The Port of Rio Haina is located in Bajos de Haina about 16 kilometers southwest of Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic. This port and industrial center has been called the “Dominican Chernobyl.” In 2006, the Blacksmith Institute, a US environmental group, listed the Port of Rio Haina as one of the ten most polluted places on the planet. It is still considered among the 30 most polluted cities in the world. In 2005, over 140 thousand people lived in the Port of Rio Haina.
It is said that Miguel Diaz migrated from La Isabela to Haina after he hurt a man with connections to the Spanish authorities. After settling in the Port of Rio Haina, he married an indigenous woman who told him about a deposit of gold on the banks of the Haina River. He found the gold and returned to La Isabela, sharing his discovery with Christopher Columbus and Bartholomew, Columbus’ brother.
Since Columbus had to return to Spain, he sent his brother to verify the discovery of gold. Bartholomew found the gold and built a fort, San Cristobal, on the site to house Spanish soldiers. Bartholomew sent a large piece of gold to Spain in 1502, but the ship carrying it never arrived, and the potential wealth of the Port of Rio Haina was never tapped.
In today’s Port of Rio Haina, residents live with the consequences of Baterias Meteoro, an automobile battery recycling smelter that operated there for many years. Although the company moved, they left contamination behind them. The United Nations reports that the population of the Port of Rio Haina has the highest level of lead contamination in the world. Most of the town’s residents have symptoms of lead poisoning.