Mercado Modelo is a large shopping mall and public market. The market spills out into the street and surrounding area. Inside the historic building are mostly gift shops aimed towards tourists. Around the exterior of the building and along the streets are fruit and vegetable stands plus so much more. The area is very chaotic and the streets can be dirty and nasty. All the good and bad combine to show a very interesting and special part of Dominican culture.
Inside the market, you will mostly find souvenir shop after souvenir shop, a well-known tourist trap. They are selling every gift shop item you can imagine. Some items are made in the Dominican Republic while others are imported from who knows where.
The exterior of the Mercado Modelo has an entirely different vibe. Here you can find just about anything from handmade baskets, fresh produce and more.
There are some Santeria Shops selling, herbal remedies, potiches, amulets and items that bring good luck or can cancel out the evil eye. Santeria Shops also sell religious items including statues, crosses, sainted halos and sacred crowns, botanicals and incense.
There are fresh meat markets selling fresh-cut beef and chickens killed and cleaned to order.
Surrounding the exterior of Mercado Modelo you can find fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs, raw coffee beans and cacao.
Just about every dried herbs and beans are there in abundance including some very strange-looking unknown dried items.
Around the Mercado Modelo you can find people selling fresh-squeezed fruit juices, fried foods and empanadas cooked to order.
There is a market outside where vendors are selling a wide variety of flowers and plants. Some are locally grown and other flowers are exotic and shipped into the country.
Warnings and precautions to take when visiting Mercado Modelo
*Be aware of your surroundings and belongings. I recommend if you head to this area do NOT take or wear anything of value (phones, jewelry). There are many thieves that roam the area looking for an opportunity to take advantage of tourists and unsuspecting people.
*The area can be very chaotic and hectic with humans, dogs and vehicles everywhere. Just relax, take a deep breath and embrace the chaos.
*Be sure to haggle a little or a lot. Do not accept the first price given for the most part. Especially if you have TOURIST written in bold letters across your forehead..lol. If not sure ask someone not working in the shops for help. Then might guide you as to what the item really sells for so you are aware.
History – Location
Mercado Modelo was designed by Henry Gazon Bona and constructed by Guido D Alessandro Lombardi in 1941. The modern market place was inaugurated in 1943 in then Ciudad Trujillo.
Location – Avenida Mella #505 between Altagracia y Tomás de la Concha, San Carlos, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Walking from Colonial Zone walking on Calle el Conde turn up (away from the sea) on Calle Sanchez. When you hit Av. Mella, you will notice the market across the street. This is the easiest and most direct way to get to Mercado Modelo.
Parque Independencia is a must-visit when you are exploring the oldest city in the Americas, especially if you are interested in the history of the Dominican people and their fight for freedom. The park houses the Altar de la Patria. Home of the mausoleum for the founding fathers of the Dominican Republic, Francisco del Rosario Sánchez, Juan Pablo Duarte and Ramón Matías Mella.
Bastión de San Genaro(¹), the original name of this part of the wall, was built in 1543. It is typical of the 17th century built Italian style. Its purpose was to defend the city from a sneak attack by land along with its connecting Fuerte la Concepcion. The wall that this gate is built into ran all the way down to the sea and included the Puerta de la Misericordia. You can also see what remains of the protection moat that surrounded the walled city of Santo Domingo.
(¹)Bastion or bulwark – A projecting part of a fortification built at an angle to the line of a wall, so as to allow defensive fire in several directions. If you look at the map of Santo Domingo you can see the triangle-shaped bastion.
Independence Park / Parque Independencia was converted to a park in 1912 when Architect Antonin Nechodoma did a redesign. This design later made way for the Altar de la Patria. The road that ran through the center of the park was closed and benches added.
Puerta del Conde
The gate Puerta del Conde is named after El Conde de Peñalve / Count of Peñalva, Bernardo de Meneses y Bracamonte. He was the Captain General of the walled city of Santo Domingo. He saved the city, along with his men, from the British invaders during the Siege of Santo Domingo. Admiral William Penn and General Robert Venables led this battle. The Count ordered the wall to be modified and this work was completed in 1655.
On February 27, 1844 Puerta del Conde became the national symbol of Dominican patriotism when Francisco del Rosario Sanchez raised the first Dominican flag. It was here that the heroes of the country overtook the Haitian government and retook the city for their own thus reclaiming their Independence.
Above this gate at the beginning of the Conde Street reads the Latin inscription “ìDulce et Decori est pro patria moriî” translated “It is indeed sweet and honorable to die for the fatherland.”
On February 27, 1933 Rafael Leonidas Trujillo ordered the name of the gate be changed. He changed the official name to the Door of February 27 / Puerta de 27 de Febrero. The Dominican people still call this symbol or patriotism Puerta el Conde. This gate symbolizes the ideals of freedom of the Dominican Republic.
In 1943 Trujillo ordered the remains of the three founding fathers of the Dominican Republic to be moved from the Chapel of the Immortals / Capilla de los Immortales in the Catedral of Santo Domingo. Juan Pablo Duarte, Francisco del Rosario Sanchez and Ramon Matias Mella had a new resting place.
Today the walls surrounding Independence Park serve as a place for temporary exhibitions placed by the Ministry of Culture. There are always interesting exhibits that display a variety of literary, artistic and historical events.
Entering The Gate
The guarded gate Door of the Count / Puerta del Conde or Door of February 27 / Puerta de 27 de Febrero is the entrance to the old walled city of Santo Domingo now known as Colonial Zone / Zona Colonial.
Above the gate is a catwalk that was used for guards to keep their watchful eyes open around the entrance to the city.
As you enter the gate, flanked by uniformed guards called the Guardia Nacional, you will really be leaving the original walled city of Santo Domingo. You are now outside the original protection that existed in the colonial days.
This gate to Fort San Genaro was the main way in and out of the city of Santo Domingo. The walls of defense that surrounded the city were very important for protection, especially these land access gates. They protected the city of Santo Domingo from any attacks coming by land including roving bands of marauders and those sneaky pirates.
As with many of these important military installations they used moats for protection. Here you can see a triangular shaped moat / foso running towards what is now San Carlos. These fosos were used to protect the west along with several guard booths / garitas. Now, there are stairs where you can descend into the moat and shaded tunnels that were once filled with water that are below the park’s walkways.
Plaza at Parque Independencia
After walking through the Puerta del Conde / Gate of the Count you will see the Alley of Heroes. The interior Plaza at Parque Independencia was remodeled and opened to the public on February 27, 2017 on Independence Day.
The Alley of Heros has the busts of 34 national heroes lining either side of the plaza. The busts are made of reinforced fiberglass with a bronze patina. They are 90 centimeters high sitting atop a pyramid shaped base that is covered in coral stone.
These busts include the 7 women and 27 men who helped to make Dominican Republic’s independence and restoration a reality. The busts include The Trinitarians: Juan Isidro Pérez, Pedro Alejandrino Pina, Félix María Ruiz, José María Serra de Castro, Juan Nepomuceno Ravelo, Benito González, Jacinto de la Concha and Felipe Alfau. The Independentistas: General Antonio Duvergé, Vicente Celestino Duarte, General José Joaquín Puello, Admiral Juan Alejandro Acosta, María Trinidad Sánchez, Chepita Pérez de la Paz, María Baltasara de los Reyes, Manuela Díez, Rosa Duarte, Juana Saltitopa, Concepción Bona and Francisco Antonio Salcedo. The Restauradores: Generals Gregorio Luperón and Gaspar Polanco, Pepillo Salcedo, Pedro Antonio Pimentel, Santiago Rodríguez, José María Cabral, Benito Monción, José Cabrera and Timoteo Ogando. There are also the busts of José Contreras, Manuel Rodríguez Objío, Benigno Filomeno de Rojas, Ulises Francisco Espaillat and Pedro Francisco Bonó.
Also included in the Plaza are 2 pyramid-shaped pillars. These pillars describe the plaza and the history of the country’s independence and restoration. A plaque honors the heroism of General Luperon during the war of restoration in 1865.
Pedro Alejandrino Piña
Closest to the wall is a bust of Pedro Alejandrino Piña. He was a writer and one of the nine members who formed The Trinitarian / La Trinitaria for the patriotism who fought for the freedom of the Dominican people. When the group began public protests against Haitian rule in 1843, he was exiled to Curacao with Duarte and Pérez. He returned with Duarte in 1844 when Independence was achieved, but both were again sent to exile in Venezuela the following year when Santana took power. He returned to the DR again to fight the French attempted takeover, the restoration war against the Spanish and the attempted annexation by the USA. He was an influential politician until his death.
Dona Manuela Díez de Duarte
There is also a statue of a beautiful woman looking so calm and gentle and a little forlorn. Holding this distinguished position is Dona Manuela Díez de Duarte, the mother of the Founding Father Juan Pablo Duarte.
Manuela was born in Santa Cruz del Seybo June 27, 1786. She married Juan Jose Duarte in 1800 probably in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. They had eight children: Vicente Celestino, Juan Pablo, Filomena, Rosa, María Francisca, Manuel, Ana María y Sandalia. She occupies a distinguished position in the select group of Women of the Independence. Manuela offered her home to be used for secret meetings of the Trinitaria. She even sold some of her property to purchase weapons for the fight for independence. She died in Caracas, Venezuela on December 31, 1858.
If you walk straight ahead you will see the Altar of the Patriots with its glowing shield atop the tall entrance. It is surrounded by water making it a small island at the back of the park. There are 4 walkway bridges leading to the centrally located marble monument.
Be sure to pay attention as to not trip over the raised bronze sculpture in the center of the walkway. This is a 32 point star compass. It is told that from this compass is measured all points of the country. Here marks kilometer 0 / kilómetro cero.
Altar de la Patria
Altar of the Nation / Altar de la Patria also known as Tumba de los Padres de la Patria / Tomb of the Patriarchs of the Country or more simply the National Mausoleum.
In 1943 Trujillo ordered the remains of the three founding fathers of the Dominican Republic be moved from the Chapel of the Immortals / Capilla de los Immortales in the Catedral of Santo Domingo. Juan Pablo Duarte, Francisco del Rosario Sánchez and Ramon Matias Mella had a new resting place.
The existing Altar de la Patria was designed by architect Cristian Martinez Villanueva and built in 1976 when the park was restored. The new monument made of white marble looms in the center of the park with the bright shining National Shield / Escudo Nacional above its door. This beautiful building is a fitting memorial for the heroes and Founding Fathers of the Dominican Republic.
This unique building is surrounded by water making it a small island at the back of the park. There are 4 walkway bridges leading to the centrally located marble monument.
Within this marble structure Juan Pablo Duarte, Francisco del Rosario Sanchez, and Ramon Matias Mella bodies are interred. A solid marble slab covers each of the 3 founding fathers’ tombs. The large mesmerizing statues of these patriots, carved by Italian sculptor Nicholas Arrighini, stand proud at the head of their tombs.
In the center of the marble shrine burns the eternal flame that is kept lit in memory of the patriots. There are usually flowers and wreaths lovingly placed around the statues to honor the national heroes. The mausoleum is open from 8:30 to 6 daily.
Plaza Patriótica a los Caídos
Outside of the park on the left side is a small fenced off area called Plaza Patriótica a los Caídos de la Revolución de Abril de 1965. Un homenaje del pueblo dominicano a los Héroes y Mártires de la guerra patria De 1965 / Fallen Patriot Square of the Revolution April 1965. A tribute to the Dominican people and the heroes and martyrs of the Patriotic War of 1965.
Note – You do not need a guide to take you through the park so do not be fooled. If you want a guide they are available at the park. Do make sure you agree on a price beforehand.
Parque Independencia, Palo Hincado and Calle el Conde, Colonial Zone, Santo Domingo. The roads surrounding the park are Avenida Independencia, Ave. Bolívar, Palo Hincado, Arzobispo Nouel, Mariano Cesteros. Calle el Conde lines up a direct path to the front gate.
General Rafael Trujillo ruled the Dominican Republic as both president and an oppressive tyrant behind the standing presidents from 1930 until his assassination in May 1961. “El Jefe” or “El Benefactor” built much of the modern infrastructure of the country while holding the title of one of the cruelest dictators in the world.
Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina was born October 24, 1891 in the city of San Cristóbal, Dominican Republic. His parents, very poor, were Jose Trujillo Valdez, into retail sales, and Altagracia Julia Molina, was a housewife considered to be a kindhearted and dear woman. His family was of Spanish, Haitian and Dominican descent.
Trujillo was a typical kid and was exceptionally involved in his studies at school. When he was 16 he got a job as a telegrapher (thanks to his Uncle) and worked in offices near Bani and also in Santo Domingo.
The young Trujillo started changing by getting into trouble. He even spent time in jail. Around 1910 he became interested in politics and joined the National Party of Horacio Vasquez. He partook in many protests of the then president, Don Isidro Jiménez and his government.
During the United States occupation (1916-1924), Trujillo enlisted in the National Guard, trained by the United States Marines, to maintain order after the occupation. Quickly rising to a high rank by 1927, Trujillo became Brigadier General and Commander in Chief of the Dominican Republic’s army.
During the Revolution in Santiago in 1930 he and his followers overthrew the government causing the president, Horacio Vásquez, to resign. Since Trujillo was in the military he had to run his takeover concealed from sight so as not to be charged with treason. On May 16, 1930 Trujillo was chosen to be president without opposition.
* During this time in history there are so many conflicting stories about what really happened. Trujillo rewrote so much of his own history that much of the original documentation was lost. How was he elected? Who killed whom? Who was behind the takeover? If you want more in depth information, I urge you to study more on your own; it is way too political and involved for me to cover here.
“El Benefactor” and “El Jefe”
Trujillo organized the Partido Dominicano (Dominican Party) the year after his election to president. This party controlled Dominican politics for the next three decades. During that time Trujillo was an unconditional dictator. He was called “El Benefactor” and “El Jefe”. He was General of the Army and president from 1930 to 1938 and from 1942 to 1952 and foreign minister from 1953 to 1961. The Trujillo era gave economic soundness to the country yet it did not sanction the people’s freedom.
The ravaging hurricane, Ciclon Zenon, destroyed much of Santo Domingo in 1934. Trujillo concocted a rebuilding plan to revamp the city. His new promotional slogan was “el culto al jefe”. He renamed Santo Domingo Ciudad Trujillo (Trujillo City). He also changed the name of the highest mountain of the country, Pico Duarte to Pico Trujillo (Trujillo Peak) after himself. He renamed towns and streets, had statues of himself erected throughout the country and held many celebrations, parades and holidays, all commemorating himself. In 1955 he claimed January 11 to be “The Day of the Benefactor” (“Año del Benefactor de la Patria”), Trujillo used his political control to gain great personal wealth. He received much support from the United States by becoming one of Latin America’s leading anti-Communists.
The way Trujillo presented himself generated indignation. It started conspiracies in many parts of the country by those who did not agree with Trujillo and his policies. To stop this from happening the government formed a strong Military Intelligence Service called Servicio de Inteligencia Militar (SIM) to watch for these people. Once found, they were nabbed and fated to torture or death. In this way, he kept control of his people.
Controversies & Scandals
In October 1937 Trujillo had made agreements with the Haitian president, Stenio Vincent. He stated that he would permit Haitians to cross the border. Then he changed his mind and again wanted control of the border. It was decided that if a person could not pronounce the letter r in “perejil”, the Spanish word for parsley (the R is difficult for Haitians to pronounce), they would be killed. Thus entailed a great slaughter of the Haitians in Dominican Republic.
The number of people massacred during his tyranny was never confirmed. It is said that from 12,000 to 25,000 Haitian men, women and children were annihilated. To make it look like it was not his fault Trujillo jailed some of the people that committed this atrocity, using them as scapegoats. Trujillo paid $750.000 to the Haitian government.
Trujillo began a program, “Dominicanización de la Fronterá” / Dominicanization of the Border. He favored European immigration. He had an open-door policy admitting Jewish immigrants in the 1930s when most countries were turning away the Jewish people. After the Spanish Civil War he promoted the immigration of the exiles. It is said that he did this to “whiten” the population but it has not been proved. Trujillo was of mixed descent and it is said he wore make-up to lighten his skin.
There were many more scandals during Trujillo’s rule. He was involved in an assignation attempt on President Rómulo Betancourt of Venezuelan, which made the United States and other Latin Countries to pose economic sanctions on Dominican Republic. USA tried to make the Trujillo regime volatile by ending diplomatic ties and creating severe sanctions.
Trujillo ordered the murder of the Mirabal Sisters who were political activists and revolutionaries. The sisters were involved with a group trying to overthrow the government. The ladies were driven home after visiting their husbands in prison. They were stopped and led into a sugar cane field. Here they were beaten and strangled to death.
Trujillo was also entangled in another famous scandal regarding the disappearance of Jesús de Galíndez Suárez while working for the government as a CIA agent. Galíndez went to the USA and wrote his thesis “The Trujillo Era: A Case Study of Hispano-American Dictatorship” / “La era de Trujillo: un estudio casuístico de dictadura hispanoamericana”. This thesis gave many astonishing and exposing histories on the way the dictatorship worked. Galíndez was kidnapped in New York a few days before the book was published. He was never heard from again. It is said that he was taken to the Dominican Republic to be tortured and executed.
Trujillo did do some good for the country. The quality of life in general improved for the average Dominican. He completely paid off all the foreign debts, which was very substantial, and the currency stayed stable. There was still poverty but the economy grew. There was a new road system built and public works services expanded. The port facilities; airports and public buildings were constructed or improved. While the public education system grew illiteracy declined. He fortified the armies and fighting forces of the country. For all these reasons he was loved by the average Dominican. The United States proclaimed Trujillo the “First anti-Communist of America”, Trujillo encouraged diplomatic and economic ties with the U.S., but his policies caused discord among the other Latin American countries. He even, unbeknown to him, aided in the start of women’s rights. The Day of the Woman is celebrated on the anniversary of the murder of the Mirabal sisters.
In 1960 during the term of President Dwight Eisenhower, all the members of the Organization of American States (O.A.S.) agreed to break diplomatic relations with the Dominican Republic. Support of the O.A.S. was lost until Trujillo stopped being a threat. The Dominican Republic was cut off.
Trujillo was murdered by his own armed forces (Antonio de la Maza, Salvador Estrella Sahdalá, Lieutenant Amado García Guerrero, and General Antonio Imbert Barrera) on May 30, 1961 when he was 71 years old. He had just left the home of Doña Angelita Trujillo, located on Ave. Maximum Gomez. He was said to have been there for possibly ten minutes. Then, continuing on to the Bar Restaurante El Pony, he was shot. This ended the “Era of Trujillo”. The “goat” and his 31-year reign ended.
There is suspicion that the CIA of the USA provided the weapons for the assassins hoping to form a fresh, less reactionary government. They feared what happened in Cuba would happen in Dominican Republic and felt it was up to them to take control of another government and stop it before it happened.
The oldest son of Trujillo, Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, Jr., took over after his fathers’ death and headed the country for five months. Ramfis Trujillo, as he was known, went into exile after his term ended and became an international socialite. He died from injuries sustained in an automobile accident.
Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina is buried in Paris in the Cimetière du Père Lachaise. Many of his friends and family went into exile to Canada, France, and Spain. He died one of the richest men in the world.
The Memorial Museum of Dominican Resistance / El Museo Memorial de la Resistencia Dominicana opened May 2011. Here is a collection of more than 160,000 files, photographs, films, objects and books belonging to those who staged the resistance to the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo.
Did you know? – Some interesting facts
*Trujillo had 3 wives. He married Aminta Ledesma, a nice hometown girl from San Cristóbal on August 13, 1913. They had two daughters (one died early). They divorced in 1925. Then Trujillo married Bienvenida Ricardo on March 30, 1927 and divorced in 1935. Trujillo and María de los Angeles Martínez Alba, who he had an affair with, got married after his divorce from Aminta Ledesma in 1935. He had a daughter with Bienvenida one year after their divorce. Trujillo had three children with María Martínez. In 1937 Trujillo met Lina Lovatón Pittaluga and had two children with her.
*There is much controversy happening in the Dominican Republic at this time (2008) on the 47-year anniversary of his death. There was talk of trying to return the remains of Trujillo to DR and place his body along with the national heroes in the Panteón Nacional. Most of the people are strongly opposed to this idea.
*Trujillo was such a baseball lover he invited many black players from the US where they could not play because the teams were segregated. Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige, a Negro League player, went to the Caribbean and Latin America, where the teams were all integrated. He pitched for a team organized by Trujillo. He was trying to gain popularity so he created the “Ciudad Trujillo Team.” He paid Paige $30,000 for winning the Dominican championship. Paige fled the Dominican Republic with his teammates directly after being paid for fear of reprisals by Trujillo’s enemies.
*Zsa Zsa Gabor, David Selznik, Robert Mitchum, Rhonda Fleming, Shirley MacLaine, Maureen O’Hara, Jimmy Stewart, Robert Taylor, Natalie Wood, Joan Collins, were among the many famous friends of the Trujillo family.
The web site The Glamour Girls has some interesting information about Ramfis Trujillo his timeline and his life with the stars.
He also had a very hot romance going on with Kim Novak.
Another friendPorfirio Rubirosa, had dan interesting life.
*Angelita, Trujillos yacht, was the world’s largest, most luxurious and most expensive private yacht of the time. (1957). History of the yacht.
TRUJILLO: El Poder del Jefe II / The Power of the Chief (General, Boss)
This documentary shows the important political and social events that occurred in the Dominican Republic between 1938-1952. Included: The invasions of Cayo Confites and Luperón, the PSP, the Juventud Democrática, the sugar industry strike of 1946, the different conspiracies, as well as Trujillo´s relations with the United States before the beginning of the “Cold War.”
The story about The Mirabal Sisters, Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa, is called In the Time of the Butterflies – English (at Amazon). It is excellent reading and gives much insight into the turbulent and interesting past of the Dominican Republic.
All You Want To Know About The Oldest City In The Americas
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