The full name for Santo Domingo is "Santo Domingo de Guzman." It is the oldest European city in the New World, (dating back to 1496), and was founded by Bartholomew Columbus, Christopher's brother. The Taino Indians inhabitated the island of Hispaniola before this time. Santo Domingo was the starting place of much New World exploration. Its harbors saw the departures of Ponce de Leon, Hernando Cortez, and Balboa.   

In the course of about 100 years, invasions by England (under Sir Francis Drake in 1568) and the french (in 1655), Spanish control of Santo Domingo was reduced to less than half its former area. Then in 1822, the Haitians under Toussaint Louverture attacked and took over the island. For 22 years, the Spanish-speaking inhabitants fought for the return of their independence and their part of Hispaniola became known as the Dominican Republic.

Independence was hard won, however, and almost constant upheaval through dictatorship, occupation, civil wars, and political struggles highlighted its first 70 years.

1992 was the 500 year anniversary of Columbus's exploration and discovery of Hispaniola. Controversity surrounded the festivities as many saw Columbus's venture as the exploitation and decimation of a people rather than as a cause for celebration