A Must Go: Centro Léon
If you want to gain a deeper insight into the cultural history of the Dominican Republic, you should definitely visit the Centro Léon in Santiago de los Caballeros.
The complex is divided into two parts: a small building in colonial style (replica of the antique La Aurora manufactory) and a modern new building.
In the manufactory building, the family history of the Léon Jimenes is told in a very personal and loving way: hard working men and strong women. You can feel immediately what a great value "family" has. The historical path leads from the great-great-grandparents (tobacco farmers) of today's head of the company, Guillermo Léon, to the founding of La Aurora and then to the production of Presidente beer, another branch of the family's business.
In the new building the visitor receives a very well thought-out, pedagogically first-class guided tour through the cultural history of the Dominican Republic.
Where are our roots? What is our origin? Where does our culture come from? These are the questions that are pursued here. The way of life of the Taínos is shown, the first inhabitants of the island.
Elements of the African culture are represented, which still today have a large influence on the life of the Dominicans.
And of course the customs and objects of the Spaniards, which make up the third, large part of the cultural history of this island.
In a permanent exhibition, the Centro Léon shows works by the most famous artists of the Dominican Republic, all the great names such as Yoryi Morel, Gaspar Mario Cru, Ada Balcácer, José Cestero, Cándido Bidó and many others are represented here.
Almost all the works tell of life in the Caribbean, but artistically on a world-class level.
Due to copyright reasons I could not take any photos.
The current temporary exhibition - where I was allowed to photograph - shows the artworks of the "Concurso de Arte Eduardo Léon Jimenes", which has taken place every two years since 1964.
Great, exciting contemporary works, from paintings to sculptures to installations: it's all there.
The Centro has been promoting artists and art in the Dominican Republic since 55 years.
My tip after the tours: make sure you visit the museum cafeteria. There are fine snacks and a little humidor. It is the first and probably only art museum that offers cigars. Just sit in the beautiful garden, smoke a cigar and think about art, culture and life...