|Motto: "Dios, Patria, Libertad"
"God, Fatherland, Liberty"
|Anthem: Himno Nacional
(and largest city)
|Ethnic groups||73%: Multiracial
16%: White11%: Black
|Government||Unitary and Democratic Republic or Representative Democracy|
|-||Vice President||Rafael Alburquerque|
|-||from Spain||December 1, 1821|
|-||from Haiti||February 27, 1844|
|-||from Spain||August 16, 1865|
|-||Total||48,442 km² (130th)
18,704 sq mi
|GDP (PPP)||2011 estimate|
|GDP (nominal)||2011 estimate|
|Gini (2005)||49.9 (high)|
|Time zone||Atlantic (UTC-4)|
|Calling code||[[++1-809, +1-829, +1-849]]|
The Dominican Republic (Spanish: República Dominicana) is a Latin American country that occupies the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. It shares a border with the Republic of Haiti, making it one of two Caribbean islands that are split by two governments; the other is Saint-Martin/Sint Maarten. Hispaniola is the second-largest of the Greater Antilles islands, and lies west of Puerto Rico and east of Cuba and Jamaica.
Like many Latin American nations, the Dominican Republic has a long history of violence and tyranny, including; plundering by pirates, rebellions against both Spain and its neighbor, Haiti, intercession and dominance by the United States, and rule by repressive regimes. It has experienced political and civil disorder, ethnic tensions and military rule. For much of the twentieth century, the government of the Dominican Republic was unsettled and mostly non-representative. Since the death of military dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo in 1961, the Dominican Republic has moved toward representative democracy.
The Dominican Republic is situated on the eastern portion of the second largest island in the Greater Antilles, Hispaniola. The Dominican Republic shares the island roughly at a 2:1 ratio with Haiti. The whole country measures an area of 44,442 km² making it the second largest country in the Antilles, after Cuba. The country's mainland has three mountain ranges, those being Cordillera Central (crossing the island east to west from Haiti to the sea), Cordillera Septentrional, and Cordillera Oriental in the East. Between the Central and Septentrional mountain ranges lies the rich and fertile Cibao valley. This major valley is home to the city of Santiago de los Caballeros and to most of the farming areas in the nation. The country's capital and greatest metropolitan area, Santo Domingo, is located on the southern shore.
The Dominican Republic has the highest peak in the Caribbean, named Pico Duarte (3,087 m or 10,128 ft above sea level), as well as the largest lake in the Caribbean, Lake Enriquillo.
There are many rivers running through the country, including the navigable Soco, Higuamo, Romana (also known as "Rio Dulce"), Yaque del Norte, Yaque del Sur, Yuna River, Yuma, and Bajabonico. The Dominican Republic uses its rivers and streams to create electricity, and many hydro-electric plants and dams have been created on rivers, including the Bao, Nizao, Ozama, and Higuamo.
The two largest islands near shore are Saona Island in the southeast and Beata Island in the southwest. To the north, at a distance between 100 and 200 km, are three extensive, largely submerged banks, which geographically are a southeast continuation of the Bahamas: Navidad Bank, Silver Bank, and Mouchoir Bank. Navidad Bank and Silver Bank have been officially claimed by the Dominican Republic.
The country is a tropical, maritime nation. The rainy season is from May to November, and hurricanes season is between June and November. Most rain falls in the northern and eastern regions. The average rainfall is 1,346 mm, with extremes of 2,500 mm in the northeast and 500 mm in the west. The mean annual temperature ranges from 21 °C in the mountainous regions to 25 °C on the plains and the coast. The average temperature in Santo Domingo in January is 23.9 °C and 27.2 °C in July.
Bajos de Haina, 12 miles west of Santo Domingo, was included on the Blacksmith Institute's list of the world's 10 most polluted places, released in October 2006, due to lead poisoning caused by a battery recycling smelter which closed in 1999. As the site was never cleaned up, children continue to be born with high lead levels causing learning disabilities, impaired physical growth and kidney damage.
The Dominican Republic is the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas, and became the first point of colonization in the Western Hemisphere by explorers from Europe. Present-day Dominican Republic has the first cathedral, university, road, and fortress of the Americas, and Santo Domingo was the first city established, which was also the first capital in the Americas.
The island of Hispaniola was occupied by Amer-Indians for at least 5,000 years prior to the European arrival in the Americas. Multiple waves of indigenous immigration to the island had occurred, mainly from Central and South America. Those from the South American continent were descendants of the Arawak, who passed through Venezuela. These tribes blended through marriage, forming the Taino, who greeted Christopher Columbus upon his arrival. It is believed that there were probably several million of these peaceful natives living on the island at that time.
Columbus had visited Cuba and the Bahamas before landing on Hispaniola (known alternatively as Quisqueya, Haití, or Bohío to the natives) in December 1492. However, it was Hispaniola that seemed to impress Columbus most strongly. It is said that when he first laid eyes on its shores, he termed it "La Perle des Antilles" or "the Pearl of the Caribbean." His journal described the beauty of the high, forested mountains and large river valleys which were inhabited by a peaceful amiable people. On his return the following year, he quickly founded the first permanent European settlement in America.
European colonization of the island began in earnest the following year, when 1,300 men arrived from Spain under the watch of Bartolomeo Columbus (Christopher's cousin).
In 1493, the town of Nueva Isabela was founded on the north coast, near modern day Puerto Plata. From there the Spaniards could easily reach the gold found in the interior of the island. After the 1496 discovery of gold in the south, Bartolomeo founded the city of Santo Domingo, which is the oldest permanent European settlement in the Americas.
The Taino, already weakened by diseases to which they had no immunity, were forced into hard labor, panning for gold under repressive and deplorable conditions. Nicolas Ovando, who succeeded Bartolomeo Columbus as governor of the colony, organized a "feast" for the Taino chiefs near present day Port au Prince, Haiti. The Taino were burned to death when the Spaniards set fire to the building in which they had assembled for the feast. Those who escaped the fire were tortured to death. A similar campaign was carried out on the eastern part of the island. With their leadership virtually wiped out, resistance by the remaining population was for the most part eliminated.
After 25 years of Spanish occupation, the Taino population had shrunk to less than 50,000 in the Spanish–dominated sections of the island. Within another generation, most of the native population had intermarried with either the Spanish or the African descendants. The people of this blended ancestry are known today as the Dominicans.
By the early sixteenth century, the gold deposits of Hispaniola were becoming exhausted. Most of the Spanish left for Mexico as word of that area's riches spread. Only a few thousand Spanish remained, most of whom were of mixed blood with the Taino. They began to raise livestock (Columbus had introduced pigs and cattle to the island), which they used to supply passing ships on their way to the mainland.
By the early seventeenth century, the island and its smaller neighbors (notably Tortuga) became regular stopping points for Caribbean pirates. In 1606, the king of Spain ordered all inhabitants of Hispaniola to move close to Santo Domingo for their protection. Rather than secure the island, however, this resulted in French, English, and Dutch pirates establishing bases on the now-abandoned north and west coasts.
In 1665, French colonization of the island was officially recognized by Louis XIV. The French colony was given the name Saint-Domingue. In the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick, Spain formally ceded the western third of the island to France. Saint-Domingue quickly came to overshadow the east in both wealth and population. Nicknamed the "Pearl of the Antilles," it became the richest colony in the West Indies and one of the richest in the world. Large sugar cane plantations were established and worked by hundreds of thousands of African slaves who were imported to the island.
In 1791, a major slave revolt erupted in Saint-Domingue, inspired in part by events taking place in France during the French Revolution. Disputes between whites and mulattoes in Saint Domingue led Toussaint Louverture, a French black man, to take charge of the revolt. Since the entire island had been ceded to France in 1795 (Treaty of Basilea), L'Ouverture and his followers claimed the entire island. In 1801, he succeeded in unifying the island.
In 1804, following a failed attempt by Napoleonic troops to reestablish slavery on the island, the Republic of Haiti was proclaimed, with Jean-Jacques Dessalines as its first head of state. Haiti is the second oldest country in the Americas, after the United States, and the oldest independent nation in Latin America.
By 1808, after various degrees of instability, Santo Domingo reverted to Spanish rule. Two years later in 1810, the French finally left Santo Domingo.
Spanish lieutenant governor José Núñez de Cáceres declared the colony's independence as the state of Spanish Haiti (Haití Español) on November 30, 1821, requesting admission to the Republic of Gran Colombia, but Haitian liberation forces, led by Jean-Pierre Boyer, unified the entire island, ending 300 years of colonial domination and slavery, just nine weeks later. For the next two decades Haiti controlled the entire island; a period which the Dominicans refer to as "The Haitian Occupation."
In 1838, Juan Pablo Duarte founded an underground resistance group, La Trinitaria, that sought independence of the eastern section of the island with no foreign intervention. Ramón Matías Mella and Francisco del Rosario Sánchez (the latter one being a mestizo), in spite of not being among the founding members, went on to be decisive in the fight for independence and are now hailed (along with Duarte) as the Founding Fathers of the Dominican Republic. On February 27, 1844, the Trinitarios declared independence from Haiti, backed by Pedro Santana, a wealthy cattle-rancher from El Seibo. The Dominican Republic's first Constitution, modeled after that of the U.S., was adopted on November 6, 1844.
Leadership of the Dominican Republic threw the nation into turmoil for the next two decades, until they eventually sought outside help. In 1861, at President Pedro Santana's request, the country reverted back to a colonial state of Spain, the only Latin American nation to do so. Quickly regretting this action, Spain was forced out. Soon after, the United States was requested to take over. President Ulysses S. Grant supported the idea, but it was defeated by that nation's Congress.
Haitian authorities in the meantime, fearful of the reestablishment of Spain as colonial power, gave refuge and logistics to revolutionaries seeking to reestablish the independent nation of the Dominican Republic. The ensuing civil war, known as the War of Restoration, was led by two black men of Haitian descent: Ulises Heureaux, who was also a three-time President of the Dominican Republic, and General Gregorio Luperón. The War of Restoration began on August 16, 1863; after two years of fighting, Spanish troops abandoned the island.
In 1906, the Dominican Republic and the United States entered into a 50-year treaty under which the former gave control of its administration and customs to the United States. In exchange, the U.S. agreed to help reduce the immense foreign debt that the nation had accrued. Several years of fiscal stability followed.
However, political instability and assassinations prompted the administration of President William H. Taft to dispatch a commission to Santo Domingo on September 24, 1912, to mediate among the warring factions. The result was the appointment of Adolfo Alejandro Nouel Bobadilla, a neutral figure, to the position of provisional president on November 30. Nouel Bobadilla stepped down on March 31, 1913, as the task proved too much for him to fulfill.
Continued unrest and instability prompted the U.S. to demand presidential elections. As a result, Ramón Báez Machado was elected provisional president in the Dominican Republic. By 1916, the U.S. took complete control of the Dominican Republic, having grown tired of its role of mediator, due to the stepping down of Ramón Báez Machado and the rise of Desiderio Arias (who refused to take power). The results were immediate, with the budget balanced, debt reduced, and economic growth renewed.
The Dominican Republic was ruled by dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo from 1930 until his assassination in 1961. Trujillo ruled with an iron hand, persecuting anyone who opposed his regime. He also renamed many towns and provinces after himself and his family, including the capital city, Santo Domingo. From October 2-8, 1937, an event known as the Parsley Massacre occurred, in which the Dominican army slaughtered as many as 20,000 largely unarmed men, women, and children, mostly in border areas. This massacre was alleged to have been an attempt to seize money and property from Haitians living on the border.
In 1965, U.S. Marines arrived in the Dominican Republic to restore order in the civil war, in Operation Powerpack, later to be joined by forces from the Organization of American States, in what may be termed an early example of a "coalition of the willing." They remained in the country for over a year and left after supervising elections, in which they ensured the victory of Joaquín Balaguer.
Balaguer remained in power as president for 12 years. His tenure was a period of moderate repression, presumably to prevent pro-Cuba or pro-communist parties from gaining power in the country. Balaguer's rule was accompanied by a growing disparity between rich and poor.
In 1978, Balaguer was succeeded in the presidency by Antonio Guzmán Fernández. From 1978 to 1986, the Dominican Republic experienced a period relatively free of repression and with near complete freedom of speech and expression.
Balaguer regained the presidency in 1986, and was re-elected in 1990 and 1994. The international community generally viewed the 1994 election as fixed, leading to political pressure for Balaguer to step down. Balaguer responded by scheduling another presidential election in 1996, which was won by the Dominican Liberation Party for the first time, with Leonel Fernández as their candidate.
In 2000, Hipólito Mejía won the elections when opposing candidates Danilo Medina and Joaquín Balaguer decided that they would not force a runoff following the winner's 49.8 percent of the votes. In 2004, Leonel Fernández was again elected, with 57 percent of the vote, defeating then incumbent president Hipólito Mejía, who ran for a second term.
Politics in the Dominican Republic takes place in a framework of a representative democratic republic, whereby the President of the Dominican Republic is both head of state and head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of the National Congress. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.
The Dominican Republic is divided into 31 provinces. Additionally, the national capital, Santo Domingo, is contained within its own Distrito Nacional. The provinces are divided into municipalities (municipios). They are the second level political and administrative subdivisions of the country.
The Dominican Republic is a lower middle-income developing country primarily dependent on natural resources and government services. 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. Major industries are sugar refining, pharmaceuticals, cement, ferronickel and gold mining, light manufacturing, construction, services (offshore assembly operations, especially textiles), and transportation.
Tourism accounts for more than $1.3 billion in annual earnings. Free Trade Zone earnings and tourism are the fastest-growing export sectors. Remittances from Dominicans living abroad 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 percent and consumer price inflation reached an unprecedented 100 percent, the Dominican Republic entered a period of moderate growth and declining inflation until 2002, after which the economy entered a recession. This recession followed the collapse of the second commercial bank of the country (Baninter), linked to a major incident of fraud valued at 3.5 billion dollars during the administration of President Hipolito Mejia (2000-2004). The Baninter fraud had a devastating effect on the Dominican economy, with GDP dropped by 1 percent in 2003, while inflation ballooned by over 27 percent. The growth of the Dominican economy remains significantly hampered by an ongoing energy shortage, which causes frequent blackouts and high prices.
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.
According to the 2005 Annual Report of the United Nations Subcommittee on Human Development in the Dominican Republic, the country is ranked 71st in the world for resource availability, 94th for human development, and 14th in the world for resource mismanagement. These statistics emphasize national government corruption, foreign economic interference in the country, and the rift between the rich and poor.
The Dominican Republic has become a transshipment point for South American drugs to Europe as well as to the United States and Canada. Money laundering is favored by Colombia through the Dominican Republic for the ease of illicit financial transactions.
The Dominican peso is the national currency of the country, however the U.S. dollar is used in many commercial transactions, supporting the theory that the devaluation of the peso is related with the dollar. A factor which would have a certain impact over the currency exchange market of the Dominican Republic is the fluctuation of the U.S. dollar on the international currency market. At one time, the peso was worth the same as the USD, but has recently decreased in value. The exchange rate in 1993 was 14.00 pesos per USD and 16.00 pesos in 2000, but it jumped to 53.00 pesos per USD in 2003. In 2004, the exchange rate was back down to around 31.00 pesos per USD. In June 2007, the value of the peso was 1 USD = 32.302 pesos.
Multiple local economists, principally Andres Dahuajre Jr. and Jaime Aristy Escuder, as well as well-recognized commercial analyst firms and institutions, estimated an over-valuation of the Dominican peso, suggesting that the daily basis of the Dominican currency is artificially controlled by the government.
The population of the Dominican Republic is made up of 16 percent Whites, 11 percent Blacks, and 73 percent of mixed race. Other groups in the Dominican Republic include Haitians, Germans, Italians, French, Jews, and Americans. A smaller presence of East Asians, primarily ethnic Chinese and Japanese, as well as large numbers of Middle Easterners—primarily Lebanese—can be found throughout the population. The main population centers of the country are the cities of Santo Domingo and Santiago de los Caballeros, the second largest city in the country, with more than 750,000 inhabitants.
More than 95 percent of the population adheres to Christianity, mostly Roman Catholicism, followed by a growing contingent of Protestant groups such as Seventh-day Adventist, and Jehovah's Witnesses. Recent but small scale immigration has brought other religions such as Spiritualism: 2.18 percent, Buddhism: 0.10 percent, Baha’i: 0.07 percent, Islam: 0.02 percent, and Jewish: 0.01 percent.
According to a study by the City University of New York Dominican Studies Institute, about 90 percent of the contemporary Dominican population has African ancestry or African roots. However, many Dominicans self-identify as being of mixed-race rather than "black" in contrast to African identity movements in other nations. Rather, a variety of terms are used to represent a range of skin tones. These include "morena" (brown), "india" (Indian), "blanca oscura" (dark white), and "trigueño" (wheat colored). Many have claimed that this represents a reluctance to self-identify with African descent and the culture of the freed slaves.
According to Dr. Miguel Anibal Perdomo, professor of Dominican Identity and Literature at Hunter College in New York City, "There was a sense of 'deculturación' among the African slaves of Hispaniola. There was an attempt to erase any vestiges of African culture from the Dominican Republic. We were, in some way, brainwashed and we've become westernized." However, this view is not universal, as many also claim that Dominican culture is simply different and rejects the racial categorizations of other regions. Ramona Hernández, director of the Dominican Studies Institute at City College of New York, asserts that the terms were originally an act of defiance in a time when being mulatto was stigmatized. "During the Trujillo regime, people who were dark skinned were rejected, so they created their own mechanism to fight it." She went on to explain, "When you ask, 'What are you?' they don't give you the answer you want … saying we don't want to deal with our blackness is simply what you want to hear." The Dominican Republic is not unique in this respect either. In a 1976 census survey conducted in Brazil, respondents described their skin color in 136 distinct terms.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, large groups immigrated to the country from Venezuela and Puerto Rico. During the Haitian Liberation era (1822-1844) (when Haiti unified the island of Hispanolia), former black slaves and escapees from the United States were invited by the Haitian government to settle on Hispanolia. During the first decades of the twentieth century many Arabs, primarily from Lebanon, settled in the country. There is also a sizable Indian and Chinese population. The town of Sosúa has many Jews who settled there during World War II.
In recent decades, re-immigration from Haiti has again increased. Most Haitian immigrants arrive in the Dominican Republic illegally, and work at low-paying, unskilled labor jobs, including construction work, household cleaning, and on sugar plantations. Current estimates put the Haitian-born population in the Dominican Republic as high as 1 million.
Social pressures and poverty have led to a rise in prostitution within the country. Though prostitution is illegal, and the age of consent is 18, even child prostitution is a growing phenomenon in impoverished areas. In an environment where young girls are often denied employment opportunities offered to boys, prostitution frequently becomes a source of supplementary income. UNICEF reports estimate at least 25,000 children involved in the Dominican sex trade, 63 percent of that figure being girls.
The culture of the Dominican Republic, like its Caribbean neighbors, is a creole blend of mostly African and indigenous American cultural elements, as well as remnants of Spain's colonization, such as language and religion.
Spanish is the official language of Dominican Republic. Other languages, such as English, French, German, Haitian Creole, and Italian, are also spoken to varying degrees. Haitian Creole is spoken fluently by about 1.2 million people and is the second most widely spoken language.
African cultural elements are most prominent in food (rice and beans), family structure, religious affiliation, and music. Taino cultural elements exist mostly in foods as well. Some words are taken from Taíno words as they are in Puerto Rico and Haiti.
Musically, the Dominican Republic is known for its exportation of merengue music, a type of lively, joyful music and dance based on African rhythm that is similar to the Haitian Méringue but is played and danced faster. Its syncopated beats use Latin percussion, brass instruments, bass, and piano or keyboard. Not known for social content, it is primarily a dancehall music that was declared the national music during the Trujillo regime. Well-known merengue singers include Juan Luis Guerra, Sergio Vargas, Tono Rosario, Johnny Ventura, and Milly Quezada.
Not as popular as the Afro-Cuban/Nuyorican hybrid of Salsa worldwide, merengue became popular mostly on the east coast of the United States during the 1990s, when many Puerto Rican groups were produced by Dominican band leaders and writers living in the U.S. territory. The emergence of Bachata-Merengue along with a larger number of Dominicans living among other Latino groups (particularly Cubans and Puerto Ricans in New York, New Jersey, and Florida) contributed to the music's growth in popularity.
Until recently, the form of folk music called bachata (a slow, romantic, emotion-driven genre derived from Spanish guitar music) was more closely associated with recent arrivals from the Dominican Republic, although the music had gained a fan base in Puerto Rico. Since 2000, younger groups from New York's Dominican population, have emerged to bring bachata to a new mainstream version of the music that has become very popular with teenagers. Similar also to Mexican guitar driven music, bachata has become very popular in Mexican-American communities, contributing to its mainstream success within the Latino marketplace.
Baseball is by far the most popular sport in the Dominican Republic today, as it is in Cuba and Puerto Rico. After the United States, the Dominican Republic has the second-highest amount of baseball players in Major League Baseball in the United States, including Sammy Sosa, Albert Pujols, Pedro Martínez, David Ortiz, Jose Reyes, and Manny Ramirez; Alex Rodriguez was born in New York to parents that emigrated from the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic also has its own baseball league which runs from October to January, including six teams: Tigres del licey, Aguilas cibaeñas, Gigantes del Cibao, Toros Azucareros del Este, Estrellas Orientales, and Leones del Escogido. Many Major League Baseball players and minor leaguers play in this six-team league during the off-season. As such, the Dominican winter league serves as an important "training ground" for the MLB. NFL football player Luis Castillo and gold medalist Felix Sanchez both also hail from the Dominican Republic.
|Countries and territories of the Caribbean|
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