Santo Domingo | Dominican Republic

Santo Domingo (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈsanto ðoˈmiŋɡo] meaning "Saint Dominic"), officially Santo Domingo de Guzmán, is the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic and the largest metropolitan area in the Caribbean by population. In 2018, according to the National Statitics Office its population was counted 1,036,494 for the city proper rising to 3,892,386 when its surrounding metropolitan area was included. The city is coterminous with the boundaries of the Distrito Nacional ("D.N.", "National District"), itself bordered on three sides by Santo Domingo Province.

Founded by Bartholomew Columbus in 1496, on the east bank of the Ozama River and then moved by Nicolás de Ovando in 1502 to the west bank of the river, the city is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the Americas, and was the first seat of the Spanish colonial rule in the New World. Santo Domingo is the site of the first university, cathedral, castle, monastery, and fortress in the New World. The city's Colonial Zone was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Santo Domingo was called Ciudad Trujillo (Spanish pronunciation: [sjuˈðað tɾuˈxiʝo]), from 1936 to 1961, after the Dominican Republic's dictator, Rafael Trujillo, named the capital after himself. Following his assassination, the city resumed its original designation.

Santo Domingo is the cultural, financial, political, commercial and industrial center of the Dominican Republic, with the country's most important industries being located within the city. Santo Domingo also serves as the chief seaport of the country. The city's harbor at the mouth of the Ozama River accommodates the largest vessels, and the port handles both heavy passenger and freight traffic. Temperatures are high year round, with a cool breeze around winter time.

Prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492, the native Taíno people populated the island which they called Quisqueya (mother of all lands) and Ayiti (land of high mountains), and which Columbus later named Hispaniola, including the territory of today's Republic of Haiti. At the time, the island's territory consisted of five chiefdoms: Marién, Maguá, Maguana, Jaragua, and Higüey. These were ruled respectively by caciques (chiefs) Guacanagarix, Guarionex, Caonabo, Bohechío, and Cayacoa.

Dating from 1496, when the Spanish settled on the island, and officially from 5 August 1498, Santo Domingo became the oldest European city in the Americas. Bartholomew Columbus founded the settlement and named it La Nueva Isabela, after an earlier settlement in the north named after the Queen of Spain Isabella I. In 1495 it was renamed "Santo Domingo", in honor of Saint Dominic. Santo Domingo came to be known as the "Gateway to the Caribbean" and the chief town in Hispaniola from then on. Expeditions which led to Ponce de León's colonization of Puerto Rico, Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar's colonization of Cuba, Hernando Cortes' conquest of Mexico, and Vasco Núñez de Balboa's sighting of the Pacific Ocean were all launched from Santo Domingo.

The demographics of Santo Domingo are similar to other metropolitan areas of the country, except that the population of immigrants (mainly Haitians) is larger in the city because of the relative ease of finding work and the economic dynamism compared to other provinces. Santo Domingo, like most of the country, is made up of native-born Dominican mulattos, though there are large numbers of Afro-Dominicans and Euro-Dominicans, as well as a large immigrant community. In fact, over 20% of the city's population is immigrants, mainly Haitians. However, there are also recent immigrants from Europe, Asia, as well as other Latin American nations present in the city. The city of Santo Domingo has a significant community of Asians (mainly Chinese), Arabs (mostly Lebanese), and Europeans (mostly Spanish and Italian people) are also present in the city. There are also significant numbers of Venezuelans and Puerto Ricans, in the city, as well as US born Dominicans returning to their parents' home country. The northeast quadrant of the city is the poorest while the southwest is wealthier. Santo Domingo is also considered one of the epicenters of the growing Dominican middle-class. The city is one of the most economically developed cities in Latin America. Santo Domingo's population in 2010 was 3.8 million in the metropolitan area.

Santo Domingo is the terminus for four of the five national highways. The city is connected to the southwest of the country by the national highway DR-2 (Avenida George Washington and Autopista 30 de Mayo), and with the cities of the country's northwest by DR-1 (Expreso Kennedy, Corredor Duarte), which serves as a direct link to the city of Santiago de los Caballeros. DR-3 (Expreso 27 de Febrero/Autopista de Las Américas) connects Santo Domingo directly to the east of the country, including the cities of San Pedro de Macorís, La Romana, and major tourist sites such as Punta Cana and Bávaro, and to the Samaná Province (in the northeast) via the Samana Highway. In the city, motoconchos (motorcycle taxis), guaguas/voladoras (low quality public buses), and carros públicos/conchos (shared taxis) are common modes of transport.

In the Cordillera Central are the four highest peaks in the Caribbean: Pico Duarte (3,098 metres or 10,164 feet above sea level), La Pelona (3,094 metres or 10,151 feet), La Rucilla (3,049 metres or 10,003 feet), and Pico Yaque (2,760 metres or 9,055 feet). In the southwest corner of the country, south of the Cordillera Central, there are two other ranges. The more northerly of the two is the Sierra de Neiba, while in the south the Sierra de Bahoruco is a continuation of the Massif de la Selle in Haiti. There are other, minor mountain ranges, such as the Cordillera Oriental ("Eastern Mountain Range"), Sierra Martín García, Sierra de Yamasá, and Sierra de Samaná.

Between the Central and Northern mountain ranges lies the rich and fertile Cibao valley. This major valley is home to the cities of Santiago and La Vega and most of the farming areas in the nation. Rather less productive are the semi-arid San Juan Valley, south of the Central Cordillera, and the Neiba Valley, tucked between the Sierra de Neiba and the Sierra de Bahoruco. Much of the land in the Enriquillo Basin is below sea level, with a hot, arid, desert-like environment. There are other smaller valleys in the mountains, such as the Constanza, Jarabacoa, Villa Altagracia, and Bonao valleys.

The Llano Costero del Caribe ("Caribbean Coastal Plain") is the largest of the plains in the Dominican Republic. Stretching north and east of Santo Domingo, it contains many sugar plantations in the savannahs that are common there. West of Santo Domingo its width is reduced to 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) as it hugs the coast, finishing at the mouth of the Ocoa River. Another large plain is the Plena de Azua ("Azua Plain"), a very arid region in Azua Province. A few other small coastal plains are in the northern coast and in the Pedernales Peninsula.

The architecture in the Dominican Republic represents a complex blend of diverse cultures. The deep influence of the European colonists is the most evident throughout the country. Characterized by ornate designs and baroque structures, the style can best be seen in the capital city of Santo Domingo, which is home to the first cathedral, castle, monastery, and fortress in all of the Americas, located in the city's Colonial Zone, an area declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The designs carry over into the villas and buildings throughout the country. It can also be observed on buildings that contain stucco exteriors, arched doors and windows, and red tiled roofs.

Baseball is by far the most popular sport in the Dominican Republic. :59 The country has a baseball league of six teams. Its season usually begins in October and ends in January. After the United States, the Dominican Republic has the second highest number of Major League Baseball (MLB) players. Ozzie Virgil, Sr. became the first Dominican-born player in the MLB on September 23, 1956. Juan Marichal and Pedro Martínez are the only Dominican-born players in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Other notable baseball players born in the Dominican Republic are Adrián Beltré, Robinson Canó, Rico Carty, Starling Marte, Vladimir Guerrero, George Bell, Julian Javier, Francisco Liriano, Manny Ramírez, José Bautista, Edwin Encarnación, Hanley Ramírez, David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, Nelson Cruz, Ubaldo Jiménez, José Reyes, Plácido Polanco, and Sammy Sosa. Felipe Alou has also enjoyed success as a manager and Omar Minaya as a general manager. In 2013, the Dominican team went undefeated en route to winning the World Baseball Classic.

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