Category Archives: Museums/Museos

Cementerio Nacional Avenida Independencia

Cementerio Nacional de la Avenida Independencia/ National Cemetery on Avenue Independencia

The Cementerio Nacional on Ave. Independencia, Santo Domingo, is the first national cemetery in the Dominican Republic. They inaugurated it during the Haitian occupation by Haitian President Jean Pierre Boyer, August 29, 1824. The cemetery has been closed since 1965. The last persons interred there were constitutional soldiers who died during the civil war.

Center path through the Cementerio Nacional de la Avenida Independencia/ National Cemetery on Avenue Independencia
Center path through the Cementerio Nacional de la Avenida Independencia/ National Cemetery on Avenue Independencia

This large gated cemetery, with an area of ​​16,000 square meters and 3,275 graves, has been around for over 500 years. Surrounded by a wall, it was a commonplace to execute people. María Trinidad Sánchez and Antonio Duvergé were both executed here.

Graves and tombs  Cementerio Nacional de la Avenida Independencia/ National Cemetery on Avenue Independencia
Graves and tombs Cementerio Nacional de la Avenida Independencia/ National Cemetery on Avenue Independencia

Persons Buried in the Cemetery

Buried beneath the soil is history in abundance. Yet we will never know all who are buried in this disorganized resting place as many of the graves are not marked and have been destroyed by time and looters. 

A monument dedicated to the loss of a child at the Cementerio Nacional de la Avenida Independencia/ National Cemetery on Avenue Independencia
A monument dedicated to the loss of a child at the Cementerio Nacional de la Avenida Independencia/ National Cemetery on Avenue Independencia

Buried in the Cementerio Nacional are many of the founders and the people who created Santo Domingo. There are people who died because of different plagues that spread throughout the country. Many of those interred here are children and infants. Represented here are the dead from hurricane San Zenón that took. They have laid many races and nationalities to rest in this bleak but interesting place. There are people from the Haitian occupation buried here with their tombstones written in French. Buried here are casualties from many wars and conflicts that occurred in the Dominican Republic including, The War of Restauración, Annexation to Spain, The War of Independence, The Intervention of the US Marines (6 Marines are buried here). There are tombs of many of the Dominican Republic Presidents here including Francisco Gregorio Billini Aristy, El Padre Billini and José Núñez de Cáceres (1772-1846). 

This link has a list of all the people interred at the Cementerio Nacional de la Avenida Independencia. Censo de Tumbas en el Cementerio Viejo de Santo Domingo de la Av. Independencia.

The moving monument to Lusia Ozema Cementerio Nacional de la Avenida Independencia/ National Cemetery on Avenue Independencia
The moving monument to Lusia Ozema Cementerio Nacional de la Avenida Independencia/ National Cemetery on Avenue Independencia

Ignored Historical Site

The Cementerio Nacional de la Avenida Independencia was declared a Patrimonio Cultural/ Cultural Patrimony historical site in 1987. It is still highly ignored by the Dominican people. Street people can be seen sleeping on pieces of cardboard outside the gates at night. There are rats scurrying along doing who knows what in the dark cemetery.

There was a proposed restoration of the National Cemetery in July 2012 that never happened. Story on the Colonial Zone News Blog.

Passing by in the daylight one can always see dogs inside the gates. Sleeping on a grave. Could it be the grave of its master? One day I saw a dog lying atop a grave chewing on a large bone. Makes one think…

The dogs occuping the National Cemetery on Avenue Independencia
The dogs occuping the National Cemetery on Avenue Independencia

I urge everyone to visit this interesting yet sad cemetery. Take a walk, view the tombs and the strange grave markers from times past. But, please only go in the daylight hours and be cautious of your surroundings.

I made a picture slide show of the Cementerio Nacional with many pictures and information of this Historical National Monument.

A toppled cross grave at the National Cemetery on Avenue Independencia
A toppled cross grave at the National Cemetery on Avenue Independencia

Location:

Go to the beginning (west) of the Conde at Independencia Park. Turn left (south) walking in front of the park. Take the first road to the right (south), Ave. Independencia (at the end of Arz. Nouel the street name changes), and continue walking up this street (away from the Colonial Zone). The cemetery is 2 blocks up on the left.

Faro a Colón / Columbus Lighthouse

Faro a Colón/ Columbus Lighthouse

The Faro a Colón/ Columbus Lighthouse is a massive building shaped like a cross. The Faro or Lighthouse was built to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Admiral Cristobal Colón / Christopher Columbus to Santo Domingo in Las Americas in 1492. It sits on a large lot of land with reflecting pools on either side of the entrance (the only time there is water in the pools now is if it rains). There is a sidewalk where you can walk completely around the monstrous building and take in the views of the Caribbean Sea and the city of Santo Domingo in the distance. There are also pathways on the property where you can meander about.

The Faro a Colón standing majesticly as the sun brightens the sky.
The Faro a Colón standing majesticly as the sun brightens the sky.

The Design

This monuments design was chosen out of many applicants from the world over. The jury chose the design of Joseph Lea Gleave from England. His design was described as “an enormous cross-shaped structure designed to last for all times”. The jury described his design in this way, “THE DESIGN, MAKING WONDERFUL USE OF LIGHT, TAKES REFUGE IN A DIRECTNESS, SIMPLICITY AND FORCE WORTHY OF THE MONUMENTS OF THE AGES. THE DESIGN IS SYMBOLIC, BUT NOT TO THE EXTENT WHERE SYMBOLISM INTERFERES WITH THE SIMPLE BEAUTY OF THE WORK AS ARCHITECTURE. SEEN FROM THE AIR, OR FROM ITS SURROUNDINGS, THE SIMPLE MASS BECOMES A NOBLE ELEMENTAL FEATURE OF THE GROUND AND OF A CHARACTER WORTHY OF THE STEADFAST COURAGE AND FAITH OF THE GREAT DISCOVERER IT COMMEMORATES”.

The Faro a Colón entrance.
The Faro a Colón entrance.

Inguration

The Columbus Lighthouse was inaugurated Oct. 6, 1992 by President Joaquin Balaguer Ricardo. At the commemoration ceremony, the remains of Columbus were carried from the First Cathedral of the Americas through the streets, across the river and to their new resting place inside this enormous monument.

The Popemobile located outside of the Faro a Colón. Pope John Paul II rode in it when he visited Oct. 9-to-13, 1992 for the inaguration of the Lighthouse.
The Popemobile located outside of the Faro a Colón. Pope John Paul II rode in it when he visited Oct. 9-to-13, 1992 for the inaguration of the Lighthouse.

The ceremony was even attended by Pope John Paul II. The Popes Pope-Mobile can be seen parked outside of the entrance to the Faro.

Isabel la Católica statue at the Faro a Colón
Isabel la Católica statue at the Faro a Colón

The Entrance

A statue of Queen Isabel la Católica marks the entrance to the Faro as you approach on Ave. Mirador del Este. Queen Isabel la Católica, Queen of Castile, commissioned Cristobal Colón voyage to the New World.

Many different nations falgs line the walkway entrance to the Faro a Colón / Columbus Lighthouse
Many different nations falgs line the walkway entrance to the Faro a Colón / Columbus Lighthouse

There is a large paved walk and grand stairs that lead up to the entrance of the Faro. The walkway is lined by many different countries flags waving in the breeze.

Christopher Columbus, Coat of Arms / Cristóbal Colón, Escudo de Armas
Christopher Columbus, Coat of Arms / Cristóbal Colón, Escudo de Armas

On the entrance walkway you will notice the Christopher Columbus, Coat of Arms / Cristóbal Colón, Escudo de Armas. It is divided into 4 sections.
1) A castle of gold / Un castillo de oro
2) Lion crowned in gold with silver background / En campo de plata un leon rampante de gules coronado de oro
3) Islands of gold in a blue background / En campo de azur unas islas de oro
4) Five gold ancors in a blue background / En campo de azur cinco ancoras de oro, puestas en aspa.
Entado en punta de oro con una banda de azur y el jefe de
gules.

The bust of President Joaquin Balaguer Ricardo at the entrance to the Faro a Colón
The bust of President Joaquin Balaguer Ricardo at the entrance to the Faro a Colón

Climbing the stairs to the front gate there is a bust of President Joaquin Balaguer watching over all who enter.

Looking in the side entrance of the Faro a Colón
Looking in the side entrance of the Faro a Colón

The museum and chapel inside and it also is a repository for numerous documents and artifacts associated with the early Spanish Colonial times. There are rooms dedicated to the Latin America Countries displaying many different artifacts and items of interest from the represented country.

The Faro a Colón / Columbus Lighthouse reflected in the rain water filled reflecting pool.
The Faro a Colón / Columbus Lighthouse reflected in the rain water filled reflecting pool.

The Building and Light

The Faro a Colón is 693ft (211m) long East to West and 195 long feet North to South. This massive monument is 45 feet high. It was built in the shape of a cross at a 45-degree angle. It has 4 bronze lions and the feminine figurine that represents the Dominican Republic.

Columbus remains guarded by 2 lions inside the Columbus Lighthouse.
Columbus remains guarded by 2 lions inside the Columbus Lighthouse.

The building, in my opinion, is quite ugly from the outside. Its huge grey shape can be seen from a great distance even high in the air. The most impressive part of the structure is when they turn on the 157 beams of light illuminating the night sky with its brilliant cross. Now, the light is only turned on for special occasions because of the cost and problems with the electricity in the country. The light, it is said, can be seen in Puerto Rico on a clear night. It is very beautiful and quite impressive to see this cross-shaped beam of light shining in the night sky.

The entrance walk and stairs to the Faro a Colón
The entrance walk and stairs to the Faro a Colón

Columbus Remains

There is still much debate on whether the remains located in the Faro really belong to Christopher Columbus. Spain also claims to have his remains. Neither country wants DNA tests done on the bones in their possession so it will remain a mystery. To read more on this
Faro a Colon – Indiana.edu
and
Columbus Remains Found In Spain – CBSNews

The Faro a Colón with a beautifully lit sky.
The Faro a Colón with a beautifully lit sky.

Hours-Location

The lighthouse was remodeled in August 2008 and most recently in 2018. The streets have been repaved, the interior has been cleaned and bad floors replaced. New lighting has been installed.

Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 9am to 5pm (there is a small admission fee) Phone – 809-591-1492

Directions: Ave. Mirador del Este, Santo Domingo Este. It is about a 30 minute walk from Plaza España in the Colonial Zone.

Casa Reales – The Building and The Museum

Casa Reales – The Building and the Museum

The fusion of three different colonial houses come together to form the Casa Reales. Originally built in 1508 it is now the home of a very informative museum explaining the rich history of this island and the country of Dominican Republic. It also houses a collection of weapons once owned by the Dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina.

Las Casas Reales / The Royal Houses | The Museo / Museum | Location, Hours and Cost

Casa Reales seen from Rio Ozama
Casa Reales seen from Rio Ozama

History

The original house, built in 1508, was a property of the treasurer Cristóbal de Santa Clara. A few years later it was confiscated for debts and became the property of the of the crown.

Casa Reales front entrance
Casa Reales front entrance

The Casa de Contratación, an adjacent property, was built in the year 1504 and became the residence of the Governor or Captain General of the island.

In the 1520s

the space between these two buildings was filled and the 3 buildings became one, a palace dedicated to La Real Audiencia de Santo Domingo / The Royal Audience of Santo Domingo.

The original three buildings were occupied by el Gobernador / Governor, Presidente de la Real Audiencia / President of the Royal Audience and El Capitán General / Captain General. By the end of the 1500s the three buildings were put together because all the offices were held by the same person.

Casa Reales side window
Casa Reales side window

This building was home to the government palace until the Trujillo Era when the new Government Palace was built. Then President Joaquín Balaguer restored the building and converted the buildings into a Historical Museum.

Casa Reales window above the front entrance
Casa Reales window above the front entrance.

The arched gothic style windows on the second floor was where the Royal Court was held. It gave a perfect view of the Sun Dial in the plaza. This is how the court knew the correct time to write on the official documents.

Reloj del Sol in front of Casa Reales
Reloj del Sol in front of Casa Reales

The Museum

Museo Casa Reales Coach and typical dress
Museo Casa Reales Coach and typical dress

Casa Reales Museo was created by President Balaguer and opened to the public on October 18, 1973. The museum is dedicated to everything related to the periods of discovery, conquest and colonization of the island and its relationship with the rest of the American continent.

Casa Reales Museo model of Columbus ship
Casa Reales Museo model of Columbus ship

This powerful building has many beautiful architectural styles. The huge ground floor windows keep the buildings fresh by letting the cool breezes flow through its luxurious stone and coral walls.

Casa Reales Museo one of the courtrooms
Casa Reales Museo one of the courtrooms.

There is a replica of a colonial courtroom and many exhibits in the museum including the coat of arms of Spain.

Underneath the stone staircase is a large globe of the world with a horse on his hind lags ready to leap. Here is written in Latin: Non sufficit orbis (The world is not large enough).

Casa Reales Museo suit of armor at the entrance
Casa Reales Museo suit of armor at the entrance.

The museum also houses Trujillo’s weapons collection.

Casa Reales Museo weapons collection
Casa Reales Museo weapons collection.

The beautiful interior courtyards are perfect for taking a breath of fresh air. The statue of Fray Alonso de Zuazohold looms in thge center of one of the pation and also you just might spot a peacock or two strutting around the large beautiful interior patio.

Casa Reales Museo peacock
Casa Reales Museo peacock.

Location, Hours and Cost

: Calle las Damas and the beginning of Las Mercedes The Plaza del Reloj Sol is in front and it is connected to Plaza España. Phone: 809-682-4202.

Entrance to the museum (2016) RD$20 for adults and RD$20 for children.

Hours: 9:00-5:00 – Closed on Mondays