The Oldest Map of the Island of Santo Domingo

In 1516 the Italian Pedro Martir de Angleria made the first map of the island of Santo Domingo.

The Historic Value of the Map

This map has the peculiarity of being the first map of the entire island and that it was made by someone that never visited America. It was drawn based on the descriptions written by the Spanish conquistadors and the first Spaniards to establish themselves on the island. The cartographer also met some well known people, such as Christopher Columbus, whom gave him valuable additional information.

Interesting Details

There are a few interesting details on display in this map.

  • The 16 towns that by that time were already founded by the Spanish are all identified on the map.
  • The importance level of each town was related to its population size. The map manifests this with the size of each town identifier.
  • The map incorporates the original Taino names of various regions, rivers, and adyacent islands.
  • The major lakes and lagoons are also depicted.

The Map 

It is very interesting that the first map of the entire island of Santo Domingo is less precise in the shape of the island than the partial map of the northwestern and northern coasts made by Christopher Columbus in 1492.

Details on Various Areas of the Map

The following up close details of the map start in the extreme southwest, then proceeds to the northwest, and then the north in the vicinity of La Isabela. Afterwards the focus is in the Cibao Valley and parts of the north coast, then descend to the vicinities of San Juan and Azua, followed by the Santo Domingo area. Lastly, the focus is on the Samana peninsula and the eastern region.

Salvatierra de la Sabana. The town of Salvatierra de la Sabana was the most southwestern of the original towns founded by the Spaniards. Today this town is Les Cayes, Haiti.

Santa Maria de la Verapaz & Villanueva de Yaquimo. Verapaz was the most important town founded by the Spanish in the southwestern part of the island. Today the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince sits in the area where once stood Verapaz. Yaquimo is today Jacmel, Haiti; although the town founded by the Spaniards was further to the west than current Jacmel.

Lares de Guhaba & Puerto Real de Bayajá. Guhaba and Bayajá were the two towns founded by the Spanish in the northwestern part of the island. There are no remnants of the original towns, but the current town of Fort Liberte, Haiti is the continuation of the Spanish Bayajá.

La Isabela. Founded by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage, La Isabela became the first permanent European settlement in the New World. A few years later the town was abandoned due to an invasion of ants and the Spanish settlers resettled in the newly founded Santo Domingo. Today the ruins of La Isabela remain.

San Felipe de Puerto Plata, Santiago de los Caballeros, & Concepcion de La Vega. The second most important of the original Spanish towns on the north coast was Puerto Plata, founded between Mount Isabel de Torres and the Bay of Puerto Plata. In the Cibao Valley sits Santiago and La Vega, which in the time of the map La Vega was the second most important town on the island. The ruins of the original La Vega are still visible near the Santo Cerro, while the modern city of La Vega correspond to its second foundation after the original one was destroyed by a powerful earthquake in the late 1500’s.

San Juan de la Maguana & Compostela de Azua. San Juan was, and continue to be, the most important town in the San Juan Valley. Azua was an important port town, but it was destroyed by a tsunami produced by an earthquake in the mid-1700’s. The town was refounded further inland where it sits today.

Santo Domingo, Buenaventura, & Santa Rosa de Bonao. Santo Domingo, the oldest city in the New World, at the time of the map was not only the most important city on the island, but also the most important city in all of America. Buenaventura was located approximately where the modern town of Los Alcarrizos stands in the metropolitan area of Santo Domingo. Nothing remains of Buenaventura. Bonao still sits in the same spot it was founded by the Spanish in the 1500’s.

Santa Cruz del Seibo & Salvaleón de Higüey. On the eastern extreme of the island only two towns were part of first towns founded by the Spanish, El Seibo and Higüey. The former was founded where today is the town of Miches, while modern El Seibo corresponds to a refounding in the 1700’s. The latter has been exactly where it still is today.