Shadows begin to form in the early evening, thick stones in the old city seem less heavy and ancient, a softness wraps itself around the Parque Colon, the Santo Domingo Cathedral, the bars, restaurants and hotels in the Zona Colonia. This is a well visited area, picked by Unesco to celebrate because of it’s culture and history. In the evening, the light switch turns down in slow degrees and people come out to sit on benches, visit, watch tourists, and enjoy the feel of a place where Christopher Columbus once walked.
Plaza Billini recognizes the efforts of a well loved and respected Catholic priest who founded hospitals and orphanages in Santo Domingo. Plaza Duarte celebrates the founder of the Dominican Republic who was, ironically, a poet, writer and activist instead of being just a military man brandishing a sword and riding a horse.
Tonight, there are bursts of life coming from all directions. There is the Chu Chu train passing our two plazas taking visitors for a tour, explaining dozens of important locations where important people in Dominican Republic history, and Santo Domingo history, lived and played their part on life’s stage.. When you walk the streets here there are plaques on the walls of residences everywhere that remind you that these blank faced, neglected buildings once contained living breathing contributors to society.
In the Billini Plaza this evening, professional photographers are taking wedding pictures, diners are ordering at Lulu’s Wine and Tasting Bar, and visitors stroll as it cools down. The Padre’s statue, in the middle of the Plaza, shows him with one of his orphans. There is a small car on the plaza that draws attention,and, on some evenings, the hostess at Lulu’s tells me, there is live music here.
In Plaza Duarte, a group of seniors sit on green crates visiting at the same time a hip hop group of teens dance and raise funds to go to Phoenix, Arizona for an International Hip Hop Tournament.
The coolness of the evening is welcome, the softening of the hard edge afternoon a pleasure.
When you leave the Zona Colonia, Santo Domingo turns into a different city, a modern, bustling, mall shopping, car dealership, big billboard’s, McDonalds kind of place.
Staying in the Zona Colonia, even a few days,lets you forget International Airports, freeways and Interstates, sky rise apartments and business complexes, urban scrawl and our modern world.
The world has gotten too quick for us to assimilate.
Our landscape changes so quickly, we don’t even remember what we have seen, much less grasp what it means.