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A-Z Around the World: Dominican Republic


The Dominican Republic is a country located in the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean region. It occupies the eastern five-eighths of the island, which it shares with the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands, along with Saint Martin, that are shared by two sovereign states. The Dominican Republic is the second-largest Caribbean nation by area (after Cuba) at 48,671 square kilometers (18,792 sq mi), and third by population with approximately 10 million people, of which approximately three million live in the metropolitan area of Santo Domingo, the capital city.

Christopher Columbus landed on the island on December 5, 1492, which the native Taíno people had inhabited since the 7th century. The colony of Santo Domingo became the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas, the oldest continuously inhabited city, and the first seat of the Spanish colonial rule in the New World. After more than three hundred years of Spanish rule the Dominican people declared independence in November 1821. The leader of the independence movement José Núñez de Cáceres, intended the Dominican nation to unite with the country of Gran Colombia, but no longer under Spain's custody the newly independent Dominicans were forcefully annexed by Haiti in February 1822. Independence came 22 years later after victory in the Dominican War of Independence in 1844. Over the next 72 years the Dominican Republic experienced mostly internal conflicts and a brief return to colonial status before permanently ousting Spanish rule during the Dominican War of Restoration of 1863–1865. A United States occupation lasted eight years between 1916 and 1924, and a subsequent calm and prosperous six-year period under Horacio Vásquez was followed by the dictatorship of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo until 1961. A civil war in 1965, the country's last, was ended by U.S. military occupation and was followed by the authoritarian rule of Joaquín Balaguer (1966–1978 & 1986–1996), the rules of Antonio Guzmán (1972–1978) & Salvador Jorge Blanco (1982–1986). Since 1996, the Dominican Republic has moved toward representative democracy and has been led by Leonel Fernández for most of the time since 1996. Danilo Medina, the Dominican Republic's current president, succeeded Fernandez in 2012, winning 51% of the electoral vote over his opponent ex-president Hipólito Mejía.

The Dominican Republic has the ninth-largest economy in Latin America and is the largest economy in the Caribbean and Central American region. Over the last two decades, the Dominican Republic has had one of the fastest-growing economies in the Americas – with an average real GDP growth rate of 5.4% between 1992 and 2014. GDP growth in 2014 and 2015 reached 7.3 and 7.0%, respectively, the highest in the Western Hemisphere. In the first half of 2016 the Dominican economy grew 7.4% continuing its trend of rapid economic growth. Recent growth has been driven by construction, manufacturing, tourism, and mining. The country is the site of the second largest gold mine in the world, the Pueblo Viejo mine. Private consumption has been strong, as a result of low inflation (under 1% on average in 2015), job creation, as well as a high level of remittances.

The Dominican Republic is the most visited destination in the Caribbean. The year-round golf courses are major attractions. A geographically diverse nation, the Dominican Republic is home to both the Caribbean's tallest mountain peak, Pico Duarte, and the Caribbean's largest lake and point of lowest elevation, Lake Enriquillo. The island has an average temperature of 26 °C (78.8 °F) and great climatic and biological diversity. The country is also the site of the first cathedral, castle, monastery, and fortress built in the Americas, located in Santo Domingo's Colonial Zone, a World Heritage Site. Music and sport are of great importance in the Dominican culture, with Merengue and Bachata as the national dance and music, and baseball as the favorite sport.

Names and etymology

The "Dominican" word comes from the Latin Dominicus, meaning Sunday. However, the island has this name by Santo Domingo de Guzmán, founder of the Order of the Dominicans.

The Dominicans established a house of high studies in the island of Santo Domingo that today is known as the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo and dedicated themselves to the protection of the native taínos of the island, who were subjected to slavery, and to the education of the inhabitants of the island.

For most of its history, up until independence, the country was known as Santo Domingo—the name of its present capital and patron saint, Saint Dominic—and continued to be commonly known as such in English until the early 20th century. The residents were called "Dominicans" (Dominicanos), which is the adjective form of "Domingo", and the revolutionaries named their newly independent country "Dominican Republic" (República Dominicana).

In the national anthem of the Dominican Republic(himno nacional de la República Dominicana), the term "Dominicans" does not appear. The author of its lyrics, Emilio Prud'Homme, consistently uses the poetic term "Quisqueyans" (Quisqueyanos). The word "Quisqueya" derives from a native tongue of the Taino Indians and means "Mother of the lands" (Madre de las tierras). It is often used in songs as another name for the country. The name of the country is often shortened to "the D.R." (la R.D.)

History

Pre-European history

The Arawakan-speaking Taíno moved into Hispaniola from the north east region of what is now known as South America, displacing earlier inhabitants, c. AD 650. They engaged in farming and fishing and hunting and gathering. The fierce Caribs drove the Taíno to the northeastern Caribbean during much of the 15th century. The estimates of Hispaniola's population in 1492 vary widely, including one hundred thousand, three hundred thousand, and four hundred thousand to two million. Determining precisely how many people lived on the island in pre-Columbian times is next to impossible, as no accurate records exist. By 1492 the island was divided into five Taíno chiefdoms. The Taíno name for the entire island was either Ayiti or Quisqueya.

The Spaniards arrived in 1492. After initially friendly relationships, the Taínos resisted the conquest, led by the female Chief Anacaona of Xaragua and her ex-husband Chief Caonabo of Maguana, as well as Chiefs Guacanagaríx, Guamá, Hatuey, and Enriquillo. The latter's successes gained his people an autonomous enclave for a time on the island. Within a few years after 1492, the population of Taínos had declined drastically, due to smallpox, measles, and other diseases that arrived with the Europeans, and from other causes discussed below.

The first recorded smallpox outbreak in the Americas occurred on Hispaniola in 1507. The last record of pure Taínos in the country was from 1864. Still, Taíno biological heritage survived to an important extent, due to intermixing. Census records from 1514 reveal that 40% of Spanish men in Santo Domingo were married to Taino women, and some present-day Dominicans have Taíno ancestry. Remnants of the Taino culture include their cave paintings, as well as pottery designs which are still used in the small artisan village of Higüerito, Moca.

European colonization

Christopher Columbus arrived on the island on December 5, 1492, during the first of his four voyages to the Americas. He claimed the land for Spain and named it La Española due to its diverse climate and terrain which reminded him of the Spanish landscape. Traveling further east Columbus came across the Yaque del Norte River in the Cibao region, which he named Rio de Oro after discovering gold deposits nearby. On Columbus's return during his second voyage he established the settlement of La Isabela in what is now Puerto Plata on Jan. 1494, while he sent Alonso de Ojeda to search for gold in the region.

In 1496 Bartholomew Columbus, Christopher's brother, built the city of Santo Domingo, Western Europe's first permanent settlement in the "New World." The colony thus became the springboard for the further Spanish conquest of the Americas and for decades the headquarters of Spanish colonial power in the hemisphere. Soon after the largest discovery of gold in the island was made in the cordillera central region, which led to a mining boom. By 1501, Columbus's cousin Giovanni Columbus, had also discovered gold near Buenaventura, the deposits were later known as Minas Nuevas. Two major mining areas resulted, one along San Cristóbal-Buenaventura, and another in Cibao within the La Vega-Cotuy-Bonao triangle, while Santiago de los Caballeros, Concepcion, and Bonao became mining towns. The gold rush of 1500–1508 ensued. Ferdinand II of Aragon "ordered gold from the richest mines reserved for the Crown." Thus, Ovando expropriated the gold mines of Miguel Diaz and Francisco de Garay in 1504, as pit mines became royal mines, though placers were open to private prospectors. Furthermore, Ferdinand wanted the "best Indians" working his royal mines, and kept 967 in the San Cristóbal mining area supervised by salaried miners.

Under Nicolás de Ovando y Cáceres' governorship, the Indians were made to work in the gold mines, "where they were grossly overworked, mistreated, and underfed," according to Pons. By 1503, the Spanish Crown legalized the distribution of Indians to work the mines as part of the encomienda system. According to Pons, "Once the Indians entered the mines, hunger and disease literally wiped them out." By 1508 the Indian population of about 400,000 was reduced to 60,000, and by 1514, only 26,334 remained. About half were located in the mining towns of Concepción, Santiago, Santo Domingo, and Buenaventura. The repartimiento of 1514 accelerated emigration of the Spanish colonists, coupled with the exhaustion of the mines. In 1516, a smallpox epidemic killed an additional 8,000, of the remaining 11,000 Indians, in one month. By 1519, according to Pons, "Both the gold economy and the Indian population became extinct at the same time."

The southern city of Santo Domingo served as a springboard for military expeditions pushing across to the mainland of the Americas. In 1501, the colony began to import African slaves. After its conquest of the Aztecs and Incas, Spain neglected its Caribbean holdings. The slaves remained and became the basis for the Dominican population. Following royal orders, in 1605 Governor Antonio Osorio ignored cabildo protests and had the settlements at Puerto Plata, Montecristi, La Yaguana, and Bayaja burned to stop smuggling. Some rebelled and were defeated while others fled to Cuba. Only 2,000 livestock out of 110,000 survived in the new pasture. One third of the people from La Yaguana and Bayaja who were settled at Bayaguana died of hunger and disease by 1609.

The French were envious of Spain's possessions in the Americas, and thus sent colonists to settle the northwestern coast of Hispaniola. In order to domesticate the buccaneers, the French supplied them with women who had been taken from prisons, accused of prostitution and thieving. After decades of armed struggles with the French, Spain ceded the western coast of the island to France with the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick, whilst the Central Plateau remained under Spanish domain. France created a wealthy colony there, while the Spanish colony suffered an economic decline.

On April 17, 1655, the English landed on nearby Hispaniola and marched 30 miles overland to Santo Domingo, the main Spanish stronghold on the island. The sweltering heat soon felled many of the northern European invaders. The Spanish defenders, having had time to prepare an ambush for the aimlessly thrashing, mosquito-swatting newcomers, sprang on them with mounted lancers, sending them careening back toward the beach in utter confusion. Their commander, Venables, hid behind a tree where, in the words of one disgusted observer, he was “so much possessed with terror that he could hardly speak.” The elite defenders of Santo Domingo were amply rewarded with titles from the Spanish Crown.

The French attacked Santiago in 1667, and this was followed by a devastating hurricane the next year and a smallpox epidemic that killed about 1,500 in 1669. In 1687 the Spaniards captured the fort at Petit-Goave, but the French fought back and hanged their leaders. Two years later Louis XIV was at war and ordered the French to invade the Spaniards, and Tarin de Cussy sacked Santiago. In 1691 the Spaniards attacked the north and sacked Cap-François. Island tensions subsided once peace was restored and Spain's last Habsburg monarch—the deformed invalid Charles II—died on 30 November 1700, being succeeded by the sixteen-year-old French Bourbon Philip of Anjou.

18th century

The House of Bourbon replaced the House of Habsburg in Spain in 1700 and introduced economic reforms that gradually began to revive trade in Santo Domingo. The crown progressively relaxed the rigid controls and restrictions on commerce between Spain and the colonies and among the colonies. The last flotas sailed in 1737; the monopoly port system was abolished shortly thereafter. By the middle of the century, the population was bolstered by emigration from the Canary Islands, resettling the northern part of the colony and planting tobacco in the Cibao Valley, and importation of slaves was renewed. The colony of Santo Domingo saw a population increase during the 17th century, as it rose to about 91,272 in 1750. Of this number approximately 38,272 were white landowners, 38,000 were free mixed people of color, and some 15,000 were slaves. This contrasted sharply with the population of the French colony of Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) – the wealthiest colony in the Caribbean and whose population of one-half a million was 90% enslaved and overall seven times as numerous as the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo. The 'Spanish' settlers, whose blood by now was mixed with that of Tainos, Africans and Canary Guanches, proclaimed: 'It does not matter if the French are richer than us, we are still the true inheritors of this island. In our veins runs the blood of the heroic conquistadores who won this island of ours with sword and blood.'

When the War of Jenkins' Ear between Spain and Britain broke out in 1739, Spanish privateers, particularly from Santo Domingo, began to troll the Caribbean Sea, a development that lasted until the end of the eighteenth century. During this period, Spanish privateers from Santo Domingo sailed into enemy ports looking for ships to plunder, thus harming commerce with Britain and New York. As a result, the Spanish obtained stolen merchandise—foodstuffs, ships, enslaved persons—that were sold in Hispaniola's ports, with profits accruing to individual sea raiders. The revenue acquired in these acts of piracy was invested in the economic expansion of the colony and led to repopulation from Europe. As restrictions on colonial trade were relaxed, the colonial elites of St. Domingue offered the principal market for Santo Domingo's exports of beef, hides, mahogany, and tobacco. With the outbreak of the Haitian Revolution in 1791, the rich urban families linked to the colonial bureaucracy fled the island, while most of the rural hateros (cattle ranchers) remained, even though they lost their principal market. Although the population of Spanish Santo Domingo was perhaps one-fourth that of French Saint-Domingue, this did not prevent the Spanish king from launching an invasion of the French side of the island in 1793, attempting to take advantage of the chaos sparked by the French Revolution. French forces checked Spanish progress toward Port-au-Prince in the south, but the Spanish pushed rapidly through the north, most of which they occupied by 1794.

Although the Spanish military effort went well on Hispaniola, it did not so in Europe. As a consequence, Spain was forced to cede Santo Domingo to the French under the terms of the Treaty of Basel (July 22, 1795) in order to get the French to withdraw from Spain.

French rule

In 1801, Toussaint Louverture, who at least in theory represented imperial France, marched into Santo Domingo from Saint-Domingue to enforce the terms of the treaty. Toussaint's army committed numerous atrocities; as a consequence, the Spanish population fled from Santo Domingo in exodus proportions. French control of the former Spanish colony passed from Toussaint Louverture to Gen. Charles Leclerc when he seized the city of Santo Domingo in early 1802. Following the defeat of the French under Gen. Donatien de Rochembeau at Le Cap in November 1803 by the Haitians, their new leader, Dessalines, attempted to drive the French out of Santo Domingo. He invaded the Spanish side of the island, defeated the French-led Spanish colonials at River Yaque del Sur, and besieged the capital on March 5, 1805. At the same time, the Haitian General Christophe marched north through Cibao, capturing Santiago where he massacred prominent individuals who had sought refuge in a church. The arrival of small French squadrons off the Haitian coast at Goncaives and at Santo Domingo forced the Haitians to withdraw. As Christophe retreated across the island, he slaughtered and burned.[64] In October 1808 the landowner Juan Sánchez Ramírez began a rebellion against the French colonial government in Santo Domingo and the insurgents were aided by Puerto Rico and British Jamaica. The British ejected the French and returned Santo Domingo to the Spaniards in 1809. The Spaniards not only tried to re-establish slavery in Santo Domingo, but many of them also mounted raiding expeditions into Haiti to capture blacks and enslave them as well.

Independence from Spain (1821)

After a dozen years of discontent and failed independence plots by various opposing groups, Santo Domingo's former Lieutenant-Governor (top administrator), José Núñez de Cáceres, declared the colony's independence from the Spanish crown as Spanish Haiti, on November 30, 1821. This period is also known as the Ephemeral independence.

Unification of Hispaniola (1822–44)

The newly independent republic ended two months later under the Haitian government led by Jean-Pierre Boyer.

As Toussaint Louverture had done two decades earlier, the Haitians abolished slavery. In order to raise funds for the huge indemnity of 150 million francs that Haiti agreed to pay the former French colonists, and which was subsequently lowered to 60 million francs, the Haitian government imposed heavy taxes on the Dominicans. Since Haiti was unable to adequately provision its army, the occupying forces largely survived by commandeering or confiscating food and supplies at gunpoint. Attempts to redistribute land conflicted with the system of communal land tenure (terrenos comuneros), which had arisen with the ranching economy, and some people resented being forced to grow cash crops under Boyer and Joseph Balthazar Inginac's Code Rural. In the rural and rugged mountainous areas, the Haitian administration was usually too inefficient to enforce its own laws. It was in the city of Santo Domingo that the effects of the occupation were most acutely felt, and it was there that the movement for independence originated.

Haiti's constitution forbade white elites from owning land, and Dominican major landowning families were forcibly deprived of their properties. Many emigrated to Cuba, Puerto Rico (these two being Spanish possessions at the time), or Gran Colombia, usually with the encouragement of Haitian officials who acquired their lands. The Haitians associated the Roman Catholic Church with the French slave-masters who had exploited them before independence and confiscated all church property, deported all foreign clergy, and severed the ties of the remaining clergy to the Vatican.

All levels of education collapsed; the university was shut down, as it was starved both of resources and students, with young Dominican men from 16 to 25 years old being drafted into the Haitian army. Boyer's occupation troops, who were largely Dominicans, were unpaid and had to "forage and sack" from Dominican civilians. Haiti imposed a "heavy tribute" on the Dominican people.

Many whites fled Santo Domingo for Puerto Rico and Cuba (both still under Spanish rule), Venezuela, and elsewhere. In the end, the economy faltered, and taxation became more onerous. Rebellions occurred even by Dominican freedmen, while Dominicans and Haitians worked together to oust Boyer from power. Anti-Haitian movements of several kinds – pro-independence, pro-Spanish, pro-French, pro-British, pro-United States – gathered force following the overthrow of Boyer in 1843.

Dominican War of Independence (1844)

In 1838 Juan Pablo Duarte founded a secret society called La Trinitaria, which sought the complete independence of Santo Domingo without any foreign intervention. Also Francisco del Rosario Sánchez and Ramon Matias Mella, despite not being among the founding members of La Trinitaria, were decisive in the fight for independence. Duarte, Mella, and Sánchez are considered the three Founding Fathers of the Dominican Republic.

The Trinitarios took advantage of a Haitian rebellion against the dictator Jean-Pierre Boyer. They rose up on January 27, 1843, ostensibly in support of the Haitian Charles Hérard who was challenging Boyer for the control of Haiti. However, the movement soon discarded its pretext of support for Hérard and now championed Dominican independence. After overthrowing Boyer, Hérard executed some Dominicans, and threw many others into prison; Duarte escaped. After subduing the Dominicans, Hérard, a mulatto, faced a rebellion by blacks in Port-au-Prince. Haiti had formed two regiments composed of Dominicans from the city of Santo Domingo; these were used by Hérard to suppress the uprising.

On February 27, 1844, the surviving members of La Trinitaria declared the independence from Haiti. They were backed by Pedro Santana, a wealthy cattle rancher from El Seibo, who became general of the army of the nascent republic. The Dominican Republic's first Constitution was adopted on November 6, 1844, and was modeled after the United States Constitution. The decades that followed were filled with tyranny, factionalism, economic difficulties, rapid changes of government, and exile for political opponents. Archrivals Santana and Buenaventura Báez held power most of the time, both ruling arbitrarily. They promoted competing plans to annex the new nation to another power: Santana favored Spain, and Báez the United States.

Threatening the nation's independence were renewed Haitian invasions. On 19 March 1844, the Haitian Army, under the personal command of President Hérard, invaded the eastern province from the north and progressed as far as Santiago, but was soon forced to withdraw after suffering disproportionate losses. According to José María Imbert's (the General defending Santiago) report of April 5, 1844 to Santo Domingo, “in Santiago, the enemy did not leave behind in the battlefield less than six hundred dead and…the number of wounded was very superior…[while on] our part we suffered not one casualty.”

The Dominicans repelled the Haitian forces, on both land and sea, by December 1845. The Haitians invaded again in 1849 after France recognized the Dominican Republic as an independent nation. In an overwhelming onslaught, the Haitians seized one frontier town after another. Santana being called upon to assume command of the troops, met the enemy at Ocoa, April 21, 1849, with only 400 men, and succeeded in utterly defeating the Haitian army. In November 1849 Báez launched a naval offensive against Haiti to forestall the threat of another invasion. His seamen under the French adventurer, Fagalde, raided the Haitian coasts, plundered seaside villages, as far as Cape Dame Marie, and butchered crews of captured enemy ships. In 1855, Haiti invaded again, but its forces were repulsed at the bloodiest clashes in the history of the Dominican–Haitian wars, the Battle of Santomé in December 1855 and the Battle of Sabana Larga in January 1856.

First Republic

The Dominican Republic's first constitution was adopted on November 6, 1844. The state was commonly known as Santo Domingo in English until the early 20th century. It featured a presidential form of government with many liberal tendencies, but it was marred by Article 210, imposed by Pedro Santana on the constitutional assembly by force, giving him the privileges of a dictatorship until the war of independence was over. These privileges not only served him to win the war but also allowed him to persecute, execute and drive into exile his political opponents, among which Duarte was the most important. In Haiti after the fall of Boyer, black leaders had ascended to the power once enjoyed exclusively by the mulatto elite.

Without adequate roads, the regions of the Dominican Republic developed in isolation from one another. In the south, also known at the time as Ozama, the economy was dominated by cattle-ranching (particularly in the southeastern savannah) and cutting mahogany and other hardwoods for export. This region retained a semi-feudal character, with little commercial agriculture, the hacienda as the dominant social unit, and the majority of the population living at a subsistence level. In the north (better-known as Cibao), the nation's richest farmland, peasants supplemented their subsistence crops by growing tobacco for export, mainly to Germany. Tobacco required less land than cattle ranching and was mainly grown by smallholders, who relied on itinerant traders to transport their crops to Puerto Plata and Monte Cristi. Santana antagonized the Cibao farmers, enriching himself and his supporters at their expense by resorting to multiple peso printings that allowed him to buy their crops for a fraction of their value. In 1848, he was forced to resign and was succeeded by his vice-president, Manuel Jimenes.

After defeating a new Haitian invasion in 1849, Santana marched on Santo Domingo and deposed Jimenes in a coup d'état. At his behest, Congress elected Buenaventura Báez as President, but Báez was unwilling to serve as Santana's puppet, challenging his role as the country's acknowledged military leader. In 1853 Santana was elected president for his second term, forcing Báez into exile. Three years later, after repulsing another Haitian invasion, he negotiated a treaty leasing a portion of Samaná Peninsula to a U.S. company; popular opposition forced him to abdicate, enabling Báez to return and seize power. With the treasury depleted, Báez printed eighteen million uninsured pesos, purchasing the 1857 tobacco crop with this currency and exporting it for hard cash at immense profit to himself and his followers. Cibao tobacco planters, who were ruined when hyperinflation ensued, revolted and formed a new government headed by José Desiderio Valverde and headquartered in Santiago de los Caballeros. In July 1857 General Juan Luis Franco Bidó besieged Santo Domingo. The Cibao-based government declared an amnesty to exiles and Santana returned and managed to replace Franco Bidó in September 1857. After a year of civil war, Santana captured Santo Domingo in June 1858, overthrew both Báez and Valverde and installed himself as president.

Restoration republic

In 1861, after imprisoning, silencing, exiling, and executing many of his opponents and due to political and economic reasons, Santana signed a pact with the Spanish Crown and reverted the Dominican nation to colonial status. This action was supported by the cattlemen of the south while the northern elites opposed it. Spanish rule finally came to an end with the War of Restoration in 1865, after four years of conflict between Dominican nationalists and Spanish sympathizers.

Political strife again prevailed in the following years; warlords ruled, military revolts were extremely common, and the nation amassed debt. In 1869, President Ulysses S. Grant ordered U.S. Marines to the island for the first time. Pirates operating from Haiti had been raiding U.S. commercial shipping in the Caribbean, and Grant directed the Marines to stop them at their source. Following the virtual takeover of the island, Báez offered to sell the country to the United States. Grant desired a naval base at Samaná and also a place for resettling newly freed Blacks. The treaty, which included U.S. payment of $1.5 million for Dominican debt repayment, was defeated in the United States Senate in 1870 on a vote of 28–28, two-thirds being required.

Báez was toppled in 1874, returned, and was toppled for good in 1878. A new generation was thence in charge, with the passing of Santana (he died in 1864) and Báez from the scene. Relative peace came to the country in the 1880s, which saw the coming to power of General Ulises Heureaux.

"Lilís," as the new president was nicknamed, enjoyed a period of popularity. He was, however, "a consummate dissembler," who put the nation deep into debt while using much of the proceeds for his personal use and to maintain his police state. Heureaux became rampantly despotic and unpopular. In 1899 he was assassinated. However, the relative calm over which he presided allowed improvement in the Dominican economy. The sugar industry was modernized, and the country attracted foreign workers and immigrants.

20th century (1900–30)

From 1902 on, short-lived governments were again the norm, with their power usurped by caudillos in parts of the country. Furthermore, the national government was bankrupt and, unable to pay Heureaux's debts, faced the threat of military intervention by France and other European creditor powers.

United States President Theodore Roosevelt sought to prevent European intervention, largely to protect the routes to the future Panama Canal, as the canal was already under construction. He made a small military intervention to ward off European powers, to proclaim his famous Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, and also to obtain his 1905 Dominican agreement for U.S. administration of Dominican customs, which was the chief source of income for the Dominican government. A 1906 agreement provided for the arrangement to last 50 years. The United States agreed to use part of the customs proceeds to reduce the immense foreign debt of the Dominican Republic and assumed responsibility for said debt.

After six years in power, President Ramón Cáceres (who had himself assassinated Heureaux) was assassinated in 1911. The result was several years of great political instability and civil war. U.S. mediation by the William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson administrations achieved only a short respite each time. A political deadlock in 1914 was broken after an ultimatum by Wilson telling the Dominicans to choose a president or see the U.S. impose one. A provisional president was chosen, and later the same year relatively free elections put former president (1899–1902) Juan Isidro Jimenes Pereyra back in power. To achieve a more broadly supported government, Jimenes named opposition individuals to his cabinet. But this brought no peace and, with his former Secretary of War Desiderio Arias maneuvering to depose him and despite a U.S. offer of military aid against Arias, Jimenes resigned on May 7, 1916.

Wilson thus ordered the U.S. occupation of the Dominican Republic. U.S. Marines landed on May 16, 1916, and had control of the country two months later. The military government established by the U.S., led by Vice Admiral Harry Shepard Knapp, was widely repudiated by the Dominicans, with many factions within the country leading guerrilla campaigns against U.S. forces. The occupation regime kept most Dominican laws and institutions and largely pacified the general population. The occupying government also revived the Dominican economy, reduced the nation's debt, built a road network that at last interconnected all regions of the country, and created a professional National Guard to replace the warring partisan units.

Vigorous opposition to the occupation continued, nevertheless, and after World War I it increased in the U.S. as well. There, President Warren G. Harding(1921–23), Wilson's successor, worked to put an end to the occupation, as he had promised to do during his campaign. The U.S. government's rule ended in October 1922, and elections were held in March 1924.

The victor was former president (1902–03) Horacio Vásquez, who had cooperated with the U.S. He was inaugurated on July 13, and the last U.S. forces left in September. In six years, the Marines were involved in at least 467 engagements, with 950 insurgents killed or wounded in action. Vásquez gave the country six years of stable governance, in which political and civil rights were respected and the economy grew strongly, in a relatively peaceful atmosphere.

During the government of Horacio Vásquez, Rafael Trujillo held the rank of lieutenant colonel and was chief of police. This position helped him launch his plans to overthrow the government of Vásquez. Trujillo had the support of Carlos Rosario Peña, who formed the Civic Movement, which had as its main objective to overthrow the government of Vásquez.

In February 1930, when Vásquez attempted to win another term, his opponents rebelled in secret alliance with the commander of the National Army (the former National Guard), General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina. Trujillo secretly cut a deal with rebel leader Rafael Estrella Ureña; in return for letting Ureña take power, Trujillo would be allowed to run for president in new elections. As the rebels marched toward Santo Domingo, Vásquez ordered Trujillo to suppress them. However, feigning "neutrality," Trujillo kept his men in barracks, allowing Ureña's rebels to take the capital virtually uncontested. On March 3, Ureña was proclaimed acting president with Trujillo confirmed as head of the police and the army.

As per their agreement, Trujillo became the presidential nominee of the newly formed Patriotic Coalition of Citizens, with Ureña as his running mate. During the election campaign, Trujillo used the army to unleash his repression, forcing his opponents to withdraw from the race. Trujillo stood to elect himself, and in May he was elected president virtually unopposed after a violent campaign against his opponents, ascending to power on August 16, 1930.

Trujillo Age (1930–61)

There was considerable economic growth during Rafael Trujillo's long and iron-fisted regime, although a great deal of the wealth was taken by the dictator and other regime elements. There was progress in healthcare, education, and transportation, with the building of hospitals and clinics, schools, and roads and harbors. Trujillo also carried out an important housing construction program and instituted a pension plan. He finally negotiated an undisputed border with Haiti in 1935 and achieved the end of the 50-year customs agreement in 1941, instead of 1956. He made the country debt-free in 1947.

This was accompanied by absolute repression and the copious use of murder, torture, and terrorist methods against the opposition. Trujillo renamed Santo Domingo to "Ciudad Trujillo" (Trujillo City), the nation's – and the Caribbean's – highest mountain La Pelona Grande (Spanish for: The Great Bald) to "Pico Trujillo" (Spanish for: Trujillo Peak), and many towns and a province. Some other places he renamed after members of his family. By the end of his first term in 1934 he was the country's wealthiest person, and one of the wealthiest in the world by the early 1950s; near the end of his regime his fortune was an estimated $800 million. He used the secret police extensively to eliminate political opposition and to prevent several coup attempts during and after World War II. The secret police allegedly murdered more than 500,000 people during the Trujillo era.

Although one-quarter Haitian, Trujillo promoted propaganda against them. In 1937, he ordered what became known as the Parsley Massacre or, in the Dominican Republic, as El Corte (The Cutting), directing the army to kill Haitians living on the Dominican side of the border. The army killed an estimated 17,000 to 35,000 Haitian men, women, and children over six days, from the night of October 2, 1937, through October 8, 1937. To avoid leaving evidence of the army's involvement, the soldiers used edged weapons rather than guns. The soldiers were said to have interrogated anyone with dark skin, using the shibboleth perejil (parsley) to distinguish Haitians from Afro-Dominicans when necessary; the 'r' of perejil was of difficult pronunciation for Haitians. As a result of the massacre, the Dominican Republic agreed to pay Haiti US$750,000, later reduced to US$525,000. In 1938, reports from the Dominican Republic revealed hundreds more Haitians had been killed and thousands deported.

On November 25, 1960, Trujillo killed three of the four Mirabal sisters, nicknamed Las Mariposas (The Butterflies). The victims were Patria Mercedes Mirabal (born on February 27, 1924), Argentina Minerva Mirabal (born on March 12, 1926), and Antonia María Teresa Mirabal (born on October 15, 1935). Along with their husbands, the sisters were conspiring to overthrow Trujillo in a violent revolt. The Mirabals had communist ideological leanings as did their husbands. The sisters have received many honors posthumously and have many memorials in various cities in the Dominican Republic. Salcedo, their home province, changed its name to Provincia Hermanas Mirabal (Mirabal Sisters Province). The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is observed on the anniversary of their deaths.

For a long time, the U.S. and the Dominican elite supported the Trujillo government. This support persisted despite the assassinations of political opposition, the massacre of Haitians, and Trujillo's plots against other countries. The U.S. believed Trujillo was the lesser of two or more evils. The U.S. finally broke with Trujillo in 1960, after Trujillo's agents attempted to assassinate the Venezuelan president, Rómulo Betancourt, a fierce critic of Trujillo.

Trujillo had become expendable. Dissidents inside the Dominican Republic argued that assassination was the only certain way to remove Trujillo.

According to Chester Bowles, the U.S. Undersecretary of State, internal Department of State discussions in 1961 on the topic were vigorous.[101] Richard N. Goodwin, Assistant Special Counsel to the President, who had direct contacts with the rebel alliance, argued for intervention against Trujillo. Quoting Bowles directly: The next morning I learned that in spite of the clear decision against having the dissident group request our assistance Dick Goodwin following the meeting sent a cable to CIA people in the Dominican Republic without checking with State or CIA; indeed, with the protest of the Department of State. The cable directed the CIA people in the Dominican Republic to get this request at any cost. When Allen Dulles found this out the next morning, he withdrew the order. We later discovered it had already been carried out.

Post-Trujillo (1962–1996)

Trujillo was assassinated on May 30, 1961. Trujillo was murdered with weapons supplied by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

In February 1963, a democratically elected government under leftist Juan Bosch took office but it was overthrown in September. On April 24, 1965, after 19 months of military rule, a pro-Bosch revolt broke out.

Days later U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, concerned that Communists might take over the revolt and create a "second Cuba," sent the Marines, followed immediately by the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division and other elements of the XVIIIth Airborne Corps, in Operation Powerpack. "We don't propose to sit here in a rocking chair with our hands folded and let the Communist set up any government in the western hemisphere," Johnson said. The forces were soon joined by comparatively small contingents from the Organization of American States. All these remained in the country for over a year and left after supervising elections in 1966 won by Joaquín Balaguer. He had been Trujillo's last puppet-president.

The Dominican death toll for the entire period of civil war and occupation totaled more than three thousand, many of them black civilians killed when the US-backed military junta engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the northern (also the industrial) part of Santo Domingo.

Balaguer remained in power as president for 12 years. His tenure was a period of repression of human rights and civil liberties, ostensibly to keep pro-Castro or pro-communist parties out of power; 11,000 persons were killed. His rule was criticized for a growing disparity between rich and poor. It was, however, praised for an ambitious infrastructure program, which included the construction of large housing projects, sports complexes, theaters, museums, aqueducts, roads, highways, and the massive Columbus Lighthouse, completed in 1992 during a later tenure.

In 1978, Balaguer was succeeded in the presidency by opposition candidate Antonio Guzmán Fernández, of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD). Another PRD win in 1982 followed, under Salvador Jorge Blanco. Under the PRD presidents, the Dominican Republic enjoyed a period of relative freedom and basic human rights.

Balaguer regained the presidency in 1986 and was re-elected in 1990 and 1994, this last time just defeating PRD candidate José Francisco Peña Gómez, a former mayor of Santo Domingo. The 1994 elections were flawed, bringing on international pressure, to which Balaguer responded by scheduling another presidential contest in 1996. Balaguer was not a candidate. The PSRC candidate was his Vice President Jacinto Peynado Garrigosa.

1996–present
In the 1996 presidential election, Leonel Fernández achieved the first-ever win for the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), which Bosch had founded in 1973 after leaving the PRD (which he also had founded). Fernández oversaw a fast-growing economy: growth averaged 7.7% per year, unemployment fell, and there were stable exchange and inflation rates.

In 2000 the PRD's Hipólito Mejía won the election. This was a time of economic troubles. Mejía was defeated in his re-election effort in 2004 by Leonel Fernández of the PLD. In 2008, Fernández was as elected for a third term. Fernández and the PLD are credited with initiatives that have moved the country forward technologically, such as the construction of the Metro Railway ("El Metro"). On the other hand, his administrations have been accused of corruption.

Danilo Medina of the PLD was elected president in 2012 and re-elected in 2016. On the other hand, a significant increase in crime, government corruption and a weak justice system threaten to overshadow their administrative period.

Ethnic groups

The Dominican Republic's population is 70% of racially mixed origin, 16% Black, and 14% White. Ethnic immigrant groups in the country include West Asians—mostly Lebanese, Syrians, and Palestinians. East Asians, primarily ethnic Chinese and Japanese, can also be found. Europeans are represented mostly by Spanish whites but also with smaller populations of German Jews, Italians, Portuguese, British, Dutch, Danes, and Hungarians. Some converted Sephardic Jews from Spain were part of early expeditions; only Catholics were allowed to come to the New World. Later there were Jewish migrants coming from the Iberian peninsula and other parts of Europe in the 1700s. Some managed to reach the Caribbean as refugees during and after the Second World War. Some Sephardic Jews reside in Sosúa while others are dispersed throughout the country. Self-identified Jews number about 3,000; other Dominicans may have some Jewish ancestry because of marriages among converted Jewish Catholics and other Dominicans since the colonial years. Some Dominicans born in the United States now reside in the Dominican Republic, creating a kind of expatriate community.

Languages

The population of the Dominican Republic is mostly Spanish-speaking. The local variant of Spanish is called Dominican Spanish, which closely resembles other Spanish vernaculars in the Caribbean and the Canarian Spanish. In addition, it has influences from African languages and borrowed words from indigenous Caribbean languages particular to the island of Hispaniola. Schools are based on a Spanish educational model; English and French are mandatory foreign languages in both private and public schools, although the quality of foreign languages teaching is poor. Some private educational institutes provide teaching on other languages, notably Italian, Japanese, and Mandarin.

Haitian Creole is the largest minority language in the Dominican Republic and is spoken by Haitian immigrants and their descendants. There is a community of a few thousand people whose ancestors spoke Samaná English in the Samaná Peninsula. They are the descendants of formerly enslaved African Americans who arrived in the nineteenth century, but only a few elders speak the language today. Tourism, American pop culture, the influence of Dominican Americans, and the country's economic ties with the United States motivate other Dominicans to learn English. The Dominican Republic is ranked 2nd in Latin America and 23rd in the World on English proficiency.

Culture

Due to cultural syncretism, the culture and customs of the Dominican people have a European cultural basis, influenced by both African and native Taíno elements, although endogenous elements have emerged within Dominican culture; culturally the Dominican Republic is among the most-European countries in Spanish America, alongside Puerto Rico, Cuba, Central Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. Spanish institutions in the colonial era were able to predominate in the Dominican culture's making-of as a relative success in the acculturation and cultural assimilation of African slaves diminished African cultural influence in comparison to other Caribbean countries.

Music and sport are of great importance in the Dominican culture, with Merengue and Bachata as the national dance and music, and baseball as the favorite sport.

Visual arts

Dominican art is perhaps most commonly associated with the bright, vibrant colors and images that are sold in every tourist gift shop across the country. However, the country has a long history of fine art that goes back to the middle of the 1800s when the country became independent and the beginnings of a national art scene emerged.

Historically, the painting of this time were centered around images connected to national independence, historical scenes, portraits but also landscapes and images of still life. Styles of painting ranged between neoclassicism and romanticism. Between 1920 and 1940 the art scene was influenced by styles of realism and impressionism. Dominican artists were focused on breaking from previous, academic styles in order to develop more independent and individual styles.

Architecture

The architecture in the Dominican Republic represents a complex blend of diverse cultures. The deep influence of the European colonists is the most evident throughout the country. Characterized by ornate designs and baroque structures, the style can best be seen in the capital city of Santo Domingo, which is home to the first cathedral, castle, monastery, and fortress in all of the Americas, located in the city's Colonial Zone, an area declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The designs carry over into the villas and buildings throughout the country. It can also be observed on buildings that contain stucco exteriors, arched doors and windows, and red tiled roofs.

The indigenous peoples of the Dominican Republic have also had a significant influence on the architecture of the country. The Taíno people relied heavily on the mahogany and guano (dried palm tree leaf) to put together crafts, artwork, furniture, and houses. Utilizing mud, thatched roofs, and mahogany trees, they gave buildings and the furniture inside a natural look, seamlessly blending in with the island's surroundings.

Lately, with the rise in tourism and increasing popularity as a Caribbean vacation destination, architects in the Dominican Republic have now begun to incorporate cutting-edge designs that emphasize luxury. In many ways an architectural playground, villas and hotels implement new styles, while offering new takes on the old. This new style is characterized by simplified, angular corners and large windows that blend outdoor and indoor spaces. As with the culture as a whole, contemporary architects embrace the Dominican Republic's rich history and various cultures to create something new. Surveying modern villas, one can find any combination of the three major styles: a villa may contain angular, modernist building construction, Spanish Colonial-style arched windows, and a traditional Taino hammock in the bedroom balcony.

Cuisine

Dominican cuisine is predominantly Spanish, Taíno, and African. The typical cuisine is quite similar to what can be found in other Latin American countries. One breakfast dish consists of eggs and mangú (mashed, boiled plantain). Heartier versions of mangú are accompanied by deep-fried meat (Dominican salami, typically), cheese, or both. Lunch, generally the largest and most important meal of the day, usually consists of rice, meat, beans, and salad. "La Bandera" (literally "The Flag") is the most popular lunch dish; it consists of meat and red beans on white rice. Sancocho is a stew often made with seven varieties of meat.

Meals tend to favor meats and starches over dairy products and vegetables. Many dishes are made with sofrito, which is a mix of local herbs used as a wet rub for meats and sautéed to bring out all of a dish's flavors. Throughout the south-central coast, bulgur, or whole wheat, is a main ingredient in quipes or tipili(bulgur salad). Other favorite Dominican foods include chicharrón, yuca, casabe, pastelitos(empanadas), batata, yam, pasteles en hoja, chimichurris, and tostones.

Some treats Dominicans enjoy are arroz con leche (or arroz con dulce), bizcocho dominicano (lit. Dominican cake), habichuelas con dulce, flan, frío frío (snow cones), dulce de leche, and caña (sugarcane). The beverages Dominicans enjoy are Morir Soñando, rum, beer, Mama Juana, batida (smoothie), jugos naturales (freshly squeezed fruit juices), mabí, coffee, and chaca (also called maiz caqueao/casqueado, maiz con dulce and maiz con leche), the last item being found only in the southern provinces of the country such as San Juan.

National symbols

Some of the Dominican Republic's important symbols are the flag, the coat of arms, and the national anthem, titled Himno Nacional. The flag has a large white cross that divides it into four quarters. Two quarters are red and two are blue. Red represents the blood shed by the liberators. Blue expresses God's protection over the nation. The white cross symbolizes the struggle of the liberators to bequeath future generations a free nation. An alternative interpretation is that blue represents the ideals of progress and liberty, whereas white symbolizes peace and unity among Dominicans.

In the center of the cross is the Dominican coat of arms, in the same colors as the national flag. The coat of arms pictures a red, white, and blue flag-draped shield with a Bible, a gold cross, and arrows; the shield is surrounded by an olive branch (on the left) and a palm branch (on the right). The Bible traditionally represents the truth and the light. The gold cross symbolizes the redemption from slavery, and the arrows symbolize the noble soldiers and their proud military. A blue ribbon above the shield reads, "Dios, Patria, Libertad" (meaning "God, Fatherland, Liberty"). A red ribbon under the shield reads, "República Dominicana" (meaning "Dominican Republic"). Out of all the flags in the world, the depiction of a Bible is unique to the Dominican flag.

The national flower is the Bayahibe Rose and the national tree is the West Indian Mahogany. The national bird is the Cigua Palmera or Palmchat("Dulus dominicus").

The Dominican Republic celebrates Dia de la Altagracia on January 21 in honor of its patroness, Duarte's Day on January 26 in honor of one of its founding fathers, Independence Day on February 27, Restoration Day on August 16, Virgen de las Mercedeson September 24, and Constitution Day on November 6.

 

Travel to the Dominican Republic: Lonely Planet

The Dominican Republic is one of the Caribbean's most geographically diverse countries, with stunning mountain scenery, desert scrub-lands, evocative colonial architecture and beaches galore.

 

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