Category Archives: Parks and Plazas

Parque Independencia

Parque Independencia / Independence Park

Parque Independencia is a must-visit when you are exploring the oldest city in the Americas, especially if you are interested in the history of the Dominican people and their fight for freedom. The park houses the Altar de la Patria. Home of the mausoleum for the founding fathers of the Dominican Republic, Francisco del Rosario Sánchez, Juan Pablo Duarte and Ramón Matías Mella.

Bastión de San Genaro | Puerta del Conde | Entering The Gate | Plaza at Parque Independencia | Pedro Alejandrino Piña | Dona Manuela Díez de Duarte | Punto Zero | Altar de la Patria | Plaza Patriótica a los Caídos | Location |

The wall and gate of the Bastión de San Genaro now known as Parque Indepencencia, Dominican Republic
The wall and gate of the Bastión de San Genaro now known as Parque Indepencencia

Bastión de San Genaro

Original map of Santo Domingo published in 1755 with Puerta del Conde circled.
Original map of Santo Domingo published in 1755 with Puerta del Conde circled.

Bastión de San Genaro(¹), the original name of this part of the wall, was built in 1543. It is typical of the 17th century built Italian style. Its purpose was to defend the city from a sneak attack by land along with its connecting Fuerte la Concepcion. The wall that this gate is built into ran all the way down to the sea and included the Puerta de la Misericordia. You can also see what remains of the protection moat that surrounded the walled city of Santo Domingo.

(¹)Bastion or bulwark – A projecting part of a fortification built at an angle to the line of a wall, so as to allow defensive fire in several directions. If you look at the map of Santo Domingo you can see the triangle-shaped bastion.

Parque Independencia 1912
Parque Independencia 1912

Independence Park / Parque Independencia was converted to a park in 1912 when Architect Antonin Nechodoma did a redesign. This design later made way for the Altar de la Patria. The road that ran through the center of the park was closed and benches added.

Puerta del Conde 1908 view from Calle el Conde, then named Calle de la Separación
Puerta del Conde 1908 view from Calle el Conde, then named Calle de la Separación

Puerta del Conde

The gate Puerta del Conde is named after El Conde de Peñalve / Count of Peñalva, Bernardo de Meneses y Bracamonte. He was the Captain General of the walled city of Santo Domingo. He saved the city, along with his men, from the British invaders during the Siege of Santo Domingo. Admiral William Penn and General Robert Venables led this battle. The Count ordered the wall to be modified and this work was completed in 1655.

On February 27, 1844 Puerta del Conde became the national symbol of Dominican patriotism when Francisco del Rosario Sanchez raised the first Dominican flag. It was here that the heroes of the country overtook the Haitian government and retook the city for their own thus reclaiming their Independence.

The entrance to Parque Independencia showing the inscription above the gate.
The entrance to Parque Independencia showing the inscription above the gate.

Above this gate at the beginning of the Conde Street reads the Latin inscription “ìDulce et Decori est pro patria moriî” translated “It is indeed sweet and honorable to die for the fatherland.”

On February 27, 1933 Rafael Leonidas Trujillo ordered the name of the gate be changed. He changed the official name to the Door of February 27 / Puerta de 27 de Febrero. The Dominican people still call this symbol or patriotism Puerta el Conde. This gate symbolizes the ideals of freedom of the Dominican Republic.

The Puerta del Conde with the Escudo Nacional Dominicano / National Shield of Dominican Republic
The Puerta del Conde with the Escudo Nacional Dominicano / National Shield of Dominican Republic

In 1943 Trujillo ordered the remains of the three founding fathers of the Dominican Republic to be moved from the Chapel of the Immortals / Capilla de los Immortales in the Catedral of Santo Domingo. Juan Pablo Duarte, Francisco del Rosario Sanchez and Ramon Matias Mella had a new resting place.

Today the walls surrounding Independence Park serve as a place for temporary exhibitions placed by the Ministry of Culture. There are always interesting exhibits that display a variety of literary, artistic and historical events.

Entering The Gate

The guarded gate Door of the Count / Puerta del Conde or Door of February 27 / Puerta de 27 de Febrero is the entrance to the old walled city of Santo Domingo now known as Colonial Zone / Zona Colonial.

The catwalk atop the walls and entrance to the city of Santo Domingo
The catwalk atop the walls and entrance to the city of Santo Domingo

Above the gate is a catwalk that was used for guards to keep their watchful eyes open around the entrance to the city.

The Guardia Nacional / National Guard watching the Puerta del Conde at Parque Independencia
The Guardia Nacional / National Guard watching the Puerta del Conde at Parque Independencia

As you enter the gate, flanked by uniformed guards called the Guardia Nacional, you will really be leaving the original walled city of Santo Domingo. You are now outside the original protection that existed in the colonial days.

This gate to Fort San Genaro was the main way in and out of the city of Santo Domingo. The walls of defense that surrounded the city were very important for protection, especially these land access gates. They protected the city of Santo Domingo from any attacks coming by land including roving bands of marauders and those sneaky pirates.

The original moats that surrounded the city walls
The original moats that surrounded the city walls

As with many of these important military installations they used moats for protection. Here you can see a triangular shaped moat / foso running towards what is now San Carlos. These fosos were used to protect the west along with several guard booths / garitas. Now, there are stairs where you can descend into the moat and shaded tunnels that were once filled with water that are below the park’s walkways.

Plaza at Parque Independencia

After walking through the Puerta del Conde / Gate of the Count you will see the Alley of Heroes. The interior Plaza at Parque Independencia was remodeled and opened to the public on February 27, 2017 on Independence Day.

The Alley of Heros has the busts of 34 national heroes lining either side of the plaza. The busts are made of reinforced fiberglass with a bronze patina. They are 90 centimeters high sitting atop a pyramid shaped base that is covered in coral stone.

The busts of National Heroes line the entrance to Parque Independencia
The busts of National Heroes line the entrance to Parque Independencia

These busts include the 7 women and 27 men who helped to make Dominican Republic’s independence and restoration a reality. The busts include The Trinitarians: Juan Isidro Pérez, Pedro Alejandrino Pina, Félix María Ruiz, José María Serra de Castro, Juan Nepomuceno Ravelo, Benito González, Jacinto de la Concha and Felipe Alfau. The Independentistas: General Antonio Duvergé, Vicente Celestino Duarte, General José Joaquín Puello, Admiral Juan Alejandro Acosta, María Trinidad Sánchez, Chepita Pérez de la Paz, María Baltasara de los Reyes, Manuela Díez, Rosa Duarte, Juana Saltitopa, Concepción Bona and Francisco Antonio Salcedo. The Restauradores: Generals Gregorio Luperón and Gaspar Polanco, Pepillo Salcedo, Pedro Antonio Pimentel, Santiago Rodríguez, José María Cabral, Benito Monción, José Cabrera and Timoteo Ogando. There are also the busts of José Contreras, Manuel Rodríguez Objío, Benigno Filomeno de Rojas, Ulises Francisco Espaillat and Pedro Francisco Bonó.

Also included in the Plaza are 2 pyramid-shaped pillars. These pillars describe the plaza and the history of the country’s independence and restoration. A plaque honors the heroism of General Luperon during the war of restoration in 1865.

Pedro Alejandrino Piña

You can see the backside of the bust of Pedro Alejandrino Piña
You can see the backside of the bust of Pedro Alejandrino Piña

Closest to the wall is a bust of Pedro Alejandrino Piña. He was a writer and one of the nine members who formed The Trinitarian / La Trinitaria for the patriotism who fought for the freedom of the Dominican people. When the group began public protests against Haitian rule in 1843, he was exiled to Curacao with Duarte and Pérez. He returned with Duarte in 1844 when Independence was achieved, but both were again sent to exile in Venezuela the following year when Santana took power. He returned to the DR again to fight the French attempted takeover, the restoration war against the Spanish and the attempted annexation by the USA. He was an influential politician until his death.

Dona Manuela Díez de Duarte

The statue of Dona Manuela Díez de Duarte, the mother of founding father Juan Pablo Duarte
The statue of Dona Manuela Díez de Duarte, the mother of founding father Juan Pablo Duarte

There is also a statue of a beautiful woman looking so calm and gentle and a little forlorn. Holding this distinguished position is Dona Manuela Díez de Duarte, the mother of the Founding Father Juan Pablo Duarte.

Manuela was born in Santa Cruz del Seybo June 27, 1786. She married Juan Jose Duarte in 1800 probably in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. They had eight children: Vicente Celestino, Juan Pablo, Filomena, Rosa, María Francisca, Manuel, Ana María y Sandalia. She occupies a distinguished position in the select group of Women of the Independence. Manuela offered her home to be used for secret meetings of the Trinitaria. She even sold some of her property to purchase weapons for the fight for independence. She died in Caracas, Venezuela on December 31, 1858.

The quiet and tranquil park interior
The quiet and tranquil park interior

If you walk straight ahead you will see the Altar of the Patriots with its glowing shield atop the tall entrance. It is surrounded by water making it a small island at the back of the park. There are 4 walkway bridges leading to the centrally located marble monument.

Punto Zero

The Punto Cero compass where all points in the country are measured from.
The Punto Cero compass where all points in the country are measured from.

Be sure to pay attention as to not trip over the raised bronze sculpture in the center of the walkway. This is a 32 point star compass. It is told that from this compass is measured all points of the country. Here marks kilometer 0 / kilómetro cero.

Altar de la Patria

The Altar de la Patria also known as Tumba de los Padres de la Patria / Tomb of the Patriarchs located in Parque Independencia
The Altar de la Patria also known as Tumba de los Padres de la Patria / Tomb of the Patriarchs located in Parque Independencia

Altar of the Nation / Altar de la Patria also known as Tumba de los Padres de la Patria / Tomb of the Patriarchs of the Country or more simply the National Mausoleum.

In 1943 Trujillo ordered the remains of the three founding fathers of the Dominican Republic be moved from the Chapel of the Immortals / Capilla de los Immortales in the Catedral of Santo Domingo. Juan Pablo Duarte, Francisco del Rosario Sánchez and Ramon Matias Mella had a new resting place.

The existing Altar de la Patria was designed by architect Cristian Martinez Villanueva and built in 1976 when the park was restored. The new monument made of white marble looms in the center of the park with the bright shining National Shield / Escudo Nacional above its door. This beautiful building is a fitting memorial for the heroes and Founding Fathers of the Dominican Republic.

This unique building is surrounded by water making it a small island at the back of the park. There are 4 walkway bridges leading to the centrally located marble monument.

The resting place of the founding fathers of Dominican Republic. Juan Pablo Duarte, Francisco del Rosario Sanchez, and Ramon Matias Mella
The resting place of the founding fathers of Dominican Republic. Juan Pablo Duarte, Francisco del Rosario Sanchez, and Ramon Matias Mella

Within this marble structure Juan Pablo Duarte, Francisco del Rosario Sanchez, and Ramon Matias Mella bodies are interred. A solid marble slab covers each of the 3 founding fathers’ tombs. The large mesmerizing statues of these patriots, carved by Italian sculptor Nicholas Arrighini, stand proud at the head of their tombs.

The eternal flame that burns inside the Altar of the Nation / Altar de la Patria
The eternal flame that burns inside the Altar of the Nation / Altar de la Patria

In the center of the marble shrine burns the eternal flame that is kept lit in memory of the patriots. There are usually flowers and wreaths lovingly placed around the statues to honor the national heroes. The mausoleum is open from 8:30 to 6 daily.

Plaza Patriótica a los Caídos

Plaza Patriótica a los Caídos de la Revolución de Abril de 1965
Plaza Patriótica a los Caídos de la Revolución de Abril de 1965

Outside of the park on the left side is a small fenced off area called Plaza Patriótica a los Caídos de la Revolución de Abril de 1965. Un homenaje del pueblo dominicano a los Héroes y Mártires de la guerra patria De 1965 / Fallen Patriot Square of the Revolution April 1965. A tribute to the Dominican people and the heroes and martyrs of the Patriotic War of 1965.

Note – You do not need a guide to take you through the park so do not be fooled. If you want a guide they are available at the park. Do make sure you agree on a price beforehand.

The exterior of Parque Independencia along Calle Palo Hincado.
The exterior of Parque Independencia along Calle Palo Hincado.

Location

Parque Independencia, Palo Hincado and Calle el Conde, Colonial Zone, Santo Domingo. The roads surrounding the park are Avenida Independencia, Ave. Bolívar, Palo Hincado, Arzobispo Nouel, Mariano Cesteros. Calle el Conde lines up a direct path to the front gate.

Park hours are from 8:30 to 6 daily.

Plaza María de Toledo And History

Plaza María de Toledo

The Plaza María de Toledo is a nice tranquil spot to sit and relax. The Plaza honors the first American Viceroy / Virreina, Doña María de Toledo. A cultural woman who helped make life for the new colony of Santo Domingo a little more proper.

The Plaza and Fountain in the Reflecting Pool with the statue of Maria de Toledo looking on.
The Plaza and Fountain in the Reflecting Pool with the statue of Maria de Toledo looking on.

The Plaza | Location | María de Toledo History

The Plaza and Fountain in the Reflecting Pool
The Plaza and Fountain in the Reflecting Pool

The Plaza

The brick tiled plaza sits between Calle Las Damas and Isabel la Católica. Benches line the courtyard, making it an ideal place for sitting and relaxing. The newly repaired fountain cascades water into a small reflecting pool. The sculpture of María de Toledo sits in the square in front of the fountain. Originally the statue was located on the side lawn of the Alcazar de Colón in Plaza Espana. They moved the statue to Plaza Maria de Toledo when the plaza was renovated in 2017.

The statue of María de Toledo now sits in the plaza named after the Virreina, Doña María de Toledo
The statue of María de Toledo now sits in the plaza named after the Virreina, Doña María de Toledo

There were 2 homes on the original piece of land. All that remains are the 3 stone arches at the entrance along Las Damas and the 2 arches above the pool. It was originally the residence of the group la Compañía de Jesús until they were expelled from the country.

The home next to the Convento de los Jesuitas (now the Panteón Nacional) that sat where the Plaza María de Toledo is now located. Picture from 1920’s
The home next to the Convento de los Jesuitas (now the Panteón Nacional) that sat where the Plaza María de Toledo is now located. Picture from 1920’s

Every Sunday there is a small Antique Market held in the plaza. Vendors sell their wares including antiques, Taino artifacts, brass pieces, jewelry and other interesting trinkets.

Sunday Antique Market in Plaza María de Toledo.
Sunday Antique Market in Plaza María de Toledo.

Location

Walking up (north) Isabel la Católica from the eastern side of the Conde about 1 block. It is the first open space on the right across from Calle Gregorio Luperon. Walking up Calle las Damas from the Conde, it is the first plaza on the left in front of Governor Nicolás Ovando’s Residence, now a hotel. It is next to the Panteón Nacional.

The red brick Plaza María de Toldeo is a nice place for sitting and relaxing
The red brick Plaza María de Toldeo is a nice place for sitting and relaxing

María de Toledo (born 1490 in Spain – Died May 11, 1549 (aged 58–59) in Santo Domingo

María de Toledo was the wife of the son of Christopher Columbus / Cristóbal Colón, Diego de Colón, II Admiral and II Viceroy of the Indies / II Almirante y II Virrey de Indias. She was the granddaughter of García Álvarez de Toledo, 1st Duke of Alba and the niece of King Ferdinand of Spain.

María was the first person of noble race to arrive on the Spanish island in 1509. She brought class to the colony. Clothes and other fancy items were forbidden in the colony until she arrived. She got special permission from the crown for herself and others to use and wear these items, becoming the central person of the aristocratic society. She also held the title of Viceroy / Virreina and was more powerful and influential than her husband Díego Colon.

María de Toledo was a strong defender of the original inhabitants of the island, the Taino Indians, against the mistreatment of the Spanish. She also fought for the rights of her children after the death of her husband. She was one of the most important female figures in the original colony of 16th century Hispaniola.

The unmarked statue of María de Toldeo used to be on the grassy slope on the side of the Alcázar de Colón. The Columbus Palace was built to be the home of Maria de Toledo and her husband Diego de Colón. She loved being a hostess, receiving guests and entertaining in her royal home.

The statue of María de Toledo sitting in its original location on the side of the Alcazar de Colón, her home in the original colony of Santo Domingo.
The statue of María de Toledo sitting in its original location on the side of the Alcazar de Colón, her home in the original colony of Santo Domingo.

NOTE – I have researched and found varying histories. Some report that María had 7 children and some say 8 children. I cannot find the cause of death or where she was buried when she died in Santo Domingo. If I find this information, I will add it.

More about the history of the Jesuits in Dominican Republic.

More about the history of María de Toledo

Parque Duarte

Parque Duarte

Parque Duarte is a beautiful plaza or park named after Juan Pablo Duarte, a Founding Father of the Dominican Republic. They erected a beautiful bronze statue in the center in honor of this Dominican hero.

The bronze statue of Juan Pablo Duarte and the Dominican Flag in the center of Parque Duarte in the Colonial City of Santo Domingo.
The bronze statue of Juan Pablo Duarte and the Dominican Flag in the center of Parque Duarte in the Colonial City of Santo Domingo.

Duarte Park | Plaza and Sculpture | Duarte Park – History & Legends | Location

Duarte Park

Parque Duarte is a neighborhood park that is a nice place to sit and wile away an afternoon. Maybe you could even join in a game of dominos. There are benches where you can sit in the shade under a tree, relax and watch the world pass by. It is calm and peaceful during the day.

A relaxing day sitting in the shade with the falling flowers in Parque Duarte
A relaxing day sitting in the shade with the falling flowers in Parque Duarte

When darkness comes this place is overrun by young people partying, drinking and listening to music. There is a Colmado and a few small bars surrounding this park where you can get a cold beer, a mixed drink or whatever type of liquid refreshment you desire. Different food vendors pass through where you can get ice cream, a plate of chicharrones (pork cracklings) and other local type snacks. I call this park “the alternative lifestyle park” as it has a variety of visitors in the evenings. Artists and musicians, bohemian, gay and straight, young and old. A very interesting place to observe and enjoy partying with a variety of humans.

Plaza and Sculpture

Honoring Juan Pablo Duarte on Día de Duarte with wreaths that were placed in his honor.
Honoring Juan Pablo Duarte on Día de Duarte with wreaths that were placed in his honor.

Plaza Duarte was named on November 20, 1891 by the Ayuntamiento of Santo Domingo.

They inaugurated the park and the statue of Duarte in the center of Parque Duarte on July 16, 1930 when Rafael Estrella Ureña was president of the Dominican Republic. Italian sculptor and painter Arturo Tomagnini created the hollow cast polished bronze statue between 1928 – 29 in Italy.

The Diosa de la Victoria / Goddess of Victory sits below the image of Duarte
The Diosa de la Victoria / Goddess of Victory sits below the image of Duarte

The sculptor depicts Juan Pablo Duarte standing with his right hand on his chest at his heart. In his left hand he holds the draft of the constitution. He stands proudly atop the granite and concrete pedestal. Sitting below him is the Diosa de la Victoria / Goddess of Victory. (Diosa de la Victoria (Nike), in Greek Mythology, is the goddess of victory both in war and in peaceful competition.)

Parque Duarte is in front of the Iglesia y Convento de los Dominicos.
Parque Duarte is in front of the Iglesia y Convento de los Dominicos.

Duarte Park – History & Legends

Here are a few legends and historical items that I have found to be very interesting.

*This square in it’s long history has also been known as Plaza Anacaona, Plaza Santo Domingo and Plaza del Exconvento Dominico / Plaza of the Ex-Convict Dominico, Plaza del Convento de los Dominicos.

*Haitian separatists fought for independence at this site in 1843.

*It was the site of bullfights during the celebrations of the Virgen del Rosario.

The beautiful Edificio Elmúdesi is one of the buildings that surround Parque Duarte
The beautiful Edificio Elmúdesi is one of the buildings that surround Parque Duarte

*Edificio Elmúdesi, built by Benigno Trueba in 1936, is one of the historical buildings that surround Parque Duarte. The building was the home and clinic of Doctor Antonio Elmúdesi. The Elmúdesi building is part of the architectural heritage of the Dominican Republic.

*In the 19th century, this was the place chosen by the Trinitaria to meet and begin a conspiracy against the Haitian occupation that took place between 1822 and 1844.

People relaxing under the trees of Parque Duarte. Some are enjoying a cold beer and others are just enjoying the ambiance
People relaxing under the trees of Parque Duarte. Some are enjoying a cold beer and others are just enjoying the ambiance.

*Legend says that the queen of Jaragua, Taino Anacaona, was hanged here but it has never been proven.

*Sir Francis Drake and his followers hung to death the Dominican Fathers Juan de Caravia and Juan de Illanes in 1586.

Location

Panoramic view of Parque Duarte from Calle Duarte and Padre Billini.
Panoramic view of Parque Duarte from Calle Duarte and Padre Billini.

Calle Padre Billini, on the corners of Duarte y Hostos, in the center of the Colonial Zone. The park faces the Iglesia y Convento de Los Dominicos and the Capilla de la Tercera Orden Dominica, where the first university of the New World was founded in 1538.

Walking – From the Conde turn south onto Padre Billini or Duarte. Walk in the direction of the sea. It is about 2 blocks from Calle el Conde.