Santo Domingo (city)

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Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic, situated on the southern shore of the island of Hispaniola along the Ozama River. Since earliest Spanish colonial times, Santo Domingo has been the largest and most important urban settlement in the Dominican Republic. Its role as administrative, trade, and industrial center helped to make it the largest urban agglomeration of the entire Caribbean. As of 2007, 2.25 million people, almost a quarter of the country's population of about 9.2 million, resides in the 60 square miles of this city, which is home to 47 percent of the urban population, 55 percent of all industrial workers, and 63 percent of all white-collar workers of the Dominican Republic. The population can be divided into four major social groups: (1) the largest group, constituting 48 to 50 percent of all households, consists of poor and marginal slum dwellers who reside in some of the worst barrios of the Caribbean; (2) the second largest group (30-35 percent) consists of those who have overcome extreme poverty and live in relatively stable economic conditions; (3) a heterogeneous middle class constitutes 12 to 15 percent of the population; and (4) a very wealthy elite makes up 2 percent of the populace.

The city of Santo Domingo was founded on 4 August 1496 by Bartolomé Colón, brother of Christopher Columbus. It became the capital of the Spanish colonial realm in the Americas, and it was from here that Spanish conquistadores (Hernán Cortés, Diego de Velásquez, Juan Ponce de León) launched their conquests of other parts of the Americas. The city's buildings were originally made of wood, but after a violent hurricane in 1502, many stone buildings were erected, among them the first cathedral (Catedral Primada de India), first university, first hospital, and first paved street in the Americas. In 1586 the city was pillaged and partially destroyed by Francis Drake.

With the rapid expansion of Spanish colonial rule in the Americas and the discovery of gold in Mexico and Peru, Santo Domingo, along with the rest of the country, became a backwater of the Spanish colonial empire. Natural catastrophes, Haitian invasions, and civil wars prevented the growth and expansion of the city during the next three centuries. The census of 1908 registered a mere 19,000 inhabitants.

After a devastating hurricane destroyed most of the capital in September 1930, Santo Domingo had to be reconstructed. The only buildings that withstood the storm were the stone buildings dating from colonial times. It was not until the reign of dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina (1930–1961) that Santo Domingo—named Ciudad Trujillo from 1936 to 1961—underwent a large public building program consisting of massive neoclassical edifices such as the Presidential Palace, the Palace of Fine Arts, and buildings at "La Feria" (the fair). In 1966, the government established a national university there. In 1990 UNESCO made the city a World Heritage site.

See alsoDominican Republic .


Joaquín Balaguer, Guía emocional de la ciudad romántica (1969).

Additional Bibliography

Hoffnung-Garskof, Jesse. A Tale of Two Cities: Santo Domingo and New York after 1950. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008.

Pérez Montás, Eugenio. La ciudad del Ozama: 500 años de historia urbana. 2nd ed. Santo Domingo: Patronato de la Cuidad Colonial de Santo Domingo, 1999.

                                     Kai P. Schoenhals

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Santo Domingo (formerly Ciudad Trujillo, 1936–61) Capital and chief port of the Dominican Republic, on the s coast of the island, on the River Ozama. Founded in 1496, the city is the oldest continuous European settlement in the Americas. It was the seat of the Spanish viceroys in the early 1500s, and base for the Spaniards' conquering expeditions until it was devastated by an earthquake in 1562. It houses more than a third of the country's population, many of whom work in the sugar industry. Pop. (2002 est.) 2,061,200; 2,799,600 (metro.).