Walking the vibrant streets of Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic’s capital, can be frustrating for the beach-seeking tourist — you’re tantalized by the sight of the sea but the best beaches, with that quintessential stretch of pristine sand, are miles away.
But history, culture and nature abound in this cosmopolitan Caribbean city, where Christopher Columbus landed in 1492. The oldest church and first paved road in the Americas are both in Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial, but so are plenty of new businesses that reflect an evolving artistic and activist presence.
These days you can find: Mamey, an L.G.B.T.Q.-friendly cultural space featuring a bookstore, gallery and theater; Microteatro, which delivers 15-minute plays about Dominican life; and Miss Rizos Salón, a hair parlor that often hosts events to fight the stigma against kinky or curly hair.
There are also pockets of nature amid the bustle. In Santo Domingo Este, a short drive from the city center, is an underground lake where Taíno women once bathed.
And in Santo Domingo and elsewhere, an influx of immigrants, including Haitian, Chinese and Venezuelan, have left their mark in recent decades — most noticeable, perhaps, on the culinary scene, bringing everything from arepas to dumplings. Santo Domingo is a city alive and in transition, the sea a mere backdrop to its many charms.
By Concepción de León
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