Parque Duarte, a small park in Santo Domingo, is host to many groups- modern bohemians, musicians, artists, LGBT groups, and other types hanging out in the Colonial Zone. It’s a beautiful plaza-style park named after Juan Pablo Duarte, a Founding Father of the Dominican Republic. He is most noted for supervising and financing the Dominican War of Independence, a war that gave the Dominican Republic autonomy from Haiti on February 27, 1844. A statue of Juan Pablo Duarte resides in this beautiful park as a symbol or as a reminder that they are free. In Santo Domingo today, Independence and “free” may mean many different things to many different people and this park was representative of that.
Duarte Park is best-known as a meeting place before stepping out to the late-evening nightlife Santo Domingo has to offer. Tourists congregate and hang out there too as well as many locals. My new Dominican Friends took me there as part of a media group one Friday night and that’s when I realized that Duarte Park was much more than a meeting place.
The first thing I noticed was that it appeared that LGBT groups made-up one of the smallest groups hanging out in the park. It was packed with people. I’m told Friday and Saturday night starting around 9p or so is when people start to arrive – it was 11p when we arrived and the Duarte Park was in full swing. There are a couple of spots to get a beer and even some cocktails and you can drink right there in the park. On second thought, I really don’t know if it’s legal or not, but almost everyone was drinking something or another. If you bought something, you were expected to share. If you didn’t, someone would share with you. It really was a public social gathering with a party-like atmosphere. I was asked where the media group and I were going to that night and was advised about the best clubs to go to the following night. I heard light hearted gossip about how this one got piss-drunk, what scandalous outfit that one wore, and who hooked up with who the prior night at the clubs. My new friends were so right- this was a place people gathered at before going out. Then I heard other conversations floating through the night…
So, Parque Duarte was really more than just a meet-up place before hitting the hot club spots. It’s a network where lots of information is transferred. A hotwire, if you will, of people concerned for the safety, the well-being, and the whereabouts of family, friends, and otherwise strangers like me. I liked hearing that they were all looking out for one another through this grapevine. If someone was not seen, heard of, or just missed, questions were quickly asked. If there was a problem or crime committed, that news spread quickly too. If someone fell ill, the alarm was rung and others did what they could to comfort the sick. I sensed that they self-imposed a responsibility for one another. Like they say, there’s safety in numbers. That network was necessary and vital to all those in the community and I was so very proud of them.
If you’re a tourist and need to know of safe places to venture to in Santo Domingo, be sure to hit Duarte Park to get in the know!