Santo Domingo and San Zenon in 1930


The San Zenon Hurricane that affected Santo Domingo in 1930 remains as a painful memory. On September 3 it landed near the city and left behind widespread destruction like seen in wars and many victims.

Dominican Victims

Thousands of Dominicans were victims of its fierce winds, drenching rains and horrible surf. The dead were so many and their stench was covering the town from end to end, that quickly they had to be buried in a common tomb. To ensure the stench didn’t affect the city, the site of the common tomb was outside the city to the west, ensuring that whatever smells would go away from the town as usual winds blow east to west. A few years later the unmarked common tomb area was covered with the construction of Ramfis Park, today Eugenio María de Hostos Park. The aftermath was indescribable.

Map of Santo Domingo (1925)

A map of Santo Domingo in 1925, five years before the horrible San Zenon Hurricane.

Images of Santo Domingo Before, During and After San Zenon

Santo Domingo as seen from the air in the 1920’s. Notice the Puente Ozama over the Ozama River.
San Zenon Hurricane arriving at Santo Domingo.
The destruction it created in Santo Domingo was unbelivable. Most of the town was either destroyed or severely affected.
Puerta El Conde looking towards Parque Independencia. The park didn’t extend all the way to the main gate as it does now, but rather there was a street between the gate and the park.
Built in the XVI century by the Spanish, Puerta del Conde has seen it all in Santo Domingo and it still stands intact looking over the city. Notice the elimination of the street and the park extending towards and incorporating the Puerta del Conde.
The elegant Independencia Theater which hosted mant plays was severely damaged. It had to be demolished to the dismay of Santo Domingo residents.
Puente Ozama was the first bridge to cross the Ozama River, the first large bridge ever built in the Dominican Republic and one of the largest bridges in the Caribbean. It was used by carriages, motorized vehicles and pedestrians. Its construction was on orders of President Ulises Heareux. In this image it becomes clear that a part was toppled by the hurricane winds. Unfortunately, the rest had to be demolished due to not being safe in holding the extra weight that traffic of all types puts on a bridge, despite it was made of metal. That’s how strong was the San Zenon Hurricane.
A recent photo of what still remains of the historic and destroyed Puente Ozama under the current Puente Mella.
The original Santo Domingo Motors building in the now Colonial City was utterly destroyed. As can be seen, a pile of metal scraps and wood is all that was left by the San Zenon Hurricane.
Not only was a house partially destroyed by the San Zenon Hurricane, a coconut palm toppled and fell on its roof!
Parque Colón, which is the center of the Colonial City and covers what was the Plaza Mayor, looked like a war zone. Not a single tree was left looking alive. Even the lamps suffered damages.
The picturesque Parque Colón as it looks today.
A section of Santo Domingo reduced to rubble. What took years to build and survived centuries and wars was destroyed in hours!
The injured, but lucky to survive the wrath of the San Zenon Hurricane, received medical attention by several health institutions. Here is an image of one the injured attended by nurses and doctors of the Dominican Red Cross (Cruz Roja Dominicana.)
A 90 degree top-down view of Parque Eugenio María de Hostos. Originally this was the site of the common tomb of the victims of the San Zenon Hurricane. The park was a creation of Dominican Architect Guillermo González and was considered to be a marvel of modern Latin American park design. In recent years it was remodeled, though many original elements were not modified such as the pool (now functions more like a fountain since bathing is prohibited).

The Increase in Trujillo’s Popularity

At the time of the destruction, General Rafael Leonidas Trujiilo was sworn as president for the first time a couple of weeks before. His zeal in the search efforts, discipline and leadership caused that in a short time Santo Domingo was reflourishing as a town. This quick recuperation earned Trujillo the respects of the citizenry within the city and the Dominican Republic in general. At this time he wasn’t a dictator, but a new president who through his own leadership abilities took Santo Domingo from the abiss and placed it the center of city development in the early to mid XX century. This marvelous beginning quickly became into one of the longest dictatorship in the Americas.

San Zenon Remembered

San Zenon Hurricane is done with, but this nightmare will always be remembered for the great destruction it caused in the in Santo Domingo.