It seems that I really do struggle when I have to post more than every 2 weeks cause I have all these other ambitions and things I need to do. Thus I’m probably going to stick with my current posting schedule and have sporadic bonus posts here and there when I have time. Anyways, onto this post…
Museo del Hombre Dominicano, located in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
(Museum of the Dominican Man)
The Museum of the Dominican Man is open Tuesday thru Sunday from 10 am to 5pm. Admission to the museum is 100RD, which roughly translates to 2-4USD depending on exchange rates, and includes an audio guide in several languages. (Be sure to ask for the audio guide if you don’t get one, as they don’t appear to give it out automatically; perhaps they don’t get as many foreign tourists as they do school groups. Also ask for the audio if you can’t read Spanish since all the written descriptions are in Spanish.) The museum is located outside of the Zona Colonial, so it’s accessible by taxi and on foot. A taxi ride from the Zona Colonial to the museum costs 300RD, which is about 7-8USD. (Get the hotel to call you a taxi as the ones found on the streets are unsafe, and make sure to arrange for a return or you’ll end up having to walk back, like we did. If you don’t want to go through the hotel, a taxi service that we used and found pleasant is JC Taxi. They have an hourly rate of 12 USD, so if you plan to go to more than one place per day, it’s pretty decent. Not sure if they charge for just one way trips, but check them out if you need a good taxi service in the Dominican Republic.) If you decide to walk, it takes approximately 40 minutes to reach the museum from the Zona Colonial. Make sure not to walk by yourself as there aren’t many people walking on the streets (and seems a bit sketchy at times), so it’s better to get lost with someone then by yourself. The museum is located in the Plaza de la Cultura, which contains other museums, the national theater and the national library, so visitors can make it a day trip idea.
The museum building has four floors, but the exhibits are on the first, third and fourth floors (not really sure what’s on the second floor). There is a general route to follow to make the most sense of all the exhibits as indicated by the audio guide, but being me, I still managed to see the museum backwards. (I actually started with the last audio segment, which reminds me to return the audio guide.) Starting on the fourth floor, the first exhibit I saw was on Carnival, which is a Christian festive season that occurs before Lent. The exhibit covers the Dominican Carnival, which is celebrated throughout February, culminating around February 27th, due to it being the Dominican National Independence day. A variety of Dominican Carnival costumes and masks, which tend to be flashy and elaborate, are on display. There is also a small exhibit about Gagá, which is a religious ritual that has roots in the Haitian Vodou religion. In the same room, visitors can take a gander of a Dominican farmer’s house.
Continuing on the fourth floor in the following room, there is an exhibit on the Christian religion in the Dominican Republic. In the same room, there is a brief overview of the Dominican life style in the 20th century. Following this, there is an exhibit on the African influence in the Dominican Republic with artifacts and information relating to religion, punishment, and the slave trade and routes. Rounding out the fourth floor are exhibits on Spanish and Taino influence on the island. (The whole floor would’ve made a lot more sense if I went order instead of going backwards, but I got the gist of it,I think.)
The third floor is connected to the fourth floor via a ramp (so for those who don’t like stairs, start on the third floor and use the ramp.) The third floor exhibits are also organized chronologically, and makes the most sense if you go in order (which I managed.) The first room covers the pre-Columbian era of the island, which is the period of time before the appearance of Europeans in the Americas. Visitors can learn about paleo-indians, meso-indians and neo-indians, and their ways of life. In addition, one can view a variety of stone tools and other artifacts belonging to these early peoples. Following, there is small section on ceramics. There are a variety of artifacts on display, even one on the evolution of ceramics.
The next exhibit focuses on the Taino, who were the indigenous people of the island prior to the arrival of Columbus. There are a variety of artifacts and dioramas highlighting their lifestyle. One particular focus of the exhibit was on Cohoba, which is a Taino ritual in which participants inhaled the grounded seeds of the cojóbana tree through their noses, which produces a psychedelic effect, in order to communicate with their gods.
In the final room of the third floor, there are a variety of objects from the native peoples on display. Starting near the entrance of the room, visitors can see a variety of jewelry made from coral, tooth, stone and conch shells. Further inside are a collection of flints, hatchets, stone spearheads, and ceremonial daggers. Finishing the third floor are various stone idols that were used during rituals as representations of their deities.
The first floor of the museum contains several stone obelisks and some examples of rock art. There was an area behind the admission desk that I failed to check out, so I’m not sure what is there. The museum has an elevator for those who don’t want to take the stairs.
My travel buddy and I spent about 1 hour at the museum, which is about how long the audio guide lasted. Other visitors can spend more or less time depending on their interest levels and/or ability to read Spanish. Considering that the museum contains three floors of exhibits, I feel that the audio guide could be a bit more detailed so that visitors will have a better understanding of the displays, but others might feel its too lengthy if it goes any longer. Any one interested in history will enjoy this museum; the museum is not really suitable for younger kids, more appropriate for middle school-aged children and beyond as I did notice several groups of school kids at the museum. The Museum of the Dominican Man is a little further from the Colonial Zone and other sites, but it’s a good place to go and learn about the Dominican Republic culture and lifestyle, so venture outside and check it out.