It happened as it always happens in real grill villages, almost the rule and square.
In the first moments, the similarity, the apparent repetition of the streets and its corners leave us confused. Little by little, we memorize references and paths everywhere.
It is in these orientation sobs that we moved between Calle Arzobispo Fortes where we had installed ourselves and the surroundings of the Basilica of Santa Maria La Menor, also known as the Primate Cathedral of America, as it was the pioneer of the continent, in what concerns the great churches concerns.
When we arrive in front of Calle Arzobispo Meriño, the sun already gilds the western façade and the elaborated frame of the entrance, which, despite being double, hardly receives faithful, thus dictating the closing of the gate to the adjoining atrium, which also forces us to go around the Temple.
Plaza Colón and the First Cathedral of the New World
We pass to the north side. We enter Plaza Colón. The tops of the large trees that sprout from it add shade. They add more drama to the challenge of a towering silhouette that points to the sky.
Like the square, the statue is by Christopher Columbus.
That afternoon, like all the others, some residents flocked to the tranquility and the prevailing freshness.
Two or three musicians contributed easy melodies. A painter crumbled into shapeless brushstrokes. The character with the highest value in the square seemed to be the corn seller.
He was the one who satisfied the very Dominican pastime of feeding the pigeons and living with their hungry flocks.
Even to tears, as we can see in two children terrified by the excess of wings coming from the top of the basilica and who, in their craving for food, dust their faces.
The cathedral was just one of several colonial buildings and institutions that Europeans made their debut in the New World, including the first hospital, the first customs house and the first university.
Saturated with pigeons, we set out in search of our neighbor.
Calles Colonials Outside, through the Origins of Santo Domingo
We head up Calle El Conde. We stopped the march together with the "La Leyenda del Cigarro”, a cigar factory and shop.
Inside, Rudi Mel rolls one tobacco leaf after another, all of them the same shade as his nickname and the mestizo skin that the sun continues to toast.
The pedestrian Calle El Conde is, par excellence, Santo Domingo's commercial artery, full of businesses of all types and street vendors who take advantage of the authorities' inertia.
In the vicinity of a painting sale, we leave it for Calle Hostos, which is already covered by the slow traffic of the Colonial City and by the calluses elegant that complicate it.
Hospital San Nicolas de Bari, the First of the Americas
Two blocks later, following a leafy urban mini-forest, we come face to face with the ruins of the old San Nicolás de Bari hospital.
It was the first to appear in the Americas, his work inaugurated in 1503, half a decade after the governor of Hispaniola, Nicolas de Ovando, having seen a hurricane devastate a large part of the city of Nova Isabela that Bartolomeu Colombo (Christ's brother) had built on the side. from there from the Ozama River.
New Isabela was so damaged that Ovando was forced to rebuild it into the opposite bank, on land we continued to traverse.
In those new tropical domains, attacks by Taino indigenous peoples, conventional and exotic diseases, along with a panoply of incidents resulting from colonial adventures and misadventures, raised frequent ailments and urgencies.
Aware of this, determined to make the colony the headquarters of Spanish expansion in the region, Nicolas Ovando dictated a grandiose project, inspired by the Renaissance, capable of accommodating more than sixty patients.
The hospital began operating almost twenty years later. It remained in office until the middle of the XNUMXth century, when it was abandoned, it is not clear why.
Due to its historical importance, UNESCO has decreed what remains of it World Heritage.
When we enter the complex, we find it filled with ancient passages, with semi-arcade and pointed openings, flying flocks of pigeons competing with those in Plaza Colón and others, with shrill black corvids.
At ground level, little bothered by the inadequacy of the tiled and grooved floor, three children skate.
By that time, the sun had sunk so far over the Caribbean Sea that it seemed to anneal the structure's centuries-old bricks. He also summoned the birds to his nocturnal retreat and the bird's passage increased in such a way that it threatened the hygiene of those who stayed there.
On warning, we rushed the retreat.
Towards the High Banks of the Ozama River
We take a look at the neighboring ruins of the São Francisco Monastery, at the top of the curved slope of Calle Hostos. Then we cut towards the Ozama River.
We are seduced by the flirtatious frenzy of Plaza María de Toledo, which we cross, without haste, to Calle Las Damas, in search of the Pantheon of the Dominican Fatherland.
There lie the mentors and heroes of this republic of Hispaniola, in tombs of a polished white that reflect the blue-red of dozens of the nation's banners.
As we leave, a soldier in camouflage picks up the flag hoisted from the top of the limestone facade.
It does so in sync with the similar ceremony in the city's Independence Park. In the Dominican Republic, the military has long preserved this privilege.
After all, it was they, in the form of guerrilla forces, who made possible the independence plans of the secret society La Trinitaria by subduing Haiti's far more powerful army in the Dominican War of Independence.
Calle las Damas delivers us to an unobstructed boulevard overlooking the Ozama and the ferry that departs from the Don Diego Terminal, heading for the old rival San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. Days later, we would board it.
The Shining Dusk of Plaza de La Hispanidad
Here and there, we climbed the battlements. We peek at the river-urban scene ahead. At a certain height, the path made on the adarve adjusts to the nearly half-moon of the Plaza de España or La Hispanidad.
We inaugurated it from one to the other, overnight and, as happens time and time again, in Santo Domingo, lost between contemporary youth and the Colombian reality of the Dominican capital.
This was the plaza elected by the residents to celebrate every end of the day in their lives, it welcomes more children skaters and cyclists, others who drive carts on pedals, even teenagers who launch drones or jokes that generate communal laughter.
And birthdays who photograph themselves with friends, holding balloons full of their years.
And the Old Alcacer by Diego Colombo
the limit of Plaza de España or La Hispanidad it is marked by the walls below the Ozama and, already inside, by the Alcácer de Diego Colombo, also known as the Virreinal Palace.
Diego, the eldest son of Cristóvão Colombo and the Portuguese Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, was born in Porto Santo or in Lisbon, in 1479. Thirty years later, he succeeded Nicolás de Ovando as governor of the island of Hispaniola.
He took over from what is now Santo Domingo, where he had the exquisite rooms built, with a privileged view over the mouth of the Ozama and the Caribbean Sea, which we dedicated ourselves to appreciate.
Diego Colombo, also an admiral and viceroy, lived for 15 years in the first fortified palace in the Americas, with his wife Maria Álvarez de Toledo and their four children. He inhabited it until shortly before his early death, in Spain, in 1526.
At the end of the 1955th century, the majestic fortress that he ordered to be built was already in ruins. It is said that it was used as a corral. In the late year of XNUMX, the Dominican authorities rebuilt it.
They converted it into a museum, one of the most sought after in Santo Domingo, even just outside and after it was closed.
Its yellowish artificial lighting generates well-defined shadows, which the square's width grants different lengths, moldable silhouettes that, late into the night, inspire selfies and small productions.
Christopher Columbus: Discoverer of the Americas, Prisoner and Hero of Santo Domingo
The fortress of Diego Colombo was protected by the nearby Ozama fortress, the oldest European fortification in the Americas, years before, an adapted home from Christopher Columbus and also the prison in which the Spanish Crown kept him, the result of successive complaints against his tyrannical, corrupt government, on balance, harmful to Spain.
History has always kept, however, its unfathomable whims. Despite the ethical and moral blemishes pointed out to him, the importance of Columbus' discovery prevailed.
As we were able to witness, the Dominican Republic celebrates Columbus with commitment and often.
From the top of the Ozama fortress, distant but well above the vegetation to the east of the river, we detect another commemorative monument, the Columbus Lighthouse, 800 meters long and 36.5 meters high, the most imposing work in homage to the navigator.
There we toured the thematic rooms of each nation and native culture in the Americas. There we were amazed by the marble pomp of the tomb where Columbus' remains are supposed to rest.
Today, it is known that, after his death, the discoverer traveled almost as much as he did in life, but, at least in part, his remains remain in the Cathedral of Seville.
Within the vast colonial scope, this theme is, by the way, one of the most controversial.
Unlike Santo Domingo's pioneering and colonial antiquity, both unequivocal.