I found the early history to be fascinating as well. Columbus found Hispaniola on his first voyage in December 1492. He landed, met the Taino Indian inhabitants and on leaving on Dec 25, his flagship, the Santa Maria, struck a reef and was ruined. They salvaged much of the timber from the ship and built the first European shelters on what is now the north coast of Haiti. As he couldn't get all the men on the remaining two ships, 39 Spaniards were left at that place, which he called La Navidad.
The Taino Indians called the island Haiti (Mountainous Land). Columbus called it Spanish Island (La Isla Espanola). Peter Martyr of Angleria was an Italian historian in the Spanish court who produced detailed chronicles (1511 - 1526) of the Spanish exploration from letters and interviews with the explorers. The works were written in Latin and he translated the name as Hispaniola. His works were soon translated into English and French, and the name 'Hispaniola' became the term for the island in English-speaking countries.
When Columbus returned the next year with 17 ships and 1500 people, he found the shelters burned down and all 39 had been killed by the Indians, or succumbed to disease. Several more settlements were established along the coast and Hispaniola was to be the Spanish base in the New World with Columbus as governor as in his contract with the king.
His brother, Bartholomew Columbus, founded Neuva Isabela (named for Queen Isabella of Spain) on the south coast on the east bank at the mouth of the Ozama River in 1496. The settlement was destroyed by a hurricane 2 years later and he moved across to the west bank and founded Santo Domingo on August 5, 1498. It is the oldest permanent European settlement in the New World. It became known as the 'Gateway to the Caribbean'. Ponce de Leon's colonization of Puerto Rico, Velaquez's colonization of Cuba, Cortes' conquest of Mexico and Balboa's expedition across Panama and the first sighting of the Pacific Ocean were all launched from Santo Domingo.
In a letter dated March 20, 1503, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella decreed the building of the first hospital in the new world in Santo Domingo to look after the 'Christian poor and Indians'. This hospital was called Saint Nicholas. As a physician, I found this history of the hospital fascinating and looking further on the Internet found an article of the whole history of this hospital. Later in this bulletin you will see why I mentioned the hospital.
A number of other New World firsts occurred in Santo Domingo. In 1505, due to raiding by pirates, the first military fort was begun (Fortelaza Ozama). In 1510 a palace was constructed by Diego Columbus, Christopher's eldest son who was appointed as the Governor of the Indies in 1509. The first cathedral was begun in 1523 and the first university in 1538.
Unfortunately as elsewhere subsequently in the New World, the native population was decimated by European diseases for which they had no natural resistance. It was estimated that in 1492, there were 400,000 Taino Indians on Hispaniola. By 1512, the native population had shrunk to 60,000 primarly due to smallpox and measles. By 1542, it was just a remnant of 5,000.
There was some gold found and the natives were enslaved to mine it for the Spanish. As the local population collapsed, the first African slaves were brought to the New World in 1502, launching the Atlantic slave trade.
Eventually, Santo Domingo was surpassed in importance by San Juan, Puerto Rico (founded 1509) and Havana, Cuba (founded 1514)
In 1586, Sir Francis Drake raided and burned Santo Domingo and an earthquake 5 years later left the city ruined. The gold had been exhausted and with Cortez conquering the Aztecs in Mexico (1521) and all their silver, and Pisarro conquering the Incas in Peru (1535) with their gold, Hispaniola became just became of minor importance. By the late 1600's Hispaniola was unprofitable for Spain, and a treaty allowed the French to settle in the western region which they named Saint-Dominge (now Haiti).
I saw a number of wintering warblers in the Dominican Republic. Not surprisingly, they were the ones from eastern North America that migrate through Florida to the Caribbean Islands.
The first was the Northern Parula (Setophaga americana). The gray with green back, white eye arcs, wing bars and yellow breast are the ID marks.
|Mangrove Warbler - Hispaniola subspecies|
The male Black-throated Blue Warbler (Setophaga caerulescens) is beautiful and looks just the same, summer or winter. He has a blue back, white wing patch and black throat. I have seen the bird about 4-5 times in 25 years in Texas. I had to go to Michigan last summer to get a photo. I saw at least half a dozen on this trip.
|Black-throated Blue Warbler - male|
The female is drab olive and beige with a grayish face. The large white wing spot helps the ID. I think this was only my second time to see a female, and my first photo.
|Black-throated Blue Warbler - female|
|Cape May Warbler - male|
The female is very drab, but the streaky breast helps the ID. I think this may be the first female I have ever seen, and we saw several on the trip.
|Cape May Warbler - female|
|Pine Warbler - Hispaniola subspecies|
The Green-tailed Warbler (Microligea palustris) is olive above, and gray below. The adult has a red eye, but the juvenile here has a dark eye.
|Green-tailed Warbler - juvenile|
There are 3 parrots on Hispaniola, 2 of which are endemic and the other introduced. The Hispaniolan Parakeet (Psittacara chloroptera) is endangered. There is a population of the birds breeding in the ruins of the Saint Nicholas Hospital in colonial Santo Domingo. That is where I got these photos. The birds nest in holes in the between the bricks where the second floor timbers had been. I think that it is fitting that an old hospital is still working to save the lives of an endangered bird species. The red shoulders are the ID mark as well as the long parakeet tail.
Happy birding and photography,
David McDonald firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Kelly-McDonald email@example.com
photos copyright 2006 - 2014 David McDonald
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