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Puerta de la Misericordia

Puerta de la Misericordia / Door of Mercy

The Puerta de la Misericordia, originally named Puerta de Santiago and Puerta Grande, was the first fortified gate of the city of Santo Domingo. The lone wall was once part of the original wall that ran along the edge of the First city in the Americas, from Puerta del Conde (Parque Independencia) to Fuerte San Gil at the edge of the sea.

Announcing Independence February 27, 1844 | The Statue of General Matías Ramón Mella

Puerta de la Misericordia panoramic view in  2013
Puerta de la Misericordia panoramic view in 2013

The door was designed by the architect Rodrigo de Liendo and constructed in 1543; the bulwarks were added in 1568. In the colonial period the gate served as access to the great plains of the south. The wall was connected to and protected by the military of the Fuerte de San Gil which is located just a few hundred feet south at the shore of the Caribbean.

Puerta de la Misericordia panoramic with the flag of Dominican Republic flying proudly above.
Puerta de la Misericordia panoramic with the flag of Dominican Republic flying proudly above.

The gate received its current name, Puerta Misericordia (Gate of Mercy), in 1842. At this time the survivors of the many earthquakes and storms that occurred on the island gathered here to place the Blessed Sacrament thanking God for his mercy.

Puerta de la Misericordia in the early morning.
Puerta de la Misericordia in the early morning.

Announcing Independence February 27, 1844

The Puerta de la Misericordia is the place that Ramón Matías Mella fired his legendary blunderbuss (a muzzle-loading firearm) of February 27, 1844, to announce the independence of the Dominican Republic from Haiti after taking back the Fortaleza Ozama. At the same time of this shot, Francisco del Rosario Sanchez hoisted the Dominican flag in the Fortaleza.

Puerta de la Misericordia look out tower accessed by the catwalk.
Puerta de la Misericordia look out tower accessed by the catwalk.

Interesting Facts

*Near the door is a courtyard that held a scaffold used to execute those who were condemned to death. At one time there was a small chapel located in the courtyard.

*During the archaeological excavations in 1980, two small fortines (semicircular forts) that once flanked the walls were discovered.

*Located in the small plaza is a statue of Ramón Matías Mella, one of the Founding Fathers of the country.

The statue of Ramón Matías Mella at the Puerta de la Misericordia
The statue of Ramón Matías Mella at the Puerta de la Misericordia

The area surrounding the gate is now a nice little place to visit. You can sit and enjoy the view of the Fort San Gil and the Caribbean Sea located across the Malecon. There is also a Colmado across the street where you can get a little refreshment after walking around the Colonial City. You can notice that there is a catwalk over the top of the wall but it is blocked. Some of the original wall has been cut to make room for the street to pass making accessing the walk difficult.

The view of the Gate of Mercy from Calle Padre Billini with Palo Hincado passing in front.
The view of the Gate of Mercy from Calle Padre Billini with Palo Hincado passing in front.

Directions:

From The Calle el Conde at Parque Independencia walk towards the sea on Calle Palo Hincado the street that separates Ciudad Colonial from Ciudad Nueva. Calle Arzobispo Portes stops at the door.

Plaza Patriótica at the Puerta de la Misericordia honoring General Matías Ramón Mella
Plaza Patriótica at the Puerta de la Misericordia honoring General Matías Ramón Mella

The Statue of General Matías Ramón Mella

Plaza Patriótica / Patriotic Square
General Matías Ramón Mella
February 25, 1816 – June 4, 1864

Located in front of Puerta Misericordia was a bust statue Ramón Matías Mella, one of the Founding Fathers of the Republica Dominicana. It was replaced with a full body statue honoring the anniversary of Mellas birth.

Close up of the statue honoring General Matías Ramón Mella
Close up of the statue honoring General Matías Ramón Mella

The plaque on the statue monument reads:
En homenaje al Padre de la Patria,
General Matías Ramón Mella
Héroe de la Independencia y de la
Restauración de la República Dominicana,
considerado el más grande genio y
estratega militar dominicano
de todos los tiempos.
Político liberal. Independentista eterno.

(English translation)
In homage to the Father of the Nation,
General Matías Ramón Mella
Hero of Independence and the
Restoration of the Dominican Republic,
considered the greatest genius and
Dominican military strategist
of all times.
Liberal politician. Eternal independence.

CPEP
Comision Permanente / Permanent Commission
From Efemerides Patrias

Proyecto Patriótico de Cultura Cívica / Patriotic Civic Culture Project
Foundación Luces y Sombras

Bicentenario de su natalicio / Bicentennial of his birth
25 Febrero 2016

Gobierno Constitucional
Lic. Danilo Medina Sánchez
2012-2016

The bust of General Matías Ramón Mella what was replaced by the statue.
The bust of General Matías Ramón Mella what was replaced by the statue.

The bust of Sanchez that was replaced by the statue read:

Gobierno Constitucional
Dr. Leonel Fernández
2004-2008

Fortaleza Ozama

The Fortress of Santo Domingo also known as Fortaleza Ozama

The Fortaleza Ozama is considered to be one of the oldest forts of its kind on the entire American continent. It was built between 1502 and 1508. Built with coral brought from the sea that were skillfully cut into blocks that fit tightly together. This fort extended from the eastern to the western bank of the Rio Ozama / Ozama River (Ozama is the Taino word for navigable waters or wetlands). It is one of the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites inside the Colonial City.

Sun Rise Over Fortaleza Ozama
Sun Rise Over Fortaleza Ozama

Fortelaza Ozama | Fortaleza Ozama – Inside The Walls of Fortaleza Ozama | (1)La Puerta de Charles III/ The Gate of the Fortress | (2)The Statue of Oviedo | (3)The Tower of Homage/ Torre del Homenaje | (4)The Arsenal/ Armory Polvorín de Santa Bárbara | (5 & 6)The Low and High Shooting Platforms | (7)The remains of the First Fort/ Primera Obra | (8)Old Army Barracks | (9)The Fort of Santiago/ Fuerte de Santiago | (10)Casa de Bastidas | (11)Muralla de Felix Benito | Fortaleza Ozama in 1910 | Picture Collection over 300 pictures of the Fortaleza Ozama |

Map Inside Fortaleza Ozama Numbered 1

Map Inside Fortaleza Ozama Numbered 1

Governor Ovando

Governor Frey Nicolas de Ovando, the founder of the city of Santo Domingo, is the person who personally chose this spot for this military installation. The fort was built by the labor of the African and Taino slaves, as were most of the buildings of this era.

The strategic location of this fort gives it a perfect view of any ship or person trying to gain entry into the city of Santo Domingo. From high on the steep bank the fort overlooks both the Ozama River and the Caribbean Sea. This is where all the departures of the great expeditions to other regions of the Americas began. The strategic location was a perfect way to defend the city against attack by marauder and pirate, common occurrences at this time. The perfect placement of the fort made it a very formidable stronghold. It was never seized by force, even though many attempts were made. Considered to be “The Axis of the Conquest” Fortaleza Ozama was built by the Spaniards after they finished exploring the entire island.

Master builder Gómez Garcia de Varela was responsible for the building of this fort in all its stages. First was the erection of the tower. Then came the shooting platforms and the main defensive fort. As time passed new facilities were added and old ones modified as needed.

Etntrance To The Fortaleza Ozama
Etntrance To The Fortaleza Ozama

The Walls

The walls encompassing the fort are three meters thick with exception of the wall bordering the river. The river wall is only one meter thick. This was done so that if there was an explosion the wall would explode outward to the river. This restricted maximum possible damage.

The outer new wall, The Muralla de Felix Benito, was built when Port Santo Domingo and the sea road, the Malecon, was created. The dredge that was taken out of the port was used to make the land on which the highway now runs.

Visiting the Torre del Homenaje you will notice that it is very cool inside. This is because of the towers thick walls. This makes the climb to the top of the tower a pleasant experience even when done during the mid-day heat. The coral rock, which is what the buildings are made of, is a good moisture absorber. The cement holding it all together was made of gypsum, clay, lime and the blood of animals. This strong cement became stronger as time went on.

The Back Gate Wall of Fortaleza Ozama
The Back Gate Wall of Fortaleza Ozama

Fort Ozama was used as a prison up to the 1960s. It housed many of the Dominican Republics’ political prisoners as well. In the 1970s the fort was retired from military service. At this time the fort was restored and opened to the public.

In the outside wall of Fortaleza Ozama hear the main entrance is a Cannonball embedded in the wall.
In the outside wall of Fortaleza Ozama hear the main entrance is a Cannonball embedded in the wall.

Visiting Fortaleza Ozama

When visiting the fort be sure to take some time and walk the grounds to see the entire fort. Walk the perimeter of the wall that is lined with cannons. At the far corner of the back wall is an old look-out tower that has a Gothic feel. If the gate is open you can go down the old ramp to the lower shooting platform. If your visit coincides with mango season you might be able to pick a mango off one of the many trees along the back wall.

A few times I walked and took my time I found pieces of pottery and porcelain that are very old and I was told some pieces are from Portugal. Some pieces match the styles in the Museo of Casa Reales.

Sherd of history on the dirt  inside Fortaleza Ozama.
Sherd of history on the dirt inside Fortaleza Ozama.
Sherds from old pottery found on the grounds of the Fortaleza Ozama
Sherds from old pottery found on the grounds of the Fortaleza Ozama

Tour guides hang out at the gate if you would like a guided tour. You can go on unguided but a guide can explain so much of the history it is worth the small price you will pay. It costs $60 pesos per person (RD$20 for students and children) to enter and about $300 for a guide to take you, more or less. (price as of 5/2013)

The Entrance To Fortaleza Ozama on Calle Las Damas
The Entrance To Fortaleza Ozama on Calle Las Damas

Location

Located on Calle Las Damas and Calle Pellerano Alfau, Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo. Walking on Calle el Conde towards the river take a right onto Calle las Damas and it will be about 1 block down on the left.
Telephone: 806-686-0222

See the picture slideshow of the Fortaleza Ozama. Picture Collection over 300 pictures of the Fortaleza Ozama

Continue to the 2nd page – Fortaleza Ozama – Inside The Walls of Fortaleza Ozama