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Calle Las Damas

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 - Raising the flag at the Panteón Nacional.
Calle Las Damas – Raising the flag at the Panteón Nacional.

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.

Calle las Damas in the morning.
Calle las Damas in the morning.

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.

Calle Las Damas - Nuns strolling down the street.
Calle Las Damas – Nuns strolling down the street.

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 the street returned to its original historical name, Calle las Damas. The name remains to this day.

The sign on Calle Las Damas with many of the names this street has been called.
The sign on Calle Las Damas with many of the names this street has been called.

Visit Calle Las Damas

Strolling down Calle las Damas makes for a nice walk. 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.

Some of the monuments you can see and / or visit along this street include The Fortaleza Ozama, Panteón Nacional and make sure to stop and take a rest in the beautiful Plaza María De Toledo or Plaza Pellerano Castro, lovingly called Parque Rosado.

Calle Las Damas - Escaleras las Damas
Calle Las Damas – Escaleras las Damas

Location:

Calle las Damas runs North and South from Plaza España to the Malecon ending with the long and hidden Stairs of Las Damas/ Escaleras de las Damas (The stairs connect the Malecon to Calle las Damas at Plaza/ Park Pellerano Castro.

Diego Colón

Diego Colón (Columbus) 1480 – 1526

Diego Colón

Diego Colón was the first born son of Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colón). He was thought to have been born in Lisbon or Porto Santo, Portugal. Felipa Perestrello e Moniz, Diego’s mother, died when he was 4 years old.

From a very young age Diego belonged to the Spanish court as page of the prince Don Juan and later he was a page to the queen.

Diego married Maria de Toledo in 1508. María de Toledo y Rojas o María Álvarez de Toledo was the Granddaughter of the First Duke of Alba, Niece of the Second Duke of Alba, Cousin of King Ferdinand II of Aragón El Católico, and Great-Niece of the Catholic Kings. Because she was of noble lineage and her family had much influence in the Spanish court, this allowed Diego to obtain official recognition and thus granted him many privileges.

Governor of the Indies

In 1509 Diego Columbus was named Governor of the Indies when he arrived in Hispaniola to replace Nicholas de Ovando. He was accompanied by his wife, uncles, their brother Fernando and a large following.

During the government of Diego Columbus in Hispaniola Cuba, Puerto Rico and Jamaica were also conquered by the Spanish.

Alcazar de Colon – Home of Don Diego Colón

As soon as Diego settled in the colony and built his residence, The Columbus Palace/ Alcazar de Colon, he began to grant privileges to the people who arrived with him. All were given homes and property and many were granted seats in the government. This favoritism caused much discourse among many residents of the island. These residents complained before the court and demanded better treatment by the Governor. Fed up with the special treatment Miguel de Pasamonte, the Treasurer formed a group called The Servants of the King. They formed to oppose the governing group. To stop the fighting between the two groups the monarch created the Real Audience, a court that reduced the powers of the governor.

One of the many problems that confronted the Governor was how the Dominican priests defended the Indians. The defense of the Indians was initiated by Fray Antón de Montecinos. He gave a sermon that demanded better treatment for the natives. The governor and other authorities were all present when Montecinos made his famous speech in 1511. Montecinos was made Viceroy of the Indies in May 1511, remaining in charge until 1518.

Diego Returns to Spain

The many conflicts in Hispaniola forced the king to replace Diego Columbus and he returned to Spain. After being in Spain for a few years he again gained the favor of the king. Diego returned to his governorship in 1520.

Two years later the first rise of the black slaves took place. This new government was calmer than the previous one. Still King Carlos V finally suspended, for the second time, the son of Christopher Columbus from the government of Hispaniola.

Columbus returned to Spain in 1523. According to the capitulations of Santa Fe that were signed by Columbus and Catholic Kings, all the titles that were granted to Christopher would be inherited by Diego. Yet, when Diego died in 1526 he never got the promised recognition of the inherited rights that were promised to him by his father.

Columbus Palace

Palacio Virreinal Alcázar de Colón / Columbus Royal Palace

The Palacio Virreinal Alcázar de Colón (Colón is the Spanish word for Columbus), short name is Alcazar de Colon. In English it is known as The Columbus Palace. This beautiful historical monument and UNESCO World Heritage site is a 22 room stone home built by Christopher Columbus son, Don Diego Colón and his wife María de Toledo.

1. Alcázar de Colón 2. Museo Alcázar de Colón 3. Maria de Toledo Statue 4. Directions

Alcázar de Colón

The Palacio Virreinal Alcazar de Colon and the Puerta San Diego as seen from the Malecon entering the Colonial City.
The Palacio Virreinal Alcazar de Colon and the Puerta San Diego as seen from the Malecon entering the Colonial City.

Diego and Maria Toledo resided in this 50 room Viceregal palace, during Diego’s term as viceroy. It has beautiful gardens, large balconies and amazing courtyards. This fortress was built during the early 1500s to be the seat of the viceroy court.

Diego and his wife, Maria de Toledo, lived here until 1523 when he was recalled to Spain. Other relatives lived here for decades afterward.

This building was abandoned in 1770 and turned into a garbage dump. Cave-ins in 1809 and 1835 left the building in ruins.

The Palacio Virreinal Alcazar de Colon in ruins 1910
The Palacio Virreinal Alcazar de Colon in ruins 1910

The building was restored by highly skilled stone cutters under orders of President Trujillo. There were some added refinements made during several later restorations. The size is much smaller than the original building. All rebuilding was done to remain as faithful as possible to the original construction and decor. Not one single nail was used in its construction. It opened to the public on Columbus Day in 1957.

The Alcazar Colón in the Colonial Zone seen from the cat walk over top of the Puerta Don Diego.
The Alcazar Colón seen from the cat walk over top of the Puerta Don Diego.

The palace sits in a large open square, Plaza de Armas or Plaza de España. There are always some interesting activities happening in this beautiful plaza and if there are no activities it is still a nice place to sit in one of the benches located around the edge of the plaza.

The Alcazar looks beautiful at night with the lights shining on the stone-coral building. The Palacio Virreinal is a must-see by those who want to learn about Santo Domingo’s historical beginnings.

The front porch of the Palace
The front porch of the Palace

Museum of the Royal Houses / Museo Alcazar de Colón

Inside the Museum of Alcazar Colón
Inside the Museum of Alcazar Colón

Located inside the Alcazar is a museum that is home to an extensive collection of furniture and household items from the colonial period all arranged to look as if it is being lived in to this day.

Inside the museum
Inside the museum

On display in the mansion is furniture, many clothing items and home utensils from the era, all supplied by the Spanish government. The furnishings are not the original household furnishings. Since the building was in ruins for many centuries it was ransacked and all the furnishings taken or destroyed.

Suit of Armor in the museum Alcazar de Colón
Suit of Armor in the museum

The museum is open to the public Tuesday to Saturday 9AM – 5PM and Sundays from 9AM to 4PM
General admission is RD$50 (6/2012)

Maria de Toledo Statue

The statue of Maria de Toledo on the side of the Alcazar
The statue of Maria de Toledo on the side of the Alcazar

It is also important to note that in the side yard is a statue of Maria de Toledo, the niece of the King of Spain and wife of Diego Colón, the son of Christopher Colón.

Maria was the first person of noble lineage to come to the Spanish island in 1509. She was the great-niece of the Catholic Monarchs and granddaughter of the Duke of Alba).

Maria de Toledo statue close
Maria de Toledo statue close

María de Toledo was a gracious host and loved having parties and visitors to her home. The statue of her seems to be inviting guests to her home.

*Note- Mid-2017 the statue was moved to the Plaza Maria de Toledo between Isabel la Católica and Calle las Damas.

Alcazar de Colon in the morning.
Alcazar de Colon in the morning.

Directions

Calle Las Damas at Plaza España. Walking west on Calle el Conde go almost to the end at Calle Las Damas. Turn left and continue walking about 1 1/2 blocks straight ahead. The street will turn into a pedestrian only plaza. Keep walking and you will see the giant palace in the distance. You cannot miss it.