The Maximo Gomez National Park, situated a few kilometers west from the city of Santo Domingo, offers the visitor the most beautiful landscapes and a unique cave system that features pre-Columbian art.
Some of these caves attract individuals who perform religious rituals in the caves.
It is one of the few places in the Dominican Republic where some of the pre-Hispanic traditions are kept alive.
The National Park is located near the southwest town of Yaguate, a 30-minute drive west of the capital city of Santo Domingo.
In addition to its spectacular beauty, the park is also home to mysterious caves that to this day feature well-preserved pre-Hispanic rock paintings.
Also found in some of these caves are shrines set up by individuals who continue to worship European, African and Caribbean deities.
The Mana Cave, for example, is one of the park’s most popular caves. It is known as a place of pilgrimage for those who practice voodoo, the Afro-Caribbean religion that brings together religious beliefs from Africa and Europe.
Contrary to what many believe, this particular religion upholds traditions that are based on balancing human life with nature.
Some of the rites practiced in this magical place are actually carried out in front of the pre-Hispanic cave paintings, making the Dominican Republic one of the few places in the region where individuals visit pre-Hispanic sites in order to worship ancient deities.
Another popular cave, the Indian Cave, is reached through a trail that was constructed by the Ministry of the Environment. The cave is located on a steep hillside overlooking the Nizao river valley.
Four of the cave’s openings lead to a narrow and steep ravine that runs all the way from the mountaintop to the valley. The cave has a total of five openings. Four have well preserved cave drawings.
The “El Conde” cave (The Count Cave) is another important site to visit. The cave is home to four voodoo altars that are occasionally used by worshippers who perform healing and religious rituals before them.
For more information, please contact the Department of Protected Areas at: 809-567-4300, or write to: areas.protegidas @ ambiente.gob.do.
Text and photos: