The Port of Santo Domingo is the oldest permanent European city in the Western Hemisphere the first base in the New World for colonial Spain. Located at the mouth of the Ozama River on the southeast coast of the Island of Hispaniola, it is the capital of the Dominican Republic. It is the biggest city in the Dominican Republic and the second biggest in the Caribbean region. The city was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990.
The Port of Santo Domingo was severely damaged by Hurricane Zenon in 1930. When it was reconstructed, Rafael Trujillo named it Ciudad Trujillo. The city regained its traditional name in 1961 when the dictator was assassinated. Also called San Souci, the Port of Santo Domingo, is well-positioned with direct links to road and rail networks to serve the inland Dominican Republic. In recent years, port renovations and redevelopment efforts have created a modern port serving cargo and high-end tourism. The city is also opening a new sports marina and a 122-acre mixed real estate-leisure development next to the port. In 2002, almost 1.9 million people lived in the urban area.
When Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492, the island they called “Mother of All Lands” was inhabited by the Taino indigenous peoples. The island was governed by five divisions of Cacicazgos chieftains.
Bartolomeo Columbus, brother of the world-famous “discoverer” of the New World, founded the Port of Santo Domingo in 1496, creating the first Spanish colony and the oldest Roman Catholic bishopric in the Western Hemisphere. At first, the city was called Nueva Isabela after Spain’s queen, but it was destroyed by a 1502 hurricane. The modern Port of Santo Domingo was rebuilt on the right bank of the Ozama River.
The Port of Santo Domingo was the base for much of the conquest of Latin America. Hernan Cortez was based there, as was Balboa before his “discovery” of the Pacific Ocean via Panama. The colonial capital grew rich on the conquest until Spain took Mexico and Peru.
The Port of Santo Domingo was sacked by Sir Frances Drake in 1586. Its citizens defeated British armies attempting to take the city in 1655. The French ruled the city at the beginning of the 19th Century. After a short return of the Spanish, the Port of Santo Domingo was conquered by Haitian invaders. The Port of Santo Domingo became the capital of the Dominican Republic when it proclaimed independence in 1844. Spain again ruled for a short time in the mid-1800s.
The modern Port of Santo Domingo is the country’s industrial, financial, and commercial heart. Hydroelectric dams provide inexpensive electricity to industry, boosting development. The most important industries in the Dominican Republic are manufacturing of refrigerators, textiles, petrochemicals, cement, and plastics as well as food processing and metallurgy.
The Port of Santo Domingo is also the country’s major seaport. The harbor has been improved to receive the biggest ocean-going vessels, and it serves both freight traffic and many passengers. It is connected to inland Dominican Republic by the highway network.
The oldest university in the Western Hemisphere, founded in 1538, is located in the Port of Santo Domingo. It is also home to the Museum of Dominican Man, famous for its collection of pre-Columbian relics. The Spanish Renaissance cathedral in the Port of Santo Domingo was built in 1514, and the Columbus Lighthouse is said to house the remains of Christopher Columbus.