Azua: a brief history
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Azua: a brief history

The Taínos || Columbus in Azua || The foundation || The meaning of the name Azua || The sugar factories || The earthquake || The territory || Some historical facts || The battle of the 19th of march || Important persons and the art in Azua || The patronal feasts || The natural sources || Conclusion || Finally

The present municipal area was in earlier days a part of a "nitainato", an indian population, which was a part of the territory of Maguana. Maguana was 1 of the 5 provinces, "cacicazgos", of Quisqueya (that's how the island Hispaniola was called by the indians) at the time of the Taínos.

The historian Luis Joseph Peguero speaks about an event not so well-known in the history of Azua. In one of his latest journeys Columbus and his companians had some troubles and had to flee to the bay of Ocoa, at the eastern part of the territory of Azua. Here they met resistance by the indian chief (Cacique) of Azua, named Cuyocagua. There aren't many details of this event.

The city Azua de Compostela was founded in 1504 by the governor of the province Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar (conqueror of Cuba), during the government of Don Nicolás de Ovando.
In 1507, just three years after the foudation, the patroness "La Virgen de los Remedios" was introduced in Azua. In the principal church in Azua you can find a sculpture of which they say it's an image of the patroness, but her face is looking like a daughter of Buenaventura Báez, a merchant from Azua, five times the president of the Dominican Republic and representative of the Azuan region in the Congress during the Haitian occupation (1822-1844). It's dominican political folklore!
The Spanish King Fernando el Católico granted, ordered by a Royal Certificate from Sevilla, the heraldic arm of the city on the 7th of december 1508. The request of the solicitors Diego de Nicuesa and the bachalor Antonio Serrano helped by Don Nicolás de Ovando was included in this. They were sent for this purpose.
The text of the decree says: "Villa de Compostela, a blue arm, a white star in it and in the lower part a few blue and white waves". The quotated document is registered with the following dates: "Signature. General Independent. Dossier 1961-book 1-, page 97 and 98." Remarkeble that the Royal Certificate speaks of blue and white waves, but doesn't say how much there should be. So the colors and symbols are essencial, the amount of waves are not fundamentle.
According to the writing the famous Mexican conqueror Hernán Cortés resided here in Azua for a few years (1504-1511). During his residence his function was the Clerk of State. In his spare time he was used to go to the Monte Río beach.

There are many speculations about the name Azua. In Peru the indians called a drink made of maize "azua". In Venezuela there were "Azua"-indians. In Ecuador are a province and a mountain range in the Andes called "Azuey". In Spain exist the family name "Azúa" and the Basques have a river and a valley with the name Asúa.
Nevertheless, nowadays, most of the people think that the name Azua has an indian origin which means mountain range. As Don Emiliano Tejeda states in his work "Palabras Indígenas (indigenous words) de Santo Domingo", Azua is an autochthon word of the island. The taínos-indians were used to call this southern territory of the island this way.Some historians think though that the name should be written with a S instead of a Z, because the indians didn't know this last consonant.
On the other hand there is the work "Casas infanzonas de Vizcaya: La Casa de Asúa" (Original families of the Basques, the family Asúa), a book written by Don Darío de Areitio y Mendiola in 1912. Lawyer of the famous order of Bilbao, Corresponding Member of the Academy of Fine Art of San Fernando. A member of the Basque Commission of Monuments. Librarian and Archivist of the Provincial States of the Basques.
On page 5 and 6 is following his written: "... And trying to follow a chronological order, we begin to note that Estívaliz de Zabalza, Secretary, Representative for Sus Altezas, was burdened with the tax system of the indians and their chiefs of the island Hispaniola (the current island of Santo Domingo). In the year 1514 he wrote about the relation between Basquen names or people from that area who were in this colony and were burdened with the tax system; and among them were Juan de Asúa and his relative Gabriel de Butrón. The former gave his name to the city and to the province Asúa of the island. By the twisting of language it became Azua. (Error that repeated itself in other occasions...)"
About the additive Compostela the opinion is as follows. According to the historian Emilio Rodríguez Demorizi, the estate of Marshal Pedro Gallegos, named "Compostela", recieved the title and the arm at the beginning of the foundation of the city. Pedro Gallegos, Governor of Azua when the city was situated on her earlier location Pueblo Viejo, came from Santiago de Compostela, Spain. He addited the name Compostela in honour of his land of birth.
It's the oldest beginning of the southern provinces of the island Hispaniola.
But Antonio Delmonte y Tejada in his work "Historia de Santo Domingo" says about the name Compostela that it's in commemoration of a man named Diego Méndez, Commander, from Galicia, who was established here and accomodated Ovando, when he returned to Santo Domingo from his famous campaign in Jaragua.

The progress of the city Azua was at the height of his glory with the discovery of gold- and copper-mines in 1508 and the installation of sugar factories. The sugar factories had a very good reputation because the land on which the sugar-cane was cultivated, was very fertile. In 1515 Judges of the Royal Audience said in a report given to the king the following: "Azua gives a lot of sugar and her territory is that fertile that the planted sugar-cane after 6 years still looks very fresh like it was when it was sowed. Besides that there are gold-mines in the environment". There were plenty of rivers and rills in Azua. According to the work "Historia de Santo Domingo" of Antonio Delmonte y Tejada, the sugar-crushers were moved by the descending waters.
The sugar factory of Pedro Caballero Bazán in Ocoa deserves a special mention. Oviedo wrote about it: "Another one, the sugar factory Ocoa in Palmar de Ocoa, one of the best and most powerful of the whole island, is founded by the licensee Alonso de Zuazo, Judge of the Royal Audience." Another one, the sugar factory Cepi Cepí, was owned by Diego Caballero de la Rosa, First Secretary of the Royal Audience of Santo Domingo, situated at the banks of the river Cepi Cepí, and one owned by Jácobe Castellón in Finca 6, which was inherited by his wife doña Francisca de Isásaga and his children when he died. Also there was the sugar factory Los Cacaos near the river Vía and the sugar factory of Ansonia. Hernando de Gorjón owned another one, the sugar factory Santiago de la Paz in Los Tramojos, and there were two sugar-crushers moved by horses, one owned by the Cantor don Alonso de Peralta, dignitary of the Cathedral, and one owned by a neighbour named Martín García, owner of the sugar factory of Barreras.
According to the historian Luis Alemar the unfortunated indians were forced to pay taxes in 1514. At the meeting of the distributors in La Vega was decided that Azua had to participate too. He mentions that at the 19th of december of 1514 sir Juan Pérez de Gijón was burdened with the tax system for the Azuan indians. He taxed more than 800 people.
The historian mentions also that Azua was attacked by pirates. "The seas were full of pirates of different nationalities. Azua suffered various times under their attacks. In february 1538 a French ship of 150 tons turned up in Puerto Hermoso and later in Azua, with 100 men on board and a tender. They privateered 3 ships with 12 mariners, who were navigating to Azua with rum. They killed the leaders and laid a house in Salinas in ashes. They plundered the sugar factory of Zuazo in Ocoa and another one too, they took away 15 slaves, more than 33000 kilo of sugar and money robbed from the inhabitants of the city".

At the 16th of october 1751 Azua was destroyed by a strong earthquake, therefore the city moved from her earlier location Pueblo Viejo to the banks of the river Vía, land which was given by Doña María de Bía and her husband, and also by the family of Don Don Gregorio Díaz and the widow Luisa Guerrero.
Some historians say they moved to this place because it was very stony, they thought this would protect them from other movements of the earth in the future and because of the presence of enough water.
The same people are speaking of the possibility that you should write the name of the river as Bía in stead of Vía, because the river got his name in honour of the donor of the land, Miss Bía.

When on February the 27th 1844 the Dominican Republic was established as an independent country, the province Azua had a vast territory which bordered the neighbourcountry Haiti. The province was founded in that same year and from there on it formed one of the five provinces in which the country was divided. The territorial jurisdiction insisted of the communities San Juan de la Maguana, Las Matas de Farfán, Neyba, Las Cahobas (Haití), Hinche (Haití), Bánica, San Miguel de la Atalaya and San Rafael. In 1882 originated the municipality with the main city Azua.
During the government of Haiti's dictator, Ulises Heureaux (he was president of the Dominican Republic from 1882 until 1899, with intervals), the province was reduced. He formed the province Barahona on the original territory of Azua.
According to the borderagreement of 1929 four communities that were adjudged to Azua, were afterwards given to the independent Haiti. These were Las Cahobas, Hinche, San Miguel de la Atalaya and San Rafael.
In 1938 the dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo founded the provence Benefactor, nowadays called San Juan, in earlier days also territory of Azua (Benefactor was one of the nicknames of Trujillo to idolize him).
Another part of the old territory of Azua was the province Peravia, previously called José Trujillo Valdez, to honour the father of Trujillo.

When the land was occupied by the North-american troops (1916-1924), they resided in Azua too. The bridge over the river Vía, the sewerage of the street Colón, now Duarte, and the community graveyard exist thanks to this fact.
In the same time the sugar factory El Ocoa and the sugar factory Central Ansonia started to function in Azua. Both were in North-american hands. In 1919 and the early twenties the sugar factory Central Azuano, owned by the Vicini family, started to operate.
The North-american presence continued by drilling for oil, first in the community Higüerito, and later in Maleno, where the Seaboard Company succesfully initiated the drilling, but got sabotaged.
With the coming of the immigrants from Italy and Arabia, Azua started the era of the goldtrade. Rocco Capano, Nicolás Maria Ciccone, Teofilo J. Risk and other even important establaged themselves with big shops, whose activities transcent the borders of Azua.
In this Azua existed the streets Colón, now Duarte; la Restauración, now Colón; la Quisqueya, now Hernán Cortés and the commercial street, now Emilio Prud’Homme.
About 1900 the streets of Azua were illuminated by a system of the combustion of a gas. They were called "Los Faroles (streetlamps) de Graciliano". When the last one was lit you had to start with the first one again. Afterwards, in the thirties untill the CDE (Corporación Dominicana de Electricidad) arrived, the streetlightning was owned by the Noboa Brothers, subsidiced by the municipality. Their services were used untill the threat of current interruption before the established hours.

In the period 1844 - 1854 Azua was the scene of battles against the invasions of Haiti, like the fights of the 19th of march, of Tortuguero (23-4-1844), Las Carreras (4-5-1849) and El Memiso. Because of the importance of these facts for the national history and for Azua, some important moments of the events on the 19th of march 1844 follow.
The president of Haiti at that time was Charles Hérard. He was concerned about the liberation movement in 1844 in Santo Domingo and prepared his army to suppres it. He left Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, with 30.000 man, divided in three columns. One column went to the north under the command of general Pierrot, who with 10.000 man had to capture the cities Puerta Plata and Santiago. The other column under the command of himself went to the center to San Juan and Azua. And finally one column, under the command of general Souffront, went to the south to capture the way to Neiba.
The operations of the Dominican army were under the supreme command of general Santana. He was supported by general Antonio Duvergé, who had to watch over the various flanks during the battle. Duvergé could count on reinforcement from Baní and Azua. The Dominican army was fighting with two cannons, one under the command of Francisco Soñé and the other under the command of lieutenant José Del Carmen García.
Other fighting militaries were: the fusiliers under command of Valentín Alcántara and Vicente Noble, in the center of the Dominican defence artillery and the major part of the troops were riflemen and ordinary soldiers under the command of Juan Esteban Ceara, Lucas Díaz and Luis Álvarez.
The central column had to join the south column to attack Azua. But the Dominican troops, under the command of Fernando Taveras, Vicente Noble and Dionisio Reyes, attacked the forces of general Bround, situated at Las Marías, the first confrontation at La Fuente del Rodeo.
During this confrontation, Souffront ordered to proceed the march to the place where he should join the column of Hérard. Between the 17th and the 18th of march 1844 the troops of Souffront began there march to Azua, and were confrontated by the troops under the guidance of Manuel Mora at El Paso de las Hicoteas.
At the same time the column under the command of Hérard passed Los Jovillos, chasing after the guerilla's of Luiz Álvarez. The Dominican forces, marching on, captured El Paso de Jura, under the command of general Lucas Díaz, and attacked the columns of Charles Hérard by surprise.
On the 19th of march the Dominican armies were positioned at strategic points near the city of Azua. They existed of 2500 soldiers, among them rifleman, under the command of Pedro Santana, and young soldiers from Azua, trained by Duvergé and Francisco Soñé.
These troops were divided in the following way: at the Camino del Barro the fusiliers from Azua led by the captain Vicente Noble; at the Loma (hill) de Resolí 200 man led by Nicolás Mañón; in the center of the city were two cannons placed, one under the command of Francisco Soñé and the other under the command of José del Carmen García. At El Camino de Los Conucos and Las Clavellinas was the artillery led by Matías de Vargas, José Leger and Federico Martínez positioned.
In the early morning of the 19th of march general Hérard organized his army to attack the Dominican troops, but Lucas Díaz, Juan Esteban Ceara, José del Carmen García and their helpers attacked the enemy, who was marching on via El Camino de Los Conucos. The enemy was beaten off by the cannon of Francisco Soñé and the fusiliers of Lucas Díaz, Jean E. Ceara and José Del C. García. They moved to the river río Jura. The same day the troops of the Haitian chief Tomás Héctor attacked Azua and they were beaten off by the Dominicans.
When the commander of Haiti Vicent Jean Degales was decapitated by the commanders Matías de Vargas, José Leger and Feliciano Martínez, his troops (the ninth en tenth regiment) spread, disorientated by the lack of a leader. A little later the troops of Haiti, who were marching on via El Camino del Barro (second and sixth regiment), were conquered by the troops of Duvergé and Nicolás Mañón at El Cerro de Resolí, after a three hours fight. This battle resulted again in the flight of the invasive army to the river río Jura.
The same day, the 19th of march, Santana chose to withdraw to Sabana Buey and than to Baní. The soldiers of Haiti decided, when they saw this, to occupy the city. During his withdrawal Santana positioned garrisons at strategic points in the defiles of El Número, leaving the defence to general Antonio Duvergé.
The troops of Souffront were hold captive in La Hicotea. On the 20th of march they marched on again to join the troops of Hérard. This memorable fight began at 7.30 in the morning. The strategy of withdrawing, harassing and keeping the enemy away from places where they could find provisions to maintain themselves in the battle, was the real succes. Besides that the inhospitable and inaccessible terrain was helping, so the cornered enemy, suffering a great defeat, had to fly to the river río Jura.
Many historians affirm that the Battle of Azua was won by the Azuan people, using ordinary tools like stones, sticks, machetes and other daily tools, with which they combated the powerfull, well trained and armed Haitian army incessently. This resulted in the withdrawal of the Haitian army, composed by some 8 thousand soldiers, belonging to "the Dragoons of the National Gard, to the Riflemen and Grenadiers".

In the history of Azua many important historical, social and cultural facts are interweaved. Some physicians settled down in the city and they deserve always to be remembered with respect and affection because of their dedication to their work and their contribution to the culture in general.
Dr. Simón Striddels, the hospital of the city has his name, an established physician originally from Curaçao, came to the city at the time of Lilís (Ulises Heureaux, president of the Dominican Republic from 1882 till 1899, with intervals) and the generation of that era remebers him as "Papa mon".
The work of the doctors Armando Aybar and Buenaventura Báez Santín is honored by streets named after them.
Dr. Arístides Estrada Torres came together with his beloved wife Doña Caridad. He occupied himself especially with the social medicine. The Museum in the Municipal Library is named after him.
The story goes that Dr. Juan Gregorio Peguero Solano, somebody from the capital who was linked to Azua by adoption, could heal patients only by looking at them.
About Dr. Rafael Antonio Cabral Pérez (Féfen), a very beloved physician from Azua, the following was said: the patients that Féfen charged for his consultation, paradoxical, could call themselves lucky.
The art
Where the art and culture in Azua is concerned, Azua could be filled with pride. For exemple there was the foudation of the school "La Escuela Perseverancia" by the illustrious educationalist Emilio Prud'Homme, author of the lyrics of the national dominican anthem. These were the glorious days of many poets in Azua, like Bartolomé Olegario Pérez, author of "Margaritas", and according to some, including Abraham Ortiz Marchena, the real author of the text of the anthem (he was a student of Prud'homme), Víctor Garrido, Héctor Viriato Noboa (1909 − 1931), author of "Crisálidas Poéticas" and founder of the Literary and Cultural Society Athene in 1925, Hernani García, Héctor Marchena, Teodoro Noboa, Abraham Ortiz Marchena and many others.
Other persons who helped Azua to be baptized like the Athens of the south, were Miguel Angel Garrido (Azua, 14-5-1866 − 11-5-1908, Santo Domingo), author of "Siluetas", Renato D'Soto, author of "Tonalidades", Barón Noble, mighty poet of "Fino Estro" and Héctor J. Díaz, excelent popular poet and writer of "Lo que quiero", Heriberto García, Armando Beltré, and many others who were inspired by the lyrical poetic art and who have enriched the collection of poems of this city.
Where the art of music in Azua is concerned, Azua has his diamond: Pablo Claudio, who's the author of the opera's "María de Cuellar" (the wife of Hernán Cortés) and "Las Américas". Ramón Madora deserves to be mentioned especially, because of his excellent play of the mangulina (kind of rhythm). Nobody expected that he, coming from Guayacanal, ever would be allowed to present his dance at foreign beaches. And there's also the trumpetplay of Armando Beltré and the exceptional voice of Olga Lara.
Like in the past, the present Azua has important representatives in the art and culture. There we have the historian and sculptor General Ramiro Matos Gonzáles, the stories of Tomás Alberto Oviedo, who made the funny adventures of master Camilo immortal, the writer Emilia Pereyra, authoress of "El crimen verde" (1994, Santo Domingo: publisher Mogra) and "Cenizas del querer" (2001, Zaragoza, Spain: publisher Laguna Negra) and the professor and writer Edna Garrido de Boggs, born in Azua, authoress of the book “Folklore Infantil de Santo Domingo”, among others.
Azua has three important cultural institutions: El Grupo Enriquillo de Investigaciones Históricas, Arqueológicas y Antropológicas, which distribute the magazine HUPIA, la Sociedad Literaria y Cultural Athene, president William Mejía, and el Círculo de Estudios Literarios Azuanos. The last two institutes organize different literary meetings regularly.

The patronal feasts of the city are celebrated every 8 of september: the day of the patroness of the city "Nuestra Señora de los Remedios", with popular games like the "blind chicken", the "caravan of the donkeys", the "cruel (fat) pole", the "dance of the hips", and the famous "masked devils".

Azua has beautiful natural sources, like his large beaches, salt production ("Las Salinas"), and the spa known by the name Vichí, with his famous medicinal waters.
In the municipality Yayas de Viajama is the spa La Sulsa, which sulphurous waters are used for visitors with healthproblems. There are also many natural water- and some oilsources.

The Dominican Republic suffered during her history invasions, wars, battles, etc. The province Azua was the scene of various of these confrontations which fortunately led to a victory.
On 3 occasions Azua was destroyed by invasive fire raising armies. Jean Jacques Dessalines, who declared the independence of Haiti at the 1st of january of 1804, gave the order to burn down the city when he invaded the Dominican territory in 1805. And as was said before, the Haitian chief Charles Hérard was beaten in the battle of the 19th of march 1844 and when he withdrew through Azua, he set Azua on fire. In 1849, the Haitian president Faustino Soulouque was defeated in the battles of El Número and Las Carreras and at his retreat he left the city scorched by flames.
Besides the terrible battles, Azua suffered under various natural catastrophes. Many times she was shocked by earthquackes which ruined and broke down her natural environment.
The province Azua has a hot and dry climate, which doesn't stimulate the economy and the productivity. Nevertheless different products are cultivated. They keep up the level of the economy of the city.
Azua has beautiful tourist attractions and antique buildings too. She has a pretty natural environment and is the cradle of honorable persons of the country. Also people from outside the country felt attracted to the city and made Azua, fascinated by her beauty, their home.

It's no exaggeration to say: "In Azua, behind every shrub there is history...and below every stone there is prehistory".

source:, Mesa Mendez and D'Soto

The Taínos || Columbus in Azua || The foundation || The meaning of the name Azua || The sugar factories || The earthquake || The territory || Some historical facts || The battle of the 19th of march || Important persons and the art in Azua || The patronal feasts || The natural sources || Conclusion || Finally
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