History & Heritage
Hear the Echoes of Time at Museo de las Casas Reales
Museo de las Casas Reales, Zona Colonial
Photo: Mikkel Ulriksen
Explore treasure, maps, weapons and other artefacts from the Spanish colonial era at the The Museum of the Royal Houses (Museo de las Casas Reales).
The Museum of the Royal Houses (Museo de las Casas Reales) collects maps, treasure, weapons and other artefacts, mostly dating back to Spanish colonial era. Visitors can explore exhibits about Taíno culture, Christopher Columbus’ voyages, slavery, the island’s rum, cocoa, tobacco and sugarcane industries, independence, as well as the real-life pirates of the Caribbean.
Built in 1505, the building itself was constructed to house the Spanish-appointed governor’s royal court, as well as royal offices like the justice tribunal and treasury for the Spanish colonies, and living quarters for military captains.
Visitors get to tour the extensive grounds and 20 unique internal rooms, some of which have been restored and decorated to reflect their historical colonial use, while others house artefacts from different periods of pre- and post-colonial history.
Exhibition at Museo de las Casas Reales, Zona Colonial
Photo: Pack-Shot / Shutterstock.com
What you’ll see:
On the first floor, the collections of the museum are distributed by theme in the different rooms. Down a long gallery, you'll find artifacts from the native Dominican Taínos. You'll also see the equipment used to sail the long distances from Europe to the Americas. You'll see many maps depicting the historical understanding of the region and representations of the ships that sailed.
The conquest, colonization, and evangelization of the island are shown in paintings. Along the way, you’ll also gain an understanding of how pirates worked in the Americas.
There are artifacts from Taíno and African enslavement in the Dominican Republic. Spain’s initial interest in the island of Hispaniola was in the gold its inhabitants were rumoured to wear, and Columbus’ first order of business on arrival was to coerce the Taíno peoples into mining for gold to export back to Spain. As the industry expanded and the Taíno population suffered, African slaves were brought to Hispaniola to labor in the gold, sugar and rum industries.
The Dominican Republic gained independence from Spain in 1821. Today Dominican companies own most of their own sugar production, and the government receives taxes from the gold industry.
Garden at Museo de las Casas Reales, Zona Colonial
On the second floor is located the room that contained the justice tribunal, and expositions on the legislation of the colony and family life. There are also government offices and an arms room.
One of the collections in the arms room is from the 20th-century dictator Rafael Trujillo, placed by one of his successors, Joaquín Balaguer when he turned the site into a government museum in 1973.
Sculpture at Museo de las Casas Reales, Zona Colonial
Photo: Oscar Garces / Shutterstock.com
The Museo de las Casas Reales is located on the corner of Calle las Damas Calle de las Mercedes in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo. Entrance to the museum costs 100 pesos (foreigners included) and includes audio guides that translate the meaning of the museum into English and other languages. The museum is open 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM daily, except Mondays.
Written by G. Abdullah.
Published June 2020
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Bookshop in Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo
Photo: Mikkel Ulriksen
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