Missions: Country Highlights

This is a guest post by Jérémie Roy. He has compiled this information in order to give a brief survey of the country of Dominican Republic.


The Dominican Republic:

Geography: The Dominican Republic is located in the Caribbean Sea. Both the Dominican Republic and Haiti are located on the island Hispaniola. The Dominican Republic shares the island with Haiti roughly at a 2:1 ratio. Hispaniola is the second largest island in the Caribbean after Cuba, and the Dominican Republic is the third largest country in the Caribbean. The island is located about 50 miles east of Cuba. Most of the country has a tropical climate.

Dominican Republic Map

History/Politics: Christopher Columbus established the first European permanent settlement on the Island of Hispaniola. Hispaniola was inhabited by an indigenous group call the Taínos when Columbus arrived. The Dominican Republic was under Spanish rule from 1492 until 1821, when it obtained independence from Spain. There were some short periods of French and Haitian rule during those years. In 1916 the U.S. took control of the Dominican to help them recover from prior unstable political leaders. Much progress was made, but opposition grew against the U.S. in the Dominican. So the U.S. helped to establish Horacio Vásquez Lajara as president. He was in office until 1930. Under him, the people were given political freedom, the economy grew, and the country experienced peace. Then Rafael Trujillo dictated over the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1961 when he was assassinated. His dictatorship was known as one of the bloodiest rules ever in the Americas. Trujillo’s assassination left the country in an unstable state, going in different political directions. Late in 1962, the first elections known to the Dominican Republic were held, and democracy became official when Juan Bosch was publicly declared as president in February of 1963. Bosch immediately started a major reconstruction, establishing freedom for the people and a liberal constitution, amongst many other things. Only seven months after being elected, Bosch was overthrown by the military. The country was ruled by the military for nineteen months until the people revolted in April, 1965 because they wanted Bosch back.  Days later the U.S. intervened, fearing the Dominican would become a “second communist Cuba” if left to herself. The U.S. helped the democracy to be established, staying a full year after Joaquín Balaquer had been elected. Joaquín Balaguer was elected from 1966-1978, and again from 1986-1996. Balaguer helped to rebuild much infrastructure. However, he repressed human rights and liberties. In 1979, Antonio Guzmán Fernandez  from the Dominican Revolutionary Party defeated Balaguer in the elections and the country began to experience some relative freedom and basic human rights. In 1996 Leonel Fernandez won the elections, giving the Dominican Liberal Party its first win. During his four years, the country grew economically. Skipping ahead to 2012, Danilo Medina, from the Dominican Liberal Party, was elected under the promise of investing more in social programs and education rather than infrastructure.

Christopher Columbus – photo from biography.com

Demographics: In 2007, the population of the Dominican Republic was 9,760,000. In that year only 5% of the Dominicans were above age 65, while 35% were under fifteen. The capital city, Santo Domingo, had a population of 3,014,000. The second and third largest cities are Santiago de los Caballeros with a population of 756,098, and La Romana with 250,000. The Dominican population is 73% multiracial, 16% white, and 11% black. The main religion is Catholicism. 68.9% of Dominicans are Catholics. However, there is a growing trend of nominal Catholicism. As to language, all Dominicans speak Spanish. However, some speak a dialect called Dominican Spanish, and some of Haitian descent speak Haitian Creole. Violent crimes tends to be treated lightly. Also, the Dominican is the drug transition point between Colombia and the U.S., and is home to major money-laundering. As to health, there is some malaria in the Dominican.

Haiti/DR: There is much illegal immigration from Haiti to the Dominican. The Dominican is doing quite well economically relative to Haiti, which is very poor. There is a general unhealthy relationship between the two countries. There is racism against the black people of Haiti. This racism was strongly encouraged by Trujillo during his dictatorship and has somewhat stayed with the Dominicans.

Economics: The Dominican has the second highest economy in Central America and the Caribbean. In 2007, its GDP per capita was $9,208. Agriculture, natural resources, and mining are the Dominican’s strengths, as are government services. Lately, the service sector with tourism has been a significant economic asset. Despite this strong growth, the country has much government corruption and resource mismanagement, and a wide gap between the rich and the poor. Child labor is also a problem, and there are labor injustices in the sugarcane industry. Communications and technology are well developed. However, the electricity system is weak. Bigger cities and tourist areas have developed more reliable systems in recent years. However, many Dominicans still experience power outages because of obsolete systems that suffer transmission failures. The Dominican has highways that span the country and allow for efficient transportation. The Dominicans have the second largest army in the Caribbean next to Cuba, and also have a well-established police.

Culture: The Dominicans love baseball, the leading sport. The Dominican cuisine is predominantly Spanish, but also Taíno and African. Musically, the Dominican is known for its merengue. However, lately bachata, another form of music and dance, has become popular.