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.
Marcelo de Villalobos. Born in Seville in 1480 – Died in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic), 1526. He was part of the first Audience of Santo Domingo. He was one of the 3 original judges appointed by the Queen of Spain sent to the city of Santo Domingo. Villalobos ended up dying in debt to the city and the crown.
Marcelo de Villalobos was born in Seville around 1480, the son of Diego de Villalobos and Aldonza de Vera, where he studied law. On October 5, 1511, a Royal Provision, signed by Queen Doña Juana, created an Audiencia y Juzgado / Audience and Court on Hispaniola. He, Juan Ortiz de Matienzo and Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón, were appointed juez de Apelaciones de la dicha “Audiencia y Juzgado” / judge of Appeals of the said “Audience and Court”.
At the end of February 1512 Villalobos left for the Indies, taking with him nine men. After a fairly lengthy stay in the Canary Islands, he and his wife, noble lady, Isabel de Manrique arrived in Santo Domingo. They brought their many servants along. On July 9, 1512 the viceroy Diego Colón gave him possession on Santo Domingo.
Villalobos owned over two hundred Indians, which he used to work in the Cotuí mines. He gained his own home and herds of sheep and cows. He took part in the Slave Trade markets. For all of this and more, he was tried for abuse of power.
Villalobos died on July 25, 1526. He was deeply in debt to the city of Santo Domingo. The crown sought to collect from his family, but because of the devastating hurricane of October 6, 1526, they suspended all financial obligations for a year. Finally, on January 1528, the bailiff took possession, from his daughters, of the domicile of the Villalobos on behalf of His Majesty.
The house where Marcelo de Villalobos lived and died is located on Calle Arzobispo Meriño (near Mercedes and the Parking Garage) in the Colonial Zone. All that is there to recognize this home is a plaque on the wall.
The plaque on the wall of the home reads –
“Esta casa fue la morada del Licenciado Marcelo de Villalobos. Primer jues de la corte de apelacion en la isla de la Española y el nuevo mundo, en los comienzo del siglo XVI (1512 – 1526). Fray Vincente Rubio” /
This house was the abode of Mr. Marcelo de Villalobos. First judge of the court of appeal on the island of Hispaniola and the new world, at the beginning of the 16th century (1512 – 1526). Fray Vincente Rubio.
All You Want To Know About The Oldest City In The Americas