Santo Domingo Fortress
Located on Calle Las Damas in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo, the Fortaleza de Santo Domingo or Fortaleza Ozama is a jewel of colonial architecture and one of the most emblematic monuments of the Dominican capital.
Considered a World Heritage Site along with the other monuments of the Colonial Zone, this fortress is the oldest military construction of European origin in the Americas. Its name is due to its location close to the Ozama River.
The construction of the Ozama Fortress began in 1502 by the master builder Gómez Garcia de Varela under the supervision of Governor Nicolás de Ovando. The structure was completed in 1508.
This coral stone building has the shape of a medieval European castle and its main objective was to protect the city from attacks by English, French and Portuguese pirates and invaders.
It also served as a prison facility. Historical figures including Christopher Columbus, Juan Pablo Duarte, Matias Ramon Mella and Francisco del Rosario Sanchez were locked up in its dungeons.
During the colonial era, the fortress was known as the “Tower of Homage” to honor the exploits of the Spanish conquistadors in the New World. It was also known as the “Watchtower”, since from its central tower of 18.5 meters high you could see the whole city.
In 1930, the fortress was the place where Rafael Leonidas Trujillo developed his plans to rise to power and overthrow President Horacio Vasquez. In 1937, the dictator ordered this structure to be reinforced and turned it into a prison for political enemies.
The Ozama Fortress functioned as a prison until 1970.
In its green area, you will see an immense hollow bronze statue of the military man, Spanish official and writer Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo who took over as captain of the fortress and director of the prison.
To the right of the fortress is the Santa Barbara Powder Keg. This structure, built in 1787, has the appearance of a church so that the invaders did not suspect that Spanish weapons were stored there.
Currently the Ozama Fortress is open to tourists and visitors from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Artistic presentations, cultural activities and school trips are held there.