The Hostal Niola's Ovando, Santo Domingo

For third world countries the preservation of the physical record of the past is a luxury few can afford. Sometimes allocation of scarce resources for the restoration or preservation of a major monument can be justified in terms of its potential attraction for tourists. Otherwise the claims of cultural pride usually run a poor second to the demands of development. Occasionally utilitarian and cultural priorities can be reconciled where a monument can be restored and at the same time be given a gainful contemporary function. Following the excellent example set by the Spanish in converting castles and country houses into state hotels the small Caribbean state of the Dominican Republic has restored and converted into a major hotel two of the original houses of Santo Domingo de Cuzman, the first European city established in the New Word.

Both houses date from the last two decades of the sixteenth century and are situated on the Calle de las Damas leading to the residence of the Viceroy. The entrance to the hotel, or hostal as it is called in the Spanish fashion, is through the original entrance to the house of Nicolas de Ovanda, who was appointed Governor of Hispaniola in succession to Cristobal Colon – otherwise known as Christopher Columbus – who had ruled over the island he had occupied for Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain as their Viceroy.

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