Fortaleza Ozama

The Ozama Fortress (Spanish: Fortaleza Ozama) was built in 1502 by the Spanish at the entrance to Santo Domingo's Ciudad Colonial, Dominican Republic, and overlooking the Ozama River. Named after this river, the castle, also referred to as "La Fortaleza" or "The Fortress". It was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, together with the other historical monuments of the Ciudad Colonial.

Fortaleza Ozama
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Fortaleza Ozama RD 11 2017 6495.jpg
Homage Tower in Ozama Fortress
LocationSanto Domingo, Dominican Republic
Part ofColonial City of Santo Domingo
CriteriaCultural: (ii), (iv), (vi)
Inscription1990 (14th session)
Coordinates18°28′24″N 69°52′54″W / 18.47320°N 69.88171°W / 18.47320; -69.88171Coordinates: 18°28′24″N 69°52′54″W / 18.47320°N 69.88171°W / 18.47320; -69.88171
Fortaleza Ozama is located in the Dominican Republic
Fortaleza Ozama
Location of Fortaleza Ozama in the Dominican Republic

Recognized by the UNESCO for being the oldest military construction of European origin in the Americas.[1] It was built between 1502-1508.[2]


An impressive architectural structure of medieval style and design, the Tower of Homage (Spanish: Torre del Homenaje) stands in the center of the grounds. The castle was designed to guard the entrance to the port of Santo Domingo and defend the city from seaborne enemies. Coral stones extracted from the sea were used for construction.[3] Black and Taino slaves worked for the construction of the fortress. Nicolás de Ovando, founder of Santo Domingo, personally chose the lot of the construction. The fortress was considered the Axis of the Conquest by the Spaniards once they had explored the whole island.[4]

The architect of the building was Gómez Garcia de Varela. The construction started with the main tower, then the shooting platforms, then the main defensive fort.[4]

It was completed in 1505.[5] During the 16th century, the 18-meter high tower was the highest European-built construction of the Americas.[6] The entrance gate on Calle Damas was originally built in 1608, known as the Prevention Gate.[7] In 1787, the gated entrance was replaced by the actual one, the Carlos III gate. The doors were made in imported African ebony. There are bullets holes in the doors dating from 1965, when US soldiers intervened in the island during the Dominican Civil War.[6]

Black slaves and pirates were usually jailed in the fortress. During the 1900s, the ex-presidents Jacinto Peynado and Horacio Vásquez did some time in the prison.[3] In 1937, under the leadership of Rafael Trujillo, the outside walls were crenellated. In 1965, the Fortaleza ceased to serve as a prison and became a public building. The Fortaleza was never seized by attacking enemies.[3]


The length of the city walls in 1785. The Ozama Fortress was its main feature. Model exhibits at the Museo de las Casas Reales in Santo Domingo

The Fortaleza is located at the end of Las Damas Street.

The statue in front of the building depicts Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés, governor of the fortress from 1533 to 1557, and author of Historia General y Natural de las Indias. The statue was imported from Salamanca, Spain in 1977, and was made by the artist Joaquín Vaquero Turcio[3][6]

The central tower of the building is 18-meter high, with walls 2-meter thick.[6] The fortified walls around the building are 3-meter thick, except on the river-side where the walls are 1-meter thick. The cement holding the stoned walls together is a mixture of gypsum, clay, lime and the blood of animals.[4]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Colonial City of Santo Domingo. Outstanding Universal Value". UNESCO World Heritage Centre website.
  2. ^ "The Fortress of Santo Domingo also known as Fortaleza Ozama".
  3. ^ a b c d (in Spanish) Lauterio Vargas, Historia de la Fortaleza Ozama,, 28 September 2013
  4. ^ a b c The Fortress of Santo Domingo also known as Fortaleza Ozama,
  5. ^ Harvey, Sean; Fullman, Joe (1 January 2009). The Rough Guide to the Dominican Republic. Rough Guides. p. 76. ISBN 978-1-85828-811-6. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  6. ^ a b c d Inside the Fortaleza Ozama,
  7. ^ Tuider, Katherine; Caplan, Evan (4 January 2012). Dominican Republic (Other Places Travel Guide). Other Places Publishing. p. 97. ISBN 978-1-935850-09-0. Retrieved 4 June 2012.