Santiago de los Trienta Caballeros (Saint James of the Knights) is located in the northern region of the Dominican Republic and has several places that are definitely worth visiting. As a resident of this fair city, I’m always open for places to go, and the Santiago Monument is one I would recommend for anyone who finds themselves here looking for something to do.
A Local Hot Spot
Situated on the corner of Avenida Francia and Las Carreras, the monument is a popular place. After any event of Dominican note, (like when Martha Heredia won the Latin American Idol, Amelia Vega won Miss Universe, or whenever the local Aguilas baseball team wins), the monument is where everyone heads to celebrate. The whole downtown area is impassable during these occasions, and it is probably wise to avoid the whole general area if you don’t want to get caught up in the chaos.
Designed by the architect Henry Gazón Bona and built by the dictator Rafael Liónidas Trujillo in the 1940’s, it was originally named “The Monument of Peace from Trujillo” in his own ego inflated honor. Standing 70mt (229ft) tall, it was crowned by a statue of Trujillo mounted on a horse, and the 365 stairs that lead to the top were set to represent the fact that Trujillo cared for his people every day of the year. That would seem to be a somewhat ominous message considering how he cared for them…
After his assassination, in 1961, his statue was torn down and the name of the monument was changed to honor the heroes who restored the country’s independence from Spain in the War of Restoration of the 1860’s.
Museum and Gardens
Recently, in a process that took over a year, the structure was remodeled inside and out.
The interior it is now a museum to the heroes of the restoration, containing statues and other works of art that commemorate Dominican heroes. The statues depict the different restoration heroes, one of the great musician and Navarete native Ñico Lora, and an area reserved for the great baseball players of the local Aguilas (Eagles) team. Among the art displayed are scenes from the 1863-1865 Restoration War battles.
Special attention was given to landscaping the gardens that surround the monument, planting trees, flowers, and other plants that are indigenous to the country. Before it was kind of sparsely landscaped and unattractive, but now it is quite nice.
A Magnificent View
If you have the stamina to go up a year’s worth of stairs you will find one of the most beautiful views of the city. On a nice clear day you can see from the historic Hermanos Patiño bridge all the way to the León Jimenez Museum on the other side of the city. So, make sure you have your camera with you and didn’t leave it in the car, because you don’t want to have to “run down” 365 stairs to get it!