Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, the nation's capital and largest city. It lies on the southern coast along the Caribbean Sea and is the country's political, economic, and cultural center. Industrial plants in or near the city produce refined sugar, foods, liquor, and textiles. Nearby beaches and a tropical climate make Santo Domingo a popular tourist destination. An international airport serves the city.
Most of Santo Domingo has been built since 1930, when a hurricane virtually destroyed the city. In the old Spanish section of the city, known as the Zona Colonial, restored structures include the 16th-century Cathedral of Santa María and the Alcazar de Colón, a palace built in 1510 for the general viceroy of Spain. Other attractions include the National Palace, the Palace of Fine Arts, the Museum of Modern Art, and the National Aquarium. The Columbus Lighthouse contains what is said to be the tomb of Christopher Columbus. The University of Santo Domingo, founded in 1538, is the oldest university in the Americas.
Santo Domingo was founded in 1496 by Bartholomew Columbus, brother of Christopher. It was the first permanent European settlement in the New World. It became the base for early Spanish exploration in the Caribbean and on the North American mainland. After the conquest of Mexico in 1521 its importance declined.
The city came under French rule in 1795, reverted to Spain in 1809, and was captured by Haiti in 1822. When the Haitians were driven out in 1844 it became the capital of the newly created Dominican Republic. From 1936 until 1961 the city was called Ciudad Trujillo. United States troops were sent to Santo Domingo in 1965 to prevent Communists from seizing control of the government during an attempted coup. They were withdrawn the following year. In 1998 Hurricane Georges caused heavy damage to the city.