SANTO DOMINGO – Casa de España, the home of Spanish culture founded by a group of emigrants in the first decade of the 20th century, celebrates its centennial in Santo Domingo by looking to the future as it always has, while seeking to attract the younger generations.
“Our challenge now is to preserve the traditions and not lose the culture, but also to make this an institution that attracts the new generations,” Julio Garcia, president of Casa de España, which this July will be 100 years old, told EFE.
Casa de España was born of the determination of a group of Spaniards who wanted to keep awareness of their culture and country of origin alive, as well as to unite the colony of Spaniards who had found a new home in this Caribbean country, a goal that has persisted to this day.
The founders were also guided by the idea of creating a counterweight to the North American invasion of the country with a kind of peaceful protest and a reaffirmation of traditional values, according to some historians.
The Casa de España was founded in 1917, a year after the United States invaded the country, took control and established a military regime that ended with its evacuation in 1924.
If when founded through the efforts of Joaquin Fernandez de Gamboa, Americo Lugo, Santiago Bustamente, Benjamin Portela, Luis Baquero and others it had 136 members, now this private social club has more than 12,000.
Contemporary history of Casa de España began when it moved from a place on Padre Bellini Street in the colonial area to its current location on the 30 de Mayo Expressway.
The building was inaugurated in December 1976 with the presence of then-President Joaquin Balaguer at a ceremony also attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cadiz as special guests from Spain.
Later, in June 1976, Casa de España was visited by Spain’s former King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, on their first trip to the Americas and the first visit in the history of Spain of its king to a Latin American country.
In the current seat of Casa de España, which measures 65,000 sq. meters (700,000 sq. feet) and whose sports installations have recently been renovated, is a commemorative plaque of that historic visit by the Spanish royalty to Santo Domingo, the first city founded by Spaniards in the Americas.
Over the past 100 years, Casa de España has had to evolve “because the times and Dominican society have changed,” according to Julio Garcia.
“We try to preserve the spirit and the values with which it was founded while also keeping up with the times,” since now more than 90 percent of the members are Dominicans, some of them of Spanish descent, while before they were all Spanish, he said.