was free again after Spain withdrew.
Over the next two-thirds of a century Santo Domingo and the Dominican Republic went through many revolutions, power changes, and occupation by the United States, 1916–24. The city was struck by hurricane San Zenón in 1930, which caused major damage. After its rebuilding, Santo Domingo was known officially as Ciudad Trujillo in honor of dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, who governed from 1930. Following his assassination in 1961 the city was renamed back to Santo Domingo. It was the scene of street fighting during the 1965 United States occupation of the Dominican Republic.
The year 1992 marked the 500th anniversary, El Quinto Centenario, of Christopher Columbus' Discovery of America. The Columbus Lighthouse – Faro a Colón – was erected in Santo Domingo in honor of this occasion, with an approximate cost of 400 million Dominican pesos .
The Ozama river flows 148 kilometers before emptying into the Caribbean Sea. Santo Domingo's position on its banks 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.
The average temperature in Santo Domingo varies little, because the tropical trade winds help mitigate the heat and humidity throughout the year. Thanks to these trade winds, Santo Domingo has a tropical climate but seldom experiences the oppressive heat and humidity that one may expect to find. December and January are the coolest months and July and August are the warmest. Santo Domingo averages 1,445 millimetres (56.9 in) of rain annually. Its driest months are from January through April, however, due to the trade winds and mountains to the southwest, rain is seen even during these months. Because its driest month is just below 60 millimetres (2.4 in), Santo Domingo falls under the tropical monsoon climate category under the Köppen climate classification. Like many other cities in the Caribbean, Santo Domingo is very susceptible to hurricanes. The lowest recorded temperature has been 13 °C (55 °F) and the highest 37 °C (99 °F).
|Climate data for Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic|
|Average high °C (°F)||29.2 |
|Daily mean °C (°F)||24.4 |
|Average low °C (°F)||19.6 |
|Rainfall mm (inches)||63.0 |
|Avg. rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm)||7.6||6.3||6.3||7.0||11.3||10.3||11.4||12.0||11.8||13.0||9.4||9.0||115.4|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||229.4||231.7||257.3||252.0||244.9||234.0||229.4||238.7||222.0||207.7||219.0||204.6||2,770.7|
|Source #1: World Meteorological Organization.|
|Source #2: Hong Kong Observatory (sun only 1961-1990).|
Government and politics
Santo Domingo is the center of the national government of the Dominican Republic. The President's office and ministries, National Congress, Supreme Court of Justice, and other main government institutions are located in the metropolitan area.
The city is administered by the Ayuntamiento del Distrito Nacional (City Hall), which is responsible for municipal functions. The current mayor of Santo Domingo is Roberto Esmérito Salcedo, of the governing Dominican Liberation Party.
The "Policía Nacional" (National Police) and "Policia Turística" (Tourist Police) (POLITUR) are tasked with enforcing city safety.
Many of Santo Domingo's most notable landmarks are located within the Zona Colonial district of the city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990. The Colonial Zone, bordered by the Río Ozama, also has an impressive collection of 16th century buildings, including palatial houses and majestic churches that reflect the architectural style of the late medieval period.
The city's most important colonial buildings include the Catedral Santa María La Menor, called La Catedral Primada de América, America's First Cathedral, which states its distinction; the Alcázar de Colón, America's first castle, once the residence of Viceroy of the Indies Don Diego Colón, a son of Christopher Columbus; the Monasterio de San Francisco, the ruins of the first monastery in the Americas; the Museo de las Casas Reales, in a monumental complex that includes the former Palace of the Governors and the building of the former Royal Audiencia of Santo Domingo; the Fortaleza Ozama, the oldest fortress in the Americas; the Pantéon Nacional, a former Jesuit edifice now hosting the remains of various renowned Dominicans; and the Dominican Convent, the first convent in the Americas. Just outside the fortifications's Puerta del Conde is the Altar de la Patria, erected in 1976 as a monument to the heroes of the country's independence in 1844.
Outside of the Ciudad Colonial, the Malecón (seawall) is a vibrant commercial and touristic area, marked by major hotels and several Trujillo-era monuments including a large obelisk located at the eastern end of George Washington Avenue.
Other places of cultural interest are Plaza de la Cultura, which houses the city's most important cultural venues, including the Teatro Nacional (National Theater) and various museums; the Palacio Nacional, which houses the Presidency of the Dominican Republic; the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts), a neoclassical building that is the permanent home of the country's National Symphony Orchestra; and the Boulevard 27 de Febrero, a pedestrian promenade located on the busy Avenida 27 de Febrero, which displays works of art from prominent Dominican artists and sculptors.
Another attraction is the Centro Olímpico Juan Pablo Duarte, a sports complex in the center of Santo Domingo. This complex was used during the 2003 Pan American Games.
Santo Domingo is the location of numerous museums, many of which are located in the Zona Colonial district. In the Zona Colonial is the Museum of Alcázar, in Diego Colon's restored palace, the Museum of the Casas Reales, with artefacts of the colonial period and a collection of ancient weapons donated by Trujillo, the Naval Museum of the Atarazanas, in the former naval yards, Museo de la Catedral, Museo Memorial de la Resistencia Dominicana, documenting the struggle for freedom during the regimes of Trujillo and Balaguer, Museo Duarte, dedicated to the hero of Dominican independence, and the World of Ambar Museum.
In the Plaza de la Cultura are the Museum of the Dominican Man, with artefacts from the pre-Columbian Taino civilization, the National Museum of History and Geography, the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Modern Art. Other museums include the Museo Bellapart, a prominent private collection of 19th- and 20th-Century Dominican painting and sculpture and the Museo Prehispanico, a major private collection of pre-Columbian Taino art hosted in a Pepsi bottling factory.
Parks and recreational areas
Santo Domingo has various parks, but even though these parks are relatively big, Santo Domingo still lacks enough recreational areas. Santo Domingo (D.N) is surrounded by the Santo Domingo Greenbelt. Mirador Norte Park lies in the north of the city, close to Villa Mella and Mirador Sur Park is located in the southwest section of the city. Independencia Park and Colón Park are located in Zona Colonial. Also of note is Enriquillo Park, Las Praderas Metropolitan Park, El Malecón (a cityfront coastal park), Dr. Rafael Ma. Moscoso National Botanical Garden (Jardín Botanico Nacional), Dominican Republic National Zoo, Barrio Chino (Chinatown) and Parque Nuñez de Caceres.
Alcázar of Colón, the America's first castle, in the historic centre of Santo Domingo's Zona Colonial
There are eighteen universities in Santo Domingo, the highest number of any city in the Dominican Republic. Established in 1538, the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD) is the oldest university in the Americas and is also the only public university in the city. Santo Domingo holds the nation's highest percentage of residents with a higher education degree.
Other universities include Universidad Adventista Dominicana (UNAD), Universidad APEC (UNAPEC), Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo (INTEC), Universidad del Caribe (UNICARIBE), Universidad Iberoamericana (UNIBE) (UNIBE), Universidad Católica Santo Domingo (UCSD), Universidad de la Tercera Edad (UTE), Universidad Tecnológica de Santiago (UTESA), Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña (UNPHU), Instituto de Ciencias Exactas (INCE), Universidad Organización y Método (O&M), Universidad Interamericana (UNICA), Universidad Eugenio María de Hostos (UNIREMOS), Universidad Francisco Henríquez y Carvajal (UFHEC), Universidad Instituto Cultural Domínico Americano (UNICDA), Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM), Instituto Tecnológico de las Americas (ITLA) and Universidad de Psicologia Industrial Dominicana (UPID).
Santo Domingo is the terminus for four of the five national highways. The city is connected with the southwest of the republic by the national highway DR-2 (Avenida George Washington and Autopista 30 de Mayo), and with the cities of the country's northwest by DR-1 (Expreso Kennedy, Corredor Duarte), which serves as a direct link to the city of Santiago de los Caballeros. DR-3 (Expreso 27 de Febrero/Autopista de Las Américas) connects Santo Domingo directly to the east of the country, including the cities of San Pedro de Macoris, La Romana, and major tourist sites such as Punta Cana and Bavaro, and to the Samaná Province (in the northeast) via the Samana Highway. In the city, motoconchos (motorcycle taxis), guaguas/voladoras (low quality public buses), and carros publicos/conchos (shared taxis) are common modes of transport.
The Santo Domingo Metro is a 15 km underground and elevated system consisting of six proposed lines. The first line begins elevated at Villa Mella (in Santo Domingo Norte)—located north of the Isabela River and north of the city center—and ends at Centro de los Héroes on the southern coast of Santo Domingo, near the seawall district (Malecón). Some of the stops on the first line are the Teatro Nacional, the main campus of the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD; Autonomous University of Santo Domingo) and Avenida Lincoln. The first line is already in service. The second line, currently under construction, is said to run in an east-west direction beneath Expreso Kennedy, crossing the first line at Maximo Gómez Avenue. The third line will also run in an east-west direction, beneath Expreso 27 de Febrero.
Santo Domingo is served by two international airports, the main one being Las Américas International Airport (Spanish: Aeropuerto Internacional de las Americas Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez). The airport has two terminals; the newer one, just completed in 2006, added five more gates on the northern end of the facility. As of 2010, the airport handled over 3.4 million passengers per year. Las Américas is located in Punta Caucedo, 15 kilometers east of the National District on DR-3. It is serviced by such airlines as majors Delta Air Lines, Iberia, Air France and Cubana de Aviacion. as well as smaller ones like Sunrise Airways. The Aeropuerto Internacional La Isabela is a secondary, newly constructed airport located in the northern section of the city, within kilometres of the city center. It is not currently used as a major international airport, servicing mostly domestic and charter flights.
The Port of Santo Domingo is located on the Ozama River. Its location at the center of the Caribbean is well suited for flexible itinerary planning and has excellent support, road and airport infrastructure within the Santo Domingo region, which facilitate access and transfers. The port is suitable for both turnaround and transit calls.
The port's renovation is part of a major redevelopment project, aimed at integrating the port area and the Zona Colonial and foster a cruise, yacht, and high-end tourism destination. Supported by legislation approved in 2005, the project, developed by the Sans Souci Group, also includes the development of a new sports marina and a 122-acre (0.49 km2) mixed-leisure real estate development adjacent to the port.
There are 15 television stations (both UHF and VHF) in Santo Domingo. Santo Domingo has the greatest number of television signals in the country, followed by Santiago. Additional cable television channels are provided by companies like Aster, Cable TV Dominicana, SKY Dominicana, and Telecable. In Santo Domingo there are 100 different stations in AM frequency and 44 in FM frequency.
Santo Domingo has four sister cities designated by Sister Cities International:
Santo Domingo also has twinning agreements with the following sister cities:
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