Dominican culture is as varied and colorful as the land itself. This culture was created from a legacy of races that came together in the country’s development forming the basis of the cultural and social identity of the people.
A variety of ethnic groups came together in the fascinating development of the Dominican Republic’s (DR) history forming its unique and lively culture. European, African and to a lesser extent, indigenous Taino Indians’ influence are interwoven and expressed in the country’s art, music, gastronomy, sport, and religion all of which make up the identity of the Dominican people.
With regard to gastronomy, the country possesses a rich and multi-faceted culinary history, having been influenced by Spain, France and many other corners of the world, giving rise to Dominican food with delicious tastes and aromas.
In the early formation of the country, before much exploration and integration occurred, the main ingredients on the Dominican menu were rice, meat, beans, plantains and vegetables, as well as fish and sea food and others. These are still Dominican staples today, and give shape to the recipes that adorn the country’s tables on a daily basis.
The emblematic Dominican dish is called the “flag”, made using white rice with red beans, accompanied by a portion of meat (beef or chicken) and a salad or “tostones” (fried slices of green plantain), a dish that is served at lunch. This is followed by “moro” and “locrio” rice dishes. This list continues with tasty stews and soups, such as “sancocho” soup known as a “national dish”, also “asopao” stew, braised kid, and other dishes such as “mangú” (green plantain, boiled and mashed), casseroles, pasteles en hojas (turnovers wrapped and cooked in banana leaves), pork or chicken rinds and an endless amount of options.
From a crafts point of view, the DR has a rich artistic range, among which are those created with Taino Indian motifs. Dominican jewelry is made of amber, larimar, bone, horn and coconut husk. While clay, porcelain, wood, leather, hemp and guano also serve as the basis to create the most diverse articles and figures for personal, decorative, domestic and religious use.
Baseball is the preferred sport of the Dominican Republic, not only as a game or pastime, but as a major source of national pride and identity. Almost 40 percent of players in the U.S. Major League Baseball (MLB) and minor leagues come from Latin America. The Dominican Republic produces the most MLB players outside of the U.S. including famous Dominicans such as Pedro Martínez, Alex Rodríguez, Albert Pujols, Hanley Ramírez, Sammy Sosa, Vladimir Guerrero and many more. “Ball”, as it is popularly called, arrived in the Dominican Republic during the last decade of the 19th century. Professional teams were organized at the beginning of the 20th century, and it is deemed that the best quality baseball in the Caribbean is played on this island.
In the DR, there is freedom of worship and the majority of the population are Christian, principally Catholic, followed by the Evangelists and others who belong to various beliefs.
Among Dominican festivals and holidays, there are the following national holidays: January 1, New Year’s Day; January 6, Santos Reyes Day; January 21, Altagracia Day; January 26, birth date of father of the country – Juan Pablo Duarte; February 27, National Day of Independence; April 2, Easter Friday; May 1, International Work Day; June 3, Corpus Christi; August 16, Restoration of the Republic Day; September 24, Day of Our Lady of Mercedes; November 6, Constitution Day; December 25, Christmas Day. These are followed by numerous popular religious festivals in each region of the land, however, the most important of these in popular Dominican culture is the Carnival, a celebration recreating liberty, integration and identity, where masks, exaggeration, sarcasm, the unusual, the satirical, the grotesque and the imaginary are the basic characteristics. Carnival is celebrated in nearly all the villages of the country on Sundays during February and March.
As the first city founded in the Americas and the DR’s capital city (named the Cultural Capital of the Americas in 2010), Santo Domingo boasts a valuable collection of museums, culture, historic sites, monuments, arts and music and more. The Colonial City, located inside Santo Domingo is the first city of the America’s and features the first street, hospital, university and cathedral in the Americas, along with ancient buildings, parks and streets where Spanish conquistadors once strolled.
In Dominican museums, the displays guard the Dominican identity that is expressed in ancient objects, documents, canvases, sculptures, costumes, indigenous pictographs, and the furniture from the different centuries and religions. Among these are the Alcázar de Colon (Fortress of Colon), the Catedral Primada de América (the First Cathedral in the Americas), the Fortaleza Ozama (the Ozama Fort), the monasterio de los Padres Dominicos (the Monastery of the Dominican Fathers), the Casa del Cordón (the House of Cord), the Casa de la Moneda (the House of Coins), the Reloj de Sol (the Sun Clock), the Casa de Nicolás de Ovando (the House of Nicolás de Ovando), the Casa del Tostado (the House of Tostado), the Casa de Bastidas (the House of Bastidas), the Museo de las Casas Reales (the Museums of the Royal Houses) and the Panteón Nacional (National Pantheon).
Other important museums or historic buildings include the Altar de la Patria (Altar to the Homeland), the Casa de Juan Pablo Duarte (the House of Juan Pablo Duarte), the Palacio Consistorial (the City Hall), el Palacio de Borgellá (the Borgellá Palace), the Parque Colón (Columbus Park), as well as religious monuments such as the Iglesia del Carmen (Church of Carmen), the Iglesia y Convento Santa Clara (St. Claire Church and Convent), the Iglesia de Las Mercedes (Las Mercedes Church), the Regina Angelorum (Regina Angelorum) and San Miguel y Santa Bárbara (St. Michael and St. Barbara).
The Dominican Republic has an incredibly rich history. The walls and the cobblestoned streets of its Colonial City bear witness to its past as the first city founded in the Americas.
It was more than 500 years ago that the Dominican Republic began to write its history. The peaceful Taino Indians, who spent their days hunting, fishing and farming, first inhabited the island. Then on December 5, 1492, Admiral Christopher Columbus arrived on the island. He named it Hispaniola, setting into motion the meeting of two cultures that would later make Santo Domingo the first city in the Americas.
For years, Hispaniola went through several changes of power.
Toward the end of the 17th century, the French colonized the western part of the island. In 1795, Spain relinquished power of the eastern part of the island to France, leaving the entire island under French power. The colony temporarily returned to Spanish hands, until December 1821 when a group of men led by José Núñez de Cáceres declared temporary Independence.
That rule didn’t last long either.
In 1822 the Haitians took over the eastern part of the island by taking advantage of its military and economic weaknesses. This lasted for 22 years. Then on February 27, 1844, Juan Pablo Duarte began the fight for independence. The new Dominican Republic was born.
Despite the cry for independence, on March 18, 1861 the republic was once again annexed by Spain until after the Restoration War. The resulting political unrest culminated in economic chaos. The Dominican government then received loans with the United States and Europe and gave control of its customs to the US in 1907. Nine years later, the first North American invasion of the country took place.
Various unstable governments followed until the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo was established in 1930. He remained in power for 30 years until he was executed in 1961. This allowed a provisional government to organize the first free elections in 1962. In this election, prominent writer Juan Bosh was elected to the presidency. He was overthrown seven months later, resulting in a civil war led by Francisco Alberto Caamaño. This would lead to the second North American invasion in 1965.
In 1966, Joaquín Balaguer was elected, an led the country through a 12-year period of political repression. In 1978, the country returned to the polls. Balaguer lost overwhelmingly to Antonio Guzmán of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (the PRD). The country was on its way to becoming a democracy. In 1982, the PRD won again under the leadership of Salvador Jorge Blanco. However, in 1986, Balaguer became president again after winning a majority vote. He remained in office until 1996.
After Balaguer’s reign was over, Doctor Leonel Fernández of the Party for Dominican Liberation (PLD) became president in 1996. In 2000, the PRD candidate Hipólito Mejía became president, followed by the PLD candidate Leonel Fernández in 2004. He was reelected again in 2008.
The Dominican Republic is an incredible island paradise in the heart of the Caribbean. The country shares a border with Haiti on the second largest island in the area, “Hispaniola.”
Occupying the eastern two-thirds of the island, the Dominican Republic is nestled between the Atlantic Ocean on the north and the Caribbean Sea to the south. As part of the Tropic of Cancer, the Dominican Republic has a breathtaking topography. Mountains, valleys and beaches make up the diverse photogenic land. Three large mountain ranges run through the island, including the nearly two-mile high peak of Antilles. In fact, nearly half of the island is taken up by the large mountain ranges that run through it.
The Dominican Republic also has the lowest point in the Caribbean, Lake Enriquillo. It is one of many lakes, lagoons and rivers that accompany the Dominican Republic’s 1000 miles of beautiful Caribbean beaches.
There is plenty to explore, as the country is made up of more than 30,000 square miles of lush tropical islands. Surrounded by the Saona, Beata, Catalina and Alto Velo islands, the country spans 178 miles from north to south and 242 miles from east to west. If you are setting sail for the Island like its famous first visitor, you can find it on your GPS at 19° 0′ N 70° 40.02′ W.
As part of the Mona Passage, the Dominican Republic also has world-class fishing. Since temperatures range between 93 º F (34ºC) and 66 ºF (19ºC), the weather will always be ready for an adventure.