Dominican Republic History
and the Noble Taino
The Tainos were a big part of the Dominican Republic History. But things changed when Christopher Columbus arrived...
In the beginning the Arawak Tribe
arrived in Hispaniola from the
Orinoco Valley (what is now
Venezuela) sometime around 1000
B.C. and they gradually mixed with
the natives of the island.
They called themselves Tainos.
Taino means "good or noble".
They used this name to separate themselves from the more warlike Arawaks called The Caribs.
When Cristobal Colon (Spanish for Christopher Columbus) arrived in 1492, he landed on the North Coast of the island. He named this island La Española or Hispaniola. He also called the indigenous people "Indians" because he thought he had reached the east coast of India.
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Soon after he started building a fortress. He noted in his journal: “I have ordered a tower and fortress to be constructed and, a large cellar, not because I believe there is any necessity on account of the natives, I am certain the people I have with me could subjugate all this island … as the population are naked and without arms and very cowardly." He called this fortress La Navidad because it was founded on Christmas Day.
La Isabela, First Settlement in the New World
La Isabela was founded by Christopher
Columbus during his second voyage in 1493.
This was after discovering that the fort
La Navidad, had been totally destroyed by
the native Taino people.
He was told by nearby Tainos that the
settlers had mistreated the natives, who
retaliated by killing all of them.
This second settlement was named
"La Isabela" in honor of the Queen
of Spain Isabella the Catholic or
Elizabeth the Catholic.
This is where the city of Puerto Plata is
in present time.
La Isabela is considered the first formal
European settlement in the New World.
La Isabela was struck by two hurricanes.
One in 1494 and another in 1495.
After these hurricanes hunger and disease
soon led to mutiny, punishment, disillusion,
and more hunger and disease.
It reached the point where a group of
settlers attempted to take several ships
and go back to Spain.
Isabela barely survived until 1496 when
Columbus decided to abandon it for a new
settlement, Santo Domingo.
The Taino Massacre
Cristobal Colon liked this island for its gold and the convenient location. Also the natives where mild-mannered and easy to control. The Spanish wanted to convert the Tainos to Christianity. They also enslaved many of them under The Encomienda System.
The Encomienda System was a Spanish legal system that allowed the new settlers to force the indigenous people to work for them.
Although the Tainos were peaceful by nature they couldn't take the abuse of their women and the hard labor they were made to endure.
So in 1495 they rebelled against the Spanish. But unfortunately the Spanish defeated them. In this unfair Dominican Republic history those Indians who didn't die fighting died from infectious diseases. Diseases like smallpox and the flu brought by the Europeans. The Taino people had no immunity against these diseases. Other causes of death were abuse, the break up of family, starvation, enslavement, torture and even suicide.
As the Taino population started to disappear the Spanish began to bring slaves from Africa. By 1524, that is only 30 years after Christopher Columbus' arrival, the natives of Hispaniola were nearly wiped out.
Santo Domingo, the New Settlement
Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic's capital, was founded by Bartholomew Columbus, Christopher's brother, in 1496. The city has many historical sites. "El Alcazar de Colon" was built by Diego Colon (Cristobal Colon's son) in 1510.
Dominican Republic History
The Alcázar de Colón was the colonial palace of the Columbus family, beginning with his son Diego. Now it is a museum displaying period furniture and decorations.
Santo Domingo counts with the first Catholic cathedral, the First University and the very first hospital in the New World.
You can find most of these historical monuments in Santo Domingo's Colonial Zone. Click here to see the map.
Faro a Colon, Dominican Republic History
The Columbus Lighthouse (Faro a Colón in Spanish) is a monument located in Santo Domingo in tribute to Christopher Columbus. It is said that Columbus remains are in the mausoleum.
It was inaugurated in 1992 for the 500th anniversary of the Discovery of America. It was funded by the Latin American states and cost several million dollars. The monument is both a mausoleum and a museum. Its architecture is cross-shaped and represents the Christianization of America.
The monument is a sore and controversial subject in Dominican Republic History. The lighthouse has 147 giant beams projecting a cross of light 3,000 ft. into the Caribbean night that can be seen from as far as Puerto Rico.
They don't turn on the lighthouse anymore and they haven't done so in some years, because every time the lighthouse was turned on, the rest of the city was turned off.
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