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Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo (sänˈtō dōmēngˈgō) [key], city (1993 pop. 1,609,966), S Dominican Republic, on the Caribbean Sea, at the mouth of the Ozama River. It is the country's capital, largest city, leading port, and primary commercial center. Founded Aug. 4, 1496, by Bartholomew Columbus, brother of Christopher Columbus, it may be the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the Western Hemisphere. Shortly after its founding it became the base from which Diego de Velázquez set out to conquer Cuba. It was the first seat of Spanish colonial administration in the New World. The city was sacked by Sir Francis Drake in 1586. Santo Domingo was almost totally destroyed by a hurricane in 1930 but was rebuilt and renamed Ciudad Trujillo, after dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo; the original name was restored in 1961 after his death.

Although replete with historic sites, Santo Domingo today is a city of broad avenues and modern buildings. The cathedral, begun in 1514, is the oldest in the Western Hemisphere; until 1990 it contained the reputed tomb of Christopher Columbus, which was moved to the Columbus Memorial Lighthouse in 1992. Construction of the expensive lighthouse, the world's largest, met with controversy in the poor country, whose native population was largely exterminated after the arrival of Columbus and whose current population is largely of African, not Spanish, descent.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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