San Fernando de Monte Cristi
San Fernando de Monte Cristi was founded by Nicolás de Ovando in 1506 and populated in 1533 by Juan de Bolanos and 63 families from the Canary Islands.
In 1605 King of Spain Felipe III ordered Antonio de Osorio, the governor of Hispaniola, to destroy the port cities from Monte Cristi to Puerto Plata as retribution for doing business with pirates. It was more profitable to trade with the pirates. The English, French and to a lesser extent the Portuguese paid more than the Spanish crown. Monte Cristi was burned to the ground in 1606. Many residents from Monte Cristi and Puerto Plata who moved south founded Monte Plata.
In 1756 the city was rebuilt and regained its prominence as a prosperous trading center. During its renaissance, the city attracted people from Santo Domingo, Santiago, Puerto Plata. In addition, it foreigners English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Americans, South Americans and Antillean islanders. Monte Cristi was such an important city that several counties had consulates in the city.
Important quality of life advances were made in the city during its revival. Monte Cristi was the first city to have an aqueduct railway system and telephone service directly to Europe.
Europe, especially Germany were the primary trading partners with Monte Cristi. These rapidly countries needed the Dominican raw materials for their industries. Wealthy families like the Camargo, Espin, Jiménez and the Rivas Petit exported Dominican raw materials and imported manufactured goods from Europe. Common import goods were fabrics, machines, earthenware, zinc and shoes.
Monte Cristi remained and influential international trading center until the early 20th century. Its second decline was created by three factors. The first began with Europe’s shrinking demand for Dominican raw materials. The second was the Jimenez family’s (one of the wealthiest families in the entire country) political problems with then dictator Ulises Heureaux. The final blow was the breakout of World War I.
Monte Cristi is no longer the important city that it once was. Many remnants of it glorious past are visible today. Some of these influences can be seen on land in the architecture. They can be found in its traditions and carnival celebrations and in the surnames of its current residents. They also are found in the ocean in the hundreds of shipwrecks that rest in Monte Cristi’s waters.