Here Are 10 Shockingly Weird Facts About Oscar de la Renta’s Dominican Republic – Caribbean Islands 3

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Oscar de la Renta with his wife Annette at their Punta Cana home in Dominican Republic.

Port of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Located at the entrance of Rio Ozama in Santo Domingo, this is a transit shipment port for Dominican Republic‘s chief exports of sugar, tropical fruits and coffee. A multi-purpose port, it handles dry and liquid bulk, general cargo and cruise vessels.

The Port of Santo Domingo is close to Rio Haina harbor and cruise ships dock at either Sans Souci pier or the Don Diego terminal. Don Diego pier is a terminal for incoming passengers while Sans Souci is a home port for yachts, luxury boats and pleasure vessels. This port also deals with fuel, asphalt and gasoline shipment.

A Brief History of the Dominican Republic:

Statue of Christopher Columbus at the main square in Santo Domingo, with his finger pointing towards the north (Atlantic Ocean) and the first Taino-Indian baptized into the Catholic faith, standing below him.

Occupying the eastern 2/3 part of Hispaniola (Little Spain) Island, Dominican Republic has the Atlantic Ocean at its north and the Caribbean Sea at the south, the remaining 1/3 portion of the island is occupied by the country of Haiti. The Arawakan-speaking Taino Indians had settled at the area around 10,000 B.C. but when Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492 which commenced the Spanish conquest, the Tainos were mostly killed by the conquistadors reducing their population into a small number. Santo Domingo was founded by Bartholomeu Columbus (son of Christopher Columbus) in 1496 but the capital has been relocated to the west side of Rio Ozama in 1502 by the Spanish friar, Frey Nicolas de Ovando.

Due to high incidence of piracy and smuggling, the King of Spain ordered for the de-population of the western part of Hispaniola Island in 1606 that paved the way for the rise of Haiti and the French invasion. The Spanish crown recognized French rule on Haiti in 1804 and Santo Domingo would later gain its own independence in 1821. Unfortunately, the Haitians ruled over the Dominicans for 22 years and was finally independent as a republic in 1844.

Disorder and chaos marred the country after it gained its freedom and the U.S., afraid that Germany might intervene, has occupied Dominican Republic between 1916-1924. Quisqueya (name of the country given by the Taino-Indians) has to endure a series of civil unrest and dictatorships until Joaquin Balaguer was President and became the symbol of change through a US-organized 1966 election. These days, Dominican Republic is one of the fastest growing and 8th largest economy in Latin America.

Map showing the location of Dominican Republic at Hispaniola Island.

We spent Christmas at Santo Domingo Port in 2002 aboard M/T Knock Clune. When you think about the Dominican Republic, you’ll imagine a place of endless beaches under a perpetual sun and there’s no doubt about it. As a tourist destination, Quisqueya also offers excellent golf courses and exotic Caribbean flavors to enjoy. However, there is more to this nation than sun, sea and sand and you’ll be delighted to discover these 10 shockingly weird facts about Oscar de la Renta’s Dominican Republic.

1. Home of the “merengue” dance and music.

An extremely lively and uplifting dance (and music), merengue is a blend of European beat and African rhythm matched by an equally fast-paced music, which was popularized by slaves in the Dominican Republic during the 1800s. A story goes that when they saw their masters dances in the “big houses” on special occasions, they started to mimic but added a special upbeat (provided by drums) with a slight skip or hop. The shockingly weird fact on the origin of merengue, it later evolved as a courtship dance which derived its name from the confection made of egg whites and sugar due to its short and precise rhythm.

2. The only country in the world that produces the blue Larimar and a rare form of amber precious stones.

The blue larimar.

Named as such because of its resemblance to the color of the Caribbean Sea (la mar), the blue larimar is a rare gem found only in a remote dense forest of Dominican Republic and believed to bring peace and serenity to those who wear it. Now, if you’ve watched Jurassic Park and can still remember the scene with the amber stone and a pre-historic mosquito in it, that is real and you can see that at the Amber Museum in Puerto Plata. A shockingly weird fact to learn that these two unique precious stones endemic only in the Dominican Republic are highly valued in the world.

The Dominican amber featured in the movie, Jurassic Park.

3. Where you can challenge gravity at a town called Baorahona – El Polo Magnetico.

In the southern city of Baorahona, there is a particular hill called El Polo Magnetico that defies gravity where you can stop your car downhill in neutral but will automatically move upward without any human intervention, a shockingly weird fact about Oscar de la Renta’s Dominican Republic. Named gravity hill, this is caused by an optical illusion which has something to do with the landscape of Baorahona, a rare treat you can personally experience when you visit this country.

4. It is the home of the oldest Catholic cathedral in the Caribbean that survived pirate attacks and earthquakes, the Santa Maria de la Menor Bassilica.

Built in the 1500s, Santa Maria de la Menor Bassilica is the oldest in the Americas which also survived pirate attacks and earthquakes throughout the centuries, a shockingly weird fact on Santo Domingo‘s colossal cathedral. The oldest settlement in this side of the world, the city of Santo Domingo was the epicenter of the Catholic faith’s 1st Church in the New World after Bartholomeu Columbus laid the first stone for its construction in 1512.

5. The country where the remains of Columbus was buried in a lighthouse, the Faro de Colon at Mirador del Este, Santo Domingo.

While sailing in search of a new trade route aboard his ship, Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus discovered Dominican Republic by accident in 1492. Since then, this island-nation was made the base for Spanish expeditions in the Caribbean and the remains of Columbus was believed to have been buried at Faro de Colon lighthouse in Mirador del Este, Santo Domingo. A shockingly weird fact to hear about this piece in Dominican Republic‘s history, Faro de Colon is no longer used for sea navigation, however its massive cross projects light beams as far as 200 miles away down to the island of Puerto Rico.

6. It has the largest salt lake in the world – Lago Enriquillo.

Definitely a perfect destination for wildlife watching, Lago Enriquillo is the largest salt lake in the world and the lowest point (140 ft. below sea level) in the Caribbean, a shockingly weird fact which you can explore in Oscar de la Renta’s Dominican Republic. This hyper-saline lake covers an area of over 300 sq. km. and home to a diverse fauna like the pink flamingo, iguana and the American crocodile. It’s named after the first Taino-Indian chief who revolted against Spain Enriquillo.

7. The center of gastronomic culture in the Caribbean.

Bandera, national dish of the Dominican Republic.

If there is another shockingly weird fact about this nation is that it is the hub of gastronomic society in the Caribbean. This is the result of the fusion of cultures of Taino-Indian, Hispanic and African. In fact, Dominicans take pride in their national dish called “bandera Dominicana” which is a mix of rice, red beans and stewed meat that depicts the colors of their national flag. Don’t leave Santo Domingo without sampling this food including quipe, another popular dish to try brought to the island by immigrants from Kisbeh, Lebanon.

8. Its capital, Santo Domingo is considered a colonial zone and declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Santo Domingo is not only Dominican Republic‘s capital but a colonial zone as well, and if there is one shockingly weird fact about it, most of the original structures built by the conquistadors are still intact and restored to their esthetic glory even to this day. A walled city which was modeled after Medieval Spain, the Spaniards followed a classic European grid pattern in building this ancient Caribbean city that earned its title as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

9. Public display of affection like kissing will send you to a serious trouble in the Dominican Republic.

A shockingly weird fact but yes, you read it right PDA such as kissing is a taboo in this country and it may lead you into a serious trouble especially when a police officer is around. While Dominicans are warm and friendly people, they are highly religious, dominated by devout Catholics and there is a law of exhibitionism “prohibiting persons from acts of obscene display” in public. Don’t become involve with illegal drugs of any kind as well and local attitude towards the LGBTQ crowd is very conservative in this Caribbean nation, hotels here welcome such clients but needs confirmation from booking agents before you travel.

10. Oscar de la Renta, born and raised in Santo Domingo had first wanted to be an abstract painter.

Doyen of American fashion Oscar de la Renta was originally from the Dominican Republic, a shockingly weird fact that might surprise you, at 19 he left his home to study fine arts at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid, Spain. He later switched to fashion design in the 1950s and worked for Balenciaga then began honing his skills when he said “oui” to Paris-based Lanvin in 1960 and finally launched his own brand in 1965. He may have clothed the brightest of stars in Hollywood and the well-heeled of American society but de la Renta is a philanthropist (he founded an orphanage in La Romana, D.R.), always gave 2nd chances to people like John Galliano (another fashion designer) when he was dismissed from Dior in 2011 and loved to play dominoes in the kitchen with his chef. He passed away in 2014 and his children took over his fashion empire.

A world of awe awaits you when you visit the Dominican Republic. A far cry from just being a sunny destination, Quisqueya drips with culture and amazing sites waiting for you to discover. This is one of the most exciting and culturally intriguing countries in the Caribbean.

Reference: Wikipedia