Discover Samana

Discovered by Christopher Columbus on his second trip to the Americas on January 12, 1493, the Samaná Peninsula was the first site in the New World where Spanish conquistadors suffered violent opposition. The Ciguayos Indians, former inhabitants of the area, received them with arrows. For this reason, a part of the bay was called the Gulf of Flechas.

For 200 years (1600-1800), the governments of Spain, France, and England fought for dominance of the peninsula, leaving French and English pirates and Buccaneers as well as slaves and indigenous rebels as beneficiaries of this instability. who used the area as a refuge and center for their activities. In 1625 English and French, they took possession of the Island of San Cristóbal (Saint Kitts) the Lesser Antilles, where they were dedicated to the hunting of wild animals (Buccaneers), piracy (filibusters) or agriculture (brothers of the coast). Many of them settled in the Samaná Peninsula, forming small urban centers such as La Terrienne, Petit Port, Saint Capuce, La Basse Terre. The filibusters introduced the cultivation of coconut, coffee, sugar cane … remaining until the end of the seventeenth century, when the government of La Tortuga ordered its eviction due to the excessive distance from the center of filibusters and buccaneers operations.

In 1690 the corsair Jack Banister fought against two English frigates on the edge of a key that was called “Cayo Banister”, currently “Cayo Levantado”, visited today by thousands of tourists. Banister placed the guns of his ships in the key and defended himself with his men, killing more than two hundred of His Majesty’s sailors.

At the beginning of 1700 the city council of Santo Domingo proposed to Spain to populate the Peninsula of Samaná of Spaniards to contain the continuous French usurpations. The area was populated with numerous families from the Canary Islands. The city of Santa Bárbara de Samaná, capital of the province, was founded on August 21, 1751, by the Spanish governor Francisco Rubio y Peñarada.

In 1724 the Spaniards lost two galleons: “Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe” and “Conde de Tolosa”, on the reefs near Miches. They had sought, without success, shelter from a storm. In 1782, the French ship “Scipion” ran aground in, since then called, Puerto de los Ingleses, on the south coast of the bay, while fighting against three English ships. In 1783 in the town of Samaná there were forty-nine houses and some two hundred and fifteen people. The interior of the peninsula was uninhabited. In that same year an old French pirate named Juan, decided to “flee from his companions, taking refuge in a corner of the peninsula where he remained completely hidden”. After twenty-two years, this hermit was discovered by one of his old companions. The location of the place where Juan lived was called Punta Ermitaño and the small island in front of it was named. They are located a few kilometers east of El Limón.

With the Treaty of Basel of 1795, France received the entire Spanish colony of Santo Domingo, including the peninsula of Samaná, in exchange for ceded their conquests in the Pyrenees to Spain. The French government wanted to build, at the end of the Bay of Samaná, a city “that would soon become the storehouse of all the cities of Europe”. The transfer to France of the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo occurred six years after the French Revolution of 1789 began, a fact that would soon have enormous repercussions in the colony of Saint Domingue, where slaves would rebel demanding the same rights of “freedom, equality and fraternity. ” In 1793 France abolished slavery in Saint Domingue.
In 1801 the Haitian Toussaint Louverture, an ally of France, invaded the eastern part of the island, controlled the cities of Santo Domingo and Samaná. However, Napoleon Bonaparte, who had come to power in late 1799, sent a fleet of more than eighty ships and 58,000 men. Half of that fleet, led by General Leclerc, arrived in Samana in January 1802 and Toussaint observed, exclaiming: “we have nothing left but to perish, all France has come to Santo Domingo to take revenge and finish off the blacks”. The war between the French and Haitians lasted two years (1802-1804). The soldiers of Napoleon, victorious in Italy and Egypt, could not against the Haitian blacks, who had as an ally to yellow fever. More than fifty thousand French, including Leclerc, lost their lives. Saint Domingue declared his independence on the 1st. January 1804, adopting the name of Haiti.

The French general Louis M. Ferrand took the city of Santo Domingo in 1804, which was besieged, in May 1805, for three weeks by twenty-one thousand Haitians, until the appearance of a French squadron heading west, which It stimulated the Haitians to lift the siege and return to Haiti. However, the atmosphere after the uprising of the site was such that many Dominicans and foreigners chose to emigrate. Ferrand tried to rebuild the colony by promoting the coffee plantation in Samaná, whose French population in 1808 had grown so much that he ordered the preparation of plans for a model city in Santa Bárbara de Samaná, with gardens in the style of Versailles, a palace, a theater , fountains ponds and a Plaza de la Comedia that would be called “Puerto Napoleón”.

The resistance of Sánchez Ramírez against France began in 1808, the year in which the battle of Palo Hincado took place, in which the Dominicans defeated the French. An English squadron of five ships was sent from Jamaica entering Samaná Bay on November 10, 1808. It captured five ships and destroyed the Santa Bárbara fort. The British handed Samaná to Sánchez Ramírez “on the condition that the rights of the French inhabitants would be respected and their properties maintained.” At that time the population of Santa Barbara was just over a thousand people. With the surrender of Samaná, the French only remained in possession of Santo Domingo, until its surrender in July 1809. The bay and peninsula of Samaná have an important history, full of curious anecdotes, but undoubtedly the period between 1795 and 1819 was the most interesting of all, and it was during those conflictive years that the famous painter Theodore Chasseriau was born.
Haitian occupation

The declaration of Dominican independence, December 1821, would last very little and would be known as “La Efímera”. The few Frenchmen still residing in Samaná, with the support of Spaniards from Puerto Rico, sent an emissary to Martinique for Admiral Jacob to travel to Samaná with his ships to help the Dominicans who were in danger of a new Haitian invasion. Jacob arrived with his ships, but before the threat of the Haitian president Boyer to kill all the French still resident in the island, he chose to retire. The Haitian occupation would last twenty-two long years.


El Limon

One of Boyer’s first acts was the construction in 1822 of a fort at Los Cacaos. A Haitian document of that same date explains how in El Limón “commerce has been seen offering supplies to large ships and privateers for their raids”. To prevent this, the Haitians built a small fort at the mouth of the Limón River, with several cannons. In 1824, the Haitian president negotiated with Philadelphia Quakers, a religious group, the sending of about six thousand American freed slaves to the island, with some two hundred of them settled in Samaná. These ex-slaves belonged to the African Methodist Episcopal Church and in this way a new ethical nucleus with English surnames emerged. In 1844 they would adhere to
independence and in 1861 they would oppose the annexation to Spain. Its religious festivals include an anticyclonic cult “storm meeting”, harvest parties, “watch nights”, etc. Some Haitians settled in Tesón, north of Samaná, conserving their creole language until the middle of the 20th century. A third group, immigrant from Turkey, English speakers and Protestants, also settled in Samaná.

Efforts to sell or lease SamanáThe French consul Lavasseur suggested to his government

negotiate the peninsula of Samaná in exchange for the reduction of a debt contracted by Haiti. At that time, a coal deposit had been located south of the peninsula, which could provide fuel for the steamboats. On February 27, 1844, the independence of the Dominican Republic was proclaimed at the Puerta de El Conde.

The independence lasted until 1861 when Spain reconquered the eastern part of the island and maintained its hegemony until 1865. During this time they tried to re-establish the Catholic religion, closing all Protestant churches. Obtained the independence of Haiti, it was the Dominicans themselves who tried to sell the peninsula and its bay either to the United States, England, France or Spain, in exchange for protection against future Haitian invasions.

In 1851 a census of the city of Samaná threw 1721 souls among which there were three hundred ex-American slaves. The rest were Dominicans of French or Spanish origin. The British consul, Sir Robert Schomburgk, visited the bay in 1853, explaining in a report that “El Limón was the place where all the roads joined together to continue towards Matanzas, San Francisco de Macorís, etc.” He adds that at the mouth of the Limón River there were still three cannons, but they were dismantled. He was the first to report archaeological sites and cave paintings in the Los Haitises caves. He was surprised that near the village of Samaná they spoke to him in English, Spanish and French.

Annexation to Spain

On the occasion of the annexation of the Dominican Republic to Spain in 1861, Spanish ships moved to the bay, strengthening the facilities in Cayo Levantado, Santa Bárbara de Samaná and Los Cacaos. An official Spanish report explained how in the town of Samaná there were between three and four hundred people, most of them blacks from Florida, descendants of Haitians and, by rarity, some white. ” When the Dominicans defeated the Spanish troops and achieved the restoration of their independence, the efforts to rent or sell the peninsula continued. In 1868 Samaná was leased to the Americans for US $ 2 million, but the Dominican government that signed the treaty was overthrown, so the agreement became invalid.

President Buenaventura Báez signed a treaty of annexation with the United States under which Washington could take control of the Bay of Samaná, which he did that same year. But thanks to the opposition of Senator Charles Sumner, the agreement was rejected by the US Congress in 1870. The following year the government of Washington decided to send Santo Domingo a “commission of inquiry” to determine whether the Dominicans were favorable or not to the annexation of your country to the United States. This commission, which included scientists, journalists and cartoonists, as well as important political personalities, visited Samana making the first drawings of its city that have survived the passage of time, giving great importance to the bay for its strategic value, saying that it could become “The main United States naval station in the Antilles”.

In 1872 the bay was leased to a group of North American capitalists receiving the State the payment of its first annuity in 1873, but the following year the other government of Báez was overthrown leaving the capitalists without knowing to which government to pay, this was taken advantage of by the Dominicans to cancel the contract for having been violated.

El Ferrocarril In 1869 the Dominican government granted the first concession for the establishment of a railroad between Samaná and Santiago, but it would not be until 1882 when construction began, operations started in 1888.

At that time it was the main means to export the agricultural production of the Cibao. The place called “Las Cañitas”, today the city of Sanchez, would be the point of arrival of the train. A dock was built where ships would arrive to receive mainly coffee and cocoa. This stimulated the immigration of Syrians, Lebanese and Italians to Sanchez and Samaná. For some years, Sánchez was one of the most cosmopolitan centers in the country, given the presence of so many foreigners.

The railroad stopped operating around 1966. Between 1916 and 1924 the Dominican Republic was occupied by United States navy infantrymen, under the allegation that they had to make sure that the country paid its debt to US creditors and protected the Americans residing in the country. During that period the US Navy surveyed the bay and prepared plans to defend it from a German attack. Cañones would be placed in Levantado cay and in the Cacaos to block access through the only entrance of deep water that the bay has.

Trujillo and Balaguer

Between 1930 and 1961 the country was controlled by the cruel dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, who promoted the marble mines east of the city of Samaná. Trujillo was anti-Haitian and changed many of the names of places on the peninsula thinking they were Haitians, when they were really French. He also forbade the descendants of Haitians from Tesón to speak Creole among them. In 1946 Santa Bárbara de Samaná was practically destroyed by fire.

In 1966 Joaquín Balaguer came to power, an intellectual who had served Trujillo and had studied at the Sorbonne. Inspired by the project of the city Napoleon de Ferrand, he ordered the destruction of all the beautiful and attractive wooden houses of Santa Bárbara de Samaná, contemporaries with which, fortunately, there was still in the city of Sanchez. Only the strong opposition of the descendants of the freed slaves of the United States made their venerable church intact.


Cayo Levantado

The old houses were replaced by modern homes and concrete buildings. Balaguer built a hotel in Santa Bárbara de Samaná, another in Cayo Levantado, as well as a very little used pedestrian bridge. I order the construction of the Arroyo Barril airport that, unfortunately, will never be able to receive international flights because of the shortness of its runway. I also build a dock which, like the airport, has had little use. From the eighties international tourism began to reach the peninsula, turning places like Las Terrenas, Portillo and Las Galeras into cosmopolitan centers.

At the end of November 2006, the El Catey International Airport, known as Samaná, was inaugurated, just 10 minutes from Sanchez and 40 from Las Terrenas. Currently, a highway is being built that will allow the transfer from the city of Santo Domingo to the peninsula in about two hours.


Regions: This province is located mainly in the Samana Peninsula, which is crossed from east to west by the Sierra de Samaná, being the highest mountain La Meseta or Monte Mesa with 605 meters.

In the western part of the province is the Gran Estero, a swampy region formed by the overflows of the Yuna River. In historical times, there was a communication for this region between the Bay of Samana and the Scottish Bay, to the north, so the peninsula was really an island; in old maps it appears as such.

Hydrology: The rivers of this province are of very short route and little flow. The Sierra de Samaná is a watershed: the northern slope drains into the Atlantic Ocean while the southern slopes drain into the Bay of Samaná; there are more water currents on the southern slope but the most important are on the northern slope. The Limón River is the longest in the province, with 14.5 km, ending at the north coast. Other rivers on the north slope are San Juan (12 km), Tito (8 km) and its tributary Cantón (7.5 km), and La Majagua (6 km); in the southern slope the only one of certain importance is the Majagual (6 km) .2

In the southwestern part of the province lies the Lower Río Yuna region, a wetland of great importance. In this area there are the Yuna and Barracote rivers that flow into the western part of the Samaná Bay and have a greater flow than the rivers of the peninsula (Yuna is one of the highest in the country).

Climate: The climate of the province, specifically
Climate: The climate of the province, specifically in the peninsula, is tropical rain forest. It rains throughout the year due to the presence of the Sierra de Samaná that traps the trade winds.

The average annual rainfall in Samaná, at 5 meters of altitude, is 2,349.8 mm, while in Sanchez, at 7 meters of altitude, it is 2,062.7 mm. The average annual temperature in Samaná is 26.5 ° C and in Sanchez it is 27.1 ° C.1 Both cities are on the south coast of the peninsula, facing the Bay of Samaná.

Economy: The main economic activities of the province are tourism, agriculture and fishing. There is also a small mining development, producing marble. The main agricultural products are coconut and yautía.
Tourism: It is a province of great tourist development, mainly in the centers of Samaná, Las Terrenas and Las Galeras. In recent years there has been a remarkable development of the observation of humpback whales that come to the area in mid-winter and spring.


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