Explored and claimed by Christopher COLUMBUS on his first voyage in 1492, the island of Hispaniola became a springboard for Spanish conquest of the Caribbean and the American mainland.
In 1697, Spain recognized French dominion over the western third of the island, which in 1804 became Haiti. The remainder of the island, by then known as Santo Domingo, sought to gain its own independence in 1821, but was conquered and ruled by the Haitians for 22 years; it finally attained independence as the Dominican Republic in 1844.
In 1861, the Dominicans voluntarily returned to the Spanish Empire, but two years later they launched a war that restored independence in 1865. A legacy of unsettled, mostly non-representative rule followed, capped by the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas TRUJILLO from 1930-61.
Juan BOSCH was elected president in 1962, but was deposed in a military coup in 1963. In 1965, the United States led an intervention in the midst of a civil war sparked by an uprising to restore BOSCH. In 1966, Joaquin BALAGUER defeated BOSCH in an election to become president.
BALAGUER maintained a tight grip on power for most of the next 30 years when international reaction to flawed elections forced him to curtail his term in 1996.
Since then, regular competitive elections have been held in which opposition candidates have won the presidency.
Location: Caribbean, eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of Haiti
Area: total: 48,730 sq km
Land: 48,380 sq km
Water: 350 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly more than twice the size of New Hampshire
Land boundaries: total: 360 km
Border countries: Haiti 360 km
Coastline: 1,288 km
Climate: tropical maritime; little seasonal temperature variation; seasonal variation in rainfall
Terrain: rugged highlands and mountains with fertile valleys interspersed
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Lago Enriquillo -46 m
Highest point: Pico Duarte 3,175 m
Natural resources: nickel, bauxite, gold, silver
Land use: arable land: 22.49%
Permanent crops: 10.26%
Other: 67.25% (2005)
Irrigated land: 2,750 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 21 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 3.39 cu km/yr (32%/2%/66%)
Per capita: 381 cu m/yr (2000)
The Dominican Republic holds elections every four years at the congressional levels as well as every four years at the presidential levels. The country becomes highly politicized, as millions of dollars are spent in propaganda and campaigning. The political system is characterized by clientelism, which has corrupted the system throughout the years.
There are many political parties and interest groups and, new in this scenario, 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 increasingly conservative Dominican Liberation Party (Spanish: Partido de la Liberación Dominicana [PLD]), in power 1996–2000 and since 2004.
The Dominican Republic maintains close relations with the nations of the Western Hemisphere and the principal nations of Europe. Relations with the U.S. are very close.
The country is a member of the following international organizations: ACP, Caricom (observer), ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IDA (graduate), IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO (suspended), ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (or ITSO), Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent member), ITU, ITUC, LAES, LAIA (observer), MIGA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW (signatory), PCA, Rio Group, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, Unión Latina, UNOCI, UNWTO (or WToO), UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WTF, WIPO, WMO, WTO (or WTrO).
Population: 9,365,818 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 32.1% (male 1,532,813/female 1,477,033)
15-64 years: 62.2% (male 2,971,620/female 2,851,207)
65 years and over: 5.7% (male 247,738/female 285,407) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 24.5 years
male: 24.3 years
female: 24.6 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.5% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 22.91 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 5.32 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: -2.59 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.038 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.042 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.868 male(s)/female
total population: 1.03 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 27.94 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 30.05 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 25.75 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 73.07 years
male: 71.34 years
female: 74.87 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.81 children born/woman (2007 est.)
Ethnic groups: mixed 73%, white 16%, black 11%
Religions: Roman Catholic 95%, other 5%
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 87%
female: 87.2% (2002 census)
Country name: conventional long form: Dominican Republic
conventional short form: The Dominican
local long form: Republica Dominicana
local short form: La Dominicana
Government type: democratic republic
Administrative divisions: 31 provinces (provincias, singular – provincia) and 1 district (distrito); Azua, Bahoruco, Barahona, Dajabon, Distrito Nacional, Duarte, El Seibo, Elias Pina, Espaillat, Hato Mayor, Independencia, La Altagracia, La Romana, La Vega, Maria Trinidad Sanchez, Monsenor Nouel, Monte Cristi, Monte Plata, Pedernales, Peravia, Puerto Plata, Salcedo, Samana, San Cristobal, San Jose de Ocoa, San Juan, San Pedro de Macoris, Sanchez Ramirez, Santiago, Santiago Rodriguez, Santo Domingo, Valverde
Independence: 27 February 1844 (from Haiti)
National holiday: Independence Day, 27 February (1844)
Constitution: 28 November 1966; amended 25 July 2002
Legal system: based on French civil codes; Criminal Procedures Code modified in 2004 to include important elements of an accusatory system; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age, universal and compulsory; married persons regardless of age; note – members of the armed forces and national police cannot vote
Executive branch: chief of state: President
head of government: President
cabinet: Cabinet nominated by the president
elections: president and vice president elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms (eligible for a second consecutive term)
Legislative branch: bicameral National Congress or Congreso Nacional consists of the Senate or Senado (32 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms) and the House of Representatives or Camara de Diputados (178 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
Judicial branch: Supreme Court or Corte Suprema (judges are appointed by the National Judicial Council comprised of the president, the leaders of both chambers of congress, the president of the Supreme Court, and an additional non-governing party congressional representative)
Political parties and leaders: Dominican Liberation Party or PLD; Dominican Revolutionary Party or PRD; National Progressive Front; Social Christian Reformist Party or PRSC
Political pressure groups and leaders: Citizen Participation Group (Participacion Ciudadania); Collective of Popular Organizations or COP; Foundation for Institution-Building and Justice (FINJUS)
Flag description: a centered white cross that extends to the edges divides the flag into four rectangles – the top ones are blue (hoist side) and red, and the bottom ones are red (hoist side) and blue; a small coat of arms featuring a shield supported by an olive branch (left) and a palm branch (right) is at the center of the cross; above the shield a blue ribbon displays the motto, DIOS, PATRIA, LIBERTAD (God, Fatherland, Liberty), and below the shield, REPUBLICA DOMINICANA appears on a red ribbon
The culture of the Dominican Republic, like its Caribbean neighbors, is a blend of the European colonists, Taínos and Africans, and their cultural legacies.
Spanish, also known as Castellano (Castilian) is the official language. Other languages such as Haitian Creole, English, French, German, and Italian are also spoken to varying degrees.
Haitian Creole is spoken fluently by 159,000 or as many as 1.2 million Haitian nationals and Dominicans of Haitian descent, and is the third most spoken language after Spanish and English. 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 items endemic to the DR.
Dominican Republic cuisine is predominantly made up of a combination of Spanish, Taino and African influences over the last few centuries. Typical cuisine is quite similar to what can be found in other Latin American countries but, many of the names of dishes are different. Breakfast usually consists of eggs and mangú (mashed, boiled plantain). For heartier versions, these are accompanied by deep-fried meat and/or cheese. Similar to Spain, lunch is generally the largest and most important meal of the day. Lunch usually consists of some type of meat (chicken, pork or fish), rice and beans, and a side portion of salad. “La Bandera” (literally, The Flag), the most popular lunch dish, consists of broiled chicken, white rice and red beans.
Typical Dominican cuisine usually accommodates all four food groups, incorporating meat or seafood; rice, potatoes or plantains; and is accompanied by some other type of vegetable or salad. However, meals usually heavily favor meats and starches, less dairy products, and little to no vegetables. Many dishes are made with sofrito, which is a mix of local herbs and spices sautéed to bring out all of the 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 dishes include chicharrón, yucca, casave, and pastelitos.
Some treats Dominicans enjoy are arroz con leche (or arroz con dulce), bizcocho dominicano, habichuelas con dulce, flan, frio frio, dulce de leche, and caña or sugar cane.
The beverages Dominicans enjoy include Morir Soñando, rum, beer, Mamajuana, batida (smoothie), ponche, mabí, and coffee.
Musically, the Dominican Republic is known for the creation of Merengue music, a type of lively, fast-paced rhythm and dance music consisting of a tempo of about 120 to 160 beats per minute (it varies wildly) based on musical elements like drums, brass and chorded instruments, as well as some elements unique to the music style of the DR, such as the marimba. Its syncopated beats use Latin percussion, brass instruments, bass, and piano or keyboard. Not known for social content in its commercial form (Merengue Típico or Perico Ripiao is very socially charged), it is primarily a dancehall music that was declared the national music during the Trujillo regime.
Well-known merengue singers include Juan Luis Guerra, Fernando Villalona, Eddy Herrera, Sergio Vargas, Toño Rosario, Johnny Ventura, and Milly Quezada. Merengue became popular mostly on the east coast of the United States during the 1980s and 90s, when many Puerto Rican groups such as Elvis Crespo were produced by Dominican bandleaders and writers living in the US territory. The emergence of Bachata-Merengue along with a larger number of Dominicans living among other Latino groups (particularly Cubans and Puerto Ricans in New York, New Jersey, and Florida) contributed to the music’s growth in popularity.
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 term used to name the genre was “amargue” (“bitterness,” or “bitter 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.
Baseball is by far the most popular sport in the Dominican Republic today. After the United States, the Dominican Republic has the second-highest number of baseball players in the U.S. Major League Baseball (MLB).
The Dominican Republic has participated in the Baseball World Cup winning one Gold (1948), three Silver (1942, 1950, 1952), and two Bronze (1943, 1969), second behind Cuba’s record of twenty-five Gold, two Silver and two Bronze.
The country also participated in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, the inaugural tournament in which they finished semifinalists along with Korea.
Historically, the Dominican Republic has been linked to MLB since Ozzie Virgil, Sr. became the first Dominican to play there. Other very notable players were Juan Marichal, Felipe Alou, Rico Carty, George Bell, Jose Rijo and Stan Javier, among many others.
The Dominican Republic also has its own baseball league, which runs its season from October to January (called The Winter League by MLB), and includes six teams: Tigres del Licey (Licey Tigers), Aguilas Cibaeñas (Cibao Eagles), Gigantes del Cibao (Cibao Giants), Azucareros del Este (Eastern Sugar-makers), Estrellas Orientales (Eastern Stars), and Leones del Escogido (Escogido Lions). Many MLB players and minor leaguers play in this six-team league during the off-season. As such, the Dominican winter league serves as an important “training ground” for MLB.
The National Basketball Association (NBA), also has players from the Dominican Republic.
Boxing is one of the more important sports after baseball, and the country has produced scores of world-class fighters and world champions.
Economy – overview: The Dominican Republic has enjoyed strong GDP growth since 2005, with double digit growth in 2006. In 2007, exports were bolstered by the nearly 50% increase in nickel prices; however, prices are expected to fall in 2008, contributing to a slowdown in GDP growth for the year. Although the country has long been viewed primarily as an exporter of sugar, coffee, and tobacco, in recent years the service sector has overtaken agriculture as the economy’s largest employer due to growth in tourism and free trade zones.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $85.4 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $35.49 billion (2007 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 7.2% (2007 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP): $9,200 (2007 est.)
GDP – composition by sector: agriculture: 11.5%
services: 60.2% (2007 est.)
Labor force: 3.986 million (2007 est.)
by occupation: agriculture: 17%
services: 58.7% (1998 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 1.4%
highest 10%: 41.1% (2004)
Distribution of family income – Gini index: 51.6 (2004)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 5.8% (2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed): 17.2% of GDP (2007 est.)
Budget: revenues: $7.014 billion
expenditures: $6.985 billion (2007 est.)
Agriculture – products: sugarcane, coffee, cotton, cocoa, tobacco, rice, beans, potatoes, corn, bananas; cattle, pigs, dairy products, beef, eggs
Industries: tourism, sugar processing, ferronickel and gold mining, textiles, cement, tobacco
Industrial production growth rate: 5.5% (2007 est.)
Electricity – production: 12.22 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity – production by source: fossil fuel: 92%
other: 0.4% (2001)
Electricity – consumption: 8.791 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity – exports: 0 kWh (2005)
Electricity – imports: 0 kWh (2005)
Oil – production: 12 bbl/day (2004)
Oil – consumption: 116,000 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil – exports: 0 bbl/day (2004)
Oil – imports: 116,700 bbl/day (2004)
Oil – proved reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas – production: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas – consumption: 239.8 million cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas – exports: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas – imports: 239.8 million cu m (2005)
Natural gas – proved reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: -$1.993 billion (2007 est.)
Exports: $6.881 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Exports – commodities: ferronickel, sugar, gold, silver, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, meats, consumer goods
Exports – partners: US 72.7%, UK 3.2%, Belgium 2.4% (2006)
Imports: $12.89 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Imports – commodities: foodstuffs, petroleum, cotton and fabrics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals
Imports – partners: US 46.9%, Venezuela 8.4%, Colombia 6.3%, Mexico 5.7% (2006)
Economic aid – recipient: $76.99 million (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $2.525 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt – external: $8.842 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment – at home: $10.67 billion (2006 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment – abroad: $59 million (2006 est.)
Telephones – main lines in use: 897,000 (2006)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 4.606 million (2006)
Telephone system: general assessment: relatively efficient system based on island-wide microwave radio relay network
domestic: fixed telephone line density is about 10 per 100 persons; multiple providers of mobile cellular service with a subscribership of roughly 50 per 100 persons
international: country code – 1-809; landing point for the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS-1) fiber-optic telecommunications submarine cable that provides links to South and Central America, parts of the Caribbean, and US; satellite earth station – 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 120, FM 56, shortwave 4 (1998)
Radios: 1.44 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 25 (2003)
Televisions: 770,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .do
Internet hosts: 81,218 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 24 (2000)
Internet users: 1.232 million (2006)
Airports: 34 (2007)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 15
Airports – with unpaved runways: total: 19
Railways: total: 517 km
standard gauge: 375 km 1.435-m gauge
narrow gauge: 142 km 0.762-m gauge
note: additional 1,226 km operated by sugar companies in 1.076 m, 0.889 m, and 0.762-m gauges (2006)
Roadways: total: 12,600 km
paved: 6,224 km
unpaved: 6,376 km (1999)
Merchant marine: total: 1 ship (1000 GRT or over) 1,587 GRT/1,165 DWT
by type: cargo 1
registered in other countries: 1 (Panama 1) (2007)
Ports and terminals: Boca Chica, Caucedo, Puerto Plata, Rio Haina, Santo Domingo
Military branches: Army, Navy, Air Force (Fuerza Aerea Dominicana, FAD) (2007)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age for voluntary military service (2007)
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 2,133,142
females age 18-49: 2,032,840 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 1,671,493
females age 18-49: 1,536,257 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually: males age 18-49: 91,699
females age 18-49: 87,550 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures – percent of GDP: 0.8% (2006)