Santo Domingo, the first city of the 'New World'
January 1, 1970
by Winser C. Espinal
If you have ever been captivated by the beauty of The Americas, you have probably wondered about the moment in history in which such a culturally rich continent collided with the western world. Yes, we all know about Christopher Columbus’ exploits, but do you know about The America’s first continuously inhabited European settlement?
Founded in 1498 by Christopher’s brother (Bartholomew Columbus), Santo Domingo, the capital city of what is now the Dominican Republic, holds the title of the first European city in the Americas. A title that its citizens hold with pride, mainly because they know how it feels to be the first at having cultural wonders that served as cornerstones for the development of the New World and taking into account that around 1502 Santo Domingo was officially the headquarters for the exploration and conquest of the New World, can you blame them?. It is also worth noting that Santo Domingo is home to the first Cathedral and University of the Americas.
Can you still experience these cultural wonders?
Thanks to the continuous hard work of the Dominican people, a fairly vast amount of the ancient colonial area is still intact, we know it as the ”The Colonial City”, a place so important that the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) placed it on its World Heritage list in 1990.
The Colonial City is a small town located within a 104.44 km2 municipality with a population of 1,402,749, this municipality is known as the Distrito Nacional (National District), which in turn is located within the boundaries of the Great Santo Domingo municipal association.
As I mentioned before, Santo Domingo’s Colonial City is home to The America’s first Cathedral, better known as Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor. This place is a piece of history that is open to the public as well as a great pilgrimage opportunity for those who follow the Catholic faith.
So far I have told you about some of the most famous places in The America’s first city, but even though experiencing such a culturally rich experience might seem like a once in a lifetime opportunity for most people, by now you might be wondering: ”Cultural experiences are great, but what about the fun, the nightlife, the beautiful people and the breathtaking beaches that the Caribbean is known for?”. Do not worry, mate, we will get there.
Get ready for some of the best beaches of the Caribbean
Even though you have very likely figured it out by now, the first city of The Americas is located in the heart of the Caribbean. This region is universally known for its friendly people, warm weather and, of course, its breathtaking beaches.
Boca Chica’s beach (at approximately 30 minutes by car from Santo Domingo) is one of the most popular beaches of the country, on top of that there is no entry fee. However, if you want, you can rent a small hut right in front of the ocean for a day. By the way, do me a favor and do not forget to enjoy Boca Chica’s famous fried fish while you are there.
If you want to make sure you visit all of Santo Domingo’s beaches before leaving, I can assure you that missing Juan Dolio is not a wise choice and if you are in the mood for staying at an all-inclusive resort, then again, this beach is a great choice.
Santo Domingo has other famous beaches, such as Guibia, but that is a beach I cannot advise you to visit, due to the fact that it is very contaminated. Anyway, there are some interesting options around Guibia other than the not so awesome beach, such as a cinema, Juan Baron’s Plaza and a restaurant called Adrian Tropical where you can enjoy the best of Dominican cuisine. If you decide to go to Guibia, make sure you get a hold of a cab, why? Well, let’s say that finding a parking lot there will be as easy as finding the solution to world hunger.
What about the people?
Well, I should start telling you about Dominican people and their culture, however, I will try will to keep it as simple and as objective as possible. Dominican people are usually very friendly, so making direct eye contact is nothing weird, even among strangers. Do not be surprised if people you meet start greeting you with a hug after having known you for just a couple of days. On top of that, women usually greet acquainted men and other women with a kiss on the cheek, on the other hand, men usually greet each other with a hug and a palm on the back (While loudly saying ”my brother!” in Spanish). Anyway, if you are not into physical contact, don’t worry, a mere handshake is also fine.
It is also worth noting that Dominicans are loud if we compare them to other cultures. The funniest thing about this is that most of us, Dominicans, do not even notice until we start interacting with people from other countries. So if someone starts screaming at you with a happy face, they are probably just speaking normally by Dominican standards.
Buckle up and get ready for Dominican nightlife
No matter how hard I tried to research about Columbus’ dancing skills, nothing came up, however, if we are talking about modern day Dominicans, I will let you know that dancing is a part of our nature. Not only the Dominican Republic is the birthplace of Merengue, but on top of that, finding a Dominican who does not know how to dance is as hard as finding an American who despises baseball (By the way, ironically, Dominicans love baseball, too). That you are not a dancer? Don’t worry, you can just sit down, relax and enjoy the show while holding a Presidente beer.
Am I ready to visit The America’s first continuously inhabited European settlement?
It depends, are you ready to have the time of your life while enjoying the greatest cultural and tourist attractions in the Caribbean? Well, if that is the case, you better start packing, so you can see for yourself that the Dominican Republic has it all!