Sitios de Memoria


The Dominican Republic is a necessary reference when identifying and preserving places of memory associated with the slave trade and slavery. These lands were named the island of Santo Domingo or La Española by the conquerors, but they were originally named Haiti or Quisqueya by the aboriginal inhabitants. The Island received the first contingents of Africans enslaved in the New World (1501) the origin of African slavery in the Americas, a phenomenon whose historical consequences are still present in Latin-American and Caribbean societies.


As the final destination of slaves, Spanish Santo Domingo witnessed historical and social events that would shape the cultural diversity of Dominican and Caribbean societies. These societies preserve a historical memory of multiple contradictions that represent the essence of the cultural identity of our peoples, joining us as brothers in our history with Africa, Europe and the peoples of the Americas and the Caribbean. It is the essence of a fruitful intercultural dialogue. An important moment of that historical construction of the African presence is the first black rebellion of the New World (Nigua, 1521) carried out by members of the Wolof ethnic group originally from Senegambia.

The properties registered here in the process of research and identity affirmation are faithful expressions of the historical legacy associated with the Slave Route. There are human settlements of African and Spanish ethos, ruins and monuments of the first sugar mills and trapiches (cane grinders). These were geographic spaces where the maroons built their manieles or palenques (dwelling sites of emancipated slaves) and today one can rediscover cultural expressions that identify these Dominican communities. We can also feel their suffering in the landing port and the black slaves market of Santa Bárbara. This memory tour takes us to San Gregorio de Nigua municipality, in San Cristóbal province, a community which shows a singular tangible and intangible culture derived from maroons and slaves. There the visitor can see the historical monumental complex we proposed: the Boca de Nigua sugar mill (18th century), the Diego Caballero sugar mill (16th century) and the San Gregorio Magno hermit (16th century). We are also submitting the facilities of the Cepi-Cepí colonial sugar mill (16th century) in Las Charcas municipality in the Azua de Compostela province, and in this same southern region we submit El Naranjo community, a city that grew on the remains of the 18th century Neiba maniel (dwelling sites of emancipated slaves), which existed in the Barahona province.

All these sites of infinite symbolism have a dialectic relationship with cultural expressions of high heritage value for the cohesion of the community: ceremonial squares, archeological sites, ecological routes representative of the cohesion of the Caribbean biological diversity and of the range of medicinal plants, vernacular architecture, sanctuaries of religious practices of African influence, music and dance traditions, popular rituals, popular feasts, myths associated to oral, curative and cooking traditions, and a population which defends its African legacy in spite of hostile social ethnic context. The Dominican Republic is potentially a privileged niche to place studies and reevaluation of the African presence in the New World in its true perspective.