Ponce de Leon Home-Fortress Is Now a Museum


The Ponce de Leon Home-Fortress Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.  This 16th century structure was the official residence of the Spanish ‘conquistador’ who colonized the neighboring island of Puerto Rico and discovered what is now the state of Florida.  Since its very opening, the museum has become a major cultural attraction in the country’s eastern region. It is an emblematic historical and cultural attraction for tourists and Dominicans alike.  Situated in the easternmost region of the Dominican Republic, the museum is located some 20 minutes from the La Romana-Bayahibe area and 40 minutes from Punta Cana, one of the Caribbean’s most important tourism destinations.

The Spanish ‘conquistador’ Ponce de Leon built his two-story home, featuring thick and resistant walls, to serve as his personal dwelling but also as a military barrack.  It was built to fend off attacks by the Tainos, the original inhabitants of the island. The museum is located in the San Rafael de Yuma highway, in the province of Higuey, the country’s easternmost province.

The original structure was restored in 1970. The artifacts and historic pieces featured were also renovated, including the 16th century furniture.   The home has been made to look as if he visitor were walking into the 16th century home of the Spanish ‘conquistador.’  Some of the pieces on exhibit were originally on exhibit at the Christopher Columbus Museum in Santo Domingo (the Alcazar de Colón), while other pieces are excellent replicas. Also on display are pieces found on the actual site and others come from the ‘conquistador’s travels and conquests.

Juan Ponce de Leon was originally from the Court of King Ferdinand of Spain. He collaborated with Christopher Columbus in the conquest of the island of Hispaniola

The museum is reminiscent of the structures typical of the Extremadura region of Spain, and reflects what a home of a well-to-do family would have looked like back in the early decades of the 16th century.  Ponce de Leon lived with his wife Eleanor and their three daughters in this home until 1508 when he was sent to submit the island of San Juan Bautista, what we today know as Puerto Rico.  He was governor of the neighboring island from 1509 to 1513, the year when he organized an expedition to travel north of the island thus discovering, in 1521, what we today know as the state of Florida.

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