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Montecino The Man And Monument

Fray Antón de Montesino (1475 – 1540), the Defender of Los Indios.

Fray Antón de Montesino is best known for his historic defense of the Taino Indians and other Indigenous persons of the islands of the Carribean and around the world. He courageously spoke against the abuses done to the native peoples of the island in a famous sermon made in 1511. He was one of the first persons to speak out for defending human rights starting the fight around the world.

Fray Antón de Montesino Monument
Fray Antón de Montesino Monument

Fray Antón de Montesino | Montecinos Sermon | The Monument Frey Antón de Montecinos | Playa Placer | Location

Fray Antón de Montesino

(some references say Montecinos and also Antonio Montesino.)

In the years of 1494 and 1495 Cristóbal Columbus carried out military campaigns to force the Taínos (the original native inhabitants of the island) to be put under the rule of the Catholic Kings and to serve the Spaniards. The Taínos caught at this time were forced to work in the gold mines and wherever else their labors were needed. During the time of Columbus they were treated as less than human as if they were property instead of human beings. Even though Corona had declared in 1501 that the Taínos were free and that should not be mistreated, nobody listened or obeyed him. The Indians were considered below animals and without souls.

The Monument of Fray Antón de Montesino
The Monument of Fray Antón de Montesino

The Spanish continued to use and abuse the original inhabitants of the island. in 1503 Nicholas de Ovando, the abusive governor of the island, told the queen that if he did not use the Indians to work for them in the mines the island would become depopulated and all the business therein would be lost. Since the Kings were more interested in obtaining gold to fund the expenses in Europe, the abuse of the Indians was made legal by Corona. He continued to permit the Indians to be slaves for the Spaniards and to work the mines and the farms. In turn for this legalization, the Spaniards were ordered to teach the Tainos about the Catholic ways. The permission was given the 20 of December of 1503. Thus began the “Sistema de las Encomiendas en la Española (the system of Economics of Spain). This was the start of the true abuse of the Indians.

The Natives who managed to live after serving as slaves in the mines or fields under forced labor were desperate and lost hope. Many committed mass suicides. Many died from disease and starvation. In 1508 when a census of Indians was taken. It found that there were only 60,000 of the original 400,000 left of the natives that were counted when Columbus came onto the island for the first time only sixteen years before. The loss of the labor force hurt the Spanish and their gold mining. It was decided to bring in the Indians of the Lucayas Islands to restock their supply of laborers. In time, because of the Spaniard’s cruel treatment of the indigenous peoples and King Fernando’s insatiable thirst for gold, these indigenous peoples also died off.

Fray Antón de Montesino spoke out for the rights of the natives
Fray Antón de Montesino spoke out for the rights of the natives

Friars Arrival

The Friars arrival to the settlement started a change. Montecinos who was ordained in 1509, joined the first group of Dominican missionaries in 1510 who were heading to the “New World”. This was the state Fray Antón de Montesino found upon his and the Dominican order or Friars arrival on the island La Española. The Friars saw first hand the horrific treatment, the life of shortage and the forced labor of the Indians. Immediately the friars started to fight in favor of these victims to give the indigenous people rights equal to those of the Spaniards.

A quote from Montesino speach displayed inside the monument
A quote from Montesino speach displayed inside the monument

Montecinos Sermon

“I am the voice of Christ who cries out in the desert of this island. This voice says all are in mortal sin and live and die in it, for the cruelty and tyranny you use on these innocent people. Say what right and justice do you keep in such cruel and horrible servitude these Indians?”

These words were part of the sermon given by Fray Antón de Montesinos on the first Sunday of Advent, the 30 of November of 1511, in the presence of Sir Diego Columbus in the Iglesia de los Padres Dominicos. The sermon was based on the Gospel of Saint Matthew 3:3. All the top officials and authority figures were present. In a full speech of admonition with all sins described in detail, the titled sermon “Ego Vox Clamantis in deserto”, was signed by all the friars of the order. They demanded of the Spaniards to give rights and justice to the Taínos, condemning the oppression against them. The scandal was enormous. All were astonished by the boldness of Fray Antón de Montesinos. (The Sermón de Antonio de Montesinos.)

Fray Pedro de Córdoba, head of the order, promised that Montesinos would make a full retraction in his next sermon. Of course, that did not happen. On the second Sunday from Advent, the 7th of December, Montesinos continued his attack on these atrocities in even harsher words.

Montesino spoke out for human rights
Montesino spoke out for human rights

Return To Spain

In 1512 Montecino returned to Spain and was sent to court. After great difficulties, Montesinos managed to see the King and was able to explain the terrible situation. The King held a town meeting, composed by theologians and jurists, to discuss and make a judgment on the case.

Montesinos fought and won.

The Government dictated the results in the Laws of Towns, regulating the work of the Indians yet still forcing them to work as before. The Spaniards and Montesinos continued to fight because these laws did nothing to resolve the situation. Finally, the Government of Cisneros Cardinal created “El Gobierno de los Gerónimos” to mediate between both parties and to create laws in favor of the natives. The laws were created but never applied. The plans of el Gobierno de los Gerónimos / Government of the Jerónimos failed.

Montesino monument
Montesino monument

Montesino died in Venezuela on June 27, 1540. He never saw his dream of equality come to pass. He became the author of the first official reclamation of freedom and equality of the people of America. The exact circumstances of the death of Fray Antón Montesino, the Defender of Los Indios, is unknown.

A Reenactment video of the Sermón de Montesinos en La Española video.


A video of the sermon the Fray gave in Santo Domingo December 21, 1511/ Sermón de Fray Antonio Montesinos predicado en la Isla La Española el 21 de diciembre de 1511.

View of the Montecino Monument in the distance
View of the Montecino Monument in the distance

Interesting bits of information

*The speech of Montecino influenced Bartolomé de Las Casas to get rid of his Native slaves and start fighting for their rights.
*There is a Fray Antón de Montecinos Award from the Alumni Association of the University of Santo Domingo in New York City. This award is given annually to a Dominican professional who lives in the United States. This person must substantially enhance the reputation of the Dominican Republic through their work. The award includes a $5,000 cash prize and a replica of a statue of Montesinos.
*The Friar and martyr returned to Hispaniola and continued to work there and in Puerto Rico. In 1521 he founded, along with other Dominicans, a convent in the town of San Juan Bautista de la Isleta, the basis of the first university in Puerto Rico founded in 1532.
*In 1528, Montesinos went to Venezuela with a mission along with other Dominicans

Monument dedicated to Frey Anton de Montecinos
Monument dedicated to Frey Anton de Montecinos

The Monument Frey Antón de Montecinos

The stone and bronze statue found on the Malecon of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The monument is near the harbor on the far end of the Colonial Zone. It can be seen looming in the horizon at the entrance to the Ozama River. The statue was designed by Mexican sculptor Antonio Castellanos. It is almost 15 feet (4.57 meters) tall. The statue was gifted to the Dominican people by the Mexican government when Lopez Portillo was president of Mexico. The monument to Frey Antón de Montecinos was inaugurated in 1982.

Stairs inside the Monument dedicated to Frey Anton de Montecinos
Stairs inside the Monument dedicated to Frey Anton de Montecinos

The sculpture of Montecinos rests on the upper deck of the building built of limestone and concrete. It was designed by architect Pedro Ramírez Vásquez. The monument, including the height or the statue, measures 30 meters or almost 100 feet tall. The original plan was for the structure to house a cultural center. That plan is finally being worked on and is being constructed now. The Marines guard the monument. The view from the top of the structure shows the entrance to Rio Ozama and the Caribbean Sea. You can also see much of the Colonial City.

Playa Placer de los Estudios. The locals call it Playa Placer or Playita Montecinos.
Playa Placer de los Estudios. The locals call it Playa Placer or Playita Montecinos.

Playa Placer de los Estudios

There is a small beach beside the monument of Montecinos. The original name of this beach is Playa Placer de los Estudios. The locals call it Playa Placer or Playita Montecinos.

Part of Playa Placer is very shaded with large palms and there are also many noni trees. You can usually see baseball players practicing their running in the sand or people exercising or walking their dogs.

The beach area runs from the port of Santo Domingo to the coral cliffs that line the Malecon. There is a lot of runoff from the city of garbage and sewage. When there is any storm or hard rain it washes the trash down from the Rio Ozama and it accumulates here. It is so sad to see. It is not advisable to swim on this beach.

Playa Placer de los Estudios. The locals call it Playa Placer or Playita Montecinos.
Playa Placer de los Estudios. The locals call it Playa Placer or Playita Montecinos.

Location

View from Fuerte San Jose  Monument dedicated to Frey Anton de Montecinos
View from Fuerte San Jose Monument dedicated to Frey Anton de Montecinos

The monument honoring Montecino is located on Paseo President Billini where it changes to Avenida George Washington, better known as The Malecon, next to the Port of Santo Domingo on the Caribbean Sea at the mouth of Rio Ozama. Sometimes crossing the Malecon can be dangerous. Facing Montecion walk left along the Malecon and there is a pedestrian bridge at the port that crosses this busy road.

Patron Saint Celebrations

Fiestas Patronales de la República Dominicana / Celebrations of the Patron Saints of Dominican Republic

Patronales/ Patron Saints. Every town and village in Dominican Republic has it’s own patron saint. Each town has a celebration for their saint. These celebrations usually cover an entire weekend or more with a party, music and just getting together of the inhabitants of the town in the local park or gathering area. It is a time of sharing with the neighbors and another excuse for having a party. Not that Dominicans need an excuse to have a party or a good time.

Here is a list of Patron Saints and different celebrations and what town celebrates that saint. The dates are a general reference and can change year to year depending on the dates the government sets. Try to visit a town during their celebrations. You will be so happy you did, even if you are not Catholic.

Festival San Miguel in Santo Domingo

Enero / Janurary

Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana Offering of the Bulls

1. Santo Cristo de los Milagros of Bayaguana – ofrenda de los toros/ The Offering of the bulls (More information about this tradition go to our page on Town Traditions)

21. Nuestra Señora de La Altagracia o Virgen de la Altagracia. Celebrated in San José de Ocoa, Monte Plata, Villa Altagracia, Paraiso y los bajos de Haina. More information on Altagracia

Febrero / February

2 Virgen de la Candelaria patron saint of San Carlos, in Santo Domingo and Sabana Grande de Boyá.

11 Nuestra Señora de Lourdes patron saint of Peralta in Azua

16 San Elías Barón del Cementerio/ The Barron of the Cemetery.

Marzo / March

3 y 4 San Benito de Palermo celebrated in Guayabal, a providence of Azua

4 y 5 Procesión Romana-Higüey a procession to the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia in Higüey,starting at the Obelisco in La Romana

8 Miércoles de Ceniza/ Ash Wednesday

17 Damballah is symbolized by un arco iris/ Rainbow

19 San José this saint is celebrated in the towns of Restauración in Dajabón, Río Grande in Puerto Plata, Villa Vásquez in Prov. Montecristi, San José de las Matas in Prov. Dajabón, Yamasá in Prov. Monte Plata, El Valle in Sabana de la Mar. In Azua this patron saint is celebrated with carnival like festivities.

Abril / April

8 Amancia Pérez patron saint of Pueblo Arriba, Baní. This is the death of this saint who was the keeper of the San Juan Bautista en la Cofradía/ Saint John the Baptist in the Brotherhood

14 y 15 La Dolorita patron saint of Los Morenos, Villa Mella. She is a saint who bestows miracles and helps the people. It is celebrated by hundresd with salves, atabales, rezos y cantos/dance, prayers and song.(to learn more about salves, atables and afro dominican music)

Mayo / May

1 San José Obrero celebrated in Villa Jaragua in Prov. Bahoruco and Ensanche Ozama in Santo Domingo

3 San Felipe Apostol patron saint of Puerto Plata.

13 Nuestra Señora de Fátima celebrated in Villa Sinda in Prov. Montecristi, Galván in Prov. Bahoruco, Arenoso in Prov. Duarte and Hondo Valle in Prov. Samaná.

15 San Isidro el Labrador celebrated in Castillo in Prov. Duarte, Luperón in Puerto Plata, Las Caobas in Santiago Rodríguez, CLavelLina y Uvilla in Prov. Bahoruco, EL Llano in Elías Piña, Santé y La Enea in Prov. La Altagracia.

21 Espíritu Santo celebrated in Cotuí and many of the rural communities throughout Dominican Republic. (Here is a little information on this music)

18(?) Santa Rita de Casia celebrated in Juan Barón a Prov.of San Cristóbal, Sabana Perdida in Santo Domingo

30 San Fernando Rey patron saint of Montecristi.

Junio / June

11 San Bernabé patron saint of Villa Mella.

13 San Antonio de Padua patron saint of Bonao in Prov. Monseñor Nouel, Guerra in Prov. Monte Plata, La Victoria in Santo Domingo, Villa Rivas in Prov. Duarte, Monción in Prov. Santiago Rodríguez, Miches in Prov. El Seibo

22 Corazón de María patron saint of Chaquey Abajo in Cotuí

29 San Pedro y San Pablo patron saint of San Pedro de Macorís; Las Salinas in Prov. Barahona, El Cercado in Prov. San Juan de la Maguana, Fundación de Peravia in Prov.Peravia.

30 San Pablo Apóstol patron saint celebration in Villa González

Septiembre / September

7 Nuestra Señora de los Remedios patron saint of Azua, Cabral in Barahona, El Limón in Jimaní, Naranjo in San Juan de la Maguana

14 Exaltación de la Santísima Cruz patron saint of Mao in Valverde

24 Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes/Las Mercedes is patroness of the firefighters and the Patron Saint of the Dominican People. More information, picture and video of Mercedes and the celebration.

29 San Miguel Arcángel / St. Michael, the Archangel is the patron saint of the Dominican armed forces. He is the Captain of the Celestial Legions. Combating the devil he leads the forces of heaven in their triumph over the powers of hell. Celebrated in the Santo Domingo town of San Miguel at the Iglesia San Miguel. History of the important Festival San Miguel.

Octubre / October

1 San Francisco patron saint of Bánica

4 Nuestra Señora del Rosario patron saint of Barahona

12 Nuestra Señora del Pilar patron saint of Sabana de la Mar and Cevicos.

14 Santa Rosa de Jesús patron saint of Elías Piña.

15 Santa Teresa de Avila patron saint of Comendador in Elías Piña

24 San Rafael patron saint of Boca Chica, Capotillo, Palma Herrada y los 21 in Moca, San Rafael del Yuma, Tamboril, Estancia Vieja in Santiago Rodríguez, Villa Tapia y Quita Sueño in Cotuí, Guayacanes in Valeverde

29 San Judas Tadeo patron saint of Escondido in Baní

Noviembre / November

1 Todos los Santos patron saint of Maguana in San Juan de la Maguana

21 Nuestra Señora de Regla patron saint of Baní

Diciembre / December

5 Santa Bárbara patron saint of Samaná

8 Inmaculada Concepción patron saint of Cotuí, Monte Grande in Dajabón, Estancia Nueva in Moca, Sombrero in Baní, Oviedo in Pedernales, Ramón Santana in San Pedro de Macorís

13 Santa Lucía patron saint of Las Matas de Farfán and El Peñón in Barahona

18 Virgen del Amparo patron saint of Polo in Barahona and Esperanza in Valverde

27 San Juan Evangelista patron saint of Salcedo

To see a map with all the Dominican Republic Provinces (Prov.) listed.

Iglesia Altagracia

Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia / Chapel de Altagracia

A tribute of love, recognition and eternal memory.

The Iglesia de Altagracia was originally built by Nicolas de Ovando in 1503. It was a small stone chapel. With the many improvements over the years, it is a beautiful place to visit and worship.

The exterior tower of the Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia, Colonial Zone
The exterior tower of the Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia, Colonial Zone

The church was rebuilt in the 1920s over the original building in an Elizabethan Gothic style. The wall of this church was once shared with the Hospital San Nicolás de Bari, the ruins that run alongside this church. Within these walls are the remains of the original 1540’ brick Capilla de la Concepción / Conception Chapel.

Interior of the Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia
Interior of the Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia

Inside the large church the decor is strongly influenced by Arab and Spanish art. Some of the art includes the Sol de Oro / Sun of Gold, a model of the star that announced Christ’s birth, and a beautiful altar.

Saturday night mass at the Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia
Saturday night mass at the Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia

The Virgin Altagracia

is the protector saint of the Dominican Republic, celebrated yearly on January 21. More information on Altagracia.

During the procession on Altagracia Day on January 21st the virgin is carried throughout the streets of the Colonial city on glorious golden throne donated by then President and dictator Trujillo (the church organ was also donated by Trujillo)

Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia on Calle Hostos, Zona Colonial
Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia on Calle Hostos, Zona Colonial

Check out our picture collection of the Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia.

Location

From Calle el Conce turn north on Hostos. Go about 1 block (long block) between Luperon and Las Mercedes, Colonial Zone, Santo Domingo