Calle Hostos is one of the most beautiful and unique in the Colonial Zone. This very old and historical street runs from North to South through the heart of the Colonial City.
The street originally was named Calle del Hospital, named so because of the Hospital San Nicolás de Bari is located on this calle antiguo. Hostos was also called Calle Militar.
Calle Militar changed its name again in 1904. The name was changed to what it is today, Calle Hostos. It is named after the Dominican national hero and educator Eugenio María de Hostos (1839-1903).
The most beautiful and most photographed part of this historic street is going up the steep hill. There are stairs on either side of the steep cobblestone street. Here you can see some of the original old wooden houses, protected by UNESCO, lining the incline.
Calle Hostos has been the location for many different movie shoots the most famous being The Godfather III.
Calle Las Damas/ Street of the Ladies is the oldest street in the Americas. It is a beautiful street lined with historical buildings from the original settlement of Santo Domingo.
Calle Las Damas
was originally named Calle de la Fortaleza/ The street of Strength or Fortress when it was created in 1502 during the reign of Nicolás de Ovando. The street has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The arrival of Admiral and Viceroy Diego Columbus and his wife doña María de Toledo brought a little class to this new city. María de Toledo was the great niece of the King of Spain, King Ferdinand. Many of the high society of Spain and the ladies “of culture” took up residence on Calle de la Fortaleza. The name was changed later to Calle las Damas, named for the Ladies-in-Waiting that strolled up and down its north to south running length.
A Street of Many Names
During its history the street had many names, most of the names came about because of a name of a building built along its path. In 1659 the name was changed to Calle Colón in honor of Cristóbal Colón. The other names for this street were Calle del Gobierno, Calle del Palacio, Calle de la Capitanía General and Calle del Convento de Los Jesuitas. Finally, the street returned to its original historical name, Calle las Damas. The name remains to this day.
Visit Calle Las Damas
Strolling down Calle las Damas makes for a nice walk. From The Stairs of Las Damas / Escaleras de las Damas to Casa Reales at the Plaza Reloj de Sol / Sun Dial there are many Colonial Monuments to see. Not much traffic passes on the stone path. You will be surrounded by beautifully restored buildings on both sides of the street. While walking you can almost feel like you are among the privileged people from times past that used to take their afternoon stroll along this historical street of the colony. It is a must visit here in the Colonial City.
Calle las Damas runs North and South from Plaza Reloj de Sol at Casa Reales to the Malecon (Av. George Washington) ending with the long and hidden Stairs of Las Damas/ Escaleras de las Damas (The stairs, built in the 1930’s, connect the Malecon to Calle las Damas at Plaza / Park Pellerano Castro.
Frey Nicolás Ovando y Cáceres (1451-1511) was born into a rich family in Spain. In 1502 he becomes 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 the rule of Ovando 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 the 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 Ovando’s 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.
Residencia de Governor Nicolás Ovando
The Residencia de Ovando is a stunning mansion built especially for the Governor Nicolás de Ovando, the first Governor in the Americas. As you enter the Colonial City from the east, this monster of a home looms atop the stone wall overlooking Rio Ozama.
The magnificently renovated colonial home of Governor Nicolás de Ovando y Cáceres resembles a small castle. It sits behind the walls of Fuerte Invincible. They built it about 1502 for the Governor. It is also known as the Casa de la Virreina and the Casa de los Cañones.
This Elizabethan Gothic style home, now a luxury hotel Hodelpa Nicolás de Ovando, has been beautifully restored. Perching high above Rio Ozama, it takes up an entire street block sitting next to the Casa de la Familia Dávila. The casa has beautifully carved stone windows. The elegant interior exhibits a stunning mahogany wood ceiling and a spacious exterior courtyard (where the hotel pool is located) that faces the Ozama River. There are also entrances to some of the underground tunnels, wells and culverts that wind beneath the colonial city (you cannot enter but you can look down into these tunnels).
The first constitutional president of the Dominican Republic, Pedro Santana, lived in the home for a short time.
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 first monastery in the new world in 1508. El Monasterio de San Francisco now stands in ruins.