Of the four colonial ruins that lie hidden among the rambling, semi-rural barrios west of the city (and nearly impossible to reach via public transport), a couple are particularly worth seeking out. West of barrio Manoguayabo, the ruins of the grand Palavé manor, a typical sixteenth-century sugar hacienda, are the best maintained of the bunch. Named Palais Bel during Haitian rule, its masonry and brick facade were restored in the 1970s and still boast bits of the old Andalucian whitewash and a prominent parapet. Three Romanesque portals lead into the large, central room; the beam above the doorways once supported a second-floor balcony. The easiest way to get there is to take the Autopista Duarte and turn left at the Manoguayabo turnoff. Just past the town, take the right-hand fork in the road and head 3km beyond Hato Nuevo to the village Buena Noche; a left at the kerosene station leads 100m to the ruins.

The extensive remains of another sugar mill, Engombe, on the Río Haina, are overgrown with weeds. Mentioned by Oviedo in his 1534 History of the Indies as the colony’s leading mill, the manor and adjoining chapel are for the most part still intact. The mansion’s militaristic, rectangular facade was originally fortified to protect against slave rebellion – here and there along the wall you’ll see foundations of the spiked limestone barrier. The double Romanesque portals on both floors lead to the open main room, which is connected to two galleries and an interior staircase that now leads to nowhere. Beside the house is the large chapel with two frames – a polygonal apse and a leaning sacristy. A brief spate of renovation by Santo Domingo’s Catholic University in 1963 restored its original Moorish tiled roof, but the buildings have since fallen back into neglect. Fifty metres further down the road you’ll find the scattered ruins of the slave barracks and the mill in a family’s garden. The easiest way to Engombe is to take the Carretera San Cristóbal west from Santo Domingo and make a right turn on an unmarked dirt turnoff just before the Río Haina (for which you’ll have to keep a very careful eye out), then a left at the fork in the road.

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