The Origin of the La Romana Name


An important topic for natives of La Romana, and Dominicans in general, is the existing debate regarding the origin of the La Romana name.

The Established History

The established history on the origin of the La Romana name is that it derives from the roman scales used in the sugar cane mills to weigh the sugar cane. Considering that a roman scale used to exist where today is the city of La Romana, the locals used to take the sugar cane to weigh it before selling them to the sugar cane mill. For this reason the people used to say they were going to La Romana. With the passage of time the name stuck to the area and that is the reason today it is known as La Romana.

Evidence that Disproves the Established History

Although the established history makes sense, it does not implies that it is very convincing. The official map of the island of Santo Domingo of 1784 made for the Kings of Spain puts in doubt the established history. The area where today exists the city of La Romana appears in the map with that name.

Official 1784 Map of the Island of Santo Domingo

Title of the Map. “Map of the Island of Santo Domingo, Also Called La Española. By Mr Juan López, pensioner of Your Majesty. Madrid in the year 1784.”

1784 Map of the Island of Santo Domingo. La Romana appears on the extreme southeastern coast, across from Isla Catalina.

The La Romana Name in 1784. In this close up to the area where today exists the city of La Romana is evidenced that in 1784 the river that meets the Caribbean Sea in that area was named La Romana.

Additional Historic Details 

There are four additional historical details that intensify the doubt regarding the established history on the origin of the La Romana name.

  • The La Romana immediate vicinity remained very sparsely populated from the time that Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492 until the second half of the XIX century. In other words, La Romana lacked a small and stable population for more than 300 years. It is also probable that the La Romana area was devoid of any reasonable number of human habitation for even longer, if we take into consideration that there is no evidence that the area was populated by Taino indians at the time the Spaniards discovered the island.
  • The city of La Romana was founded in 1897. That is 113 years after the 1784 map was published.
  • In 1912, the Puerto Rico based The South Porto Rico Company bought tens of thousands of acres near La Romana. For the first time in the La Romana history the area starts to produce and export sugar cane. Notice that this takes place 128 years after the 1784 map is published.

For these reasons it is very clear beyond a reasonable doubt that it is impossible that the La Romana area was named after the Roman scales used to weigh sugar cane.

The Problem with the Roman Scale

  • The founding of the city of La Romana took place 15 years before the area began producing and exporting sugar cane. For this reason, it is impossible that a Roman scale existed in the area before there was sugar cane production.
  • The La Romana area was never a sugar cane growing area in colonial times. It was not even populated during that entire time. Despite its desolate nature, the 1784 map includes the name La Romana for the river that meets the Caribbean Sea in that area.

The True Origin of the La Romana Name

All evidences indicates that the river was named La Romana by the Taino indians, as is the case with all the major rivers in the eastern region of the Dominican Republic. Then the Spaniards kept the Taino name for the river, as they did with the names of most rivers on the island of Santo Domingo. Centuries later the Taino name is applied to the new city that was founded there and to its vicinity.