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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 Plaza and 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 Plaza and 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 along the Caribbean Sea.

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 originally inaugurated in 1982.

The newly renovated Plaza Fray Anton de Montesinos (6-2019)
The newly renovated Plaza Fray Anton de Montesinos (6-2019)

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 and this has finally been accomplished. The newly renovated Plaza Fray Anton de Montesinos was inaugurated June 26, 2019) is open to the public.

The new Plaza Fray Antonio de Montesino
The new Plaza Fray Antonio de Montesino (6-2019)

The Plaza has 5 different meeting rooms with air conditioning. The viewing space at the top of the monument is called Terraza de los Taínos where visitors can see the spectacular view of the surrounding area. The entrances have access ramps for people with disabilities. The marble stairs and floors have all been repaired and polished. There is lighting all surrounding the building.

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.

The old Stairs inside the Monument dedicated to Frey Anton de Montecinos before the renovation
The old Stairs inside the Monument dedicated to Frey Anton de Montecinos before the renovation
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.

Casa de los Jesuitas

Casa de los Jesuitas / House of the Jesuites

home of Sede del Centro de Altos Estudios Humanísticos y del Idioma Español / Headquarters Center for Advanced Humanistic Studies and Spanish Language.

La Casa de los Jesuitas on Calle las Damas
La Casa de los Jesuitas on Calle las Damas

The stone and brick house, Casa de los Jesuitas, is one of the oldest buildings in the city. Governor Fray Nicolás de Ovando ordered the Jesuits to build this house in the early 16th century.

La Casa de los Jesuitas on the corners of Calle las Damas and Las Mercedes
La Casa de los Jesuitas on the corners of Calle las Damas and Las Mercedes

In 1701 ordered to be used as a university. The building was finally completed in 1747.

La Casa de los Jesuitas gargoyle.
La Casa de los Jesuitas gargoyle.

Twenty years later the Jesuits were banned from the Dominican Republic so the building was given to the state. It became the home of the Colegio Santiago de la Paz y Gorjón 1767.

La Casa de los Jesuitas
La Casa de los Jesuitas
Casa de los Jesuitas plaque on wall
Casa de los Jesuitas plaque on wall

Location: The corner of Calle Las Damas and Calle Las Mercedes across from Casa Reales.

Nicolás Ovando

Frey Nicolás de Ovando, Anacanoa Queen of the Taíno and Remembering Ovando

Nicolás de Ovando, Governor of Hispaniola, left a huge mark on this Colonial City. His strength, his cruelty and the developments he made to the original colony are both good and bad.

Frey Nicolás de Ovando | Anacaona Taíno Queen | The Residence of Governor Nicolás Ovando | Remembering Ovando

Frey Nicolás de Ovando

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.

Frey Nicolás Ovando y Cáceres
Frey Nicolás Ovando y Cáceres

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.

Anacaona

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.

Statue of Anacaona in Parque Colon
Statue of Anacaona in Parque Colon

A statue of Anacona can be seen in Parque Colón climbing up the side of the Columbus statue.

Frey Nicolas de Ovando statue in Plaza España
Frey Nicolas de Ovando statue in Plaza España

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.

Home of Ovando on Calle las Damas
Home of Ovando on Calle las Damas

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 view of the Home of Governor Nicolás de Ovando in the Colonial City
The view of the Home of Governor Nicolás de Ovando in the Colonial City

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.

The interior of the renovated colonial home of Governor Nicolás de Ovando
The interior of the renovated colonial home of Governor Nicolás de Ovando

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.

Remembering 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”.

The outline of the bronze statue of Fray Nicolás Ovando in Plaza Espana
The outline of the bronze statue of Fray Nicolás Ovando in Plaza Espana

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.