Category Archives: Forts, Fortalezas and Walls

Fuerte Invincible and San Diego

Fuerte Invincible and Fuerte San Diego, The Forts on Avenida del Puerto

Two of the many important forts along Rio Ozama were Fuerte Invincible and Fuerte San Diego. They were part of a chain of forts, with cannons at the ready, that defended the colonial city of Santo Domingo and its bustling port from enemy invasions.

All of these forts and walls were raised throughout the XVI century. It is interesting to note that these forts along the riverfront were not planned as one continuous fort. They were built as the need arose and money became available.

Fuerte Invincible | Fuerte San Diego | Puerta de San Diego | Bateria del Almirante | Puerta Atarazana | Lagoon Tanque | Location

Two important forts of Colonial Santo Domingo were Fuerte Invincible and Fuerte San Diego. Seen from across Rio Ozama
Two important forts of Colonial Santo Domingo were Fuerte Invincible and Fuerte San Diego. Seen from across Rio Ozama

Fuerte Invincible

Fuerte Invincible is the first fort after Fortaleza Ozama. The fortress, also called San Alberto and Coca (San Alberto y De Coca). This fort was built on the cliffs behind the mansions of Nicolás de Ovando and the Dávila family. Not only was this fort was built for the added defense of the city of Santo Domingo but more importantly to protect the mansions of the richest inhabitants of the city.

In the colonial times it is important to remember that there were no banks. Each rich family had to protect their treasures on their own. When pillagers and pirates attacked these cities they went directly for the houses of the rich and the churches were important wealth and artifacts were stored. This was the purpose of the high walled Fuerte Invincible.

The high walls of Fuerte Invincible with the Capilla de los Remedios sitting high above.
The high walls of Fuerte Invincible with the Capilla de los Remedios sitting high above.

This foreboding sturdy fort had openings for 12 cannons on both its lower and higher shooting platforms. Looking up the tall walls one could only imagine how strong this fort really was.

The high walls of Fuerte Invincible
The high walls of Fuerte Invincible

Fuerte San Diego

Fuerte San Diego was the 3rd fort entering Rio Ozama. This curved fort was also a busy port of entry for the Colonial City of Santo Domingo. It was a very important part of protecting the walled city from attack from marauders entering the Rio Ozama from the Caribbean Sea.

The walls of the Bateria Fuerte San Diego
The walls of the Bateria Fuerte San Diego

The main part of the fort was destroyed in 1886 to extend the ports. The beautiful fort was reconstructed when the work on the Malecon was finished. The original base of the Fort San Jose was discovered during archaeological excavations.

The curved Fuerte San Diego sandwiched between Ave. El Puerto
The curved Fuerte San Diego sandwiched between Ave. El Puerto

All that stands now is a small part of the fort in the center of la Avenida del Puerto, a few remnants of the walls of the fort and the rebuilt Puerta San Diego.

The curved Fuerte San Diego with its cannons pointing out to Rio Ozama
The curved Fuerte San Diego with its cannons pointing out to Rio Ozama

Puerta de San Diego

In front of the beautiful Puerta de San Diego / Door of San Diego (dated 1549), also called Puerta de la Mar.

In front of the beautiful Puerta de San Diego also called Puerta de la Mar. The large stone pillared entrance above the door are 3 shields
In front of the beautiful Puerta de San Diego also called Puerta de la Mar. The large stone pillared entrance above the door are 3 shields

The large stone pillared entrance Puerta de San Diego was completely restored in 1978. Above the door are 3 shields known as escudos. The Shield of the King / El Escudo del Rey, Shield of Hispaniola / Escudo de la Isla La Española and the Shield of Santo Domingo / el Escudo de la Ciudad de Santo Domingo.

Inside the Puerta San Diego, Plaza España, looking down from the catwalks above.
Inside the Puerta San Diego, Plaza España, looking down from the catwalks above.

As you enter the large stone door you may want to walk on the catwalks over the door and check out the view. Turn right when entering the Puerta San Diego and you will see the stairs leading up to the look-out catwalks. This path over the gate will end in front of the Casa Reales and the Plaza of the Reloj de Sol / Sun Dial.

The wall of the fort Don Diego and Puerta Don Diego is the distance.
The wall of the fort Don Diego and Puerta Don Diego is the distance.

Bateria del Almirante

After the fort of San Diego, continuing along the wall, are the Bateria del Almirante. These batteries were built into and around the walled part of the house of the Admiral or Alcázar de Colón, located strategically on a hill.

The Puerta del San Diego 1910
The Puerta del San Diego 1910

Puerta Atarazana

The Puerta Atarazana was another important entrance to the city from the ports. This large doorway entered into the main shipyard of the city. The Alcazar Colon is where Admiral Columbus lived. From here he could keep an eye on all the goods and supplies as the entered and departed from the city. The catwalk above this gate gives another good view or the Rio Ozama and surrounding areas. It is interesting to note that all the buildings in this area were storage for all the goods that came into the port. Now, these buildings are nice restaurants, bars, museums and colonial homes.

The Puerta Atarazana and the Bateria del Almirante
The Puerta Atarazana and the Bateria del Almirante

This wall of defense connected Fuerte San Diego to the other forts along the Rio Ozama Fuerte Carina and Fuerte Angulo.

The Puerta Atarazana and the Alcazar Colón
The Puerta Atarazana and the Alcazar Colón

Lagoon Tanque

It is interesting to note that at the base of Fuerte Invincible and Fuerte Don Diego was a large lagoon that was fed by the waters of Rio Ozama. The lagoon was known at Tanque / Tank. Some say it played an important part in the defensive belt for the Colonial City. After the Fuerte Ozama with its high walls lined with cannons was the narrow entrance to Rio Ozama and the tall cannon lined wall and firing platforms of Fort El Invincible with the lagoon at its base.

Location

A good starting point is at the Escaleras Calle el Conde / Stairs of Calle el Conde. The beautiful stairs, cut between the old walls of Fuerte Invincible, lead down to the outer walls of the city along Ave. Francisco Alberto Caamaño Deño, also known as the Malecon or Avenida El Puerta. Looking up you can see just how strong these walls were and how they did protect the homes of the wealthy.

The wooden walk along the outside wall of the Fuerte San Diego and the Bateria del Almirante
The wooden walk along the outside wall of the Fuerte San Diego and the Bateria del Almirante

Continue walking along the wall and you will come to a wooden bridge path, this is the beginning of Fuerte San Diego. The path ends at the Puerta San Diego. This door is beautiful with its shield and stone path. The door enters to Plaza España and the Alcazar Colón. If you continue walking on the outside of the wall it will lead to The Bateria del Almirante and the other entrance from the port Puerto Atarazana / Door of the Shipyards. The wall continues past the small police station to Fuerte Carina and Fuerte Angulo and around to Fuerte Santa Barbara.

Reference:
*https://www.diariolibre.com/noticias/ciudad/los-fuertes-en-la-avenida-del-puerto-EE3457969
*https://www.facebook.com/historiadominicanaengraficas/posts/historia-de-la-puerta-de-san-diego-en-la-zona-colonialla-puerta-de-san-diego-loc/527995694065585/

Fuerte and Parque San José

Fuerte y Parque de San José/ Fort and Park San Jose

The Fuerte San José is a beautifully restored fort located in the historic Colonial City. The Parque San Jose is a well-kept park. It is the perfect place to relax. You can watch some young people do some skateboarding or enjoy a game of basketball all under the beautiful shade trees located throughout the park.

Fuerte San José | Parque San José | Location

Fuerte de San José, shooting platform, cannons and watchtowers with the view of the Monument Montecino.
Fuerte de San José, shooting platform, cannons and watchtowers with the view of the Monument Montecino.

The Fuerte San José

was part of a series of bastions built to defend the walled city of Santo Domingo in the 16th century. It was part of the walls that ran along the Caribbean Sea and was an important part of the protection from attacks by sea.

The rectangular shaped fort San José
The rectangular shaped fort San José

Fuerte San José was built near the mouth of the Rio Ozama. The strategic placement of this fort was to watch the comings and goings at the mouth of Rio Ozama. The rectangular shaped fort has an artillery platform that was equipped on 3 sides with cannons. Its two watchtowers (garitas redondas) lookout out points gave a great view of the surrounding sea and land. There was also a lighthouse located in the fort at the entrance to the Rio Ozama that guided ships into the mouth of the river.

Fort San José and the Faro (lighthouse) in the early 1900's.
Fort San José and the Faro (lighthouse) in the early 1900’s.

It is important to remember that the road (The Malecon) in front of the fort did not exist at that time. It was built later by President-Dictator Trujillo. During the time of the colonization of Santo Domingo the water came up to the walls of these seaside forts. Now the walls are surrounded by a road.

Looking to Fort San José from the front.
Looking to Fort San José from the front.

Construction of Fort San Jose began in the mid 1500’s and took over 2 centuries to complete. The walls were built first by president Alonso de Fuenmayor who had some serious money problems and could not complete construction. Finally, at the beginning of the 17th century, the wall of this important fort was finished. Finishing the wall ensured that the seafront was fully protected by connecting the forts San Gil, San Fernando, San Carlos, Santa Catalina to San José. San Gil and San José were the largest of these forts that provided the main defense of the city of Santo Domingo.

View of Fuerte and Parque San José from Calle 19 de Marzo
View of Fuerte and Parque San José from Calle 19 de Marzo

Parque San José

In the 1940’s the deteriorating fort was restored and a beautiful shaded park was created surrounding the bastion. Parque San José is a place where locals like to gather to enjoy a time of rest and to visit friends and family. There are all types of nice places for you to sit and relax and enjoy the view.

Friends, family and pets enjoying the shade in Parque San José.
Friends, family and pets enjoying the shade in Parque San José.
Parque San José. Relax and enjoy the view.
Parque San José. Relax and enjoy the view.
The view of Montecinos from Fuerte San José
The view of Montecinos from Fuerte San José

You can climb the shooting ramp to the elevated platform of the old Fort San José. Here you can have a perfect view of the statue of Fray Anton de Montecino.

Parque San José Ornamental Fountain
Parque San José Ornamental Fountain

Located in the center of the larger part of the park is an Ornamental Fountain that the United States gifted to the Dominican Republic. It was placed here to mark the 100 year centennial anniversary of the country’s independence and the expulsion of the Haitian government from the country.

Fuerte San José and the Japanese Agricultural Immigration Monument and the Skateboard Park
Fuerte San José and the Japanese Agricultural Immigration Monument and the Skateboard Park

Facing Ave. George Washington in the park is the Japanese Agricultural Immigration Monument. You can see this beautiful monument that symbolizes the arrival of Japanese Immigrants to Dominican Republic.

Fort San Jose Basketball court and Skateboard parks.
Fort San Jose Basketball court and Skateboard parks.

There is Montecino Skateboard Park in the Parque San José located on the Malecon near to Calle Arz Meriño. You can see many skate events or watch someone having a good time skating on the ramps and jumps of the park. You can always bring your board and have a go.

Under the street Jose Gabriel Garcia is The Cueva de las Golondrinas next to the Basketball Court
Under the street Jose Gabriel Garcia is The Cueva de las Golondrinas next to the Basketball Court

A Basketball Court is also located in the park on the corners of The Malecon, Calle Arz Meriño and Jose Gabriel Garcia where you can watch the game from above. If you go down to the court level there are small rooms under the street. This is known as The Cueva de las Golondrinas / Cave of Swallows. This is an underground storage place for equipment, street signs and there is a small police station.

Fortaleza and Parque San José along Calle Jose Gabriel Garcia.
Fortaleza and Parque San José along Calle Jose Gabriel Garcia.

Location:

From Calle El Conde walk towards the sea on Calle 19 de Marzo or Meriño to the Malecon. The Fort – Park is located between these 2 streets running along the Malecon in front of the monument Fray Anton de Montesino. Between Avenida George Washington (Paseo Presidente Billini – Malecon) and Jose Gabriel Garcia and Calle 19 de Marzo, Ciudad Colonial.

Puerta de la Misericordia

Puerta de la Misericordia / Door of Mercy

The Puerta de la Misericordia, originally named Puerta de Santiago and Puerta Grande, was the first fortified gate of the city of Santo Domingo. The lone wall was once part of the original wall that ran along the edge of the First city in the Americas, from Puerta del Conde (Parque Independencia) to Fuerte San Gil at the edge of the sea.

Announcing Independence February 27, 1844 | The Statue of General Matías Ramón Mella

Puerta de la Misericordia panoramic view in  2013
Puerta de la Misericordia panoramic view in 2013

The door was designed by the architect Rodrigo de Liendo and constructed in 1543; the bulwarks were added in 1568. In the colonial period the gate served as access to the great plains of the south. The wall was connected to and protected by the military of the Fuerte de San Gil which is located just a few hundred feet south at the shore of the Caribbean.

Puerta de la Misericordia panoramic with the flag of Dominican Republic flying proudly above.
Puerta de la Misericordia panoramic with the flag of Dominican Republic flying proudly above.

The gate received its current name, Puerta Misericordia (Gate of Mercy), in 1842. At this time the survivors of the many earthquakes and storms that occurred on the island gathered here to place the Blessed Sacrament thanking God for his mercy.

Puerta de la Misericordia in the early morning.
Puerta de la Misericordia in the early morning.

Announcing Independence February 27, 1844

The Puerta de la Misericordia is the place that Ramón Matías Mella fired his legendary blunderbuss (a muzzle-loading firearm) of February 27, 1844, to announce the independence of the Dominican Republic from Haiti after taking back the Fortaleza Ozama. At the same time of this shot, Francisco del Rosario Sanchez hoisted the Dominican flag in the Fortaleza.

Puerta de la Misericordia look out tower accessed by the catwalk.
Puerta de la Misericordia look out tower accessed by the catwalk.

Interesting Facts

*Near the door is a courtyard that held a scaffold used to execute those who were condemned to death. At one time there was a small chapel located in the courtyard.

*During the archaeological excavations in 1980, two small fortines (semicircular forts) that once flanked the walls were discovered.

*Located in the small plaza is a statue of Ramón Matías Mella, one of the Founding Fathers of the country.

The statue of Ramón Matías Mella at the Puerta de la Misericordia
The statue of Ramón Matías Mella at the Puerta de la Misericordia

The area surrounding the gate is now a nice little place to visit. You can sit and enjoy the view of the Fort San Gil and the Caribbean Sea located across the Malecon. There is also a Colmado across the street where you can get a little refreshment after walking around the Colonial City. You can notice that there is a catwalk over the top of the wall but it is blocked. Some of the original wall has been cut to make room for the street to pass making accessing the walk difficult.

The view of the Gate of Mercy from Calle Padre Billini with Palo Hincado passing in front.
The view of the Gate of Mercy from Calle Padre Billini with Palo Hincado passing in front.

Directions:

From The Calle el Conde at Parque Independencia walk towards the sea on Calle Palo Hincado the street that separates Ciudad Colonial from Ciudad Nueva. Calle Arzobispo Portes stops at the door.

Plaza Patriótica at the Puerta de la Misericordia honoring General Matías Ramón Mella
Plaza Patriótica at the Puerta de la Misericordia honoring General Matías Ramón Mella

The Statue of General Matías Ramón Mella

Plaza Patriótica / Patriotic Square
General Matías Ramón Mella
February 25, 1816 – June 4, 1864

Located in front of Puerta Misericordia was a bust statue Ramón Matías Mella, one of the Founding Fathers of the Republica Dominicana. It was replaced with a full body statue honoring the anniversary of Mellas birth.

Close up of the statue honoring General Matías Ramón Mella
Close up of the statue honoring General Matías Ramón Mella

The plaque on the statue monument reads:
En homenaje al Padre de la Patria,
General Matías Ramón Mella
Héroe de la Independencia y de la
Restauración de la República Dominicana,
considerado el más grande genio y
estratega militar dominicano
de todos los tiempos.
Político liberal. Independentista eterno.

(English translation)
In homage to the Father of the Nation,
General Matías Ramón Mella
Hero of Independence and the
Restoration of the Dominican Republic,
considered the greatest genius and
Dominican military strategist
of all times.
Liberal politician. Eternal independence.

CPEP
Comision Permanente / Permanent Commission
From Efemerides Patrias

Proyecto Patriótico de Cultura Cívica / Patriotic Civic Culture Project
Foundación Luces y Sombras

Bicentenario de su natalicio / Bicentennial of his birth
25 Febrero 2016

Gobierno Constitucional
Lic. Danilo Medina Sánchez
2012-2016

The bust of General Matías Ramón Mella what was replaced by the statue.
The bust of General Matías Ramón Mella what was replaced by the statue.

The bust of Sanchez that was replaced by the statue read:

Gobierno Constitucional
Dr. Leonel Fernández
2004-2008