Monday, December 2, 2013

Annie and Blue in the Dominican Republic

Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic and the first European-built city in the
New World. Santo Domingo was founded by Christopher Columbus’ brother Bartholomew in 1498 who was lieutenant-governor of the Indies.  Christopher Columbus landed on the island in 1492 and called it Hispaniola.  Columbus thought he was in the Indies and we still call the people Columbus met Indians.  Columbus never learned he had found a large continent not known to Europeans.  And, he never found the gold and other riches. When he died he thought he was a failure.

Do you know where Columbus is buried?
When we were in Seville, Spain we saw the bronze coffin with four statues holding it as if they were carrying it. It is said to hold the remains of Columbus. However, the people of the Dominican Republic say he is buried in Santo Domingo.
In Santo Domingo we took a city tour that says learn about “500 years of history in 45 minutes.” On the tour the guide pointed at the cathedral and said in 1877 workers at the cathedral found a heavy lead box with bones in it. A sign on the box said “Illustrious and distinguished male, don Cristobel Colon.” In English it would be “Mr. Christopher Columbus.” The box was returned to where it was found until it was moved to the Lighthouse in 1992. The Lighthouse was built to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage to the New World.  In Santo Domingo the resting place is simpler.  The huge new building is called The Lighthouse and is shaped like a cross with a bright beacon at night.

We think it is amazing to walk the same streets that Christopher Columbus walked over 500 years
ago.  A lot of history has taken place in the historic center of Santo Domingo and, at one time, it was a walled city. Many of the walls and gates are still there.  We visited the house of Columbus’ son, Diego, and Casa Reales, which is where the royal court met. Both are museums with many items from the days of Columbus.  They had a great map of Columbus’ voyages. Columbus never made it to what is now the United States.

Before Columbus arrived the island was inhabited by Native Americans call Taino. It was thought at there were three million Tainos when Columbus arrived but 50 years later there were only about 5,000 left.  They died from overwork, mistreatment and diseases brought by the European for which they had no immunity.  It is still possible to see Taino carvings on rocks.  We saw some when we visited Los Tres Ojos which means The Three Eyes in English.  Los Tres Ojos is a series of small underground lakes that must have been a special place for the Taino.  It is magical looking with roots and greenery hanging down from the open hole in the
ground above the small lakes.  To get to one of the small lakes, our guide, Juan pulled us across a lake on a raft hooked to a rope and then we walked a short distance to a beautiful lake.  There were a lot of stalactites and stalagmites.  Do you know what they are? They are pointy stone formations found in limestone caves.  Some hang down like icicles others point up. We learned that “the mites go up and the tites come done” but maybe a better way to remember which is which is that the one with a “g” in it refers to the one on the ground and the one with a “c” refers to the one on the ceiling. I think it would have been fun to go swimming there but it wasn’t allowed.