• close family • small boat • big world •

La Isabella

October 10, 2014

by Nicole
At anchor Luperon, Dominican Republic

Model of Christopher Columbus's House
Except for Viking settlements, La Isabela was the first European settlement of the New World. Hispaniola was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492, who then returned to found the settlement. It was built in order to search for precious metals. It barely survived until 1496, when Columbus abandoned it to build a new settlement, in the area now called Santo Domingo.
After his first voyage to the New World, Christopher Columbus returned to Hispaniola with seventeen ships and more than 1000 men. They also brought pigs, horses, wheat, sugarcane, guns, and, unintentionally, rats and new diseases. They built houses, storerooms, a big house for Columbus, and the first church of the New World. The Taino natives helped the settlers by giving them food and helped them when they were searching for gold, little of which was found.

Cash at the El Castillo Museum.
Surprisingly, the alignment is accidental.
In 1495 a hurricane struck the island. The Taino hid in caves in the mountains while the Spanish stayed in their colony. During the hurricane, many of Columbus’ ships sank. After the hurricane, the colonists went into the mountains to look for more gold, but they couldn’t find any. The search turned into a kidnapping of more 1600 Taino natives. Some were taken to Spain, some stayed in La Isabela as slaves. The Spanish colonists also imposed a tax on every free male Taino over the age of 14.

By 1496 the colony was in bad shape. At least half of the settlers had scurvy, and began to die of multiple diseases. By 1498 there were no more Europeans in La Isabela. But the colonists had left their mark. The Taino people were dying of smallpox, measles, typhus, and other diseases the colonists had brought with them. Within a generation all the Taino people were dead.
A very sad and terrible event happened to the ruins of La Isabela. In 1942 there were dignitaries coming to visit. The
current Dominican leader, Trujillo, told workers to "clean up" the site. They misunderstood and bulldozed most of remaining buildings and artifacts into the sea. What little was left is now part of the historical site.

Markers showing the location of buildings at the El Castillo historical site. The center photo shows the base of the first church in the new world.
We recently spent the day visiting La Isabela. We rode on the back of motorcycles through indescribably beautiful countryside with our friends from another boat. There were two parts of the historic site of Cabo Isabela site: the grounds containing the ruins and the museum. The site consisted of a handful of very small houses, a graveyard, the first church of the New World, and Columbus’ first house. The original building are gone, so markers are placed on the ground to outline where they stood. We walked around in the tiny houses and Columbus’ house. There was also a human skeleton that we were allowed to touch.

At the El Castillo historical site we saw a 500-year old tree, a human skeleton, two owls, and beautiful butterflies.

We also went to the museum. There were artifacts that included old coins, nails, a few old cannons, Taino carvings, a model of Columbus’ house, and a model of the Santa Maria. There were also informational plaques, but we couldn’t read much of what they said because they were all in Spanish! As we were walking out of the museum, we saw two little owls sitting on the branch of a tree. They were really cute!

A stop on our motorcycle ride in the countryside between Luperon and La Isabela

Ice Cream!!!!

After we toured the historical site we went to the beach, where we went swimming, played Ping-Pong, and had big ice-cream sundaes for two dollars each! We had a really amazing time in La Isabela!