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.
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.
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.
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.
The Statue of Las Casas
The grand modern statue of Fray Bartolomé Las Casas in the center of the park was created by Juan de Vaquero.
The Shield of Santo Domingo / Escudo de la Ciudad de Santo Domingo
Hidden inside the walls of the Plaza Bartolomé Las Casa is The Coat of Arms of the City of Santo Domingo / Escudo de Armas de la Ciudad de Santo Domingo. This small shield is an important symbol of pride for the city. You can see it on the outside wall along Calle Padre Billini near the gate that faces Parque Duarte. Hidden behind some tree branches.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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…
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.
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. Located in Ciudad Nueva between Av. Independencia, Calle Canela, Calle Padre Billini and Calle Carrerasm
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.
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.
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.
It is important to remember that the road (The Malecon / Av. George Washington) 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.
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 was the largest of these forts that provided the main defense of the city of Santo Domingo.
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, also known as Parque Montecinos, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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