Archivo General de la Nación
by Micah Wright
Texas A&M University
About the Archives:
The Archivo General de la Nación is a government entity open to citizens of the Dominican Republic and visiting researchers. The archive is located at Modesto Díaz 2, in Santo Domingo’s Zona Universitaria, across from the Colegio Medico Dominicano and a short distance from the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo’s western gate. Its collections span from the colonial era to the recent past and house a great variety of documents. Some of the more frequently consulted include: the records of the Gobierno Militar de Santo Domingo (1916-1924), the Fondo Bernardo Vega, correspondence from the Gobernaciones Provinciales, and the reports of the various government departments (Interior y Policía, Agricultura y Inmigración, etc).
While no appointment is required, researchers are encouraged to contact the staff before arrival. Under the direction of noted historian Roberto Cassá, the bulk of the archives collections have been well-organized and numerous guides are available in the reading room and online. Yet, some of these guides are outdated and not all of the collections have been catalogued. Others, such as the Fondo Bernardo Vega, have been digitized and are available remotely. Given the volume of documents and the recent reorganization of some series, graduate students will save valuable research time by working closely with an archivist. Researchers should be aware that a number of boxes from recent decades have yet to be catalogued. Depending on the nature and scope of the project, graduate students may benefit from talking to the archivists about rarely consulted and/or uncatalogued material. In addition to the ability to read Spanish documents, researchers should have a basic proficiency in spoken Spanish. While the archivists show remarkable patience with nonnative speakers, most do not speak English. The reference area is open Monday through Friday, from 8:15 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Remarkably, requested documents will be available almost immediately and the staff pulls boxes throughout the day. Visitors are required to report to the front desk every morning and present appropriate identification (generally a copy of a passport) before entering the reading room.
Although the archive’s reading room is small for such a major research center, it is well appointed. Most of the reference tables are adjacent to power outlets and the archive provides wireless internet. Other tools, such as gloves, reading lamps, and magnifying glasses, are available upon request. In addition, researchers are provided small lockers capable of holding most laptop bags and accessories. Scholars may use a digital camera, with or without a copy stand, and the staff can also make copies of documents (digital or printed) for a small fee.
Staying in Santo Domingo
Accommodations in Santo Domingo vary widely in both price and quality. Most short-term rentals are billed as vacation rentals with concomitant prices. However, the Zona Universitaria is one of the more budget-friendly areas of the city. Researchers should be aware that although very inexpensive hotels are available along Avenida Independencia, this is also the center of the city’s prostitution district. Most graduate students will want to stay in the Zona Colonial, near the university, or along Avenida Máximo Gómez. Santo Domingo does provide a wealth of transportation options, including two subway lines (the archive is within easy walking distance of the university stop,) reasonably priced taxis, and for the daring, the omnipresent publicos. For short term trips, hotels in the Zona Universitaria and neighboring areas start at around $85 a night. For longer stays, researchers may want to consider renting a student apartment (generally between $500-700 per month).