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Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic and a UNESCO world heritage site, is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the Americas and one of the most populous cities in the Caribbean. 

Once known as Santo Domingo de Guzmán, is the capital and largest city of the Dominican Republic and the largest metropolitan area in the Caribbean by population.[5] As of 2010, the city had a total population of 2,908,607,[1] when including the metropolitan area.[4] The city is coterminous with the boundaries of the Distrito Nacional (“D.N.”, “National District”), itself bordered on three sides by Santo Domingo Province.

Founded by the Spanish in 1496, on the east bank of the Ozama River and then moved by Nicolás de Ovando in 1502 to the west bank of the river, the city is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the Americas, and was the first seat of the Spanish colonial rule in the New World. Santo Domingo is the site of the first university, cathedral, castle, monastery, and fortress in the New World. The city’s Colonial Zone was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.[6][7] Santo Domingo was called Ciudad Trujillo (Spanish pronunciation: [sjuˈðað tɾuˈxiʝo]), from 1936 to 1961, after the Dominican Republic’s dictator, Rafael Trujillo, named the capital after himself. Following his assassination, the city resumed its original designation.

Santo Domingo is the cultural, financial, political, commercial and industrial center of the Dominican Republic, with the country’s most important industries being located within the city. Santo Domingo also serves as the chief seaport of the country. The city’s harbor at the mouth of the Ozama River accommodates the largest vessels, and the port handles both heavy passenger and freight traffic. Temperatures are high year round, with cooler breezes during winter time.

Prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492, the native Taíno people populated the island which they called Quisqueya (mother of all lands) and Ayiti (the land of the high mountains), and which Columbus later 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.[8] These were ruled respectively by caciques (chiefs) Guacanagarix, Guarionex, Caonabo, Bohechío, and Cayacoa.

Dating from 1493, when the Spanish settled on the island, and officially from 5 August 1498, Santo Domingo became 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.[9] 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.[10] 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.

The Ozama Fortress is the oldest military fort of European origin in the Americas.[11]

In June 1502,[12] 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.[13][14] 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.

Diego Colon arrived in 1509, assuming the powers of Viceroy and admiral. In 1512, Ferdinand established a Real Audiencia with Juan Ortiz de Matienzo, Marcelo de Villalobos, and Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon appointed as judges of appeal. In 1514, Pedro Ibanez de Ibarra arrived with the Laws of Burgos. Rodrigo de Alburquerque was named repartidor de indios and soon named visitadores to enforce the laws.[14]:143–144,147

The first major slave revolt in the Americas occurred in Santo Domingo during 1522, when slaves led an uprising in the sugar plantation of Diego Columbus, son of Christopher Columbus. In 1586, Francis Drake of England captured the city and held it for ransom.[15] A report which reached England in May 1586 states that from Santo Domingo he took away 1,200 Englishmen, Frenchmen, Flemings, and “Provincials out of prison, besides 800 of the countrey people.”[16] 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 the English were repulsed by mulatto and mestizo militiamen.[17][a] Santo Domingo suffered only 25 dead.[19] In 1697, the Treaty of Ryswick included the acknowledgment by Spain of France’s dominion over the Western third of the island, now Haiti. During the 18th century, privateers from Santo Domingo trolled the Caribbean Sea, attacking slave ships.[20] This activity proved very beneficial to the Dominican privateers, as evidenced by the fact that Captain Lorenzo Daniel, aka Lorencin, captured more than 70 ships from Britain during the Anglo-Spanish War of 1762–1763.[21]

The French imported slaves to work on plantations in their colonies in Saint-Domingue, and they were exploited until the French Revolution of 1789. Former plantation slave Toussaint L’ouverture led an uprising of slaves in 1791, arming them with French weapons. They allied with Spain and raided the colony from Santo Domingo, but in 1794 the French revolutionary government capitulated to Toussaint and made him a Brigadier-General. The Haitian rebels fought not only against the Dominicans, but also the French, rival rebel groups, and the British.

From 1795 to 1822 the city changed hands several times along with the colony it headed. It was ceded to France in 1795 after years of struggles. However, the French failed to consolidate this cession, mainly because of the continued presence of British troops in Saint-Domingue (they remained until 1798). As the news of Santo Domingo’s cession became known on the island, many Dominicans had sided with Britain against France, welcoming British ships into their ports, pledging allegiance to the British in exchange for protection, and enlisting in the military forces of France’s nemesis.[23] The city was briefly captured by Haitian rebels in 1801, recovered by France in 1802, and was once again reclaimed by Spain in 1809. In 1821 Santo Domingo became the capital of an independent nation called the Republic of Spanish Haiti after the Criollo bourgeois within the country, led by José Núñez de Cáceres, overthrew the Spanish crown. The nation was conquered by Haiti just two months later. The city and the colony lost much of their Spanish-born peninsular population as a result of these events which caused a great deal of instability and unrest.[15][24][25]

On 27 February 1844 Santo Domingo was again the capital of a free nation, when it gained its independence from Haiti, led by Dominican nationalist 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 19 March, Battle of 30 March, 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.[26]

The mulatto landowner Buenaventura Báez emerged as one of the leaders of the Dominican War of Independence, and he failed (in 1846) to convince France to establish a protectorate in the Dominican Republic.[b] Báez went on to serve as President from 1849 to 1853 and from 1856 to 1858,[c] and he launched a naval offensive against Haiti.[d] The Dominican Navy attacked Haitian ports and ships in southern Haiti, effectively destroying the Haitian Navy. In 1861 Spain returned to the country, having struck a bargain with Dominican dictator 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 Bourbon Queen Isabella II withdrew her soldiers from the island. The war left more than 50,000 people dead,[28] including 40,888 Spanish.[29] Despite regaining its freedom, the capital would continue to experience difficulties, beginning when Pedro Antonio Pimentel, the head of the provisional government at Santiago de los Caballeros, attempted to march triumphantly upon Santo Domingo in August 1865 only to be checked by rival southern forces under José María Cabral.

Over the next two-thirds of a century Santo Domingo and the Dominican Republic went through many revolutions and power changes. Santo Domingo would experience the first of two U.S. invasions in 1916 when different leaders fought for presidential power and control of the city. The United States intervened, instituting a military leader, Harry Shepard Knapp. U.S. Marines and Dominicans clashed in Santo Domingo on October 24–25, 1916, resulting in the deaths of two U.S. Marines and three Dominicans.[30] Eventually the Americans withdrew in 1924.[e]

The city was struck by hurricane San Zenón in 1930, which caused major damage.[33] After its rebuilding, Santo Domingo was known officially as Ciudad Trujillo due to the personality cult imposed by dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, who governed from 1930. [f] Following his assassination in 1961 the city was renamed back to Santo Domingo.

In 1962, Juan Bosch was elected to the presidency. He was overthrown seven months later, resulting in a civil war led by Francisco Caamaño who led the Constitucionalistas fighting to restore democracy. This would lead to the second U.S. invasion in 1965. U.S. troops engaged in heavy fighting against the Constitucionalistas on June 15 and June 16. Newsweek described it this way:

Amid the clatter of automatic weapons, the sharp rattle of .50-caliber guns and the heavy explosions of bazookas and recoilless rifles, the paratroopers of the 82nd U.S. Airborne Division blasted their way four city blocks into Caamaño’s bastion. Heavy fire from U.S. guns across the Ozama River ringed rebel headquarters on El Conde Street, shattered buildings and started huge fires.

Eventually, the fighting would end on August 31, 1965 with 2,850 Dominicans and 44 American servicemen dead. Caamaño was exiled to London.

The year 1992 marked the 500th anniversary, El Quinto Centenario, of Christopher Columbus’ Discovery of the Americas. 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.[36]

Source reference Wikipedia

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