Hey this is a historic site, when we get around to it, we should fix it up

Welcome readers to todays offering from The Philatelist. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. We have an interesting story to tell of when a country, through it’s stamps, signals a future desire.

The stamp today is from Latin America and it shows very strongly on this stamp. Dominican Republic after all sits on Hispaniola, Spain’s Island. Christopher Columbus himself gave it that name. But there is more to the country than Spain and perhaps that explains why the historic site on the stamp was in ruins.

The stamp today is issue A29, a one half centavo stamp issued in 1928. It displays the ruins of the Alcazar de Colon. This was an 8 stamp issue in various denominations and colors all displaying the same view. The stamp is worth 35 cents used. The stamp in this issue to look out for is the mint 1 peso, which is worth $35.

Christopher Columbus landed on Hispaniola in 1492 claiming the island for Spain. There were some Indians already there but life was very difficult in the new colony and few Indians survived the early days. The tobacco and sugar production required much labor and the King of Spain authorized the importation of large numbers of black slaves to be imported from Africa. This was also being done by the French settlements on the western half of the island. Soon Blacks and those of mixed race were the majority in the whole island. The decline of empire lead to Spain and France to give up trying to hold on to colonies in Hispaniola in the early 19th century. The newly freed French speaking back Haitians conquered the Spanish settlements and for 20 years ruled the whole island. This did not work well, the Haitian constitution did not allow white people to own land and the government tried to force the growing of only export cash crops that tanked the economy. Spanish settlers rebelled and were able to regain the eastern half of the island then known mainly as Santo Domingo. They tried to obtain protectorate status from the USA, Spain, Great Britain, and France. They were offering a natural port in return for the protection.

Spain agreed to this in the 1860s during the American civil war but this did not go well either. They announced the intention to reintroduce slavery which to say the least did not go over well with the majority black population. The rejuvenated Catholic Church also tried to stamp out the rampant out of wedlock relationships. Spanish rule was short lived. What followed were a string of strongman leaders,  most of Spanish decent that ruled with increasing help of the USA. The white population grew as new arrivals from Cuba and the Canary Islands came in. The blacks and the mixed race peoples are divided by those of Spanish, French, and English, with some of the latter arriving from British islands nearby to work on ships, railroads and sugar mills. The economy today is mainly tourism and remittances from the many Dominicans in the USA.

The ruins on the stamp, Alcazar de Colon, are quite historic. It was constructed under the son of Christopher Columbus as the colonial governor’s mansion. The architecture of Spain at that time had a strong flavor of the Moors in Spain and that was reflected in the stone structure. The mansion was sacked by Francis Drake in 1586 and the place was under slow decline until by the early 20th century it was a ruin. This is what is depicted on the stamp. In the late 1950s, a particularly long lasting strong man named Trujillo, got to work restoring the site. The reconstruction was only about half the size of the original but a collection of European art and tapestries were acquired to display in it. It is now a UNESCO historic site and the busiest museum in Santo Domingo.

Well my drink is empty and so it is time to open up the conversation in the below comment section. The struggle between the peoples of various ethnic heritages over centuries in the Dominican Republic shows the banality of the original decision by the Spanish King Ferdinand to import slaves into the colonies. I doubt he considered it a big decision at the time. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.