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Puerto Plata has an engaging history, dating from the Taíno people who first inhabited the Dominican Republic before European contact. The cave-dwelling Taíno recorded much of their history and activities through elaborate rock art, much of which is collected in the Museum of Taino Art.
Founded by Nicolás de Ovando in 1502, Puerto Plata was named for its iridescent silver coastline at sunset and made official by a personal decree signed by Christopher Columbus. To protect against potential pirate attacks, the Fort of San Felipe was built in the mid-sixteenth century. After continued attacks from marauding corsairs, the fort was dismantled in 1605 and reconstructed in 1739, fortified with highly trained military personnel.
Although it flourished as a trade center in its early stages, discovery of richer lands elsewhere led to the financial ruin of Puerto Plata in the sixteenth century and smuggling became a major industry. The Spanish Crown ordered the city destroyed and its inhabitants relocated, but illegal activities continued well into the seventeenth century.The eighteenth century saw a resurgence of mercantile activity in Puerto Plata, until a fire swept the city in 1863, effectively shutting down the area once again until the latter part of the century. An explosion in the tourism industries of the US and Europe in the middle of the twentieth century, along with thorough planning and development by the Central Bank’s Tourism Infrastructure, brought new life to the port city, whose natural beauty and pristine beaches made it an ideal destination for sun-seeking travelers.