On the 6th of December, 1492, Cristophor Columbus set foot on the Hispaniola island convinced he had arrived in Asia. He returned three times, convinced that beyond the island lay the palaces filled with gold, precious stones and expensive spices that belonged to the Great Khan Cathay, as Marco Polo had said to him. Thinking he had arrived in Cipango, Japan, coming from the West, Columbus called the islands the West Indies.
Taino, the local people, relied on crops of corn, manioc and yucca, as well as claywork. During religious ceremonies, locals used to drink corn-distilled alcohol and they smoked the dry leaves of a plant called cohiba, which they burned in long tubes called tabacos. Their huts had massive straw roofs, similar to the ones we see today on the island’s beaches.
Sugar cane was brought here by Cristophor Columbus, to satisfy the increasing demand for sugar in Europe – and it rapidly came to dominate the economy of the entire island.
Growing sugar cane, manufacturing cigars, the banana-tree plantations, the cocoa and coffee trees are still part of Dominicans’ daily existence.