Frey Nicolás Ovando y Cáceres was born into a rich family in Spain.
In 1502 he become the third Governor and Captain-General of the Indies. There were too many complaints about then Governor Francisco de Bobadilla. Ovando replaced Bobadilla and served as the Governor of Hispaniola between 1502 and 1509.
When Ovando arrived to take over his appointed post as governor of Santo Domingo he brought with him over 30,000 colonists to populate the island.
Ovando was a conquistador. In a very short time he exploited and enslaved the islands indigenous peoples. He exterminating entire towns (Slaughter of Jaragua and Higüey), conquering and enslaving the native people. He forced the natives to work in homes and to plant crops, including the introduction of sugar cane. He used them to mine for gold. They were used as slaves on the ships that returned to Spain.
Ovandos type of governing was the model of the great conquering of Spain in the new world. He commissioned expeditions of discovery and conquest throughout the Caribbean, all from his offices here in Hispaniola. He founded 17 villages and cities on the island. He instituted the first town halls.
Under Ovandos rule the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo became very rich. The wealth cost the lives of almost all of the original native inhabitants of the island.
One of first terrible acts Ovando committed when he became Governor was to order the arrest of Anacaona. Anacaona was a Taíno queen. Ovando had his army search for and find her. While searching for her the army massacred many of the indigenous peoples. Anacaona was executed by hanging. After her death many of the natives fled their island home.
A statue of Anacona can be seen in Parque Colón climbing up the side of the Columbus statue.
Return To Spain
King Ferdinand V made the brutal Ovando return to Spain in 1509. He was ordered to return because of his brutal treatment of the native people. Diego Columbus was then appointed as Ovandos successor as governor.
Ovando returned to Spain a rich man. He was permitted to keep all the property and riches he acquired while exploiting the island and its native people.
The very large and elaborate home of Ovando is located on Calle las Damas and is now elaborate Hostal Nicolás de Ovando.
There is a huge bronze statue in the center of Plaza España honoring the 3rd Governor of Santo Domingo. In the stone pedestal on which the statue stands are the inscriptions “Comendador Mayor de la Orden de Alcántara” / “Supreme commander of the Order of Alcantara” and “Fundador de la Nueva Ciudad de Santo Domingo” / “Founder of the New City of Santo Domingo”.
Some of Ovandos accomplishments
*The appointment of Fray Nicolas de Ovando as governor of Santo Domingo was instrumental in the construction of the historical and tourist center today known as Colonial Zone. He gave it the charm and charisma it still has to this day.
*The governor built in the Ciudad Primada/ First City streets and buildings, such as the Convento de San Francisco/ Convent of San Francisco, Hospital de San Nicolás/ St. Nicholas Hospital, la Casa de La Moneda/ Casa de La Moneda, La Torre del Homenaje/ the Tower of Homage many beautiful private homes and also many streets including Calle del Rey/ King Street, later called Calle de las Damas.
*Villa Nueva Isabela, now called Villa Duarte, was the original settlement founded by Bartolomé Colón It is located on the other side of the Rio Ozama. The settlement was hit by a major hurricane in 1502 and almost destroyed. Fray Nicolás de Ovando was responsible for moving the settlement to the west bank of the Ozama River where Zona Colonial is now located.
*The Franciscan Monks arrived in 1502 under the command of Nicolas of Ovando. They started the construction of the the first monastery in the new world in 1508. El Monasterio de San Francisco now stands in ruins.
Before the Europeans arrived on the island of Hispaniola and claimed they were the so-called “discoverers” of the entire island, it was occupied by the Taino Indians.
The Tainos lived on the island they lovingly called Quisqueya. In the Taino language this means “Land for which there is none better”.
The peaceful Tainos (they did war with neighboring tribes such as the blood thirsty Caribs) almost entire demise coincided with the arrival of the Spaniards and their abuse of these original inhabitants of this small island. These “savages”, as the Europeans thought of them, who had ruled the island, now lost their way of life and eventually most lost their lives because of this invasion of the Whites. The Taino nation was doomed the moment Christopher Columbus landed.
The Arrival of the Foreigners
Christopher Columbus, in Spanish Cristóbal Colón, to the island on the ship La Santa María. There were two other ships that accompanied him, La Pinta and La Niña. He found the island first on October 12, 1492.
Columbus first landed on one of the islands in the Bahamas. Later that year also found Cuba and an island he called La Isla Espanola (he was on the western side of the island). When Columbus returned to Spain he left some of his men behind to look for the gold he thought was on the island.
When Columbus made his second voyage, he returned to find most of the people he left on Hispaniola had vanished. Dead.
His fleet of 17 ships continued traveling along the coast toward the east. Finally, stopping to create a fortified post, Christopher left his brother and some men who were to search inward for the promised gold. Columbus traveled continued his quest searching elsewhere for the gold he promised the Queen.
By the spring of 1494 the island Hispaniola was colonized. The island Columbus declared to be “the most beautiful island the human eyes have ever seen” is where he wanted his remains entered to rest forever.
The first Europeans settled in 1496.
The brother of Christopher, Bartholomew Columbus founded Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, officially on August 5, 1498. The city, originally named La Isabela, is the oldest European city founded by Europeans in the “New World”. It is the oldest colonial city in all the Americas.
Santo Domingo was the place of origin for much of the exploration and conquest of the New World throughout its first century of existence. The “discovery” of Puerto Rico by Ponce de Leon, the conquest of Mexico by Cortez, and the first sighting of the Pacific Ocean by Balboa, all started here in Santo Domingo.
The famous pirate Francis Drake invaded in 1568 and weakened the Spanish domain over Hispaniola (or Hispaniola) in 1568. The Spaniards abandoned the city and it was left to Drake and the pirates for more than 50 years. It remained this way until the French invaded the west side of the island in 1655. After many treaties and forced annexations the part of the island originally called by Santo Domingo was less than half it’s original size.
Commanded by Toussaint Louverture, the Haitians took over the island in 1822. They ruled the island for 22 years, fighting for their lost independence.
The Spaniards again became independent of Haitian rule on February 27, 1844. Thanks to their leaders Juan Pablo Duarte, Francisco del Rosario Sánchez and Ramón Matías Mella. This was when the Spanish part of the island became known as the Dominican Republic. The Haitian’s were totally defeated in 1861 and sent to their own side of the island. The struggle to keep control the country even after Spanish independence was gained was on going.
More Recent History
In 1916 The United States of America, wanting to have more power and influence in the Dominican Republic, used World War 1 as an excuse to bring in the Marines. They came to “protect” the country against the “bad” European powers.
The USA changed the infrastructure to best benefit them. Dominican Republic had its first, somewhat, free elections in 1924 which put Rafael Leonidas Trujillo in power.
The US finally decided to leave the Dominican Republic to itself and left. Soon Trujillo was able to gain power and in 1930 he took over completely. The Trujillo dictatorship ended on May 30, 1961 with his execution by ambush. He died one of the richest men in the world.
After this there were many political and economic problems. The US Marines returned in 1965 to occupy the country because they said the uprising was the fault of the Communists. USA left when Dr. Joaquín Balaguer was elected president once again (many say the election was fixed). Through all these political struggles and civil wars the country becomes independent.
1992 marked the 500th anniversary, El Quinto Centenario, of Christopher Columbus’ opening of Las Americas to the colonization of the Europeans.
The Columbus Lighthouse, Faro de Colón, with an approximate cost of 400 million Dominican pesos, was erected in honor of this occasion. This massive structure is in the shape of a cross and houses the remains (so it is said) of Christopher Columbus along with many other exhibits.
This building is amazing to see by day and the spectacular lights form a cross in the heavens at night (the lights are only shown on special occasions because of the electricity problems) that can be seen for long distances.
Colonial Zone or Zona Colonial is the oldest city in Las Americas on the island of Hispaniola in the country of Dominican Republic. It is a small town located in the capital city Santo Domingo de Guazmán. It is bordered by Río Ozama and the Caribbean Sea. There are many historical sites that were built during the time of exploration, exploitation, and colonization of the “New World.”
Much of the original city can still be seen today. The cathedral, monastery, university and hospital are among many of the “firsts” that happened here. The 16th-century buildings, homes and churches where one can see the old world Spanish architectural styles of the period. Many are still in excellent condition and are a wonder to behold.
Colonial Zone (and the surrounding sectors including San Miguel, San Lázaro, Santa Barbara, San Anton, San Carlos, Atarazana, and Cuidad Nueva) is a wonderful mix of the past and present. The old and new intertwine to make a unique travelers experience.
Live the history. Walk our streets. Visit our Museums and Historical sights. Dine in our restaurants. Meet our people. Dance to out music. You will make lasting memories. Something you may remember for a lifetime. Here in the land of firsts in “The Americas”
The city of Santo Domingo was the seat of many historic events and many of the monuments that are here are from the first 50 years of the European Conquest of America. This is why we have the title
“The Cradle of America”.
1. First Map: drawing of the northeast coast by Christopher Columbus (1493)
2. First European Villa in the Americas: La Isabela (1494)
3. First Religious Order: Friar of San Francisco (1494)
4. First Mass officiated in the Americas: January 6, 1494.
5. First Capital of the Americas: Santo Domingo (1496-98)
6. First Monastery: San Francisco (1502)
7. First Hospital: San Nicolás de Bari (1503)
8. First House of Contracts (1503)
9. First University: Universidad de Santo Domingo (1538)
10. First Cathedral: Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación (1541)
There are many cultural treasures located throughout Dominican Republic. In 2010 there was a vote by the held by the International Bureau of Capitals of Culture. They help people to notice important cultural locations throughout the world. This year they focused on Dominican Republic. There were 27 candidates for the treasure, and most were in the Colonial Zone. They received 18,420 votes.
This is a list of the places voted for and the number of votes received. You can find information about these locations in the Colonial Zone Sights section.
1) Alcázar de Colón – 4344 votes
2) Catedral – 2560
3) Fortaleza Ozama – 2369
4) Museo de las Casas Reales – 1275
5) Jardín Botánico – 1117
6) Malecón – 1092
7) Palacio de Bellas Artes – 1024
8) Barrio Chino – 972
9) Calle Las Damas – 485
10) Palacio Nacional – 443
11) Hospital San Nicolás de Bari (ruinas) – 308
12) Panteón Nacional – 284
13) Parque de los Tres Ojos – 246
14) Altar de la Patria – 238
15) Hostal Nicolás de Ovando – 223
16) Monasterio de San Francisco (ruinas) – 208
17) Faro a Colón – 196
18) Alcantarilla Colonial – 193
19) Iglesia del Convento Dominico – 184
20) Calle El Conde – 181
21) Casa de Juan Pablo Duarte – 125
22) Reales Atarazanas – 116
23) Casa de Tostado – 66
24) Parque de la Independencia – 49
25) Ceiba de Colón – 46
26) Urna original de los restos del almirante Don Cristóbal Colón – 39
27) Palacio Consistorial – 37
All You Want To Know About The Oldest City In The Americas
I see you are using an ad blocker.
My web site and blogs are privately run. I am not part of any company or government site. I pay for everything on my own so I can share information about Dominican Republic that can be helpful and fun. I am sharing with everyone the information I learned for your benefit and to try and help you enjoy this beautiful Caribbean country.
Please support this website by adding my site to your whitelist in your ad blocker. Visit and support my advertisers. Revenue from Ads are what pay my bills, server fees and keep this web site on line.
Thank you much! Muchas gracias