Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic
República Dominicana (Spanish)
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: "Dios, Patria, Libertad"  
"God, Fatherland, Liberty"

Himno Nacional
"National Anthem"
(and largest city)
Santo Domingo
19°00′N 70°40′W / 19°N 70.667°W / 19; -70.667
Official language(s) Spanish
Ethnic groups  73% Multiracial, 16% White, 11% Black[1]
Demonym Dominican
Government Unitary and Democratic Republic[1][2] or Representative Democracy[2]
 -  President Leonel Fernández[2]
 -  Vice President Rafael Alburquerque[2]
Independence From Spain
 -  Date December 1, 1821[2] 
 -  Date From Haiti:
February 27, 1844[2] 
 -  Date From Spain:
August 16, 1865[2] 
 -  Total 48,442 km2 (130th)
18,704 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 0.7[1]
 -  2010 census 9,378,818 
 -  Density 193.6/km2 (?)
501.5/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2011 estimate
 -  Total $93.055 billion[3] 
 -  Per capita $9,922[3] 
GDP (nominal) 2011 estimate
 -  Total $54.912 billion[3] 
 -  Per capita $5,855[3] 
Gini (2005) 49.9[1] (high
HDI (2010) decrease 0.663[4] (medium) (88th)
Currency Peso[2] (DOP)
Time zone Atlantic (UTC-4[1])
Drives on the right
ISO 3166 code DO
Internet TLD .do[1]
Calling code +1-809, +1-829, +1-849
Sources for:
  • area, capital, coat of arms, coordinates, flag, language, motto, and names: .[2] For an alternate area figure of 48,730 km2, calling code 809, and Internet TLD: [1]

The Dominican Republic (Listeni/dəˌmɪnɨkən rɨˈpʌblɪk/; Spanish: República Dominicana [reˈpuβlika ðominiˈkana]) is a nation on the island of La Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries. Both by area and population, the Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean nation (after Cuba), with 48,442 square kilometres (18,704 sq mi) and an estimated 10 million people.[2][5]

Taínos inhabited what is now the Dominican Republic since the 7th century. Christopher Columbus landed on it in 1492, and it became the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas, namely Santo Domingo, the country's capital and Spain's first capital in the New World. Santo Domingo can boast of many firsts in the Americas, including the first university, cathedral, and castle, the latter two in the Ciudad Colonial area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[2][6]

After three centuries of Spanish rule, with French and Haitian interludes, the country became independent in 1821 under the rule of a former colonial judge who maintained the system of slavery and limited rights for the mostly mulatto and black population. The ruler, José Núñez de Cáceres, intended that the Dominican Republic be part of the nation of Gran Colombia, but he was quickly removed by the Haitian government and "Dominican" slave revolts. Victorious in the Dominican War of Independence in 1844, Dominicans experienced mostly internal strife, and also a brief return to Spanish rule, over the next 72 years. The United States occupation of 1916–1924, and a subsequent, calm and prosperous six-year period under Horacio Vásquez Lajara, were followed by the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina until 1961. The civil war of 1965, the country's last, was ended by a U.S.-led intervention, and was followed by the authoritarian rule of Joaquín Balaguer, 1966–1978. Since then, the Dominican Republic has moved toward representative democracy,[1] and has been led by Leonel Fernández for most of the time after 1996.

The Dominican Republic has the second largest economy in the Caribbean and Central American region.[7][8] Though long known for sugar production, the economy is now dominated by services.[1] The country's economic progress is exemplified by its advanced telecommunication system.[9] Nevertheless, unemployment,[1] government corruption, and inconsistent electric service remain major Dominican problems. The country also has "marked income inequality".[1]

International migration affects the Dominican Republic greatly, as it receives and sends large flows of migrants. Haitian immigration and the integration of Dominicans of Haitian descent are major issues; the total population of Haitian origin is estimated at 800,000.[10] A large Dominican diaspora exists, most of it in the United States, where it numbers 1.3 million.[11] They aid national development as they send billions of dollars to their families, accounting for one-tenth of the Dominican GDP.[1][12]

The Dominican Republic has become the Caribbean's largest tourist destination; the country's year-round golf courses are among the top attractions.[9] In this mountainous land is located the Caribbean's highest mountain, Pico Duarte, as is Lake Enriquillo, the Caribbean's largest lake and lowest elevation.[13] Quisqueya, as Dominicans often call their country, has an average temperature of 26 °C (78.8 °F) and great biological diversity.[9]

Music and sport are of the highest importance in Dominican culture, with merengue as the national dance and song and baseball the favorite sport.[2]



The Taínos

The Arawakan-speaking Taínos moved into Hispaniola, displacing earlier inhabitants,[14] c. AD 650. They engaged in farming and fishing,[15][dead link] and hunting and gathering.[14] The fierce Caribs drove the Taínos to the northeastern Caribbean during much of the 15th century.[16] The estimates of Hispaniola's population in 1492 vary widely, including one hundred thousand,[17] three hundred thousand,[14] and four hundred thousand to two million.[18] Determining precisely how many people lived on the island in pre-Columbian times is next to impossible, as no accurate records exist.[19] By 1492 the island was divided into five Taíno chiefdoms.[citation needed]

The Spanish arrived in 1492. After initially friendly relationships, the Taínos resisted the conquest, led by the female Chief Anacaona of Xaragua and her ex-husband Chief Caonabo of Maguana, as well as Chiefs Guacanagarix, Guamá, Hatuey, and Enriquillo. The latter's successes gained his people an autonomous enclave for a time on the island. Nevertheless, within a few years after 1492 the population of Taínos had declined drastically, due to smallpox and other diseases that arrived with the Europeans,[20] and from other causes discussed below. The decline continued, and by 1711 the Taínos numbered just 21,000.[21] The last record of pure Taínos in the country was from 1864. Still, Taíno biological heritage survived to an important extent, due to intermixing. Census records from 1514 reveal that 40% of Spanish men in the colony had Taíno wives,[22] and many present-day Dominicans have Taíno ancestry.[23][24] Remnants of the Taino culture include their cave paintings,[25] as well as pottery designs which are still used in the small artisan village of Higüerito, Moca.[citation needed]

Spanish rule

Alcázar de Colón, located in Santo Domingo, is the oldest Viceregal residence in America.

Christopher Columbus arrived on Hispaniola on December 5, 1492, during the first of his four voyages to America. He claimed the island for Spain and named it La Española. In 1496 Bartholomew Columbus, Christopher's brother, built the city of Santo Domingo, Europe's first permanent settlement in the "New World". The Spaniards created a plantation economy on the island.[17] The colony was the springboard for the further Spanish conquest of America and for decades the headquarters of Spanish power in the hemisphere. Christopher was buried in Santo Domingo upon his death in 1506.

The Taínos nearly disappeared, above all, from European infectious diseases to which they had no immunity.[26] Other causes were abuse, suicide, the breakup of family, starvation,[14] enslavement, forced labor, torture, war with the Spaniards, changes in lifestyle, and miscegenation. Laws passed for the Indians' protection (beginning with the Laws of Burgos, 1512–1513)[27] were never truly enforced. Yet as stated above, the Taínos did survive. Some scholars believe that las Casas exaggerated[28] 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 omitted the Indians who fled into remote communities,[23] where they often joined with runaway Africans (cimarrones), producing Zambos. Also, Mestizos who were culturally Spanish were counted as Spaniards, some Zambos as black, and some Indians as Mulattos.[23]

Santo Domingo's population saw a spectacular increase during the 18th century, as it rose from some 6,000 in 1737 to about 125,000 in 1790. Approximately, this was composed of 40,000 white landowners, 25,000 black or mulatto freedmen, and 60,000 slaves.[29]

After its conquest of the Aztecs and Incas, Spain neglected its Caribbean holdings. French buccaneers settled in western Hispaniola, and by the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick, Spain ceded the area to France. France created the wealthy colony Saint-Domingue there, with a population 90% slave, and overall four times as populous (500,000 to 125,000) as the Spanish area at the end of the 18th century.[29]

French rule

France came to own the island in 1795, when by the Peace of Basel Spain ceded Santo Domingo as a consequence of the French Revolutionary Wars. At the time, Saint-Domingue's slaves, led by Toussaint Louverture, were in revolt against France. In 1801 they captured Santo Domingo, thus controlling the entire island; but in 1802 an army sent by Napoleon captured Toussaint Louverture and sent him to France as prisoner. However, Toussaint Louverture's lieutenants, and yellow fever, succeeded in expelling the French again from Saint-Domingue, which in 1804 the rebels made independent as the Republic of Haiti. Eastwards, France continued to rule Spanish Santo Domingo.

In 1808, following Napoleon's invasion of Spain, the criollos of Santo Domingo revolted against French rule and, with the aid of Great Britain (Spain's ally) and Haiti,[30] returned Santo Domingo to Spanish control.[31]

The Ephemeral Independence and Haitian occupation

Juan Pablo Duarte is widely considered the architect of the Dominican Republic and its independence from Haitian rule in 1844.

After a dozen years of discontent and failed independence plots by various groups, Santo Domingo's former Lieutenant-Governor (top administrator), José Núñez de Cáceres, declared the colony's independence as Spanish Haiti, on November 30, 1821. He requested the new state's admission to Simón Bolívar's republic of Gran Colombia, but Haitian forces, led by Jean-Pierre Boyer, invaded just nine weeks later, in February 1822.[32]

As Toussaint Louverture had done two decades earlier, the Haitians abolished slavery. But they also nationalized 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. Boyer also placed more emphasis on cash crops 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. All levels of education collapsed; the university was shut down, as it was starved both of resources and students, since young Dominican men from 16 to 25-years-old were drafted into the Haitian army. Boyer's occupation troops, who were largely Dominicans, were unpaid, and had to "forage and sack" from Dominican civilians. Haiti imposed a "heavy tribute" on the Dominican people.[33]:page number needed Many whites fled Santo Domingo for Puerto Rico and Cuba (both still under Spanish rule), Venezuela, and elsewhere. In the end the economy faltered and taxation became more onerous. Rebellions occurred even by Dominican freedmen, 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.[33]:page number needed


Flag of the Trinitaria from 1844 to 1849

In 1838 Juan Pablo Duarte founded a secret society called La Trinitaria, which sought the complete independence of Santo Domingo without any foreign intervention.[34]:p147–149 Matías Ramón Mella and Francisco del Rosario Sánchez, despite not being among the founding members of La Trinitaria, were decisive in the fight for independence. Duarte, Mella, and Sánchez are considered the three Founding Fathers of the Dominican Republic.[citation needed] On February 27, 1844, the Trinitarios (the members of La Trinitaria), declared the independence from Haiti. They were backed by Pedro Santana, a wealthy cattle rancher from El Seibo, who became general of the army of the nascent Republic. The Dominican Republic's first Constitution was adopted on November 6, 1844, and was modeled after the United States Constitution.[15][dead link]

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.[33]:page number needed

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.

The voluntary colony and the Restoration republic

General Gregorio Luperón, Restoration hero and later President of the Republic

In 1861, after imprisoning, silencing, exiling, and executing 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. His ostensible aim was to protect the nation from another Haitian annexation.[35] But opponents launched the War of the Restoration in 1863, led by Santiago Rodríguez, Benito Monción, and Gregorio Luperón, among others. Haiti, fearful of the re-establishment of Spain as colonial power on its border, gave refuge and supplies to the revolutionaries.[35] The United States, then fighting its own Civil War, vigorously protested the Spanish action. After two years of fighting, Spain abandoned the island in 1865.[35]

Political strife again prevailed in the following years; warlords ruled, military revolts were extremely common, and the nation amassed debt. It was now Báez's turn to act on his plan of annexing the country to the United States, where two successive presidents were supportive.[15][dead link][32][36] U.S. President Grant desired a naval base at Samaná and also a place for resettling newly freed Blacks.[37] The treaty, which included U.S. payment of $1.5 million for Dominican debt repayment, was defeated in the United States Senate in 1870[32] on a vote of 28–28, two-thirds being required.[38][39][40]

Ulises 'Lilís' Heureaux, President of the Republic 1882–84, 1886–99

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.[41]

"Lilís", as the new president was nicknamed, enjoyed a period of popularity. 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 became rampantly despotic and unpopular.[41][42] In 1899 he was assassinated. However, the relative calm over which he presided allowed improvement in the Dominican economy. The sugar industry was modernized,[43]:p10 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, with their power usurped by caudillos in parts of the country. Furthermore, the national government was bankrupt and, unable to pay Heureaux's debts, faced the threat of military intervention by France and other European creditor powers.[44]

U.S. interventions and occupation

U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt sought to prevent European intervention, largely to protect the routes to the future Panama Canal, as the canal was already under construction. He made a small military intervention to ward off the European powers, proclaimed his famous Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, and in 1905 obtained Dominican agreement for U.S. administration of Dominican customs, then the chief source of income for the Dominican government. A 1906 agreement provided for the arrangement to last 50 years. The United States agreed to use part of the customs proceeds to reduce the immense foreign debt of the Dominican Republic, and assumed responsibility for said debt.[15][dead link][44]

After six years in power, President Ramón Cáceres (who had himself assassinated Heureaux)[41] was assassinated in 1911. The result was several years of great political instability and civil war. U.S. mediation by the William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson administrations achieved only a short respite each time. A political deadlock in 1914 was broken after an ultimatum by Wilson telling Dominicans to choose a president or see the U.S. impose one. A provisional president was chosen, and later the same year relatively free elections put former president (1899–1902) Juan Isidro Jimenes Pereyra back in power. To achieve a more broadly supported government, Jimenes named opposition individuals to his Cabinet. But this brought no peace and, with his former Secretary of War Desiderio Arias maneuvering to depose him and despite a U.S. offer of military aid against Arias, Jimenes resigned on May 7, 1916.[45]

U.S. Marines during the 1916 occupation

Wilson thus ordered the U.S. occupation of the Dominican Republic. U.S. Marines landed on May 16, 1916, and had control of the country two months later. The military government established by the U.S., led by Rear Admiral Harry Shepard Knapp, was widely repudiated by Dominicans. U.S. naval officers had to fill some cabinet posts, as Dominicans refused to serve in the administration. Censorship and limits on public speech were imposed. The guerrilla war against the U.S. forces was met with a vigorous, often brutal response.[45]

But the occupation regime, which kept most Dominican laws and institutions, largely pacified the country, revived the economy, reduced the Dominican debt, built a road network that at last interconnected all regions of the country, and created a professional National Guard to replace the warring partisan units.[45]

Opposition to the occupation continued, however, and after World War I it increased in the U.S. as well. There, President Warren G. Harding (1921–23), Wilson's successor, worked to end the occupation, as he had promised to do during his campaign. U.S. government ended in October 1922, and elections were held in March 1924.[45]

The victor was former president (1902–03) Horacio Vásquez Lajara, who had cooperated with the U.S. He was inaugurated on July 13, and the last U.S. forces left in September. Vásquez gave the country six years of good government, in which political and civil rights were respected and the economy grew strongly, in a peaceful atmosphere.[45][46]

The Trujillo Era

Rafael Leónidas Trujillo ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1961.

In February 1930, when Vásquez attempted to win another term, opponents rebelled, 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 violent campaign against his opponents.[46]

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. There was progress in healthcare, education, and transportation, with the building of hospitals and clinics, schools, and roads and harbors. Trujillo also carried out an important housing construction program and instituted a pension plan. He finally negotiated an undisputed border with Haiti in 1935, and achieved the end of the 50-year customs agreement in 1941, instead of 1956. He made the country debt-free in 1947,[15][dead link] a proud achievement for Dominicans for decades to come.

This was accompanied by absolute repression and the copious use of murder, torture, and terrorist methods against the opposition. Moreover, Trujillo's megalomania was on display in his renaming after himself the capital city Santo Domingo to "Ciudad Trujillo" (Trujillo City),[15][dead link] 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. By the end of his first term in 1934 he was the country's wealthiest person,[34]:p360 and one of the wealthiest in the world by the early 1950s;[47] near the end of his regime his fortune was an estimated $800 million.[43]:p111

In 1937 Trujillo (who was himself one-quarter Haitian),[48] in an event known as the Parsley Massacre or, in the Dominican Republic, as El Corte (The Cutting),[49] 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 six 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.[32][48][50] The soldiers of Trujillo were said to have interrogated anyone with dark skin, using the shibboleth perejil (parsley) to tell Haitians from Dominicans when necessary; the 'r' of perejil was of difficult pronunciation for Haitians.[49] As a result of the massacre, the Dominican Republic agreed to pay Haiti US$750,000, later reduced to US$525,000.[35][46]

On November 25, 1960 Trujillo killed three of the four Mirabal sisters, nicknamed Las Mariposas (The Butterflies). The victims were Patria 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 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 Provincia Hermanas Mirabal (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 and the Dominican elite supported the Trujillo government. This support persisted despite the assassinations of political opposition, the massacre of Haitians, and Trujillo's plots against other countries. The US believed Trujillo was the lesser of two or more evils.[49] The U.S. finally broke with Trujillo in 1960, after Trujillo's agents attempted to assassinate the Venezuelan president, Rómulo Betancourt, a fierce critic of Trujillo.[46][51] Trujillo was assassinated on May 30, 1961.[46]


In February 1963, a democratically elected government under leftist Juan Bosch took office but was overthrown in September. In April 1965, after 19 months of military rule, a pro-Bosch revolt broke out. Days later, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, concerned that Communists might take over the revolt and create a "second Cuba", sent the Marines, followed immediately by the Army's 82nd Airborne Division and other elements of the XVIIIth Airborne Corps in Operation Powerpack. "We don't propose to sit here in a rocking chair with our hands folded and let the Communist set up any government in the western hemisphere", Johnson said.[52] The forces were soon joined by comparatively small contingents from the Organization of American States. All these remained in the country for over a year and left after supervising elections in 1966 won by Joaquín Balaguer, who had been Trujillo's last puppet-president.[15][dead link][53]

Balaguer remained in power as president for 12 years. His tenure was a period of repression of human rights and civil liberties, ostensibly to keep pro-Castro or pro-communist parties out of power. His rule was further criticized for a growing disparity between rich and poor. It was, however, praised for an ambitious infrastructure program, which included large housing projects, sports complexes, theaters, museums, aqueducts, roads, highways, and the massive Columbus Lighthouse, completed in a subsequent tenure in 1992.

1978 to present

In 1978, Balaguer was succeeded in the presidency by opposition candidate Antonio Guzmán Fernández, of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD). Another PRD win in 1982 followed, under Salvador Jorge Blanco. Under the PRD presidents, 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, this last time just defeating PRD candidate José Francisco Peña Gómez, a former mayor of Santo Domingo. The 1994 elections were flawed, bringing on international pressure, to which Balaguer responded by scheduling another presidential contest in 1996.[1] This time Leonel Fernández achieved the first-ever win for the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), which Bosch founded in 1973 after leaving the PRD (also founded by Bosch). Fernández oversaw a fast-growing economy, with growth averaging 7.7% per year, a drop in unemployment, and stable exchange and inflation rates.[54]

In 2000 the PRD's Hipólito Mejía won the election. This was a time of economic troubles,[54] and Mejía was defeated in his re-election effort in 2004 by Fernández, who won re-election in 2008.[12] Fernández and the PLD are credited with initiatives that have moved the country forward technologically, such as the construction of the Metro Railway ("El Metro"). On the other hand, his administrations have also been accused of corruption.[54]


Map of the Dominican Republic

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 country's area is reported variously as 48,442 km² (by the embassy in the United States)[2] and 48,730 km² (by the U.S. CIA),[1] making it the second largest country in the Antilles, after Cuba. The country's capital and greatest metropolitan area, Santo Domingo, is located on the southern coast. The country lies between latitudes 17° and 20°N, and longitudes 68° and 72°W.

There are many small offshore islands and cays that are part of the Dominican territory. The two largest islands near shore are Saona, in the southeast, and Beata, in the southwest. To the north, at distances of 100–200 kilometres (62–124 mi), 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 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"). It gradually bends southwards and finishes near the town of Azua, on the Caribbean coast. In the Cordillera Central are found the four highest peaks in the Caribbean: Pico Duarte (3,098 metres / 10,164 feet) above sea level), La Pelona (3,094 metres / 10,151 feet), La Rucilla (3,049 metres / 10,003 feet) and Pico Yaque (2,760 metres / 9,055 feet).

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.

Between the Central and Northern mountain ranges lies the rich and fertile Cibao valley. This major valley is home to the city of Santiago and most of the farming areas in the nation. Rather less productive is the semi-arid San Juan Valley, south of the Central Cordillera. Still more arid is the Neiba Valley, tucked between the Sierra de Neiba and the Sierra de Bahoruco. 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.

Cayo Levantado in Samana Bay is one of the many cays in the D.R.

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 there. West of Santo Domingo its width is reduced to 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) 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 Azua Province.

A few other small coastal plains are in the northern coast and in the Pedernales Peninsula.

South shore of Lake Enriquillo, looking northward to the Sierra de Neiba

Four major rivers drain the numerous mountains of the Dominican Republic. The Yaque del Norte is the longest and most important Dominican river. It carries excess water down from the Cibao Valley and empties into Monte Cristi Bay, in the northwest. Likewise, the Yuna River serves the Vega Real and empties into Samaná Bay, in the northeast. Drainage of the San Juan Valley is provided by the San Juan River, tributary of the Yaque del Sur, which empties into the Caribbean, in the south. The Artibonito is the longest river of Hispaniola and flows westward into Haiti.

There are many lakes and coastal lagoons. The largest lake is Enriquillo, a salt lake at 40 metres (131 ft) below sea level, the lowest point in the Caribbean. Other important lakes are Laguna de Rincón or Cabral, with freshwater, and Laguna de Oviedo, a lagoon with brackish water.


The climate of the Dominican Republic is mostly tropical. The annual average temperature is 25 °C (77 °F). At higher elevations, the temperature averages 18 °C (64.4 °F) while near sea level the average temperature is 28 °C (82.4 °F). Low temperatures of 0 °C (32 °F) are possible in the mountains while high temperatures of 40 °C (104 °F) are possible in protected valleys. January and February are the coolest months of the year, while August is the hottest month. Some snowflakes can fall in rare occasions on the top of the Pico Duarte.[55]

The wet season along the northern coast lasts from November through January. Elsewhere, the wet season stretches from May through November, with May being the wettest month. Average annual rainfall is 1,500 millimetres (59.1 in) countrywide, with individual locations in the Valle de Neiba seeing averages as low as 350 millimetres (13.8 in) while the Cordillera Oriental averages 2,740 millimetres (107.9 in). The driest part of the country lies in the west. Tropical cyclones strike the country every couple of years, with 65 percent of the impacts along the southern coast. Hurricanes are most likely between August and October.[55] The last time a category 5 hurricane struck the country was Hurricane David in 1979.[56]

Environmental issues

Bajos de Haina, 12 miles (19 km) 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 by a battery recycling smelter closed in 1999. Cleanup of the site began in 2008, but children continue to be born with high lead levels, causing learning disabilities, impaired physical growth and kidney failure.[57][58]

Provinces and municipalities

The Dominican Republic is divided into 31 provinces. Santo Domingo, the capital, is designated Distrito Nacional (National District). The provinces are divided into municipalities (municipios; singular municipio). They are the second-level political and administrative subdivisions of the country.

* The national capital is the city of Santo Domingo, in the Distrito Nacional (DN).

Name and symbols

Some of the important symbols include the flag, the coat of arms, and the national anthem, titled Himno Nacional. The flag has a large white cross that divides it into four quarters. Two quarters are red and two are blue. Red represents the blood shed by the liberators. Blue expresses God's protection over the nation. The white cross symbolizes the struggle of the liberators to bequeath future generations a free nation. An alternate interpretation is that blue represents the ideals of progress and liberty, whereas white symbolizes peace and unity amongst Dominicans.[59] In the center of the cross is the Dominican coat of arms, in the same colors as the national flag. The coat of arms pictures a red, white and blue flag-draped shield with a Bible and cross; the shield is surrounded by an olive branch (on the left) and a palm branch (on the right). A blue ribbon above the shield reads, "Dios, Patria, Libertad" (meaning "God, Fatherland, Liberty"). A red ribbon under the shield reads, "República Dominicana" (meaning "Dominican Republic"). Out of all the flags in the world, the depiction of a Bible is unique to the Dominican flag.

The national flower is the Bayahibe Rose and the national tree is the West Indian Mahogany.[60] The national bird is the Cigua Palmera or Palmchat ("Dulus dominicus").[61]

For most of its history (up to independence) the colony was known as Santo Domingo,[29] the name of its present capital, and its patron saint, Saint Dominic. The residents were called "Dominicanos" (Dominicans), which is the adjective form of "Domingo", and the revolutionaries named their newly independent country "La República Dominicana". At present, the Dominican Republic is one of two nations worldwide (along with the Central African Republic) with only a demonym-based name.[62] In the national anthem of the Dominican Republic (Himno Nacional) the term 'Dominican' never appears. The author of its lyrics Emilio Prud'Homme consistently uses the poetic term Quisqueyanos, that is, "Quisqueyans".


Date Name Remarks
January 1 New Year's Day Non-working day.
January 6 Catholic day of the Epiphany Movable.
January 21 Dia 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.
Last Sunday of May Mother's Day
(Variable date) Catholic Corpus Christi Non-working day. A Thursday in May or June
(60 days after Easter Sunday).
Last Sunday of July Father's Day
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 24 Christmas eve
December 25 Christmas Day Non-working day.


  • Non-working holidays are not moved to another day.
  • If a movable holiday falls on Saturday, Sunday or Monday then it is not moved to another day. If it falls on Tuesday or Wednesday, the holiday is moved to the previous Monday. If it falls on Thursday or Friday, the holiday is moved to the next Monday.



The population of the Dominican Republic in 2007 was estimated by the United Nations at 9,760,000,[63] which placed it number 82 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In that year approximately 5% of the population was over 65 years of age, while 35% of the population was under 15 years of age. There were 103 males for every 100 females in the country in 2007.[1] According to the UN, the annual population growth rate for 2006–2007 is 1.5%, with the projected population for the year 2015 at 10,121,000.

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.[64] 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, Puerto Plata, and La Vega. Per the United Nations, the urban population growth rate for 2000–2005 was 2.3%.[65]

Largest cities of the Dominican Republic by population[66]

Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo

Santiago de los Caballeros

Rank City Name Province Pop. Rank City Name Province Pop. view ·
Puerto Plata

San Cristóbal
San Cristóbal

1 Santo Domingo Distrito Nacional 2,987,013 9 Santa Cruz de Barahona Barahona 185,174
2 Santiago de los Caballeros Santiago 1,329,091 10 San Francisco de Macorís Duarte 128,702
3 La Romana La Romana 250,499 11 Baní Peravia 175,042
4 San Cristóbal San Cristóbal 165,941 12 San Felipe de Puerto Plata Puerto Plata 123,584
5 Concepción de La Vega La Vega 103,743 13 Bonao Monseñor Nouel 146,992
6 San Pedro de Macorís San Pedro de Macorís 234,023 14 Bajos de Haina San Cristóbal 141,050
7 Higüey La Altagracia 135,646 15 San Juan de la Maguana San Juan 138,101
8 Moca Espaillat 63,442 16 Azua de Compostela Azua 101,218


Dominican girls at carnival in Taíno garments and makeup (2005)

The ethnic composition of the Dominican population is 73% multiracial, 16% white, and 11% black.[1] The multiracial population is primarily a mixture of European and African, but there is as well a significant Taíno element in the population;[23] research published in 2010 showed that 15% of Dominicans have Taíno ancestry.[67] There is also a large Haitian minority. Other ethnic groups in the country include West Asians—mostly Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians.[68] A significant presence of East Asians, primarily ethnic Chinese and Japanese, can also be found.[68] Europeans are represented mostly by Spanish, German Jews, Italians, Swiss, Portuguese, British, Dutch, Danes, and Hungarians.[68][69][70] There is also a sizeable expatriate community of U.S. citizens residing in the counrty.[71]

A system of racial stratification was imposed on Santo Domingo by Spain, as elsewhere in the Spanish Empire.[citation needed] Its effects have persisted, reaching their culmination in the antihaitianismo of the Trujillo regime, as the dictator used racial persecution and nationalistic fervor against Haitians.[49][72] In October 2007, a U.N. envoy found that racism against blacks in general, and Haitians in particular, is rampant in every segment of Dominican society.[73] According to a study by the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, about 90% of the contemporary Dominican population has West African ancestry to varying degrees.[74] However, most Dominicans do not self-identify as black, in contrast to people of West African ancestry in other countries. A variety of terms are used to represent a range of skin tones, such as moreno/a (brown), canelo/a (red/brown) ["cinnamon"], indio/a (Indian), blanco/a oscuro/a (dark white), and trigueño/a (literally "wheat colored", or olive skin).[75]

Ramona Hernández, director of the Dominican Studies Institute at City College of New York asserts that the terms were originally a defense against racism: "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."[76]


The Dominican Republic is 68.9% Roman Catholic, 18.2% Evangelical, 10.6% with no religion, and 2.3% other.[77] However, other sources place the irreligious ratio at 7% and nearly 10%.[78] Recent immigration, as well as proselytizing, has brought other religions, with the following shares of the population: Spiritist: 2.2%,[79] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: 1.1%,[80] Buddhist: 0.10%, Bahá'í: 0.1%,[79] Islam: 0.02%, Judaism: 0.01%, Chinese Folk Religion: 0.1%.[79] The nation has two patroness saints: Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia (Our Lady Of High Grace) and Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes (Our Lady Of Mercy).

The Catholic Church began to lose popularity in the late 19th century. This was due to a lack of funding, of priests, and of support programs. During the same time, the Protestant evangelical movement began to gain support. Religious tension between Catholics and Protestants in the country has been rare.

There has always been religious freedom throughout the entire country. Not until the 1950s were restrictions 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.

During World War II, a group of Jews escaping Nazi Germany fled to the Dominican Republic and founded the city of Sosúa. It has remained the center of the Jewish population since.[81]


The Dominican Republic is entirely Spanish speaking. Schools are based on a Spanish educational model,[82] with English being taught as a secondary language in most private schools, it is also being taught in public school as well. Haitian Creole is spoken by the population of Haitian descent. There is a community of about 8,000 speakers of Samaná English in the Samaná Peninsula. They are the descendants of formerly enslaved African Americans who arrived in the nineteenth century.[83] Tourism, American pop culture, the influence of Dominican Americans, and the country's economic ties with the United States motivate other Dominicans to learn English.


Primary education is officially free and compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 14, although those who live in isolated areas have limited access to schooling. Primary schooling is followed by a two-year intermediate school and a four-year secondary course, after which a diploma called the bachillerato (high school diploma) is awarded. Relatively few lower-income students succeed in reaching this level, due to financial hardships and limitation due to location. Most of the wealthier students attend private schools, which are frequently sponsored by religious institutions. Some public and private vocational schools are available, particularly in the field of agriculture, but this too reaches only a tiny percentage of the population.[84]


The Dominican Republic has become a trans-shipment point for Colombian drugs destined to Europe as well as the United States and Canada.[1][85] Money laundering via the Dominican Republic is favored by Colombian drug cartels for the ease of illicit financial transactions.[1] In 2004 it was estimated that 8% of all cocaine smuggled into the United States had come through the Dominican Republic.[86] The Dominican Republic responded with increased efforts to seize drug shipments, arrest and extradite those involved, and combat money-laundering.

The often light treatment of violent criminals has been a continuous source of local controversy. In April 2010, five teenagers ages 15 to 17 (including 2 females) shot and killed two taxi drivers and killed another five by forcing them to drink drain cleaning acid. On September 24, 2010, the teens were sentenced to only 3–5 year prison terms, despite the protests of the taxi drivers' families.[87]


In 2007 the Dominican Republic had a birth rate of 22.91 per 1000, and a death rate of 5.32 per 1000.[1]

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the Dominican Republic in 2003 stood at an estimated 1.7 percent, with an estimated 88,000 HIV/AIDS-positive Dominicans.[88] A mission based in the United States is helping to combat AIDS in the Dominican Republic.[89] Dengue is endemic to the country, and there are cases of malaria.[90]

The practice of abortion is illegal in all cases in the Dominican Republic, a ban that includes conceptions following rape, incest, and in situations where the health of the mother is in danger. This ban was reiterated by the Dominican government in a September 2009 provision of a constitutional reform bill.[91]


In the 20th century, many Arabs (primarily from Lebanon and Syria), Japanese, and, to a lesser degree, Koreans settled in the country as agricultural laborers and merchants. The Chinese, who were fleeing the Chinese Communist People's Liberation Army (PLA), found work in mines and building railroads. The current Chinese Dominican population totals 50,000.[citation needed] The Arab community is rising at an increasing rate. Estimates are at 3,400.[citation needed] Japanese immigrants, who mostly work in the business districts and markets, are at an estimate of 1,900 living in the country.[citation needed] The Korean presence is minor but evident, at a population of 500.[citation needed]

In addition, there are descendants of immigrants who came from other Caribbean islands, including St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua, St. Vincent, Montserrat, Tortola, St. Croix, St. Thomas, and Guadeloupe. They worked on sugarcane plantations and docks and settled mainly in the cities of San Pedro de Macoris and Puerto Plata. There is an increasing number of Puerto Rican immigrants, especially in and around Santo Domingo; they are believed to number around 10,000.[92] Before and during World War II, 800 Jewish refugees moved to the Dominican Republic.[93]

Illegal Haitian immigration

A border watch tower to control illegal immigration from Haiti, located in the Cordillera Central, Dominican Republic

Haiti is a poorer country than the Dominican Republic. In 2003, 80% of all Haitians were poor (54% in abject poverty) and 47.1% were illiterate. The country of nine million people has a fast-growing population, but over two-thirds of the labor force lack formal jobs. Haiti's per capita GDP (PPP) was $1,300 in 2008, or less than one-sixth of the Dominican figure.[1][94] As a result, hundreds of thousands of Haitians have migrated to the Dominican Republic, with some estimates of 800,000 Haitians in the country,[10] while others put the Haitian-born population as high as one million.[95] They usually work at low-paying and unskilled jobs in building construction, household cleaning, and in sugar plantations.[96] There have been accusations that some Haitian immigrants work in slavery-like conditions and are severely exploited.[97]

Children of illegal Haitian immigrants are often stateless and denied services, as their parents are denied Dominican nationality because they are deemed transient residents, due to their illegal or undocumented status, and the children, though often eligible for Haitian nationality,[98] are denied it by Haiti because of a lack of proper documents or witnesses.[99][100][101][102]

A large number of Haitian women, often arriving with several health problems, cross the border to Dominican soil during their last weeks of pregnancy to obtain much-needed medical attention for childbirth, 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.[103]

In 2005 Dominican President Leonel Fernández criticized collective expulsions of Haitians as having taken place "in an abusive and inhuman way".[104] 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".[105]


The first of three, late-20th century emigration waves began in 1961, after the assassination of dictator Trujillo,[106] due to fear of retaliation by Trujillo's allies, and political uncertainty in general. In 1965, the United States began a military occupation of the Dominican Republic to end a civil war. Upon this, the U.S. eased travel restrictions, making it easier for Dominicans to obtain U.S. visas.[107] From 1966 to 1978, the exodus continued, fueled by high unemployment and political repression. Communities established by the first wave of immigrants to the U.S. created a network that assisted subsequent arrivals. In the early 1980s, underemployment, inflation, and the rise in value of the dollar all contributed to a third wave of emigration from the island nation. Today, emigration from the Dominican Republic remains high.[108] In 2006, there were approximately 1.3 million people of Dominican descent in the US, counting both native- and foreign-born.[11] There is also a growing Dominican immigration to Puerto Rico.


Carnaval of La Vega, one of the most famous carnivals in the country

The culture and people of the Dominican Republic, like its Spanish Caribbean neighbors, is a blend of the cultures of the Spanish colonists, African slaves, and Taíno natives. 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 Dominican Republic.[1]


Dominican cuisine is predominantly Spanish, Taíno, and African. The typical cuisine is quite similar to what can be found in other Latin American countries, but many of the names of dishes are different. One breakfast dish consists of eggs and mangú (mashed, boiled plantain), a dish that the Dominican Republic shares with Cuba and Puerto Rico. For heartier versions, mangú is accompanied by deep-fried meat (Dominican salami, typically) and/or cheese. Similarly to Spain, lunch is generally the largest and most important meal of the day. Lunch usually consists of rice, meat (such as chicken, beef, pork, or fish), beans, and a side portion of salad. "La Bandera" (literally "The Flag") is the most popular lunch dish; it consists of meat and red beans on white rice. Sancocho is a stew often made with seven varieties of meat.

Meals tend to favor starches and meats over dairy products and vegetables. Many dishes are made with sofrito, which is a mix of local herbs used as a wet rub for meats and sautéed to bring out all of a 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 foods are chicharrón, yuca, casabe, pastelitos (empanadas), batata, yam, pasteles en hoja, chimichurris, tostones. Some treats Dominicans enjoy are arroz con dulce (or arroz con leche), bizcocho dominicano (lit. Dominican cake), habichuelas con dulce, flan, frío frío (snow cones), dulce de leche, and caña (sugarcane). The beverages Dominicans enjoy include Morir Soñando, rum, beer, Mama Juana, batida (smoothie), jugos naturales (freshly squeezed fruit juices), mabí, coffee, and chaca (also called maiz caqueao/casqueado, maiz con dulce and maiz con leche), the last item being only found in the southern provinces of the country such as San Juan.


Musically, the Dominican Republic is known for the creation of the musical style called merengue,[109]:376–7 a type of lively, fast-paced rhythm and dance music consisting of a tempo of about 120 to 160 beats per minute (though it varies) based on musical elements like drums, brass, chorded instruments, and accordion, as well as some elements unique to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, such as the tambora and güira. Its syncopated beats use Latin percussion, brass instruments, bass, and piano or keyboard. Between 1937 and 1950 merengue music was promoted internationally by Dominicans groups like Billo's Caracas Boys, Chapuseaux and Damiron "Los Reyes del Merengue", Joseito Mateo, and others. Radio, television, and international media popularized it further. Some well-known merengue performers include Johnny Ventura, singer/songwriter Juan Luis Guerra, Fernando Villalona, Eddy Herrera, Sergio Vargas, Toño Rosario, Milly Quezada, and Chichí Peralta. Merengue became popular in the United States, mostly on the East Coast, during the 1980s and 90s,[109]:375 when many Dominican artists, among them Victor Roque y La Gran Manzana, Henry Hierro, Zacarias Ferreira, Aventura, and Milly Jocelyn Y Los Vecinos, 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.[109]:378

Dominican singer Juan Luis Guerra in concert, 2005

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 name for the genre was amargue ("bitterness", or "bitter music", or blues 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.

Dominican rock is also popular. Many, if not the majority, of its performers are based in Santo Domingo and Santiago.

Particularly among the young, hip-hop/rap has been growing in popularity in recent years. Also known as Rap del Patio ("backyard rap"), Dominican rap is created by Dominican crews and solo artists. Originating in the early 2000s with crews such as Charles Family, successful rappers such as Lapiz Conciente, Vakero, Toxic Crow, and R-1 emerged. The youth have embraced the music, sometimes over merengue, merengue típico, bachata, as well as salsa, and, most recently, reggaeton. Dominican rap differs from reggaeton in the fact that Dominican rap does not use the traditional Dem Bow rhythm frequently used in reggaeton, instead using more hip hop-influenced beats.[citation needed]


Dominican native and Major League Baseball player Albert Pujols

Baseball is by far the most popular sport in the Dominican Republic.[109]:59 The country has a baseball league of six teams.[110] Its season usually begins in October and ends in January. After the United States, the Dominican Republic has the second-highest number of Major League Baseball (MLB) players. Ozzie Virgil, Sr. became the first Dominican-born player in the MLB on September 23, 1956. A few of the others born in the Dominican Republic are: Julian Javier, Pedro Martínez, Manny Ramírez, Jose Bautista, Hanley Ramírez, David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, Ubaldo Jiménez, José Reyes, Juan Marichal (a Baseball Hall of Fame member[111]), and Sammy Sosa. Felipe Alou has also enjoyed success as a manager, and Omar Minaya as a general manager.

In boxing, the country has produced scores of world-class fighters and several world champions.[112] Basketball also enjoys a relatively high level of popularity. Al Horford, Felipe Lopez, and Francisco Garcia are among the Dominican-born players currently or formerly in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Olympic gold medalist and world champion hurdler Félix Sánchez hails from the Dominican Republic, as does NFL defensive end Luis Castillo.[113]

The Dominican Republic also regards football (soccer) as its third most popular sport, after baseball and basketball.[citation needed] Volleyball, which was introduced in 1916 by US marines, is controlled by the Dominican Volleyball Federation. Other sports include Tae Kwon Do, in which Gabriel Mercedes is an Olympic silver medalist; and Judo.[114]

Government and politics

National Palace in Santo Domingo

The Dominican Republic is a representative democracy or democratic republic,[1][2][12] with three branches of power: executive, legislative, and judicial. The President of the Dominican Republic heads the executive branch and executes laws passed by the Congress, appoints the Cabinet, 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. The national legislature is bicameral, composed of a Senate, which has 32 members, and the Chamber of Deputies, with 178 members.[12] Judicial authority rests with the Supreme Court of Justice's 16-members. They are appointed by a council composed of the President, the leaders of both houses of Congress, the President of the Supreme Court, and an opposition or non–governing-party member. The Court "alone hears actions against the president, designated members of his Cabinet, and members of Congress when the legislature is in session."[12]

The president appoints the governors of the 31 provinces. 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.[12]

The Dominican Republic has a multi-party political system. Elections are held every two years, alternating between the Presidential elections, which are held in years evenly divisible by four, and the Congressional and municipal elections, which 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."[12] The Central Elections Board (JCE) of 9 members supervises elections, and its decisions are unappealable.[12]

There are many political parties and advocacy 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 originally leftist, 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 Fernández winning with 53% of the vote.[115] He defeated Miguel Vargas Maldonado, of the PRD, who achieved a 40.48% share of the vote. Amable Aristy, of the PRSC, achieved 4.59% of the vote. Other minority candidates, which includes 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.


Santo Domingo, the capital of the Republic and its largest city.

The Dominican Republic has the second largest economy[7] (the largest, according to the U.S. State Department)[12] in Central America and the Caribbean. It is an upper middle-income developing country,[116] with 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, which was actually 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.[117]

Santiago de los Caballeros, the second largest city in the country

The Dominican Republic is 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. The service sector in general has experienced growth in recent years, as has construction. Free Trade Zone earnings and tourism are the fastest-growing export sectors. Real estate tourism alone accounted for $1.5 billion in earnings for 2007.[118] Remittances from Dominicans living abroad amounted to nearly $3.2 billion in 2007.[12]

The Naco sector, in Santo Domingo, with a view of Tiradentes Avenue

Economic growth takes place in spite of a chronic energy shortage,[119] which causes frequent blackouts and very 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.[citation needed]

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 growth and declining inflation until 2002, after which the economy entered a recession.[12]

La Trinitaria in Santiago de Los Caballeros is an area of increasing development.

This recession followed the collapse of the second-largest commercial bank in the country, Baninter, linked to a major incident of fraud valued at $3.5 billion, during the administration of President Hipólito Mejía (2000–2004). The Baninter fraud had a devastating effect on the Dominican economy, with GDP dropping by 1% in 2003 as inflation ballooned by over 27%. All defendants, including the star of the trial, Ramon Baez Figueroa, were convicted. One subpoena was not delivered because the United States denied extradition.[citation needed]

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 peso (DOP, or RD$[120]) is the national currency, although United States dollars (USD) and euros (EUR) are also accepted at most tourist sites. The dollar is implicated in almost all commercial transactions of the Dominican Republic; such dollarization is common in high inflation economies. The peso was officially at par with the dollar until the early 1980s, but has depreciated since then. The exchange rate, liberalized by 1985, stood at 2.70 pesos per dollar in August 1986,[34]:p417, 428 14.00 pesos in 1993, and 16.00 pesos in 2000. Having jumped to 53.00 pesos in 2003, the rate was back down to around 31.00 pesos in 2004. As of November 2010 the rate was 1 DOP = 0.0273 USD, that is, 36.6 DOP per USD; 1 DOP = 0.020 euro (EUR, or €); and 1 DOP = 2.294 Japanese yen (JPY, or ¥).[120]


The green mountains and hills of the Dominican Republic, ideal for biking and bird-watching, are major tourist attractions.  
A garden at a resort in Bayahibe  

Tourism is fueling the Dominican Republic's economic growth. For example, the contribution of travel and tourism to employment is expected to rise from 550,000 jobs in 2008—14.4% of total employment or 1 in every 7 jobs—to 743,000 jobs—14.2% of total employment or 1 in every 7.1 jobs by 2018.[121] With the construction of projects like Cap Cana, San Souci Port in Santo Domingo, and Moon Palace Resort in Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic expects increased tourism activity in the upcoming year. Ecotourism has been a topic increasingly important in the nation, with towns like Jarabacoa and neighboring Constanza, and locations like the Pico Duarte, Bahia de Las Aguilas and others becoming more significant in efforts to increase direct benefits from tourism.

Services and transportation

Boeing 737-800 at Cibao International Airport in Santiago


The Dominican Republic has a well-developed telecommunications infrastructure, with extensive mobile phone and landline services. Cable Internet and DSL are available in most parts of the country, and many Internet service providers offer 3G wireless internet service. The reported speeds are from 256 kbit/s / 128 kbit/s for residential services, up to 5 Mbit/s / 1 Mbit/s for residential service. For commercial service there are speeds from 256 kbit/s up to 154 Mbit/s. (Each set of numbers denotes downstream/upstream speed; that is, to the user/from the user.) Projects to extend Wi-Fi hot spots have been made in Santo Domingo. The country's commercial radio stations and television stations are in the process of transferring to the digital spectrum, via HD Radio and HDTV after officially adopting ATSC as the digital medium in the country with a switch-off of analog transmission by September 2015. The telecommunications regulator in the country is INDOTEL (Instituto Dominicano de Telecomunicaciones).

The largest telecommunications company is Claro Codetel—part of Carlos Slim Helú's América Móvil—which provides wireless, landline, broadband, and IPTV services. Indotel reports that as of June 5, 2009 there are more than 8 million phone line subscribers (land and cell users) in the D.R., representing 81% of the country's population and a fivefold increase since the year 2000, when there were 1.6 million. The communications sector generates about 3.0% of the GDP.[122] Indotel reports 6,807,831 prepaid and just under a million (994,027) post-pay (under-contract) cell user accounts. For fixed phone lines (non-cell) it reports 678,901 dedicated lines in use for residential services. For business lines it reports 266,341. For public phones/services it reports 13,639. As of the second quarter of 2008, there are no more analog lines in the trunk services by local providers. Indotel reports 2,439,997 Internet users in the country for the end of March 2009.[123]

In November 2009, the Dominican Republic became the first Latin American country to pledge to include a "gender perspective" in every information and communications technology (ICT) initiative and policy developed by the government.[124] The Dominican Republic is leading Latin American governments’ thinking around gender and technology as part of the regional eLAC2010 plan. The tool the Dominicans have chosen to design and evaluate all the public policies is the APC Gender Evaluation Methodology (GEM).


Electric power service has been unreliable since the Trujillo era, and as much as 75% of the equipment is that old. The country's antiquated power grid causes transmission losses that account for a large share of billed electricity from generators. The privatization of the sector started under a previous administration of Leonel Fernández.[54] The recent investment in a "Santo Domingo-Santiago Electrical Highway" to carry 345 kV power,[125] with reduced losses in transmission, is being heralded as a major capital improvement to the national grid since the mid-1960s.

During the Trujillo regime, electrical service was introduced to many cities; still, almost 95% of usage was not billed at all. Around half of the Dominican Republic's 2.1 million houses have no meters and so most do not pay or just pay a fixed monthly rate for their electric service.[126]

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. Tourist areas tend to have more reliable power, as do business, travel, healthcare, and vital infrastructure. The situation improved somewhat after 2006.[127] Concentrated efforts were announced to increase efficiency of delivery to places where the collection rate reached 70%.[128] The electricity sector is highly politicized. Some generating companies are undercapitalized and at times unable to purchase adequate fuel supplies.[12]


The Dominican Republic has three national trunk highways, which connect every major town in the country. These are DR-1, DR-2, and DR-3, which depart from Santo Domingo towards the northern (Cibao), southwestern (Sur), and eastern (El Este) parts of the country respectively. These highways have been consistently improved with the expansion and reconstruction of many sections. Two other national highways serve as spur (DR-5) or alternate routes (DR-4). In addition to the national highways, the government has embarked on an expansive reconstruction of spur secondary routes, which connect smaller towns to the trunk routes. In the last few years the government constructed a 106-kilometer toll road that connects Santo Domingo with the country's northeastern peninsula. Travelers may now arrive in the Samaná Peninsula in less than two hours. Other additions are the reconstruction of the DR-28 (Jarabacoa - Constanza) and DR-12 (Constanza - Bonao). Despite these efforts, many secondary routes still remain either unpaved or in need of maintenance.

The Dominican government has put effort towards providing efficient public transportation with the construction of the Santo Domingo Metro, the first mass transit system in the country, and second in the Caribbean and Central American nations, after the Tren Urbano in San Juan, Puerto Rico. On February 27, 2008 president Leonel Fernández tested the system for the first time and free service was offered thereafter several times. Commercial service started on January 30, 2009. Several additional lines are currently being planned and line two is currently in advanced stages of construction. The Santiago light rail system is in planning stages and currently on hold.

There are two main bus transportation services in the Dominican Republic: one controlled by the government, through the Oficina Técnica de Transito Terrestre (OTTT) 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.


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.[12]

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).[12]

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.[12]

See also


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