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Subject: Monuments of Santo Domingo

Monuments of Santo Domingo

From: Vera Espinola <icona>
Date: Thursday, February 3, 2000
This is in reply to an inquiry by Hilda Abreu Utermohlen regarding
the debate in Santo Domingo concerning the leasing of historic
monuments for better preservation, use, etc.

In a paper I wrote in 1979 (Santo Domingo: The History and
Conservation of the Forgotten City of the New World) for an
Anthropology course at George Washington University, the question of
preservation of some of these restored monuments was an issue at
that time. "The letter of Machu-Picchu (1977) deals in part, with
the conservation and restoration of historical monuments, giving
recommendations such as the re-integration of historical buildings
into daily urban life as living and working monuments. Santo Domingo
proposed just that approach in the pilot study on the colonial
sector (sponsored in part by the Esso Corporation) in 1965."  Some
of these recommendations were followed and others were not.

I am not surprised that the use of these historic buildings has
become an issue again. Some of the restored monuments such as "Las
Atarazanas" have been leased as shops and a restaurant. Others are
museums (Las Casas Reales), places of tourism (the Alcazar) and
churches. Prolonged electrical outages have plagued the city (and
country) for many decades, forcing museums to air condition only
certain spaces while seriously compromising the conservation of the
majority of objects and papers on exhibit with open windows and
fluctuating temperatures and  relative humidity.  Maintenance has
been "deferred" on many buildings that were beautifully restored
decades ago. In order to maintain these buildings without any use,
the government must commit a huge amount of money and trained
personnel. In addition, the problem of electrical "brownouts" must
be solved, ...not only for the monuments, but also for the whole

Is this just another exercise in rhetoric, or is the government
willing to commit money, time and people to the preservation of the
First City of the New World? The monuments in the colonial sector of
the city of Santo Domingo de Guzman are deserving of the attention
of the entire "New World". Please give us more details about the
current debate, Hilda. Is there a web site or page about the debates
that can be accessed?

Vera B. Espinola

                  Conservation DistList Instance 13:43
                Distributed: Wednesday, February 9, 2000
                       Message Id: cdl-13-43-006
Received on Thursday, 3 February, 2000

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