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Thread: La Zona Colonial: some thoughts

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    Default La Zona Colonial: some thoughts

    Recently, it was announced that Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone will get a 30 million dollar facelift. These funds will be dispersed by the Dominican Ministry of Tourism along with the Inter-American Development Bank and will go mainly to improving the streets, plazas and other public spaces, underground power lines and surveillance, as well as restoring the neighborhood’s attractions. Basically, the city is scrambling to prepare for a large influx of Punta Cana tourists with the now completed Coral Highway. Whether any of these improvements take place remains to be seen but I am always hopeful for la Zona Colonial.

    This week I took our tour to the Capital from Punta Cana with a group of about 20 individuals. I sometimes take the excursions we sell, incognito, to ensure our clients are receiving the quality my company expects. Since I no longer live in the capital and visit maybe a couple times every few months, I was able to enjoy the tour of the Colonial Zone as just another tourist. On this day, much of how I felt about the Zona was solidified.

    We all know the Zona Colonial is in dire need of this proposed facelift. There’s trash everywhere, lighting is an issue, safety is a concern, the buildings need to be refurbished or painted, there are horrible smells, lack of tourist information, etc, etc. We can bad mouth the Colonial Zone as much as we want but there is one thing the Zona Colonial has that no one can deny; the Zona has character. Those 16 square blocks ooze with character and local customs like nowhere else in the Dominican Republic. If you want a true example of Dominican culture, all you have to do is stroll the streets of the Zona where you’ll find a genuine slice of what life is like in the Dominican Republic: men discussing politics in a local barbershop, women discussing other people in a salon, families enjoying time together, colmados blasting merengue and bachata, children playing hula-hoop, shoe shine boys hungry for business, the night workers and the guys who sit on El Conde who only visit to solicit night workers, the hawkers, the tourists, the guy who sells fruit, the guy who asks you for money, the stray dogs, the crumbling edifices with clothing left to dry on the balcony, the modern apartments and expensive hotels, the comedores where everyone is enjoying their “plato del día”, the pastry shops who churn out Dominican sweets, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, someone peeing on the street, someone throwing trash on the street, romantic ambar-colored street lights, stolen man-hole covers, nightlife spots that range from preppy, to bohemian, to homosexual and a narrative of half a millennium as the one place where all modern history in the Western Hemisphere can be traced back to.

    Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone is everything we love and hate about the Dominican Republic. It’s how I respond to all our clients when I get the common question: “Where can I go to experience the real Dominican Republic.” Answer: the Colonial Zone.

    Only on this day, as our tour group walked down Calle El Conde and I gave that same answer to a young woman from Romania, she looked around and said: “But it’s so dirty”. To which I responded: “And we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
    Punta Cana Destination Management Company
    http://dr1.com/directories/Caribbean-Dream.html

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  3. #2
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    Hi:

    I live in the DR for about half the year and love to come to the Zona Colonial for a night or two. I love the old streets and architecture. You can feel a vibe here of history past fighting off present day Santo Domingo. I usually stay at the El Conde Hotel with its' balcony rooms that overlook El Conde and Columbus Square and its'wonderful outdoor cafe. The colonial zone is living history and a window into the past. It is a must for locals and tourists alike.

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    Only on this day, as our tour group walked down Calle El Conde and I gave that same answer to a young woman from Romania, she looked around and said: “But it’s so dirty”. To which I responded: “And we wouldn’t have it any other way.”[/QUOTE]

    Written with affection no doubt...BUT You miss one little slice of dominican life...this dirt you laud, is proudly and daily cleaned from even the most humble of Dominican homes...the filth of the zona is not representitive of the typical dominican...the barrio calle perhaps...but not the individual. and FURTHER the filth only contributes to keeping the zona from being the world class destination dominicans deserve to have in their capitol. This is indeed a magic place, with a vibrant culture resting on what should be known as the soil from which the modern Americas were born.

    We all (north, central and south Americans) deserve to have this jewel dusted off just a bit...as if there was a ounce or two of pride among the corrupt business and tourist officials who in any other potential money maker, (given the importance of Santo Domingo), would have been sent out of town on a rail long ago. Domincans that I know are a proud and entrepenurial people, but their leaders are not even smart enough to feign pride by replacing worn out lighting on the front walkway so that at least passers by come in for a look and buy a fria.

    So Let the bachata blair, the shoe shine boy hussle for his 10 pesos, and the sun beat down on Colon's weathered head, but domincans and tourists DO deserve better. I too tuely love the zone, but the steets could be lined with perhaps not quite gold...but a alot more revenue...real basic stuff....seriously...2 hrs from dade, 3 from ny, and most non latinos barely know the place exists. Real dopey biz acumen here I am afraid...and yes a little upkeep AND MAINTENANCE would go a long way.

    Otherwise your praise of the charm and importance of this place is spot on.

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    Great posts. This is the reason that on my many visits to the DR over the past dozen year, I begin and end them in the Zona, grit and all, and recommend to every first time traveler, that they get out of the Punta Cana AI's, at least for a day, and visit this historic, wonderful, place. It will be interesting to see if, when, and how, these proposed upgrades take place.

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    Just blogged on one of the big problems in the Colonial Zone

    What about your saucepans?: Colonial Zone – how to ruin a fabulous place

    Matilda

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    Great Posts. But if the Dominicans cared about the Colonial Zone they would clean it up.
    Why clean for a bunch of hustlers and tourists ?
    If you dont like it dont go there

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnnyBoy View Post
    Great Posts. But if the Dominicans cared about the Colonial Zone they would clean it up.
    Why clean for a bunch of hustlers and tourists ?
    If you dont like it dont go there
    Because tourists generate revenue, and sd's proximity (and historical importance) to the states and even europe make it a prime candidate for tourism, but short sighted administrative pinheads who should be looking at the big pic for dinero, instead take the easy corrupt path, which hurts everybody, including keeping tourism and revenue muted. Even said ministry of tourism pinhead stands to make a lot more money personally...love to see these folks get on Dr1 and defend their incompetence...

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    love to see these folks get on Dr1 and defend their incompetence...
    They'd have to be literate to do that.

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    Dominicans have no pride in the Colonial Zone, maybe because it's falling apart.
    This is in stark contrast to the Colonial Zone in Cartagena Colombia.
    Colombians are proud of their Colonial Zone and want to show you around.
    It also helps that it is absolutely stunning!

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    I like the Colonial Zone and wish it was more attractive. I look at some of the buildings and wonder how hard would it be to wash down some of them. I don't know when that ugly surface was put down on El Conde, but it reminds me of all the bad design decisions from the 70's. I've seen them scrub that Calle but it never looks clean. It doesn't have to be pristine but if they change anything I hope it's that pavement.

    I remember my first trip to Santiago and thought how they are doing it right. The monument area which is a main tourist area is nice and inviting.
    Last edited by RG84; 10-12-2012 at 08:09 PM.

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