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Souvenirs made in the DR
Souvenirs are tangible reminders of a vacation or holiday that one carries back to one's home country. They may be practical or whimsical, but most of all, they should capture the essence of the country you have visited. If you are running around on your last day in town trying to purchase some local gifts for friends and family - gifts that will reflect the culture of your new home, this section should make your shopping a bit easier.

Souvenirs from the Dominican Republic include a number of items that reflect the sights and tastes of this country such as paintings and carvings, ceramics, clay ‘faceless’ dolls, jewelry using amber or the unique pale blue larimar stone, coffee and cigars. Note that the colorful paintings that are sold as Dominican art on city streets are actually variations of famous Haitian paintings using house paint.

Where to Buy 
Souvenirs may be purchased in the many shopping centers of Santo Domingo, at supermarkets, hotels or special craft markets.

Following is a list of some places to buy Dominican souvenirs: 

Mercado Modelo, on Av. Mella, near the Parque Independencia is a bustling marketplace that carries a large selection of crafts and paintings (not to mention postcards, fruit, meat and vegetables, freshly ground coffee, folk remedies and almost anything else). Prices may be marked up to allow for tour guide commissions and bargaining. If you have not come with a guide, you are welcome to bargain for a discount.

The colonial city is chock-full of small gift shops selling a variety of wonderful Dominican memorabilia. Follow a route starting on Calle El Conde, through Parque Colon and onwards to Calle Isabel la Catolica and you will come across almost a dozen such establishments.

Ambasa, on the corner of Merino and Restauracion, sells jewelry made with amber and larimar, as well as other items. On the second floor is Santo Domingo's Amber Museum, where the origins of this semi-precious stone is well documented and attractively presented.

The Mercado Colonial gift shop and larimar factory at Isabel la Catolica No. 152, Tel. 809 686-8331, some 100 meters from the Cathedral, is one of the better gift shops in the city. Also on La Catolica, at No. 54 is a Larimar museum and shop.

The Amber and Larimar museums contain exhibits about the extraction and the process, and are basically commercial establishments aimed at attracting buyers.

The Gazcue district, near the Colonial Zone, has a number of antique and jewelry shops.

The Von furniture store at Calle Emilio Aparicio, behind Multicentro La Sirena, in the Julieta neighborhood, has wonderful rocking chairs in multiple colors. They are pre-packed for easy traveling.

Favorite Souvenirs 
The great thing about a country with such a diverse culture as the Dominican Republic is that there is something for just about anyone. One favorite souvenir is the faceless ceramic doll, made from red clay. Their outfits are painted in traditional designs. The dolls depict Dominican country life with some dolls balancing baskets or pots on their heads, some milling coffee, and some holding bouquets. Other favorite ceramic items include mugs, plates, vases, and containers, most of which are hand-painted. A ceramic piece very much in vogue is a music box crafted in the shape of a typical Dominican house. The music played is a classical or contemporary merengue. Makey manufactures this fine collection that features variations of the countryside houses from specific regions and plays the music of the D.R.'s most outstanding musicians and composers. Enjoy the lively music of Juan Luis Guerra or the classical style of Luis Alberti in a lovely craft item. Dominican-crafted leather goods are also popular items. They are well-made, and fashioned in current styles and designs. They are available in the larger shopping centers.

Shopping malls like Acropolis on Ave. Churchill have their own craft and jewelry shops with a wide selection of the items mentioned above.

Another option for jewelry is a range using the original medallions found on the Concepcion, a Spanish treasure ship which sank in 1641. The coins are mounted on gold and silver and sold as fine jewelry either with a chain or as a brooch. These can be purchased at Joyeria Michelle at Torre Alessandra on Abraham Lincoln, Tel. 809 542-6509. The owner, Norma de Vargas is probably the country’s leading expert on diamonds. The jewelry store sells coins salvaged from the wreck of the Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion that have been set in gold with an emerald or sapphire cabouchon encrusted in the center, to be worn on a gold chain, or attached to a string of pearls. The designs come from their own workshops and thus vary from the others generally available.

Other souvenirs or "treasures" of the D.R. that you may consider taking back with you are Dominican coffee, rum, music, prepared food items and cigars. These items can be purchased in any large Dominican supermarket, such as the Nacional, Pola, Bravo, La Cadena and Carrefour supermarkets. A true pride and joy of the Dominican people is their richly-flavored coffee. Most Dominicans love their coffee black in a demitasse cup with lots of sugar. Some prefer it in a full-sized cup with two parts boiled milk. The Cafe Santo Domingo or Cafe Santiago coffee can be purchased in small four-cup size bags for individual coffee preparation. Cafe Santo Domingo is available in a tin can for export. Choose the can if you will not be using the coffee within a month of traveling. Almost everyone appreciates a good bottle of rum, and in the Dominican Republic, you have abut 36 variations of this gold-colored drink. There are six distilleries which produce hundreds of gallons a day. The main brands offer top of the line rums with tastes reminiscent of fine brandy. These are Brugal (Siglo de Oro), Barcelo (Imperial) and Bermudez (Aniversario). Brugal also produces a delicious rum cake.

CD and cassette stores abound at the malls or shopping centers in Santo Domingo. Take back the music of this land to remind you of the good times whether you prefer lively upbeat merengue, slower bachata or sexy salsa. The beat is your choice. Musicalia on Tiradentes (Naco) and El Conde (Colonial Zone) is a well-stocked outlet.

To take back the tastes of the Dominican Republic, you can purchase local products such as tropical canned juices, and Bon jams or marmalades sold at any supermarket. There are also sweets and candies known as "dulces." These are similar to fudge but flavored with pineapple, mango or guava, and can be found at specialty shops like Casa de los Dulces on Calle Merino in the Colonial Zone or in supermarkets.

Cigar lovers worldwide know that the Dominican Republic has replaced Cuba as a prime exporter of cigars. Tobacco is the D.R.'s oldest crop. It was already being cultivated by the Tainos when Columbus arrived, and it has long been a stable agricultural export. The U.S. is the D.R.'s number one importer of cigars, but they are also sold to Europe in large quantities. Equal in quality to the famed Cuban cigars, the three main Dominican brands which can be found at supermarkets are: Aurora, Habanera and Cerdan. Cigars can be bought here by the box in supermarkets and individually in small local shops. The Cigar Club at 27 de Febrero with Tiradentes is the place to go if you want to purchase the best cigars from connoisseur sellers. Cigars are also sold in many of the Colonial Zone souvenir shops and at a specialty shop on Plaza Colon.

Note that you may be able to find better prices back home, as most cigars are produced for export. So, the next time a friend asks you to recommend a souvenir, or if you need to stock up on some fast gifts to take home, just head to your local supermarket. Chances are you will find the perfect items right on the shelves!

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