What Should I Know About the Dominican Republic?

Wanda Albano

The Dominican Republic, also known as Republica Dominicana, is a beautiful country located in the Caribbean. It shares its island, called Hispaniola, with the Republic of Haiti. The country is a representative democracy with a government somewhat patterned after that of the United States. Santo Domingo is the capital.

The Dominican Republic is home to several sprawling beachfront resorts.
The Dominican Republic is home to several sprawling beachfront resorts.

The history of the Dominican Republic is tainted with bloodshed, due in large part to the colonizers who settled in the area. Over time, however, the Dominican Republic would gain its independence, although it did this in fits and spurts - first fighting for its liberty then reverting back to Spanish rule, then reuniting with its French half, then back to fighting for freedom once more. At one point, in 1870, the Dominican Republic even sought to sell itself to the US as a colony for 1.5 million US Dollars.

Many American tourists enjoy the beaches of the Dominican Republic.
Many American tourists enjoy the beaches of the Dominican Republic.

Sadly, one of the casualties of the country's centuries of struggle are the Tainos, one of Hispaniola's native peoples, who died out in the 1500s, as a result of both smallpox - a disease previously unknown to the island - and brutal treatment from the Spanish, who wanted to enslave them.

In spite of its past, the country has proved to be a hardy one. Its people have evolved to become a mixed race with ethnic minorities such as Spaniards, French, Jews, Americans, and even a few Chinese and Japanese thrown in the mix. The country also plays host to a rather sizable Lebanese population.

The Dominican culture has also thrived. Like its Caribbean neighbors, it seeks to meld together influences from Europe, Africa, and native Taino cultures. This vibrant mix can be seen in the cuisine, religion, the traditions, and even the language. While Spanish is the official language of the country, English, French, Haitian Creole and even Italian are also spoken on its shores.

Nowadays, the Dominican Republic enjoys a healthy reputation for tropical beauty. Americans flock to its beaches on such a continuous basis that while the official currency is Dominican pesos, US dollars are also accepted in most shops, especially in areas known for their trade in tourism.

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