|Island Facts ...|
|Full country name:
48.730 sq km
73% malatto, 16% European descent, 11% African descent
95% roman Catholic
Dominican Republic Peso (RD$)
GMT/UTC -4 ()
+1-809 & +1-829
Head of State:
President Leonel Fernández
GDP per capita:
Annual Growth: 8.3%
Tourism, sugar refining, nickel & gold mining, cement, tobacco
Major Trading Partners:
USA, Venezuela, Belgium, Mexico, Japan
The Dominican Republic, (Spanish: República Dominicana) is a country located on the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, bordering Haiti. Hispaniola is the second-largest of the Greater Antilles islands, and lies west of Puerto Rico and east of Cuba and Jamaica. A legacy of unsettled, mostly non-representative rule lasted for much of the 20th century; the move towards representative democracy has improved vastly since the death of military dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo in 1961. Dominicans sometimes refer to their country as Quisqueya, a name for Hispaniola used by the native Taíno Indians. The Dominican Republic is not to be confused with Dominica, another Caribbean country.
The country has had a history of changing ownership, with occasional attempts at independence and self-rule. First a Spanish empire|Spanish colony and then a French colonial empires|French colony, it was subsequently ruled by Haiti and then Spain again, and later the United States twice ruled Dominican territory.
In the beginning the island was primarily inhabited by the Taino, a branch of the Arawaks. Taino means "the good" in that native language. A system of Cacicazgos (chiefdoms) was in place, and Marien, Maguana, Higuey, Magua and Xaragua (Also written as Jaragua) were their names. These chiefdoms were then subdivided into subchiefdoms. The Cacicagzos were based on a system of [[tribute]], consisting of the food grown by the Taino. Among the cultural signs that they left were cave paintings around the country, which have become touristic and nationalistic symbols of the Dominican Republic, and words from their language, including "hurricane" (hurrakan) and "tobacco" (tabakko).
On December 5, 1492, the Europeans arrived. Believing that these beings from over the horizon were in someway supernatural, the Taínos feted the Europeans with all the honors available to them. This was a totally different society from the one the Europeans came from. One of the things that piqued the curiosity was the amount of clothing worn by the Europeans. Therefore they came to call them "guamikena" (the covered ones). Guacanagarix, the chief who hosted Christopher Columbus and his men, treated them kindly and provided him with everything they desired. Yet the Taínos' allegedly "egalitarian" system clashed with the Europeans' feudalist system, with more rigid class structures. This led the Europeans to believe the Tainos to be either weak or misleading, and they began to treat the tribes with more violence. Columbus tried to temper this when he and his men departed from Quisqueya and they left on a good note. Columbus had cemented a firm alliance with Guacanagarix, a powerful chief on the island. After the shipwrecking of the Santa Maria, he decided to establish a small fort with a garrison of men that could help him lay claim to this possession. The fort was called La Navidad, since the events of the shipwrecking and the founding of the fort occurred on Christmas day. The garrison, in spite of all the wealth and beauty on the island, was wracked by divisions within and the men took sides, that evolved into conflict amongst these first Europeans. The more rapacious ones began to terrorize the Taino, Ciguayo and Macorix tribesmen up to the point of trying to take their women. Viewed as weak by the Spaniards and even some of his own people, Guacanagarix tried to come to an accommodation with the Spaniards, who saw his appeasement as the actions of someone who submitted, they treated him with contempt and even took some of his wives too. The powerful cacique of the maguana, Caonabo could brook no further affronts, attacked the Europeans and destroyed La Navidad. Guacanagarix, dismayed as he was by this turn of events did not try too hard to aid these guamikena, probably hoped that the troublesome outsiders would never return. However, they did return.