6 imagesLa Isabela in the Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic was one of the first European settlements in the Americas. La Navidad, established by Christopher Columbus a year earlier and just slightly to the west of La Isabela, in what is present day Haiti, is considered the first in the New World. Founded by Columbus during his second voyage in 1493, it was named after Queen Isabella I of Castile. The settlement was established to search for precious metals. When little gold was found, Columbus proceeded to enslave the people of the island. La Isabela was struck by two of the earliest North Atlantic hurricanes observed by Europeans in 1494 and 1495. Hunger and disease soon led to mutiny, punishment, disillusion and more hunger and disease. It reached the point where a group of settlers, led by Bernal de Pisa, attempted to capture and make off with several ships and go back to Spain. La Isabela barely survived until 1496 when Columbus decided to abandon it in favor of a new settlement, now Santo Domingo.
9 imagesSan Felipe de Puerto Plata or Puerto de Plata is the eight-largest city in the Dominican Republic and capital of the province of Puerto Plata. The fortification Fortaleza San Felipe, which was built in the 16th century and served as a prison under Rafael Trujillo's dictatorship, lies close to the port of Puerta Plata. In April 1563, the Spanish settlement became notorious when the English slave trader, Sir John Hawkins, brought 400 people he had abducted from Sierra Leone. Hawkins traded his victims with the Spanish for pearls, hides and sugars, some gold. This was the start of British involvement in the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, in which 20 million people were forced into slavery.