MY LATE MORNING SITE SEEING TOUR TO PUERTO PLATA’S:
“SAN FELIPE’S FORTALEZA!”
I just CANNOT write about Puerto Plata’s Fortaleza without going into not only The Dominican Republic’s HISTORY but I MUST go into: The European Crusades’, Expeditions’ and Colonization’s HISTORY as much as I MUST go into its Sister Neighbour’s: Haiti’s History as well! This, as both long lived histories are and will ALWAYS BE DIRECTLY CONNECTED FOREVER for these two Caribbean islands were once ONE and the VERY SAME NATION!!! Indeed, unbeknownst to many who have NEVER studied LA ISLA HISPANIOLA’S HISTORY and/or are furthermore not really interested to study either countries’ histories, many Dominicans and Haitians (not simply the intellectual social class) on the other hand, know LA ISLA HISPANIOLA’S story ALL MORE THAN WELL…!!! My very hope for these two BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE, therefore is NOT to LOOK at each other’s NEGATIVE parts of their histories but because they are the ONLY TWO CONNECTED Caribbean SISTER ISLAND NATIONS (as the other next closer islands: Jamaica, Cuba, The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos’ as well as recently devastated Puerto Rico tragically caused by hurricane Irma; are all disconnected islands, which stand in the middle of the Caribbean ocean on their very own…)! As a result, my trip to Puerto Plata’s “Fortaleza” is most definitely intricately linked and connected to LA ISLA HISPANIOLA’S history! Indeed, in order for one to understand the story of “LA ISLA HISPANIOLA” which was initially called “LA ISLA ESPANOLA” by its Spanish Colonizers and which was then the second largest island within the Caribbean region after Cuba, one MUST GO all the way back to the history books in the 15th Century…! …As we now know that the Italian explorer: Christopher Columbus was more “LOST” than anything else with his financially sponsored expedition by King Ferdinand of Spain in 1492, according to the research. This, even though Christopher Columbus was from the port city of Genoa in Italy. He had effectuated several expeditions in the African continent and in the Americas, where he had almost lost his life and had to return to Europe, to recover prior to his new venture. The real story of his new ship’s expedition states that his expedition was actually en route to Asia through the western oceanic route as the explorer wished to avoid crossing with the middle eastern explorers, who were at that time numerous and bountiful throughout the eastern part of the ocean. The Asian continent in those days, were perceived and considered as “The Mecca” of gold, spices and silk as well as opiates…!!! Opiates in those days, were highly sought after by European doctors as they were known by the Chinese traditional holistic healers, to soothe and cure certain severe ailments that modern European medicine of that time could not…!!! Sidebar Note: Isn’t it just bizarre and strange how history truly tends to repeat itself history after history after history…???!!!
….The Italian born: Christopher Columbus’ supposedly arrived to the island in winter (the month of December out of all other months) of 1492, which his expedition crew and himself, initially referred to “LA ISLA HISPANOLA” as “LA ISLA ESPANOLA…”, which literally means: The SPANISH ISLAND in English! This makes absolute sense, since Christopher Columbus’ crew was actually financed and sponsored by the kingdom of Spain..!!! …Somewhere, somehow however, the word “ESPANOLA” got lost in translation and “ESPANOLA” therefore transferred to “HISPANIOLA…!”, by the European “CONQUISTADORES!” Parallelly, the GLOBAL EUROPEAN TRANS-ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE was what would be: today: a MULTI-BILLION dollar industry and through which a reported 10 to 12 million native Africans were captured in their respective homelands, separated by gender, age, height, stature, strength, endurance etc.. Who would be chained from their necks, hands and feet where they were stacked up like sardines and cattle (as an animal lover, even neither livestock nor cattle DESERVE to be stacked up in such an atrocious manner) where the conditions were HORRENDOUS and where many of the Africans would become severely weak and sick and some would more tragically never make it through the very end, across the Atlantic ocean :(! :(! :(! …And as if matters were not humanely horrendous enough, the slave capturers would have no qualm whatsoever in throwing an entire enchained row of the poor enslaved Africans (whether men, women and/or adolescents and children) on top of the ships unto the freezing ocean, to be fed by the sharks as soon as one of them was deemed “useless” to be sold at the slaves ports and markets in Europe but mainly however throughout the Americas…!!! This is sadly most certainly the IMPOSED and FORCIBLE way through which the very first Africans arrived in Europe and throughout the newly discovered Americas….! …For the Native Americans (as clearly defined by the Europeans), were the very first inhabitants of the entire Americas…! Europe had just most recently passed from its Feudal period, transitioning to what many historians (liberals as well as conservatives) believe to be the continent of Europe’s MOST SIGNIFICANT & IMPORTANT part of History as the gun powder was discovered and kingdoms were fighting amongst each other, to gain more land and territories throughout the old continent through expeditions and “crusades” to conquer the world…. To avoid further conflict of interests, the kingdoms diplomatically agreed that whatever country’s expedition arrived first on a new found land in any parts of the world: Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Pacific Islands and the Americas… …That very expedition’s sponsored country could claim the land and territory as its own,… This, regardless of the presence of the native inhabitants and of tribal or ethnic belonging… :(! :(! :(!
-How does this above CRUCIAL historical fact tied into my ten day Solo TriP in the Beautiful Dominican Republic, for my very first time…??? Some of you might come to ask yourselves… Simply because the newly Europeanized and Baptized “Isla Hispaniola” we can ascertain that the native Americans present there for centuries prior to the European expedition’s arrival, had named their lands with another definition more most probably much more meaningful to them… Of which I will try to research and report before the end of my writing and editing this very article.. :)! As a result, The history of “La Isla Hispaniola” ties indeed perfectly well with the history of the European crusades and expeditions as its kingdoms’ colonization… …As these thousands expeditions were highly financed by each respective kingdoms… Some expeditions would miserably fail from: shipwreck, pirate invasion and kidnapping, hunger and illness, harsh traveling conditions and far below temperatures’ climates (as there was no high tech gadgets and pollution, which are most unfortunately destroying our earth’s ozone) etc, etc, etc….!
When Christopher Columbus arrived to “La Isla Hispaniola”, his expedition crew and himself were hungry and practically starving to death… The Natives took them under their protection , housed them, fed them and healed them with organic herbal natural medicine throughout several months…. Not solely did the explorer and crew leave in excellent recuperated health but with a more acute awareness of organic natural medicine as well as a thirsty desire and want to return to the tropics, the women, the bountiful gold and what not more…. At the same time of the Isla Hispaniola’s discovery, there became an absolute obsession for dire cheap inexpensive man labour…. As cotton became the 15th century’s most lucrative new billion dollar export business in the Americas….!!! …But due to the fact that cotton picking was hard labour and required a huge amount and percentage of manpower, someone somehow decided to treat the also newly discovered Africans as cattle as Europeans could control the masses of captured African natives now that they had the gun powder and could easily defeat the greatest and most powerful African invincible European armies by simply shooting its commanders and tribal chiefs, dividing its fighting tribes to better conquer and enslave them, since the European explorers had observed and studied the integral structures and organizations of each respective tribes just like they had done in other continents they explored at the same time… In the New Americas, which they first named: “The West Indies” since the natives to them, came from India… They defeated the Native Americans with great difficulties as most of the natives were migrant populations… By migrant, this means that they would displace themselves according to seasons of the year… At least, in North America… In the wintertime, some of the Native tribes would migrate to the east or south due to the freezing cold… In the warm northern seasons, they on the other hand, would migrate back to the west and the southern parts of the continent… In the West Indies, the natives were more settled in a same place…. Similar to the Africas, the European explorers observed and analyzed the native Americans’ respective internal societal structures and then once again used it to their advantages, to conquer and divide. The Natives, just like the Africans did not have to however be enchained and shipped aboard, to be brought to the Americas since they were already there… As: gold, silver, spices, opiates, herbs, tea and cotton most especially, kept on rising in demand amongst European aristocracy and nobility, so did the demand in production and manpower…! -Do you presently now see the direct correlation between the expeditions’ discoveries of the Americas and the Isla Hispaniola…???!!!
Since many of the enduring and hard fighting respective native tribes would be killed, destroyed, annihilated and.or decimated by the newcomer, the European colonizers soon realized that there were oh too few that could be used to work in the cotton fields…. This is how the four to five hundred year’s Transatlantic Slave Trade would come to be…!!! The Africans were separated by tribal affiliation, ethnicity, identity gender, height, stature, strength, age, muscle built etc, etc, etc… So that there would be NO ABSOLUTE BLOODLINE amongst the slaves…. :(! Even though inummerable Native American women, men and children were slaughtered and assassinated during the many wars, there were still some survivors, who hid and protected themselves from Europeans (henceforth, the tanned indian like complexion of what the Latin Americans call the descendants of the natives: “Tainos!” The “Tainos” are the non-mixed Latinos’ descendants with Europeans, who managed to keep their origins and roots as well as their legacy of hundreds of centuries prior to the Europeans’ arrival, absolutely INTACT…! …And here comes the story of Intermixity between the Europeans and the Tainos as well as the separation of the LA ISLA HISPANIOLA..!!!
As more slaves kept on being brought to the Isla Hispaniola, the English, the Dutch, the French and Spanish armies kept on battling each other for control and conquests of their colonies in the Americas… Such battles included the disputes, which ensued to the redistribution of the following colonies and their regions: Quebec, Canada, New Orleans: Southern North America prior to its Civil War and La Isla Hispaniola, to name just a few… After years of fighting and squabble against each other, The Spanish reliquished some of its more western coast to the French who named its capital: “Saint Domingue” which would then be renamed by the Spanish after yet another CRUCIALLY IMPORTANT WAR on the isand, “Santo Domingo!”…Just like the Spanish, the French would soon acquire numerous colonies worldwide! In the Caribbean alone, they had the islands of Guaedeloupe and Martinique as well as part of the Guyanese region… Henceforth its name: “French Guyana” and as there is a British Guyana as well! The Spanish still controled the rest of the Isla Hispaniola island, which also had a big portion of the Native American Tainos. Both colonies often traded their slaves with each other even though they governed their respective portions of the island separately and distinctly. The island was furthermore divided by its colonists’ European culture and latin originated language. In one part of the island, Spanish was still the language of its settlers and on the other part of the island, French was the pre-dominant spoken language… As the years and centuries nonetheless went by, the French slaves developed their own language as they were not allowed to read and write… This language is a mixture of the complexities of various African languages intertwined together, alongside with the basic French the masters instructed their house slaves, to be able to communicate with them and the French that the slaves heard and retained with their very ears here and there…. What was at that time considered “The very 1st modern revolution”, the French Revolution started abruptly and succeeded to topple the entire French Aristocracy and Nobility social class as well as its entire royalty…! The French Revolution actually took place from 1789 to 1799 and influenced other major historical revolutions of that time not solely throughout Europe but The American Revolution as well…!!! ….Unbelievable as it sounds today, the French Revolution played a CRUCIAL ROLE on the French slaves on the French part of La Isla Hispaniola, where self-taught slaves revolted against their French masters and created their own Revolution! Yet, this revolution was nonetheless TOTALLY DIFFERENT at its very chore…!!! …For this revolution was not a revolution of conquests an IPd battle for more territory and land… Oh noooooooooooo, not at all….!!! This revolution was a revolution for Survival, for Life’s Basic Civil and Human Rights, for an entire RACE, who had been forcible put into submission just because of the colour, the tone and complexion of their skin: that of being of a darker skin tone and black…!!! As Metropole France plunged into Protest, Bloodshed, and Constitutional Conflicts; the most astute slaves of Saint Domingue, decided that it was time as well for them to Rise-Up and Regain their four hundred + years of FREEDOM and LIBERTY…!!
These two above pictures are courtesy of: El Museo de La Fortaleza De Puerto Plata, Republica Dominicana.
…And this is how La Isla Hispaniola spit into two…! …Spain and France had both been arguing and fighting for La Isla Hispaniola since Christopher Columbus’ Expedition, financed by the Kingdom of Spain, had landed on the Indigenous land… However, similarly as to how Europeans had divided the continent of Africa and of Australia in slices: attributing these slices to each other without caring at all for the native existent and already present population, they did the same with La Isla Hispaniola where France claimed its western coast and Spain its geographically larger eastern coast. Spain finally agreed to give its western portion to France, of which its new governor officially gave its French name: Saint Domingue… Yet however, while France was busy battling its historically significant French Revolution(as it influenced other European revolutions and most importantly: the United States’ Civil War, another revolution would creep up far away from the “old” continent within Saint-Domingue…! The largest slave revolt, with the support and assistance of freed people of mixed race known as the “Kreol”/”Creole” in French/”Creole” in English in La Isla Hispaniola’s French side, erupted to the Spanish side governor’s dismay, who called for reinforcement to Spain as there was a great FEAR from the Spanish “Bourgeoisie”/”Burguesa” that the slaves on the eastern region of the island would follow the lead of those from the French side and begin to revolt as well…. And this is whee Puerto Plata’s Fortaleza holds such an important place in history as equally as Haiti’s “Fortress”, located in a little further south the region of Cap-Haitian, at the Bonnet mountain in the town of L’Evque. This fortress is called: “”La Citadel” in French/”The Citadel” in English. Haiti’s “La Citadelle” is protected by UNESCO: an umbrella of The United Nations’ of which its acronym means the following: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, “La Citadelle” was furthermore built at the end of the slave revolt by Henri Christophe who was a leader alongside Toussaint De Couverture, during Saint-Domingue’s slave rebellion and war; which lasted from 1791 to 1804. -The outcome of this slave revolution led by Toussaint Couverture…? The slaves won the revolution with France and Spain recognizing the region as a Sovereign nation which would be named by its indigenous Taino Native American language: “Ayiti”; literally meaning: land of the mountains” for all Haitians and “Haiti” for the rest of the world and which was the original name the European colonizers has kept to call this entire Caribbean island, which still stands strong today! Unbeknownst to many, “La Citadelle” was actually created after the black slaves won their revolution, which would come to be the ONLY SUCCESSFUL slave revolt within the world and Haiti has historically gone down in history as being: the second republic within the entire Americas…!!! My outmost wish is to most assuredly one day re-visit Haiti and go see The Citadel just as I hope to one day go visit The Island of Goree in Senegal (a West African French speaking country) from where thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of Africans throughout the continent’s coast and mainland, were captured, separated, chained and forcibly thrown into boats like cattle, to cross all the way to The Americas to work on the then billion lucrative cotton plantations… :(! :(! :(!
…As much as it is important to me to therefore visit Haiti’s Citadel, it was also important to me to travel and to visit the other side: The Dominican Republic and Puerto Plata’s Fortaleza as one tries to mentally transport oneself back into history and imagine the fear of the unknown on both sides…: The European descent people who had no traceable black ancestry, the remaining Taino descent people who had survived their people’s massacres and the African descent slaves and people of “mixed” race who rightfully and justifiably rebelled and fought for twelve years, to obtain their Freedom after ~400 years of their race being enslaved… :(! :(! :(! …This is the reason why I had to come visit The old Isla Hispaniola and both countries and nations are as equally fascinating…! For as I stated at the very beginning of this very blog’s article I am presenting typing about: this is the only Caribbean island which is tied at its “hip” together…!!! …And more importantly, which share a Unique, Extremely Special History and Intermixity…! This, even if the majority of dark skinned people are found in Haiti and a great majority of the Tainos’ descent people are on the other hand found in The Dominican Republic…. It does not matter…! For both people are equally beautiful…! …And there are also inter-marriages between both populations…! If one island is markedly poorer and less developed than the other, this is due to a longstanding corruption from the Duvalier’s (father and son) respective dictatorships…! The lack of sustainable infrastructure in Haiti, similar to many underdeveloped nations including within my own continent of origin and many countries worldwide, is what enables natural disasters to cause more devastating effects such as Haiti’s earthquakes, where the poorest rural Haitian men actually break rocks from the coastal land’s mountains to sell them to being able to feed their families :(! :(! :(! …What they are totally oblivious about, is that they by breaking rocks they are in fact causing sediment destruction & weakness, therefore causing irreparable damage for natural disaster protection! …As a result, as a black woman, my group visit to Puerto Plata’s Fortaleza was most definitely touching and moving to me, as I realized that both sides fiercely protected themselves from each other but that however yet nonetheless, both societies are inter racially mixed…! More still, many Haitians from various social classed, live in the Dominican Republic (and not just the illegal immigrants that we are used to see in the western influenced media) and that they are well integrated within the Dominican society… And that like everywhere, most Dominicans embrace ALL races as they have a full awareness of their diversely mixed one… :)! :)! :)!
….I know, I know, I know :)! :)! :)! I purposely made a typo error on the word “Fabulous”, to emphasize this above picture”s Tropical Awe-Stricking Dominican Landscape :)! :)! :)! …And below, you will find my last picture for this article and my visual visit to such a historical landmark…! The last time I actually visited a fortress was in Dubrovnik, Croatia in my late teens…! …OH, Nevermind… :)! :)! :)! …And I truly do very much apologize for any not corrected additionnal typos…!!! I copied this remaining pictures from my instagram page directly for lack of time to crop and copy and paste my from my Google saved pictures…! …This last pciture furthermore wraps up my San Felipe’s intriguing and moving Fortaleza’s Day Trip, along Puerto Plata’s acqua deep coral blue seaside and me hanging by the pole with a large smile; just humbly happy and amazed to being present and living in the moment of such wonderful traveling experiences…!!!