The first partial map of the island of Santo Domingo was made by Christopher Columbus in December 1492. He drew only the north coast of the island, which was the first scenery of our island that was visited by the Admiral of the Sea.
The First Cartographer of America
Christopher Columbus, perhaps unknowingly, became the first person to draw a map of the island of Santo Domingo and, by consequence, of America.
Christopher Columbus’ Extraordinary Intelligence
One of the most extraordinary aspects of this map is how the shape of the northern coast of the island is very accurately depicted, despite that in 1492 the modern technology that allows to see the shape of our coasts and the morphology of our island didn’t exist. Christopher Columbus drew the map by hand and solely from what his eyes witnessed from his caravels. The implications is that Christopher Columbus was not only an expert mariner, but also he was intelligent enough to decifer other aspects.
The Names Given by Christopher Columbus
An interesting detail that is evident in the map are the names given by Christopher Columbus to various places of the island. All the names chosen by the Admiral have a religious-Catholic background or relate to Spain, demostrating his religiosity and his admiration of Spain and the Catholic Kings for believing and financing his voyage. The voyage of discover was entirely based on assumptions and faith, with no guarantee that they were correct or even the guarantee that they were going to survive the odissey.
- The Spanish Island (La Española or Hispaniola): He gave the island this name because the first scenery that he witnessed, in the vicinity of Cape Saint Nicholas, resembled very much the typical natural scenery in Spain.
- Cape Saint Nicholas: The most northwestern cape of the island was named in honor of Saint Nicholas, because Columbus first saw this area on December 5, 1492, the eve of Saint Nicholas of Bari Day. Centuries later Cape Saint Nicholas was also known as the Gibraltar of America.
- Tortuga Island: This island off the northwestern coast had an inmense number of turtles nesting on the beach and that prompted Columbus to name it Tortuga, which means turtle in Spanish. Centuries later Tortuga became one of the major congregation spots for pirates and buccaneers. In the XVII century this island was also where the French established their first foothold that would eventually lead to the creation of the French colony of Saint-Domingue and afterwards the Republic of Haiti.
- Navidad: The first Spanish fort built in America was Navidad (Christmas in Spanish), constructed from the wooden remains of the Santa Maria galeon after it crashed into a coral. Although there are no remains or indications of where this fort was built, it is widely known that the location was a few kilometers east of the city of Cap Haitian.
- Montecristi: Christopher Columbus named an isolated hill that was its own small peninsula as Montecristi (Mount of Christ). Today Montecristi applies to the town founded nearby and also the province.
- Cibao: Unlike the other names, Cibao is not an invention of Columbus, but rather it is an original Taino name. This is the only Indigenous name that Columbus incorporated into his map. It meas rocky land and the Tainos used it to refer to what is now known as the Cordillera Central (Central Mountain Range) in the Dominican Republic. It is important to note that until the XIX century many maps had Cibao as the name of these mountains. The Spaniards applied the name to the large and fertile valley that lies north of the mountain range. For centuries the gold mines of the Cibao were well known in Europe and Ameirca to such a degree that Cibao became synonymous with wealth and mystery.
The Map Made by Christopher Columbus
Modern Satelite Image of the Island