The Dominican Republic (Spanish: República Dominicana; ) is a nation located in the Caribbean region and shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. Part of the Greater Antilles archipelago, Hispaniola lies west of Puerto Rico and east of Cuba and Jamaica. Its western third is the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are occupied by two countries, Saint Martin being the other.
The Dominican Republic is the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas: its capital, Santo Domingo, which was also the first colonial capital in the Americas, site of the first cathedral, university, European-built road, European-built fortress, and more.
For most of its independent history, the nation experienced political turmoil and unrest, suffering through many non-representative and tyrannical governments. Since the death of military dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina in 1961, the Dominican Republic has moved toward a liberal economic model, which has made it the largest economy in the region, and towards representative democracy.
After initially friendly relations, the Taínos resisted the conquest. One of the earliest leaders to fight against the Spanish was the female Chief Anacaona of Xaragua, in the southwest, who married Chief Caonabo of Maguana, of the center and south of the island. She was captured by the Spanish and executed in front of her people. Other notables who resisted include Chief Guacanagari, Chief Guamá, and Chief Hatuey, the latter of whom later fled to Cuba and helped fight the Spaniards there. Chief Enriquillo fought victoriously against the Spaniards in the Baoruco Mountain Range, in the southwest, to gain freedom for himself and his people in a part of the island for a time.
By the late-1500s, the majority of Taíno people had died from the introduction of infectious diseases to which they had no immunity, mistreatment, suicide, the breakup of family unity, starvation, forced labor, torture, and war with the Spaniards. Most scholars now believe that, among the various contributing factors, infectious disease was the overwhelming cause of the Taino population decline. The Taíno survived mostly in racially mixed form, and today most Dominicans have Taíno ancestry.
Some scholars believe that Bartolomé de las Casas exaggerated the Indian population decline in an effort to persuade King Carlos to intervene, and that encomenderos also exaggerated it, in order to receive permission to import more African slaves. Moreover, censuses of the time did not account for the number of Indians who fled into remote communities, where they often joined with runaway Africans, called cimarrones, producing zambos. There were also confusing issues with racial categorization, as Mestizos who were culturally Spanish were counted as Spaniards. In addition some Zambos were categorized as black and some Indians as Mulattos.
In 1496 Bartolomeo Columbus, Christopher's brother, built the city of Nueva Isabela (New Isabella), now Santo Domingo, in the south of Hispaniola. It was one of the first Spanish settlements (the previous ones had also been on Hispaniola), and became Europe's first permanent settlement in the "New World".
The Spaniards created a plantation economy on Hispaniola, particularly from the second half of the 16th century. The island became a springboard for European conquest of the Caribbean islands, called las Antillas (the Antilles), and soon after, the American mainland.
For decades, Santo Domingo colony was the headquarters of Spanish colonial power in the New World. But after the Spanish conquest of the mainland empires of the Aztecs and Incas, the importance of Hispaniola declined and Spain paid less attention to it. French bucaneers settled in the western part of the island, and by the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick, Spain ceded the area to France. With colonial settlement and the development of a plantation economy dependent on slave labor, it grew into the wealthy colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), with four times (500,000 vs. 125,000) as much population as Spanish Santo Domingo by the end of the 18th century. By then, enslaved Africans in Saint-Domingue outnumbered whites and freedmen by ten to one.
In 1802 an army sent by Napoleon captured Louverture and sent him to France as prisoner. Louverture's successors, and yellow fever, succeeded in expelling the French again from Saint-Domingue. The rebels declared the independence of Haiti in 1804, while in the east France recovered Spanish Santo Domingo.
In 1808, following Napoleon's invasion of Spain, the criollos of Santo Domingo revolted against French rule. With the aid of Great Britain (Spain's ally) and Haiti, Santo Domingo returned to Spanish control.
As Toussaint Louverture had done the first time, the Haitians abolished slavery. But they also nationalized all public property; most private property, including all the property of landowners who had left in the wake of the invasion; much Church property; as well as all property belonging to the former rulers, the Spanish Crown. All levels of education suffered collapse; the university was shut down, as it was starved of resources and Dominican men from 16 to 25-years-old were drafted into the Haitian army. 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.
Boyer changed the Dominican economic system to place more emphasis on cash crops to be grown on large plantations, reformed the tax system, and allowed foreign trade. But the new system was widely opposed by Dominican farmers, although it produced a boom in sugar and coffee production. Boyer's troops, which included many Dominicans, were unpaid, and had to "forage and sack" from Dominican civilians. In the end the economy faltered and taxation became more onerous. Rebellions occurred even by freed Dominican slaves, 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.
The decades that followed were filled with tyranny, factionalism, economic difficulties, rapid changes of government, and exile for political opponents. Threatening the nation's independence were renewed Haitian invasions occurring in 1844, 1845-49, 1849-55, and 1855-56.
Meanwhile, 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.
In 1861, after silencing or exiling 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, the only Latin American country to do so. Opponents launched the War of the Restoration in 1863, led by a group of men including Santiago Rodríguez and Benito Monción among others. General Gregorio Luperón distinguished himself at the end of the war. Haitian authorities, fearful of the re-establishment of Spain as colonial power on their border, gave refuge and supplies to Dominican revolutionaries. The United States, then fighting its own Civil War, vigorously protested the Spanish action. After two years of fighting, Spain abandoned the island. The Restoration was proclaimed on August 16, 1863.
Political strife again prevailed in the following years; warlords ruled, military revolts were extremely common, and the nation amassed debt. In 1869 it was the turn of Báez to act on his plan of annexing the country to the United States, with a payment of 1.5 million dollars by the U.S. as part of the deal, in order to alleviate the Dominican Republic's debts. U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant supported this plan, but the United States Senate refused on June 30, 1870, albeit by just one vote. One reason for President Grant's support was his hope of providing a home where U.S. freedmen could live in peace, free of harassment by Southern whites.
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.
The new president was initially popular. 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's rule became more despotic with time and he all the more unpopular. In 1899 he was assassinated. However, the unprecedentedly long calm over which he had presided allowed for some improvement in the Dominican economy. The sugar industry was modernized, and the country attracted foreign workers and immigrants, both from the Old World and the New.
From 1902 on, short-lived governments were again the norm and provincial leaders held much of the power. Furthermore, the national government was bankrupt and, unable to pay its debts, faced the threat of military intervention by France and other European powers seeking repayment.
In 1914, the United States, due to extreme internal political instability in the Dominican Republic (inability to elect a president), expressed concern. It stated that a leader must be elected, or the United States would impose one. As a result, Ramón Báez Machado was elected provisional president on August 27, 1914. Presidential elections held on October 25 returned Juan Isidro Jimenes Pereyra to the presidency. Despite his victory, however, Jimenes felt impelled to appoint leaders and prominent members of the various political factions to positions in his government in an effort to broaden its support. The internecine conflicts that resulted had quite the opposite effect, weakening the government and the President and emboldening Secretary of War Desiderio Arias to take control of both the armed forces and the Congress. Arias compelled the Congress to impeach Jimenes for violation of the constitution and the laws. Although the United States ambassador offered military support to his government, Jimenes opted to step down on May 7, 1916.
Arias never assumed the presidency formally. The United States government decided to take more direct action. By this time, U.S. forces were occupying Haiti. The initial military administrator of Haiti, Rear Admiral William Caperton, had actually forced Arias to retreat from Santo Domingo by threatening the city with naval bombardment on May 13, 1916.
The first Marines landed three days later, on May 19, 1916. Although they established effective control of the country within two months, the United States forces did not proclaim a military government until November. Most Dominican laws and institutions remained intact under military rule, although the shortage of Dominicans willing to serve in the Cabinet forced the military governor, Harry Shepard Knapp, to fill a number of portfolios with United States naval officers. The press and radio were censored for most of the occupation, and public speech was limited.
Other effects of the occupation were positive. The Marines restored order throughout most of the republic (with the exception of the eastern region); the country's budget was balanced, its debt was diminished, and economic growth resumed. Infrastructure projects produced new roads that linked all the country's regions for the first time in its history. A professional military organization, the Dominican Constabulary Guard, replaced the partisan forces that had waged a seemingly endless struggle for power. Most Dominicans, however, greatly resented the loss of their sovereignty to foreigners, few of whom spoke Spanish or displayed much real concern for the welfare of the nation.
The most intense opposition to the occupation arose in the eastern provinces of El Seibo and San Pedro de Macorís. From 1917 to 1921, the United States forces battled a guerrilla movement in that area known as the gavilleros. The guerrillas enjoyed considerable support among the population, and they benefited from a superior knowledge of the terrain. The movement survived the capture and execution of its leader, Vicente Evangelista, and some fierce, initial encounters with the Marines. However, the gavilleros finally yielded to the occupying forces' superior firepower, air power (a squadron of six Curtis Jennies), and determined (often brutal) counter-insurgency methods.
After World War I, public opinion in the United States began to run against the occupation. U.S. President Warren G. Harding, who succeeded Woodrow Wilson in March 1921, had campaigned against the occupations of both Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In June 1921, United States representatives presented a withdrawal proposal, known as the Harding Plan, which called for Dominican ratification of all acts of the military government, approval of a loan of US$2.5 million for public works and other expenses, the acceptance of United States officers for the constabulary — now known as the Guardia Nacional (National Guard) — and the holding of elections under United States supervision.
Popular reaction to the plan was overwhelmingly negative. Moderate Dominican leaders, however, used the plan as the basis for further negotiations that resulted in an agreement allowing for the selection of a provisional president to rule until elections could be organized. Under the supervision of High Commissioner Sumner Welles, Juan Bautista Vicini Burgos assumed the provisional presidency on October 21, 1922.
In the presidential election of March 15, 1924, former President Horacio Vásquez Lajara handily defeated Francisco J. Peynado. Vásquez's Alliance Party (Partido Alianza) also won a comfortable majority in both houses of Congress. With his inauguration on July 13, control of the republic returned to Dominican hands. He gave the country six years of good government, in which political and civil rights were respected and the economy grew strongly, in an atmosphere of peace.
When Vásquez attempted to win another term, opponents rebelled in February, 1930, in secret alliance with the commander of the National Army (the former National Guard), General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina, by which the latter remained 'neutral' in face of the rebellion. Vásquez resigned. Trujillo then stood for election himself, and in May was elected president virtually unopposed, after a campaign of violence in which he eliminated his strongest opponents.
There was considerable economic growth during Trujillo's long and iron-fisted regime, although a great deal of the wealth was taken by the dictator and other regime elements. His megalomania was on display in his renaming after himself the capital city (Santo Domingo) to Ciudad Trujillo (Trujillo City), the nation's — and the Caribbean's — highest mountain (Pico Duarte [Duarte Peak]) to Pico Trujillo, and many towns and a province. Some other places he renamed after members of his family.
In 1937 Trujillo (who was himself one-quarter Haitian), in an event known as the Parsley Massacre or, in the Dominican Republic, as El Corte (The Cutting), ordered the Army to kill Haitians living on the Dominican side of the border. The Army killed an estimated 17,000 to 35,000 Haitians over five days, from the night of October 2, 1937 through October 8, 1937. To avoid leaving evidence of the Army's involvement, the soldiers used machetes rather than bullets. The soldiers of Trujillo were said to have interrogated anyone with dark skin, using the pronunciation of perejil (parsley) to tell Haitians from Dominicans. As a result of the massacre, the Dominican Republic agreed to pay Haiti US $750,000, later reduced to $525,000.
On November 25, 1960 Trujillo killed three of the four Mirabal Sisters, sometimes nicknamed Las Mariposas (The Butterflies). The victims were Patricia 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). Minerva was an aspiring lawyer who was extremely opposed to Trujillo's dictatorship since Trujillo had begun to make rude and sexual advances towards her. 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 Hermanas Mirabal Province (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 US supported the Trujillo government, as did the Roman Catholic Church, and the Dominican elite. This support persisted despite the assassinations of political opposition and the massacre of border Haitians. The US believed Trujillo was the lesser of two or more evils. Trujillo was assassinated on May 30, 1961 in 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 prevent pro–Castro or pro–communist parties from gaining power in the country. His rule was further criticized for a growing disparity between rich and poor. It was, however, praised for an ambitious infrastructure program, which included construction of housing, theaters, museums, aqueducts, roads, highways, and the massive Columbus Lighthouse, completed in a subsequent tenure in 1992.
In 2000 the PRD's Hipólito Mejía won the election when his main opponents Danilo Medina (PLD) and a very old Joaquín Balaguer decided not to force a runoff after Mejía got 49.8% in the first round. In 2004 Fernández was elected again, defeating President Mejía, and reelected in 2008 against the PRD's Miguel Vargas Maldonado, a former minister in Mejía's government. Fernández and the PLD are credited with a number of initiatives that have moved the country forward technologically, with the completion in 2008 of the Metro Railway ("El Metro") — although this is not yet available for public use.
The Dominican Republic is a representative democracy, with national powers divided among independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The President of the Dominican Republic appoints the Cabinet, executes laws passed by the Congress, 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 4-year terms. Legislative power is exercised by a bicameral Congress composed of the Senate (with 32 members) and the Chamber of Deputies (with 178 members).
The Dominican Republic has a multi-party political system with national elections every 2 years (alternating between presidential elections and congressional/municipal elections). Presidential elections are held in years evenly divisible by four. Congressional and municipal elections are held in even numbered years not divisible by four. International observers have found that presidential and congressional elections since 1996 have been generally free and fair. Elections are supervised by a Central Elections Board (JCE) of 9 members chosen for a four-year term by each newly elected Senate. JCE decisions on electoral matters are final.
Under the constitutional reforms negotiated after the 1994 elections, the 16–member Supreme Court of Justice is appointed by a National Judicial Council, which comprises the President, the leaders of both houses of Congress, the President of the Supreme Court, and an opposition or non–governing–party member. One other Supreme Court Justice acts as secretary of the Council, a non–voting position. The Supreme Court has sole authority over managing of the court system and in hearing actions against the president, designated members of his Cabinet, and members of Congress when the legislature is in session. The Supreme Court hears appeals from lower courts and chooses members of lower courts.
Each of the 31 provinces is headed by a presidentially appointed governor. Mayors and municipal councils administer the 124 municipal districts and the National District (Santo Domingo). They are elected at the same time as congressional representatives.
There are many political parties and interest groups and, new on the scene, civil organizations. The three major parties are the conservative Social Christian Reformist Party (Spanish: Partido Reformista Social Cristiano [PRSC]), in power 1966–78 and 1986–96; the social democratic Dominican Revolutionary Party (Spanish: Partido Revolucionario Dominicano [PRD]), in power in 1963, 1978–86, and 2000–04); and the increasingly conservative Dominican Liberation Party (Spanish: Partido de la Liberación Dominicana [PLD]), in power 1996–2000 and since 2004.
The presidential elections of 2008 were held on May 16, 2008, with incumbent Leonel Fernandez winning with 53% of the vote. He defeated Miguel Vargas Maldonado, of the PRD, a former minister in Mejía's government, who achieved a 40.48% share of the vote. Amable Aristy, of the PRSC, achieved 4.59% of the vote. Other minority candidates, which include former Attorney General Guillermo Moreno from the Movement for Independence, Unity and Change (Movimiento Independencia, Unidad y Cambio [MIUCA]) and PRSC former presidential candidate and defector Eduardo Estrella, obtained less than 1% of the vote.
The Dominican Republic is situated on the eastern part of the second-largest island in the Greater Antilles, Hispaniola. It shares the island roughly at a 2:1 ratio with Haiti. The whole country measures an area of 48,730 km² (or 48,921 km²), making it the second largest country in the Antilles, after Cuba. Its area is roughly equivalent to that of the US states of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. The country's capital and greatest metropolitan area, Santo Domingo, is located on the southern coast.
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's mainland has four important mountain ranges. The most northerly of these ranges is the Cordillera Septentrional ("Northern Mountain Range"), which extends from the northwestern coastal town of Monte Cristi, near the Haitian border, to the Samaná Peninsula in the east, running parallel to the Atlantic coast. The highest range in the Dominican Republic — indeed, in the whole of the West Indies — is the Cordillera Central ("Central Mountain Range") (in Haiti known as the Massif du Nord). It gradually bends southwards and finishes near the town of Azua de Compostela on the Caribbean coast. The Cordillera Central is home to the four highest peaks in the West Indies: Pico Duarte (3,098 m / 10,164 ft above sea level), La Pelona (3,094m), La Rucilla (3,049m) and Pico Yaque (2,760m).
In the southwest corner of the country, south of the Cordillera Central, there are two other ranges. The more northerly of the two is the Sierra de Neiba, while in the south the Sierra de Bahoruco is a continuation of the Massif de la Selle in Haiti.
There are other minor mountain ranges, such as the Cordillera Oriental ("Eastern Mountain Range"), Sierra Martín García, Sierra de Yamasá and Sierra de Samaná.
With mountain ranges running parallel to each other, the Dominican Republic boasts a number of valleys and plains. In 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. Rather less productive is the semi-arid San Juan Valley, south of the Cordillera Central and extending westward into Haiti. Still more arid is the Neiba Valley, tucked between the Sierra de Neiba and the Sierra de Bahoruco. This valley is also known in Haiti as the Cul-de-Sac. Much of the land in the Enriquillo Basin is below sea level, with a hot, arid, desert-like environment. There are other smaller valleys in the mountains such as the Constanza, Jarabacoa, Villa Altagracia and Bonao valleys.
The Llano Costero del Caribe ("Caribbean Coastal Plain") is the largest of the plains in the Dominican Republic. Stretching north and east of Santo Domingo, it contains many sugar plantations in the savannahs that are common here. West of Santo Domingo its width is reduced to 10 km as it hugs the coast, finishing at the mouth of the Ocoa River. Another large plain is the Plena de Azua ("Azua Plain"), a very dry region in the Azua Province.
A few other small coastal plains are in the northern coast and in the Pedernales Peninsula.
Four major rivers drain the numerous mountains of the Dominican Republic. The Yaque del Norte carries excess water down from the Cibao Valley and empties into Monte Cristi Bay. Likewise, the Yuna River serves the Vega Real and empties into Samaná Bay. Drainage of the San Juan Valley is provided by the San Juan River, tributary of the Yaque del Sur, which empties into the Caribbean. The Artibonito is the longest river of Hispaniola and flows into Haiti. The Yaque del Norte is the longest and most important Dominican river.
There are many lakes and coastal lagoons; the largest lake is Lago Enriquillo, a saline lake at 40 m below sea level, the lowest point in the West Indies. Other important lakes are Laguna de Rincón or Cabral, with freshwater, and Laguna de Oviedo, a lagoon with brackish water.
The country is a tropical, maritime nation. Wet season is from May to November, and periodic hurricanes between June and November. Most rain falls in the northern and eastern regions. The average rainfall is 1346 mm, with extremes of 2500 mm in the northeast and 500 mm in the west. The main 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 25 °C and 30 °C in July. Nonetheless, the highest mountaintops are covered in pine forests and have temperatures that can go several degrees below freezing during winter nights.
The Dominican Republic is the largest economy in the Central American and Caribbean region. It 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. Real estate tourism alone accounted for $1.5 billion in annual earnings. Free Trade Zone earnings and tourism are the fastest-growing export sectors. Remittances ("remesas") from Dominicans living abroad are estimated to be more than $2 billion dollars per year.
Following economic turmoil in the late 1980s and 1990, during which the gross domestic product (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. This recession followed the collapse of the second-largest commercial bank of the country (Baninter), linked to a major incident of fraud valued at $3.5 billion during the administration of President Hipolito Mejia (2000-2004). The Baninter fraud had a devastating effect on the Dominican economy, with GDP dropping by 1% in 2003 while inflation ballooned by over 27%. All defendants, including the star of the trial, Ramon Baez Figueroa, were found guilty and convicted, save one subpoena which failed to be delivered upon the United States denial of extradition.
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 #71 in the world for resource availability, # 79 for human development, and #14 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 trans-shipment point for South American drugs to Europe as well as the United States and Canada. Money laundering is favored by Colombian drug cartels via the Dominican Republic for the ease of illicit financial transactions.The Dominican Republic enjoys a growing economy and a 2007 GDP per capita of $9,208, in PPP terms, which is relatively high in Latin America. In the trimester of January - March 2007 it experienced an exceptional growth of 9.1% in its GDP, below the previous year's 10.9% in the same period. Growth was led by imports, followed by exports, with finance and foreign investment the next largest factors. The service sector in general has experienced growth in recent years, as has construction. Economic growth takes place in spite of a chronic energy shortage, which causes frequent blackouts and very high prices.
Santo Domingo, the capital of the Republic is the source of most of is GDP and has become one of the leading cities of the Caribbean. The biggest tourist center in the country is the region of Bávaro.
The U.S. dollar is implicated in almost all commercial transactions of the Dominican Republic; such dollarization is common in high inflation economies. On February 2005, 1.32 USD = one € = 29 DR pesos; in October 2005, 1.19 USD = one € = 32 DR pesos. As of September 2007 the value of the peso is 1 USD=0.7006 EUR=33.430 DOP.
It was estimated by the Dominican government that the population density in 2007 was 192 per km² (498 per sq mi), and 63% of the population lived in urban areas. The southern coastal plains and the Cibao Valley are the most densely populated areas of the country. The capital city, Santo Domingo, had a population of 3,014,000 in 2007. Other important cities are Santiago de los Caballeros (pop. 756,098), La Romana (pop. 250,000), San Pedro de Macorís, San Francisco de Macorís, San Felipe de Puerto Plata, and Concepción de la Vega. According to the United Nations, the urban population growth rate for 2000–2005 was 2.3%.
The ethnic composition of the Dominican population is 73% mixed race, 16% white and 11% black. The mixed population is a racial mixture of White, Black, and Taino heritage. Other ethnic groups in the Dominican Republic include Haitians, Germans, Italians, Portuguese, Irish, Corsicians, French, Spaniards, and Americans. A smaller yet significant presence of East Asians (primarily ethnic Chinese and Japanese) and Middle Easterners, primarily Lebanese and Jews can be found throughout the population.
According to a study by the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, about 70% of the contemporary Dominican population has African ancestry. Most Dominicans self-identify as being of mixed-race rather than black in contrast to African identity movements in the United States. A variety of terms are used to represent a range of skintones depending on ancestry such as "morena" (brown), "canela" (red/brown), "india" (Indian), "blanca oscura" (dark white), and "trigueño" (wheat colored), among others.
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.
The Dominican Republic is almost uniformly Christian. 95% of the population adheres to Christianity, mostly Roman Catholicism, followed by a growing contingent of Protestant groups such as Seventh-day Adventist, Jehovah's Witnesses and Pentecostals. Recent but small scale immigration, as well as proselytizing, has brought other religions, which make up small percentages of the population: Spiritist: 2.2%, Mormon: 1.0%, Buddhist: 0.10%, Bahá'í: 0.1%, Muslim: 0.02%, Jewish: 0.01%, and Chinese Folk Religion: 0.1%.
Roman Catholicism was introduced by Columbus and Spanish missionaries. Religion wasn’t really the foundation of their entire society, as it was in other parts of the world at the time, and most of the population didn’t attend church on a regular basis. Nonetheless, most of the education in the country was based upon the Catholic religion, as the Bible was required in the curriculum in all public schools. Children would use religious based dialogue when greeting a relative or parent. For example: a child would say “Bless me, mother”, and the mother would reply “May God bless you”. Most Dominicans are Roman Catholic.
The nation has two patroness saints: Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia (Our Lady Of High Grace) is the patroness of the Dominican people, and Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes (Our Lady Of Mercy) is the patroness of the Dominican Republic.
Eventually the Catholic Church began to lose popularity in the late 1800s. This was due to a lack of funding, priests, and support programs. During the same time, the Protestant evangelical movement began to gain support. Religious tension between Catholics and Protestants in the country has tended to be minimal.
There has always been religious freedom throughout the entire country. Not until the 1950s were restrictions were placed upon churches by Trujillo. Letters of protest were sent against the mass arrests of government adversaries. Trujillo began a campaign against the church and planned to arrest priests and bishops who preached against the government. This campaign ended before it was even put into place, with his assassination.
Judaism appeared in the Dominican Republic in the late 1930s. During World War II, a group of Jews escaping Nazi Germany fled to the Dominican Republic and founded the city of Sosua. It has remained the center of the Jewish population since.
During the first decades of the 20th century, many Chinese, Arabs (primarily from Lebanon and Syria), Japanese and to a lesser degree Koreans settled in the country, descendants of agricultural laborers and merchants. Waves Of Chinese immigrants arrived and worked mines and railroads, the latter waves were of immigrants fleeing the PLA. The current population consists of a total of 15,000 Chinese. The Arab Community is also rising at an increasing rate estimates are at 3,400. Japanese Immigrants who mostly work in the bussines districts and markets are at an estimate of 1,900 living in the country. The Korean presence is minor but evident at a Population of 500. In addition the descendants of immigrants who came from St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, Antigua, St. Vincent, Montserrat, Tortola, St. Croix and St. Thomas to work in sugarcane plantations and Docks and settled in the cities of San Pedro de Macoris and Puerto Plata along with families from Martinique and Guadeloupe who settled there in the 1900s known and referred to as Cocolo are believed to number 28,000 of the population. Immigration from Europe and the United States is at an all time high, according to the Joshua Project and BBC 1,400 British reside on the island in addition to 800 Germans, 4,000 Italians (Unofficially, the number is estimated to be as high as 40,000), 1,900 French, 88,000 Spaniards and 80,000 Americans. The town of Sosúa has many Jews who immigrated before or during World War II. The country is now home to 100 Jews.
With recent decades of unrest and poverty in Haiti immigration from Haiti has increased once again. Some Haitian immigrants arrive in the Dominican Republic illegally and work at low-paying, unskilled labor jobs, including construction work, household cleaning, and in sugar plantations. Current estimates put the Haitian-born population in the Dominican Republic as high as 1 million. Working conditions on these sugar plantations have caused controversy, including allegations that they border on slavery. Moreover, the children of illegal Haitian immigrants are denied citizenship and basic health care, and there are frequent physical attacks and roundups on adult immigrants. Some Dominican and Haitian officials deny such accusations of slavery, with the Haitian ambassador Fritz Cineas stating, "I still have not received any complaint of violation of human rights against the Haitian immigrants in the country. However, the President of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernández, stated publicly during a seminar on immigration policy in 2005 that collective expulsions of Haitians were carried out "in an abusive and inhuman way. Selective enforcement of deportation rules is much criticized in Haiti. Some critics say that "the Dominicans could help heal many of Haiti's open political wounds by extraditing back to Haiti many of the criminals of the 1991 coup d'état and the Duvalier dictatorship who enjoy de facto political asylum in the Dominican Republic." When asked for a response to the current situation, Fernandez stated, "There must exist an extradition treaty between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, but there isn't one between our two countries."
A large number of Haitian women cross the border to Dominican soil during their last weeks of pregnancy to obtain much-needed medical attention for childbirth, often arriving with several health problems, since Dominican public hospitals do not refuse medical services based on nationality or legal status. Statistics from a hospital in Santo Domingo report that over 22% of childbirths are by Haitian mothers.
Competition for jobs has led to the deportation of many Haitians in an effort to save native Dominican rights.
Unofficially there are 800,000 illegal Haitians (other estimates place this figure around 1 million) living in the Dominican Republic, which accounts for about 10% of the national population. After a UN delegation issued a preliminary report stating that it found a profound problem of racism and discrimination against people of Haitian origins, Dominican Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso issued a formal statement denouncing it and asserting that "Our border with Haiti has its problems, this is our reality and it must be understood. It is important not to confuse national sovereignty with indifference, and not to confuse security with xenophobia...
The culture of the Dominican Republic, like its Caribbean neighbors, is a blend of the European colonists, Africans, and Taínos, and their cultural legacies. Spanish, also known as Castellano (Castilian) is the official language. Other languages such as English, French, German, Italian and Chinese are also spoken to varying degrees. European, African and Taíno cultural elements are most prominent in food, family structure, religion and music. Many Arawak/Taíno names and words are used in daily conversation and for many foods native to the DR.
Typical Dominican cuisine usually accommodates all four food groups, incorporating meat or seafood; rice, potatoes or plantains; and is accompanied by some other type of vegetable or salad. However, meals usually heavily favor meats and starches and less dairy products and vegetables. Many dishes are made with sofrito, which is a mix of local herbs and spices sautéed to bring out all of the 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 dishes include chicharrón, yucca, casave, and pastelitos (empanadas), batata, pasteles en hoja, chimichurris, platanos maduros and tostones.
Some treats Dominicans enjoy are arroz con dulce (or arroz con leche), bizcocho dominicano (lit. Dominican cake), habichuelas con dulce (sweet creamed beans), flan, frío frío (snow cones), dulce de leche, and caña (sugarcane).
Musically, the Dominican Republic is known for the creation of the musical style called merengue, a type of lively, fast-paced rhythm and dance music consisting of a tempo of about 120 to 160 beats per minute (it varies wildly) based on musical elements like drums, brass, and chorded instruments, as well as some elements unique to the music style of the DR. It includes the use of the tambora (Dominican drum), accordion, and guira. Its syncopated beats use Latin percussion, brass instruments, bass, and piano or keyboard. Well-known merengue singers include singer/songwriter Juan Luis Guerra, Fernando Villalona, Eddy Herrera, Sergio Vargas, Toño Rosario, Johnny Ventura, and Milly Quezada. Merengue became popular mostly on the east coast of the United States during the 1980s and 90s, when many Dominican artists such as Victor Roque y La Gran Manzana, Henry Hierro, Milly, Jocelyn Y Los Vecinos, etc. residing in the U.S. (particularly New York,) started performing in the Latin club scene and gained radio airplay. The emergence of bachata along with an increase in the number of Dominicans living among other Latino groups in New York, New Jersey, and Florida have contributed to Dominican music's overall growth in popularity.
Bachata, a form of music and dance that originated in the countryside and rural marginal neighborhoods of the Dominican Republic, has become quite popular in recent years. Its subjects are often romantic; especially prevalent are tales of heartbreak and sadness. In fact, the original term used to name the genre was amargue ("bitterness," or "bitter music"), until the rather ambiguous (and mood-neutral) term bachata became popular. Bachata grew out of, and is still closely related to, the pan-Latin American romantic style called bolero. Over time, it has been influenced by merengue and by a variety of Latin American guitar styles.
Another genre of music that has been growing in popularity in recent years in the Dominican Republic is Dominican rock. Dominican rock, (known as rock Dominicano in Dominican Republic), is rock music created by Dominican groups and soloists. Originating in the 1980s with the start of Luis Dias, successful bands such as Tribu Del Sol, Toque Profundo and Tabu-Tek began to emerge. Dominican rock is listened to by the youth, who have embraced the music, sometimes over merengue and bachata, as well as salsa, and most recently reggaeton.
Historically, the Dominican Republic has been linked to MLB since Ozzie Virgil, Sr. became the first Dominican to play there. Other very notable players were Juan Marichal, Felipe Alou, Rico Carty, George Bell, Jose Rijo and Stan Javier, among many others.
The Dominican Republic also has its own baseball league, the Dominican Winter Baseball League, which runs its season from October to January. It comprises six teams: Águilas Cibaeñas (Cibao Eagles), Azucareros del Este (Eastern Sugar-makers), Estrellas Orientales (Eastern Stars), Gigantes del Cibao (Cibao Giants), Leones del Escogido (Escogido Lions), and Tigres del Licey (Licey Tigers). Many MLB and minor league players play in the Dominican League during their own off-season. As such, the Dominican Winter League serves as an important "training ground" for these leagues.
The Dominican Republic has participated in the Baseball World Cup, winning one Gold (1948), three Silver (1942, 1950, 1952), and two Bronze (1943, 1969), placing it seventh, right after Puerto Rico's one Gold, four Silver, and four Bronze. (Cuba holds a record twenty-five Gold, two Silver and two Bronze.)
Olympic gold medalist and world champion over 400 m hurdles Félix Sánchez hails from the Dominican Republic, as does current defensive end for the San Diego Chargers (National Football League [NFL]), Luis Castillo. Castillo was the cover athlete for the Spanish language version of Madden NFL 08.
The National Basketball Association (NBA), also has players from the Dominican Republic, such as:
Boxing is one of the more important sports after baseball, and the country has produced scores of world-class fighters and world champions, among them Carlos Teo Cruz, Leo Cruz, Julio César Green, Joan Guzmán, and Juan Carlos Payano.
|January 1||New Year's Day||Non-working day.|
|January 6||Catholic day of the Epiphany||Movable.|
|January 21||Virgen de la Altagracia||Non-working day. Patroness Day (Catholic).|
|January 26||Duarte's Day||Movable. Founding Father.|
|February 27||Independence Day||Non-working day. National Day.|
|(Variable date)||Holy Week|| Working days, except Good Friday.|
A Catholic holiday.
|May 1||Labour Day||Movable.|
|(Variable date)||Catholic Corpus Christi|| Non-working day. A Thursday in May or June |
(60 days after Easter Sunday).
|August 16||Restoration Day||Non-working day.|
|September 24||Virgen de las Mercedes||Non-working day. A Patroness Day (Catholic)|
|November 6||Constitution Day||Movable.|
|December 25||Christmas Day||Non-working day. Birth of Jesus Christ|
Congress authorizes a combined military force of 44,000 active duty personnel. Actual active duty strength is approximately 32,000. However, approximately 50% of those are used for non-military activities such as security providers for government-owned non-military facilities, highway toll stations, prisons, forestry work, state enterprises, and private businesses. The Commander in Chief of the military is the President. The principal missions are to defend the nation and protect the territorial integrity of the country. The army, larger than the other services combined with approximately 20,000 active duty personnel, consists of six infantry brigades, a combat support brigade, and a combat service support brigade. The air force operates two main bases, one in the southern region near Santo Domingo and one in the northern region near Puerto Plata. The navy operates two major naval bases, one in Santo Domingo and one in Las Calderas on the southwestern coast, and maintains 12 operational vessels. In the Caribbean, only Cuba has a larger military force.
The armed forces have organized a Specialized Airport Security Corps (CESA) and a Specialized Port Security Corps (CESEP) to meet international security needs in these areas. The Secretary of the Armed Forces has also announced plans to form a specialized border corps (CESEF). Additionally, the armed forces provide 75% of personnel to the National Investigations Directorate (DNI) and the Counter-Drug Directorate (DNCD).
The Dominican National Police force contains 32,000 agents. The police are not part of the Dominican armed forces, but share some overlapping security functions. Sixty-three percent of the force serve in areas outside traditional police functions, similar to the situation of their military counterparts.
There are two transportation services in the Dominican Republic, one controlled by the government through the Oficina Técnica de Transito Terrestre (O.T.T.T.) and the Oficina Metropolitana de Servicios de Autobuses (OMSA), and the other controlled by private business, among them, Federación Nacional de Transporte La Nueva Opción (FENATRANO) and the Confederacion Nacional de Transporte (CONATRA).
The government transportation system covers large routes in metropolitan areas, such as Santo Domingo and Santiago, for very inexpensive prices. In December 2006, the price was DOP$5.00(US$0.15), and air-conditioned bus rides were priced at DOP$10 (US$0.30). It should be noted that most OMSA buses are currently in very poor condition, and OMSA has been criticized for its incapability to fully meet the people's needs.
FENATRANO and CONATRA offer their services with voladoras (vans) or conchos (cars), which have routes in most parts of the cities. These cars have roofs painted in yellow or green in order to identify them. The cars have scheduled days to work, depending on the color of the roof, and have been described as unsafe.
Numerous television channels are available, including digital cable Telecable Nacional, Aster and Wind Telecom. Many other companies provide digital television services with channels from Latin America and the world. The reported speeds are from 256 kbit/s /128 kbit/s for residential services and up to 4 MB / 2 MB for commercial and residential service. (Each set of numbers denotes downstream/upstream speed.)
On February 1, 2007, Verizon changed the names of its wireless services to Claro and CODETEL. The company has been owned since 2006 by Carlos Slim Helú's América Móvil. Claro is now the official name of the Wireless Division and CODETEL (the original Compañia Dominicana de Teléfonos) is the updated name for the Verizon Dominicana landline and broadband market.
Electrical services in the country have been a headache for the population, as well as the business and other areas for more than 40 years. Due to the extreme corruption within the government, no administration has been able to cope with this problem. In 1998, three regional electricity distribution systems were privatized via sale of 50% of shares to foreign operators; in an unexpected decision, the Mejía administration repurchased all foreign-owned shares in two of these systems in late 2003. The third, serving the eastern provinces, is operated by U.S. concerns and is 50% U.S.-owned. Industry experts estimated distribution losses for 2006 surpassed 40%, primarily due to low collection rates, theft, and corruption. At the close of 2006, the government had exceeded its budget for electricity subsidies, spending close to U.S. $650 million.
Household and general electrical service is delivered at 110 volts alternating at 60 Hz; electrically-powered items from the United States work with no modifications. The majority of the country has access to electricity. Still, in 2007 some areas have outages lasting as long as 20 hours a day. Tourist areas tend to have more reliable power, as do business, travel, healthcare, and vital infrastructure. The situation improved in 2006, with 200 circuits (40% of the total) providing permanent electricity, as 85% of electric demand overall was met and blackouts were reduced from 6.3 hours per day to 3.7. Concentrated efforts were announced to increase efficiency of delivery to places where the collection rate reached 70%. The electricity sector is highly politicized, and with 2008 presidential election campaigning already in motion the prospect of further effective reforms of the sector is poor. Debts, including government debt, amount to more than U.S. $500 million. Some generating companies are undercapitalized and at times unable to purchase adequate fuel supplies.