The Little Mail Carriers did some island hopping earlier this year, from the Azores across the Atlantic Ocean to the Dominican Republic, where they were welcomed by the local community of enthusiastic postcrossers. Read on to learn about this sunny land and its many delights!
Hi everyone! That was a long ride in our envelope, and we’re really glad to finally be out to meet Stephanie, the friendly post officer that stamped our passport.
After the formalities were done, our first order of business was to meet the local Postcrossing community! Everyone was super friendly and they had lots of ideas of things they wanted to show us. While they discussed and made plans, we tasted the delicious “Pasteles en hoja”, a local savory speciality.
Our first host Ramón (aka ramonlora) showed us the old part of Santo Domingo, which is called the “Zona Colonial”. It is an area filled with monuments and landmarks that are often featured on postcards. We visited the impressive Basílica Catedral de Santa María de la Encarnación, the Alcázar de Colón, the Ovando Statue overlooking the Plaza España and the Ozama fortress.
We also checked out a curious landmark: the “Faro a Colón” (or, the Columbus lighthouse). It’s a peculiar lighthouse, as it was built quite inland, in the last decades of the XX century, when boats no longer relied so much on lighthouses for navigation. Why would they build it, then? Turns out, the cross-shaped lighthouse is more of a monument in honor of Columbus than a navigation tool. Its construction was quite controversial and took several decades until it was finished in 1992.
After that, we went to see the thing that is featured in most Dominican Republic postcards… the beach! Though many beaches here are private, Juan Dolio is still free to visit and just an hour drive from Santo Domingo.
And what feels good after a day at the beach? Paletas, of course! These fruity ice-popsicles were a delicious treat on a warm day. On every corner there’s a fruit stall, and they will offer you a kaleidoscope of juicy and tasty fresh fruits, all year around.
On the next days, we hitched a ride with Darío (aka dariomartinezb) and drove to Santiago de los Caballeros, a city located about 160 kms Northwest of Santo Domingo, in the center of the Cibao Valley. It was founded by Cristopher Columbus in 1495, it had to be rebuilt some miles farther in 1562 due to a devastating earthquake.
Here we visited the Monumento a los Héroes de la Restauración (Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration), which is the most famous landmark in Santiago, and can be seen from almost every corner of the city. The Monumento is flanked by statues of the heroes that helped the still young Dominican Republic regain its independence in 1863, and it was an honor for us to stand by the feet of such brave men.
After that, it was time to pay a visit to the second-best place according to our host: the Cibao Stadium, home of the Cibao Eagles. Baseball is king in the Dominican Republic, and we imagined the crowd screaming "VUAL’ÁGUILA!” (that’s Go Eagles!) when there’s a home run.
Ever heard about the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, commemorated worldwide on November 25th? The date has its roots on the Mirabal Sisters, three brave women that opposed Dominican ruthless ruler Rafael L. Trujillo and were killed by his orders on November 25, 1960. The three sisters and their husbands suffered countless horrors but endured them all and inspired the population to fight the dictator. Patria, Minerva and María Teresa Mirabal are called “Las Mariposas” (the butterflies) as they symbolize freedom and hope.
Driving southwest, we reached San Francisco de Macorís, a town known for being the epicenter of the Dominican rice industry, and also the birthplace of several national heroes. We had a look at the local parks and Victorian architecture houses that are featured in so many local postcards and also strolled around the Plaza de los Mártires (aka Martyrs Place) which honors the men that took part on the crucial expedition against Trujillo in 1959.
While the mission failed, it helped increase the discomfort of the people and it’s said that this expedition, along with the Mirabal Sisters assassination, marked the tipping point of the regime. Less than two years after the expedition, the Dominican Republic was freed from the dictator.
Hanley also took us to Tenares where his dad is from, and where we played a dominoes tournament! It’s said that there are three things you can find in almost any corner in the Dominican Republic: a Colmado (small grocery store), a radio-set playing bachata, and a game of Dominoes.
Our last host for the trip was Namir (aka rosanza), who took us to Puerto Plata, the city where she was born. Puerto Plata is called the Bride of the Atlantic, and for good reasons. While nowadays most tourists will know Punta Cana and Bávaro (in the East), the Dominican enchanting love story with beaches and golden sands started in Puerto Plata, many decades ago. It remains a very popular destination, especially among Europeans, some of which love it so much that they decide to settle there. Cabarete and Sosúa, a few miles East of Puerto Plata, may properly be called European refuges for retirees and surfers.
Namir’s parents keep a small museum at home, and just before we left, she showed us some curious artifacts, including this “iron made of iron” which was used to iron clothes before electricity was invented… can you guess how it worked?
Sadly, too soon it was time for us to go, but we treasure the memories we bring from this beautiful country! 💛
Our big thank you to everyone in the Dominican Republic who made this trip such a great adventure. Who knows where the Little Mail Carriers will pop up next? Stay tuned for their adventures!