Republic is the first European settlement in the Americas
with the first cathedral and university and the first European-built
road and fortress on the continent. Santo Domingo (originally
New Isabella), the capital of the country, was also the first
colonial capital in the Americas. It was in the Colonial Sector
that soil was collected for the Common Ground 191 art project.
Domingo, in the Greater Antilles archipelago on the Caribbean
island of Hispaniola, occupies the eastern two thirds of the
island; the Republic of Haiti occupies the other one-third.
Hispaniola lies west of Puerto Rico and east of Cuba and Jamaica.
The history of the Dominican Republic is a
story of political turmoil and tyrannical governments. The
Tainos, who inhabited the island from around A.D. 600, lived
in villages headed by chiefs, calling the island Ayiti or
Haiti ("mountainous land"). These early inhabitants
engaged in farming, fishing, hunting and gathering.
Christopher Columbus landed at Mole Saint-Nicolas
on December 5, 1492, claiming the island for Spain. He returned
to Spain, voyaging back to America three more times. After
initially friendly relations, the Taínos resisted the
Spanish conquest. One of the earliest Tainos leaders was the
female Chief Anacaona of Xaragua (who was later captured and
executed in front of her people) who married Chief Caonabo
By the mid-1500s, most of the Taíno
people had died out from mistreatment, disease, suicide, the
breakup of family unity, starvation, forced labor, torture,
and wars with the Spaniards.
In 1496, Bartolomeo Columbus, Christopher's
brother, built the city of Nueva Isabela (New Isabella), now
Santo Domingo, in the south of the island. As Europe's first
permanent settlement in the New World, the island became a
springboard for European conquest of the Caribbean islands,
and of the South American mainland, including modern-day Venezuela
Spain ceded the western part of Hispaniola to France in the
Treaty of Ryswick. That area eventually area grew into the
wealthy colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti).
In 1795, Spain ceded Santo Domingo to France
in the Treaty of Basel. At that time, the slaves in the western
part (Haiti) were in revolt against France. In 1801 Toussaint
Louverture captured Santo Domingo from the French, gaining
control of the entire island. However, an army sent by Napoleon
captured him and sent him to France as a prisoner. In 1808,
following Napoleon’s invasion of Spain, Santo Domingo
revolted against French rule, and with Britain’s and
Haiti's help, returned Santo Domingo to Spanish control.
In 1861, Santana signed a pact with the Spanish
Crown and reverted the Dominican nation to a colonial status.
Opponents launched the War of Restoration in 1863. After two
years of fighting, the Spanish troops abandoned the island,
and restoration was proclaimed in August 1865.
In the following years, warlords ruled, military
revolts were extremely common, and the nation amassed great
debt. In the 1880s, General Heureaux came into power. The
despotic ruler, who put the nation deep into debt, was assassinated
the country was inhabited by many short-lived governments,
while the national government was bankrupt and facing the
threat of intervention by France and other European powers.
Convention for Assistance in Governing
In the early 20th century, U.S. President
Theodore Roosevelt made a small military intervention to ward
off the European powers, proclaiming his famous Roosevelt
Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. In 1906 the Dominican Republic
and the United States entered into a 50-year treaty, giving
control of customs administration to the United States. In
exchange the United States agreed to use the customs proceeds
to help reduce the immense foreign debt of the country.
In 1914, Ramon Baez Machado was elected provisional
president. In 1916, U.S. Marines landed on the island, establishing
effective control of the country, while keeping intact most
Dominican laws and institutions.
While the Marines restored order throughout
most of the republic, the country's budget was balanced, and
economic growth resumed. Meanwhile, infrastructure projects
produced new roads that linked all the country's regions for
the first time in its history.
After World War I, public opinion in the United
States was against the occupation. In June 1921, United States
representatives presented a withdrawal proposal, called the
Harding Plan (named after President Harding) 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 National Guard —
and the holding of elections under United States supervision.
Moderate Dominican leaders used the plan as
the basis for further negotiations, resulting in an agreement
allowing for 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 Vasquez Lajara defeated Francisco J. Pewynado. 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.
The Dominican Republic was ruled by dictator
Rafael Leonidas Trujillo from 1930 until his assassination
in 1961. In 1937 Trujillo ordered the Army to kill all Haitians
on the Dominican side of the border. Still, the Trujillo government
was supported by the USA the Catholic Church, and the Dominican
A democratically elected government under
leftist Juan Bosch took office in 1963, but was overthrown
later that year. In 1965. after nineteen months of military
rule, a pro-Bosch revolt took place. US Marines arrived in
the Dominican Republic to restore order in Operation Powerpack,
and were later joined by forces from the Organization of American
States. They remained in the country for over a year and left
after supervising elections, in which they ensured the victory
of Joaquin Balaguer.
Balaguer, who remained as president for 12
years, repressed civil liberties, presumably to prevent pro-Cuba
or pro- communist parties from gaining power. Balaguer's rule
was accompanied by a growing disparity between rich and poor.
In 1978, Balaguer was succeeded by opposition
candidate Antonio Guzman Fernandez, of the Dominican Revolutionary
Party (PRD). From 1978 to 1986, the Dominican Republic experienced
a period of relative freedom and basic human rights. Balaguer
regained the presidency in 1986 and was re-elected in 1990
and 1994. The national and international communities viewed
these elections as a major fraud, leading to political pressure
for Balaguer to step down. Balaguer scheduled another presidential
contest in 1996, but Leonel Fernández of the Dominican
Liberation Party won. In 2000, Hipolito Mejia won the electorate.
In 2004, Leonel Fernandez Reyna was elected again, defeating
then-incumbent president Mejía.
Republic has three mountain ranges, Cordillera Central, Cordillera
Septentrional, and Cordillera Oriental, and the rich, fertile
Cibao valley. The country has the highest peak in the Caribbean,
Pico Duarte, and the biggest lake, Lake Enriquillo. The Dominican
Republic has many rivers, including the navigable Soco, Higuamo,
Romana (also known as 'Rio Dulce'). The Yaque del Norte is
the longest and most important river in the country.
The Dominican Republic is a tropical, maritime
nation with a wet season from May to November, and periodic
hurricanes between June and November. The 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.
Agriculture is the most important form of
work in terms of domestic consumption and is in second place
(behind mining) in terms of export earnings. Tourism accounts
for more than $1.3 billion in annual earnings.
The ethnic composition of the Dominican population
is varied, with 73 percent of the people of mixed composition,
16 percent white and 11 percent black. Other ethnic groups
include Haitians, Germans, Italians, French, Jews, Spaniards,
Chinese, Americans, East Asians and Middle Easterners.
More than 95 percent of the population is
Christian, mostly Roman Catholics. Smaller numbers follow
the Spiritist, Buddhist, Baha’I, Muslim and Jewish faiths.
Castilian, commonly known as Spanish, is the
official language, and the word for “peace” in
Spanish is “paz..” Other languages spoken are
Haitian Creole, English, French, German and Italian.
The Dominican Republic is known for the creation
of Meringue music, lively, fast-paced rhythm and dance music,
based on drums, brass and chorded instruments.
The Dominican Republic also has its own baseball
league which runs its season from October to January and includes
six teams: Tigres del Licey (Licey's Tigers), Aguilas Cibaeñas
(Cibao's Eagles), Gigantes del Cibao (Cibao's Giants), Toros
Azucareros del Este (Eastern Sugar-Mill's Bulls), Estrellas
Orientales (Oriental Stars), and Leones del Escogido (Escogido's
Lions). Olympic gold medalist and world champion over 400
m hurdles, Felix Sanchez, and NFL Football player Luis Castillo
are from the Dominican Republic.