The Dominican Republic is a Caribbean country island better known for its luxury resorts and gorgeous beaches, as well as the spot where Christopher Columbus and his men first arrived in the New World. This country is more than just resorts and beaches; its people are upbeat, enthusiastic, and positive. Dominicans are adaptive and have overcome many setbacks as a result of the physical damage caused by hurricanes and earthquakes, as well as the country’s volatile political background. In 1844, the Dominican Republic gained independence (Pons, 125).
Geography in the physical world.
The Dominican Republic occupies two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola in the east, which it shares with Haiti. Hispaniola is 685 miles (1,100 kilometers) towards the southern tip of Florida. This beautiful country has a wide range of vegetation and terrain that ranges from alpine forests in the center to the deserts in the southwest. Sugarcanes are predominant in coastal plains in east and the north, and also banana farms that occupy the peninsula tropical of Samana. The lowlands in the southeast are dry with very minimal vegetation taking place as compared to the western tropical conditions. There are many islands in the Dominican Republic, and the two most significant are Beata situated in southwest and Saona located in the southeast (Pons, 125). The Dominican Republic is relatively humid throughout the year. Rains are rare except in the mountains around Santiago, and the Samana Peninsula which receives around 100 inches falls a year. Most showers are expected from May to November. Hurricanes are a threat in the Republic especially from July to October. Around eight hurricanes strike the Caribbean region every year.
The Dominican Republic is ranked 65th in the world with a population of about 10.65 million. It is divided into twenty-nine regions, plus the National district which doubles as the thirtieth region. Additionally, Dominican Republic has two major cities which include Santiago de los Caballeros, and the country’s capital known as Santo Domingo de Guzman. Santo Domingo was officially founded by Bartolommeo Columbus’ brother in 1498. It was recognized and given a shape of the areal city by the planners of Renaissance. The international airport of Las America, museum of the royal houses, first cathedral of America, the Spanish Ciudad Colonial, which is the old historic city are all found in this city. This city also happens to be one of the country’s leading tourist magnets. Other regions in the Dominican Republic include Baorucco whose capital is Neiba, situated in the country’s western part. It is landlocked, and it is positioned at the border of Haiti. Azua is located west of the capital, and its shoreline is on the country’s Caribbean Sea side. Barahona is situated in the south-west. It’s bordering the Caribbean Sea and has always been the target for the Governments future tourist expansion. Its important towns include El Penon, Cabral, Enriquillo, Paraiso and Las Salinas. Others include Dajabon, El Seibo, La Romana, Puerto Plata, and San Juan (Pons, 190).
Figure 1 (Haverstock & John, 245).
Most of the Dominicans are categorized into three ethnic groups. The last conducted census indicated that 73% of the population was mixed race mostly African and European descent, 11% were black Africans and 16% white Europeans that is French and Spanish descent. The other groups included West Asian descendants including Syrians, Lebanese and Palestinians. The minority are East Asians that are Japanese and Chinese. Overall Demonian culture and society are initially Spanish. African heritage for a long time has been overlooked although specific religious associations incorporated in some elements of Afro America. There has also been the identification of the African influence in their music and dance. Regardless of the skin color, a person can rise through the ranks for as long he acquired wealth or education. Family background, economic standing, education are what classifies individuals. The dark-skinned dominated south and East whereas Cibao population is predominantly mulattoes or whites (Kaplinsky, 1859).
Figure (Haverstock & John, 216).
The Dominican Republic is a middle-income country, and it depends primarily on trade, agriculture, and tourism. It has experimented tremendous economic growth and poverty reduction in the recent past due to low fuel prices and increase in tourist arrivals, although it remains susceptible to natural calamities such as earthquakes and hurricanes. The economy expanded by 5.2% in the first quarter of 2017, followed by annual growth of 7.1 percent in 2014 to 2016. Agriculture is the principal domestic earnings, and it comes second in export earnings. It primarily exports tobacco, sugar and coffee, cotton, cocoa. The unemployment rate is 13.8 percent, inflation rate 6.5 percent and per capita income of US$1,927(Kaplinsky, 1840).
Religion. 68.9 percent of the Dominicans is catholic although it is only a small percentage that follows doctrine and attends church regularly. Evangelists cover 18.2 percent, 10.6 percent no religion. Most citizens practice voudon (Haitian based voodo) but also participate in mass services on Sunday. The Roman Catholic Church is not as prevalent as it in other Latin American countries and as such political and social issues affect it. The Dominican church also has no industrial interests, unlike other Latin churches.
Figure (Haverstock & John, 137).
Most significant percentage speaks Spanish, and the native dialect is called Dominican Spanish which resembles the Canary Spanish that is spoken in the Canary Islands. Spanish is the only language used in elementary school, and French and English taught as secondary dialects in both private and public schools. Apart from Spanish, there are other small dialects spoken like Haitian Creole which is spoken by people of the Haitian heritage, Samana´ English which is spoken by roughly a tiny group of individuals around 8,000. This group of people is situated in Samana´ Peninsula and have ties with African Americans slaves who arrived in the 19th century. English is typically spoken in tourist regions. Chinese is also used by around 25,000 Chinese emigrants of the Chinese Revolution.
The Dominicans customs stems from the European culture with both Taino and African influences. Europeans during the New world first settled in the present Dominican Republic specifically Santo Domingo which was founded in 1493. Soon after their settlement, Africans were brought in to serve as slaves. The combination of African, European and native Taino customs and tradition is what led to the present–day Dominican culture. The U.S residents visit the Dominican Republic frequently bringing along their consumer goods, lifestyle and custom influences. Dominicans are expected to be formal when going for dinner that is dress in collared shirts, skirts, and long pants. Hotels and restaurants in places like Santo Domingo also have strict dress code. Women are supposed to wear dresses and men trousers during both lunch and dinner time. Dominicans perceive themselves as more cultural compared to other neighboring Haitians. They are characterized as warm, welcoming and friendly.
Dominican Republic food is a combination of African, indigenous Taino, and Spanish influences. Many Middle Eastern cuisines such as “Quipe” have been adopted. This originates from the Lebanese Kibbeh. Their cuisines resemble those of neighboring islands like Cuba and Puerto Rico, Latin America, most of all though, have different dish names. Breakfast is called Los “The Three Hits‟ or “Los Tres Golpes,” and it consists of fried eggs, sautéed onions, fried salami, avocado and fried cheese. Mealtimes consist of starches and meat rather than vegetables. Like Spain, lunch is their most important meal. It is nicknamed “The Flag” (La Bandera), and it consists of red beans, rice and meat (pork, beef, fish or chicken) and sometimes salad.
Carnival celebrations are held in the country throughout the year. In February and a week before Easter, they celebrate with street dancing, parades, and street foods. The nation celebrates Espiritu Santo in June to honor the island’s African heritage. There is a three-day celebration in June to mark the Latin music festival, Del Santo Cristo de Bayaguana to celebrate New Year’s, Puerto Plata festival, the merengue festival in July. These nationwide celebrations are characterized by music festivals, food festivals, parades, and street festivals. Also, documentaries, shorts, and independent films are aired during the four days celebrations that take place in December.
Figure (Haverstock & John, 200).
Politics and relationship with U.S
Dominican Republic government follows the French system of central authority and top-down rule. It belongs the UN and its related agencies like World Bank, INTELSAT, International labor organization, Organization of American States (OAS) and International civil aviation organization. The Dominican Republic has enjoyed a close relationship with the United States. U.S is interested in stable, health and the democratic Dominican Republic. The fact that it stands s as the most significant Caribbean economy, second, largest regarding mass and population, with extensive bilateral trade with U.S makes it an essential partner to the U.S. around 100,000 U.S citizens reside in the Dominican Republic most of whom hold dual citizenship. U.S has always supported the Dominicans economic development. Likewise, Dominicans have supported U.S efforts to fight against terrorism (Pons, 200).
Haverstock, Nathan A., and John P. Hoover. Dominican Republic in pictures. Sterling Publishing (NY), 1975: 129–250.
Kaplinsky, Raphael. “Export processing zones in the Dominican Republic: Transforming manufactures into commodities.” World Development 21.11 (1993): 1851-1865.
Pons, Frank Moya. The Dominican Republic: a national history. Markus Wiener Publishers, 2010: 119–245.