I went for a stroll around my hood today and took a few snapshots. The Colonial Zone in Santo Domingo is the oldest continually inhabited European settlement in the new world and so is the home of the first cathedral, the first university, the first commercial street and the first viceregal residence in the new world. The heat and the sun were diabolical… And I like travelling in hot places! Even with sunglasses on I was squinting and I only lasted about 90 minutes walking around and then I had to take refuge in the frozen foods section of a supermarket to escape the heat. I didn’t get to see a lot… I’ll give it another crack tomorrow!
Perhaps I’m getting tired and a little jaded at looking at Spanish Colonial architecture but for me, the historical significance of it being the first settlement in the new world is much more exciting than than the visual of it. While some of the buildings are certainly attractive, there’s a weird vibe in the city… I can’t quite put my finger on it, but just feels dodgy, which for me takes away from the overall impact of the city… And it lacks the energy and vibrancy of Havana or even Mexican cities. It’s only my first day here and there are many other parts to the city so I probably shouldn’t be too hasty in my judgements… But I will anyway… Whereas in Mexico, Cuba and Colombia I felt some kind of connection with the people, here I’m getting nothing. I just feel like everyone wants to rob me. But I’ve still got eight more days so we’ll see. Maybe it was just the heat of the day giving me “baked brain syndrome”.
Traveling in these parts as a single male traveller, you come across more than your fair share of pimps and prostitutes. Again comparing and contrasting Havana which probably has the highest amount of prostitutes and hustlers as a percentage of the population anywhere in the world… And on top of that, the city is decaying… But the Cubans have a toughness and confidence about them and somehow manage to take the crumbling city and all it’s hustlers and “own it” I’m not suggesting for a minute that any of them enjoy it and wouldn’t trade places for a better life in a heartbeat… Nor would I want to trade places with a Cuban… But from purely a superficial touristic point of view, it doesn’t seem so bad. Walking down Calle El Conde, a pedestrian only street and the main shopping street in the old city, in the middle of the day, it was just full of prostitutes and chintzy souvenir shops… But again just felt dodgy and a little weird.
They say that the world is your mirror and that the measure of mental health is the ability to see good in everything, so I hope I can come around and snap out of my negative first impression of the city.
Anyway here are some of the snaps I took. The first one is my street, Calle Hostos. I’m staying in the green building in the middle apartment.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor, the oldest cathedral in the new world, was begun in 1512 and finished in 1540. Because it was the first, it was built in a Gothic style. That’s not a bad thing but the later cathedrals in other parts of the Americas were built in a Renaissance or Baroque style which for me has more visual impact.