Category Archives: Parks and Plazas

Plazoleta Padre Billini

Plazoleta Padre Billini

Beautiful and intimate Plazoleta / Small Plaza Padre Billini, named after and dedicated to Padre Billini who contributed many important things to the Dominican Republic. Here his statue, made by French sculptor Ernest Gilbert, stands proudly.

The statue of Padre Francisco Xavier Billini stands in the center of the plaza named after him, Plazoleta Padre Billini
The statue of Padre Francisco Xavier Billini stands in the center of the plaza named after him, Plazoleta Padre Billini

Padre Francisco Xavier Billini (December 1, 1837 – March 9, 1896), known as the protector of the poor man. He was also a great Philanthropist. Billini founded the National Lottery in 1882 to help pay for the poorest patients of the Hospital de la Beneficencia. This was the first charity hospital in the Dominican Republic, later known as Hospital San Andrés. We now know the hospital as Hospital Docente Padre Billini located on Calle Santomé in the Colonial Zone.

The statue of Padre Billini, The protector of the people, stands in the center of the Plaza
The statue of Padre Billini, The protector of the people, stands in the center of the Plaza

The Legend of La Casa de Garay

Where this Plazoleta Padre Billini is now, there once was a large beautiful house, The Casa de Garay. This private home was built around 1520. It was torn down because of a disagreement between neighbors.

Located on Calle Arzobispo Meriño on the left is La Bricola Restaurant and the Plaza Padre Billini is where the beautiful Casa de Garay once stood
Located on Calle Arzobispo Meriño on the left is La Bricola Restaurant and the Plaza Padre Billini is where the beautiful Casa de Garay once stood

A widow, who lived in her home where La Bricola Restaurant is located (across the street from the Plaza), saw a sight from her window. A slave from the Casa de Garay decided to milk their masters’ cow in the middle of the street. The elderly lady complained. The owners of the House of Garay made a nasty comment about this. The widows’ nephew heard about the comment and came to his elderly aunts’ defense. He wanted to defend the family name of Franco Medina.

The nephew wanted the owner of the slave to apologize. They even offered to purchase the slave so they could punish him and end the dispute. The owner refused. It was against the law to speak badly or defame someone’s character. It was a very serious offense (and still is in the Dominican Republic). A long court battle entailed because they questioned the persons’ honor. The elderly woman won the lawsuit.

In this time in history, many lawsuits were settled by giving the losers home to the winner of a suit. The owner of the lost home said angrily (general translation) “It’s easy for anyone to get rich!” The Franco Medina family, who won the property, announced that the house will not be lived in by me or anyone. They destroyed the home because they did not want the owner to think the Medina family fought and won just to take the home.

The empty lot was turned into a plaza. This plaza has had many different names over time, including Plaza de las Franco, Plaza de las Lebrón and Plaza de las Mañón. Finally, Damián Báez (the son of Presidente Buenaventura Báez), purchased the property to make a plaza dedicated to Padre Billini.

Plaza Padre Billini Now

Plazolita Padre Billini has large shade trees where one can sit and enjoy a rest from the Dominican sun
Plazolita Padre Billini has large shade trees where one can sit and enjoy a rest from the Dominican sun

The small plaza has benches under large shade trees where you can sit and enjoy the breeze. It is now half occupied by some of the restaurants that line the site. These restaurants are nice but expensive places. You can sit outside in the Plaza or inside the enclosed restaurants or private patios to have a meal and a drink.

The Plazoleta Padre Billini is a favorite spot to take wedding pictures.
The Plazoleta Padre Billini is a favorite spot to take wedding pictures.

They hold many special events in the Plaza from meetings with the President to small intimate weddings. It is a great place to take wedding pictures too.

Plazoleta Padre Billini is located on Calle Arzobispo Meriño and Padre Billini where the beautiful Casa de Garay once stood
Plazoleta Padre Billini is located on Calle Arzobispo Meriño and Padre Billini where the beautiful Casa de Garay once stood

Location:

Walking from Calle el Conde turn on Arzobispo Meriño south toward the sea. Walk about a block and a half and small plaza, Plazoleta Padre Billini, is on the left side before you get to Calle Padre Billini.

Plaza Bartolomé de las Casas

Plaza Bartolomé de las Casas

Plaza Bartolomé de las Casas is a beautiful gated park in the center of the Colonial Zone. The plaza is surrounded by trees and flowers, and the statue of Las Casas is in the center of it all. This well-maintained plaza is a wonderful place to sit and relax.

Plaza Bartolomé de las Casas, Colonial Zone, Dominican Republic.
Plaza Bartolomé de las Casas located in the Colonial Zone.

This Plaza is named after Friar / Frey Bartolomé de las Casas. He was known as the Royal Protector of the Indians. Las Casas was a very respected person in colonial times. His home, built in the mid 1600s, was located where the plaza is now.

Plaza Bartolomé de las Casas in the Zona Colonial is surrounded by a gated fence.
Plaza Bartolomé de las Casas in the Zona Colonial is surrounded by a gated fence.

Surrounded by a wall and fence, this nice little plaza has many well cared for plants and trees. There is even a mango tree where, if you are lucky, you can pick a nice fresh mango in season. 

Plaza Bartolome de las Casas Feria Artesanal
Plaza Bartolome de las Casas Feria Artesanal

There are many concerts and special events held in the plaza. It was once the home to the Feria Artesanal where artists would set up their booths and sell their craft and handmade items.

Plaza Bartolomé de las Casas is a beautiful small plaza.
Plaza Bartolomé de las Casas is a beautiful small plaza.

The grand modern statue of Fray Bartolomé Las Casas in the center of the park was created by Juan de Vaquero.

The statue of Bartolomé de las Casas located in the Plaza in the Colonial Zone.
The statue of Bartolomé de las Casas located in the Plaza.

Read the history of Fray Bartolomé Las Casas.

Location:

Walking from Calle el Conde turn onto Hostos going south toward the sea. Past Parque Duarte to Padre Billini on the left behind a gated wall.

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.