- Where to Go
- The Best of the Dominican Republic
- A Nature Lover’s Dominican Trek
- The Sexiest Dominican Beaches
- Historical Dominican Road Trip
- A Dominican Culture Tour
- Carnaval and Its Masks
- Planning Your Dominican Wedding
- Dominican Adventures
- Golfing the Dominican Republic
- Dominican Music and Dance
- La Ruta del Mango
- Day-Tripping in Monte Plata
- The Best Small Resorts
After discovering La Navidad, Columbus returned to Spain, leaving about 40 of his men in charge of the settlement, thinking that it would all be under control. But upon his return a year later, he found all of his men dead and La Navidad completely obliterated. Columbus then sailed 110 kilometers east, founded a new settlement, and named it after Spain’s Queen Isabela.
The new settlement, La Isabela, would not survive long either. Life was hard on the settlers. Lawlessness became a way of life, hurricanes blew through, and disease ran rampant, all claiming the lives of many. Some simply gave up the search for gold (their main reason for being there in the first place) and returned to Spain. Eventually, anyone remaining gave up entirely and went to the thriving new town, Santo Domingo.
Today, only ruins and a general layout of the original settlement can be seen at Parque Nacional La Isabela (9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, US$3), which once included Christopher Columbus’s original house, a cemetery with both Spanish and Taíno graves, and what is thought to have been the first City Hall of the New World.
The archaeological remains used to be more plentiful, but Trujillo asked a local official to “clean up” the area so that he could bring visiting dignitaries to visit. The local official then made a grave mistake by misunderstanding El Jefe and had a majority of La Isabela bulldozed and shoved into the water of the Atlantic Ocean, losing copious amounts of archaeological and historical grandeur, not something Trujillo could forgive. It was a mistake that cost the official his life.
Many Dominicans refer to La Isabela, now a national park, as the first settlement of the New World. Perhaps the reason they consider it the “first,” practically ignoring that La Navidad even existed, is that more of a community was built in La Isabela. Most importantly, though, the first Catholic mass was said by Fray Bernardo Boil in 1494, thereby blessing the settlement.
A museum houses some artifacts uncovered in the area. The entrance fee affords you a personal guide to take you through the site and the museum. It is customary to tip. Getting to La Isabela is easiest if you drive (just follow Carretera La Isabela from Luperón) or take a taxi. From Luperón, a taxi will cost about US$30.
Templo de Las Américas (9 a.m.–6 p.m. daily, free) was built as a replica of the church where Fray Bernardo Boil said the first mass on January 6, 1494. It was built using some of the rubble from Columbus’s first home, the original church, and the first City Hall. On January 6, 1994, a mass was said to commemorate the 500-year anniversary of that historic mass. Inside you’ll see pieces of art donated by every Latin American country and a statue from Genoa, Italy (Columbus’s home town), of Columbus praying to the Virgin Mary to protect his sailors.
© Ana Chavier Caamaño from Moon Dominican Republic, 4th edition