Dominican Republic

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República Dominicana
Dominican Republic
Flag of the Dominican Republic Coat of arms of the Dominican Republic
(In Detail) (In Detail)
National motto: Dios, Patria, Libertad
(Spanish: God, Fatherland, Liberty)
Location of the Dominican Republic
Official language Spanish
Capital Santo Domingo
Largest City Santo Domingo
President Leonel Fernández
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 128th
48,730 km²
 - Total (July 2004 est)
 - Density
Ranked 86th
from Haiti
27 February 1844/Spain
Currency Peso
Time zone UTC -4
National anthem Quisqueyanos valientes
Internet TLD .do
Calling Code +1-809 and +1-829
Map of the Dominican Republic
Map of the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic, (Spanish: República Dominicana) is a country located on the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, bordering Haiti. Hispaniola is the second-largest of the Greater Antilles islands, and lies west of Puerto Rico and east of Cuba and Jamaica. A legacy of unsettled, mostly non-representative rule lasted for much of the 20th century; the move towards representative democracy has improved vastly since the death of military dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo in 1961. Dominicans sometimes refer to their country as Quisqueya, a name for Hispaniola used by the native Taíno Indians.

The Dominican ("do-MIN-i-kun") Republic should not be confused with Dominica ("do-min-EE-ka"), another Caribbean country.



Main article: History of the Dominican Republic

The country has had a history of changing ownership, with occasional attempts at independence and self-rule. First a Spanish colony and then a French colony, it was subsequently ruled by Haiti and then Spain again, and later the United States twice ruled Dominican territory.

In the beginning the island was primarily inhabited by the Taino, a branch of the Arawaks. Taino means "the good" in that native language. A system of Cacicazgos (chiefdoms) was in place, and Marien, Maguana, Higuey, Magua and Xaragua (Also written as Jaragua) were their names. These chiefdoms were then subdivided into subchiefdoms. The Cacicagzos were based on a system of tribute, consisting of the food grown by the Taino. Among the cultural signs that they left were cave paintings around the country, which have become touristic and nationalistic symbols of the Dominican Republic, and words from their language, including "hurricane" (hurrakan) and "tobacco" (tabakko).

The arrival of the Guamikena (the covered ones)

On December 5, 1492, the Europeans arrived. Believing that these beings from over the horizon were in someway supernatural, the Taínos feted the Europeans with all the honors available to them. This was a totally different society from the one the Europeans came from. One of the things that piqued the curiosity was the amount of clothing worn by the Europeans. Therefore they came to call them "guamikena" (the covered ones). Guacanagarix, the chief who hosted Christopher Columbus and his men, treated them kindly and provided him with everything they desired. Yet the Taínos allegedly "egalitarian" system clashed with the Europeans market-based capitalist system, the Europeans could not simply believe that the Taínos could just simply be so generous. This caused the Europeans to believe that the Taínos were weak, and they began to just take from the tribes. Columbus tried to temper when he and his men departed from Quisqueya and they left on a good note. Columbus had cemented a firm alliance with Guacanagarix, a powerful chief on the island. After the shipwrecking of the Santa Maria, he decided to establish a small fort with a garrison of men that could help him lay claim to this possession. The fort was called La Navidad, since the events of the shipwrecking and the founding of the fort occurred on Christmas day. The garrison, in spite of all the wealth and beauty on the island, was wracked by divisions within and the men took sides, that evolved into conflict amongst these first Europeans. The more rapacious one's began to terrorize the Taino, Ciguayo and Macorix tribesmen up to the point of trying to take their women. Viewed as weak by the Spaniards and even some of his own people, Guacanagarix tried to come to an accommodation with the Spaniards, who saw his appeasment as the actions of someone who submitted, they treated him with contempt and even took some of his wives too. The powerful cacique of the maguana, Caonabo could brooke no further afronts, attacked the Europeans and destroyed la Navidad. Guacanagarix, dismayed as he was by this turn of events did not try too hard to aid these guamikena, probably hoped that the troublesome outsiders would never return. However, they did return.

The twentieth century

The twentieth century was marked by repeated U.S. intervention in local affairs. The reason for this is the island of Quisqueya's strategic location in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. During the World Wars the Axis powers used the islands of the Caribbean as stop-off points for German U-boats from which to plan possible attacks against the North American continent. During the Cold War, Soviet and capitalist ideologies clashed openly on the island. Apart from tentative U.S. support for the Trujillo dictatorship (1930-1961) (though this faded during his final years), the largest example of this was the 1965 invasion by American troops in the midst of a Dominican civil war, an uprising that was sparked by an attempt to restore the republic's first democratically-elected president of the 20th century, Juan Bosch, who had been overthrown by a right-wing coup in 1963. Following this civil war, and America's deployment of troops in Operation Power Pack, Joaquín Balaguer (1966-1978) was democractically elected, winning by 57%. Juan Bosch's constitutional government never returned to power. The Johnson administration justified the 1965 intervention by stating that it suspected many of Bosch's supporters were pro-Cuban Communists.


Main article: Politics of the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is a representative democracy whose national powers are divided among independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The president appoints the cabinet, executes laws passed by the legislative branch, and is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president and vice president run for office on the same ticket and are elected by direct vote for four-year terms.

Legislative power is exercised by a bicameral National Congress — the Senate (32 members), and the Chamber of Deputies (150 members). Presidential elections are held in years evenly divisible by four. Congressional and municipal elections are held in even-numbered years not divisible by four.

Human Rights


Main article: Provinces of the Dominican Republic


A beach on the Saona island
A beach on the Saona island

Main article: Geography of the Dominican Republic

The capital is the city of Santo Domingo (since 1966 until 2001, full name was Santo Domingo de Guzmán), located in the south part of the island. Originally comprised of a single city located within the province Distrito Nacional (National District), it has now been divided into several adjacent municipalities: Santo Domingo Norte, Santo Domingo Este, Santo Domingo Oeste and Boca Chica. The southmost city retains the name Santo Domingo (proper) and is still head of province (also renamed Santo Domingo) and country.

The second largest city is Santiago de los Caballeros, more commonly referred to as simply Santiago.

The country has three major mountain ranges: The Central Mountains, which originate in Haiti and span the central part of the island, ending up in the south. This mountain range boasts the highest peak in the Antilles, Pico Duarte (3 175 m above sea level). The Septentrional Mountains, running parallel to the Central Mountains, separate the Cibao Valley and the Atlantic coastal plains. The highest point here is Pico Diego de Ocampo. The lowest and shortest of the three ranges is the Eastern Mountains, in the eastern part of the country. There are also the Sierra Bahoruco and the Sierra Neyba in the southwest. This is a country of many rivers, including the navigable Soco, Higuamo, Romana, Yaque del Norte, Yaque del Sur, Yuna, Yuma, and Bajabonico.


Main article: Demographics of the Dominican Republic

The majority of Dominicans are of mixed European and African descent. About 11% of Dominicans are primarily of African descent, including many Haitian migrants and their descendants. About 16% of Dominicans are of Spanish or other European origin. Some are Asian, mostly of Chinese descent, and Middle Easterners, mostly Arab. Dominican culture is essentially Hispanic, and also has many African, Antilliean, and United States influences.

Since the early 1960s, economic problems have led to a vast migration of Dominicans to the U.S., mainly to large east coast cities, and coming on the heels of a similar migration of Puerto Ricans. New York City's Washington Heights is so densely populated by Dominicans, it is sometimes referred to as Quisqueya Heights. Quisqueya is a popular name for Hispaniola that many believe derives from the island's original Arawak name, although this is disputed by some historians. Dominicans are now one of the largest Latino groups in the US; less numerous than the Mexican majority and Puerto Ricans, and about even with Cubans.

In recent years, illegal immigration from Haiti has dramatically increased as the Dominican economy improves and the Haitian economy remains virtually moribund. Most Haitian immigrants work at low-paying, unskilled labor jobs, including construction work and household cleaning. The Dominican sentiment towards these immigrants is frequently negative, and at times in its history, including the period during and after Haiti occupied the nation in the 19th century and the reign of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, there have been anti-Haitian pogroms. Many foreigners reside in the country for business, religious, and leisure reasons, and there are significant populations of Americans, Canadians, Germans, French, and Koreans in the country.


Main article: Economy of the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is a middle-income developing country primarily dependent on agriculture, trade, and services, especially tourism. Although the service sector has recently overtaken agriculture as the leading employer of Dominicans (due principally to growth in tourism and Free Trade Zones), agriculture remains the most important sector in terms of domestic consumption and is in second place (behind mining) in terms of export earnings. Tourism accounts for more than $1 billion in annual earnings. Free Trade Zone earnings and tourism are the fastest-growing export sectors. Remittances from Dominicans living in the United States (diaspora), are estimated to be about $1.5 billion per year.

Following economic turmoil in the late 1980s and 1990, during which the GDP fell by up to 5% and consumer price inflation reached an unprecedented 100%, the Dominican Republic entered a period of moderate growth and declining inflation until 2002 after which the economy entered a recession, after the second commercial bank of the country collapsed, caused by a major fraud. GDP dropped by 1% in 2003 while inflation ballooned by over 27%.

Despite a widening merchandise trade deficit, tourism earnings and remittances have helped build foreign exchange reserves. The Dominican Republic is current on foreign private debt, and has agreed to pay arrears of about $130 million to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Commodity Credit Corporation.


Main article: Dominican Peso

The Dominican Peso (RD$) is the national currency of the country although the US dollar is often acceptable in some places, specially tourist oriented shops and hotels. At the begining the peso was worth about the same as a US dollar. In 1993 a dollar was worth RD$14.00 in 1998 RD$16.00 in 2002 RD$20.00 but in 2003 a dollar was worth almost RD$55.00. The US dollar is worth about RD$30.00.


Main article: Culture of the Dominican Republic

Baseball is the top national sport in the Dominican Republic and there are many popular Dominicans who play Major League Baseball in the U.S., including Albert Pujols, Sammy Sosa, Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. The Dominican Republic also has its own baseball league, which many MLB players go to during off-season, and which is also a "training ground" for the MLB.

89% of Dominicans are baptised in the Roman Catholic Church. Other substantial religious groups are the Evangelical Christians and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Around one percent of the nation's inhabitants practice pure spiritism, although it is very common for Catholicism and spiritism to be mixed in Santeria's seancees and "saint" parties.

The Dominican Republic is known for a form of music called Merengue, which has been popular since the mid- to late-1900s. It has sexually charged syncopated beats using Latin percussion, brass instruments, bass and electric guitars. What was considered unpopular to the youth, until today, is a form of folk music called Bachata. Bachata is usually slow, romantic, and Spanish guitar driven. However, bachata's rhythm can be sped up to the same syncopation as Merengue, and its called bacharengue. Both genres of music are popular throughout the world. Reggaeton, a style of music that orginated in Puerto Rico, is the dominant music of the country's youth, and defines the party lifestyle of the country.

--for lots more facts and statistics on the Dominican Republic go to the CIA Factbook.

taino children, carnival Dominican Republic. photographer: whip men, carnival Dominican Republic. photographer: taino girls, carnival Dominican Republic. photographer:

Carnival in the Dominican Republic, 27.February.

Miscellaneous topics

External links

Countries in the Caribbean

Antigua and Barbuda | Bahamas | Barbados | Cuba | Dominica | Dominican Republic | Grenada | Haiti | Jamaica | Saint Kitts and Nevis | Saint Lucia | Saint Vincent and the Grenadines | Trinidad and Tobago

Dependencies: Anguilla | Aruba | British Virgin Islands | Cayman Islands | Guadeloupe | Martinique | Montserrat | Navassa Island | Netherlands Antilles | Puerto Rico | Turks and Caicos Islands | U.S. Virgin Islands

Caribbean Community (CARICOM)
Flag of the Caribbean Community
Antigua and Barbuda | Bahamas¹ | Barbados | Belize | Dominica | Grenada | Guyana | Haiti | Jamaica | Montserrat | Saint Kitts and Nevis | Saint Lucia | Saint Vincent and the Grenadines | Suriname | Trinidad and Tobago
Associate members: Anguilla | Bermuda | Cayman Islands | British Virgin Islands | Turks and Caicos Islands
Observer status: Aruba | Colombia | Dominican Republic | Mexico | Netherlands Antilles | Puerto Rico | Venezuela
¹ member of the community but not the Caribbean (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy.
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