The oldest European city in the Americas 1


Hispaniola (La Española) is the historic heart of the Spanish Empire in the new world. The Caribbean island was visited by Christopher Columbus on his first voyage to the Americas in 1492. Hispaniola would become home to the oldest European settlements in the new world, first La Navidad (in present day Haiti) and then La Isabela (in the Dominican Republic).

Both of these settlements were ultimately abandoned, making the third settlement, Santo Domingo, the oldest continuously settled European city in the western hemisphere. The city dates to 1496, when the Spanish settled there, but was officially ‘founded’ on 5 August 1498. In its early years it was known as La Nueva Isabela after the Hispaniolan settlement that preceded it.

Today, Santa Domingo’s motto is “la Ciudad Primada de América” – the first city of the Americas and it is the capital of the Dominican Republic. As the oldest city, Santa Domingo also boasts a number of historic firsts, including the first:

  • cathedral and catholic diocese (Catedral Santa María La Menor)
  • castle (Alcázar de Colón)
  • monestary (the now ruined Monasterio de San Francisco)
  • convent (Iglesia del Convento Dominico)

The Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo) claims to be the oldest continuous university in the western hemisphere, dating its foundation to 28 October 1538.


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