National Geographic : 1931 Jan
HISPANIOLA REDISCOVERED Dominican Republic. Then the heights be gin to drop once more, sloping off through Porto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Mar tinique. So, too, in a way, this little land has been the pantheon of American history. In the beginning, all roads from Europe led to it, and later it became the center from which radiated Spanish influence in the Western World. During its first century of existence the country continued to be the base of opera tions for Spanish explorers and conquista dores. For the two succeeding centuries it was the battle ground of the buccaneers of many nations. Its exposed position as the key to the Caribbean in the formative days of Amer ican history made this land a coveted place in many dreams of empire, and France, Spain, and England used it as a pawn in their great game of world power. In 1821 Santo Domingo rose to the urge that had stirred the hearts of the peoples of the Latin countries of the New World and joined with many other lands in de claring its independence ; but it soon proved to be too weak to maintain itself, and a year later fell under the rule of its neigh bor, the Republic of Haiti-a yoke it was not able to cast off until 1844. In 1861, with the United States busy with its own Civil War, Haiti saw an op portunity to regain control of the whole island. Unhappy as had been Santo Do mingo's experiences under Spanish rule, they seemed pleasant when the winds of another Haitian era blew menacingly over the land. And so the country sought an nexation to Spain as a welcome alternative. Two years later a revolution was started to throw off the rule that had been ac cepted with eagerness in 1861, and in 1865 Spain once more bade her irreconcilable daughter go her own way. COLUMBUS DENIED ADMITTANCE TO CITY HE FOUNDED Easily the center of interest in the coun try is the capital, Santo Domingo City. Upon entering the harbor of this oldest city founded by Europeans in America, one is reminded of the time when Colum bus himself, under whose direction it was established, was refused entrance here. In June, 1502, then on his fourth voyage of discovery, the First Admiral appeared with a small fleet of four vessels before the city and asked permission to enter the harbor for protection from a hurricane he believed to be impending. For political reasons, this was refused by Nicolas de Ovando, then governor of the colony. One can imagine the thoughts which must have come to Hispaniola's discoverer, as he sadly resumed his voyage and found refuge in a bay farther along the coast, where with his little flotilla he rode out the storm in safety. As he steered his craft out of the har bor which owed but denied him haven, another fleet was weighing anchor for Spain. On the best craft of the fleet was Bobadilla, who had sent him back to Spain in chains. Roldan and other foes were also aboard that fleet. One of the two weakest ships of the squadron carried De Bastidas, the loyal friend, and the other the goods of the First Admiral. Derision met the veteran sailor's warn ing that a hurricane was brewing in the east; but before the Europe-bound fleet had rounded the headlands of Mona Pas sage, the storm broke. Only two ships survived and these carried the property of the First Admiral and the person of his loyal friend. SANTO DOMINGO IS OLDEST CITY IN AMERICA FOUNDED BY EUROPEANS Santo Domingo City, although now mod ernized, still retains much of its Spanish colonial aspect. "Oldest in the New World" and "first to be established by white men in America" are phrases of inevitable recurrence in any descriptive list of the historic buildings and ruins of this ancient city. The early colonists built for the centuries, and many edifices dating from the sixteenth century are still in use. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other departments of the Dominican Gov ernment occupy the old colonial palace of government-a spacious structure that was venerable long before the first buildings rose at Jamestown, Virginia. Surmounting a bluff which commands the entrance to the inner harbor rises the ancient Tower of Homage. Unshaken through the centuries, this pioneer out post of New World conquest seems to dream of the golden age when it guarded the key city of the far-flung empire of Spain in America.