Exploring Samana City,
Samana almost became part of the United States.
As Richard takes our taxi through a roundabout, I notice a badly deteriorated, painted obelisk that celebrates just how far back Samana's history extends.
The monument commemorates Columbus' landing just a few miles east of the city on January 13, 1493. There Columbus encountered the peninsula's Ciguayos Indians on a small beach now called Las Flechas, or “The Arrows,” and that pretty much describes his reception. It's considered by some historians to be the first true clash between Amerindians and Europeans.
Once Samana city was founded, it and the entire peninsula became a hotly contested region because of their strategic proximity to other major islands, particularly Cuba and Jamaica.
The area was so prized that the United States once thought about making the peninsula part of the country.
That happened after the Civil War when Hamilton Fish, the secretary of state under President Grant, proposed buying the peninsula for $2 million. Then it was suggested that the U.S. annex the entire Dominican Republic, a plan that was killed by just 10 Senate votes in 1871.
It's hard to picture the colorful wooden buildings of Samana as part of just another burb, but at least then it might have a bank.
Richard stops the taxi across from La Churcha. Much of Samana was destroyed by fire in 1946 and La Churcha is one of the few historical remnants. It's a church worth being saved. English missionary Narcissus Miller, who introduced Methodist teachings to the peninsula, shipped it here from England in 1823.
Around this same time, a large group of American runaway slaves were resettled in Samana by two women abolitionists. Accounts vary, but one says that as many as 6,000 ex-slaves were brought here and that some helped rebuild the church.
The slaves' heritage is evident today in such local names as Jones, Williams and Green and the sizable number of English-speaking residents.