the eastern two-thirds of the island named Hispaniola, the Dominican
Republic is a beautiful country with one of the longest histories in
the New World. Although inhabited originally by native Taino Indians,
Hispaniola was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492. A year later,
he established the first European colony in America - La Isabela. After
several hundred years, the island is now shared relatively peacefully
by the nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
On February 27, 1844, the Dominican Republic officially declared its independence from Haiti. Although the borders never again shifted, unrest between the two nations would remain for many years. During the next chapter of its history, lasting some 70 years, the Dominican Republic experienced a series of civil wars punctuated by short periods of peace. Presidents and dictators leading the country were often corrupt and more often power-hungry. This instability paved the way for an American occupation of the country, which lasted from 1916-1924.
In 1930, one of the most vicious eras of the Dominican Republic began, when Raphael Leonidas Trujillo took power. By utilizing secret police, consolidating power, and essentially ruling the country with an iron fist, Trujillo led the country to a period of economic boon. As a consequence, however, civil liberty was quite demolished. In 1961, Trujillo's dictatorship was brought to an end with his execution.
Trujillo's reign, the Dominican Republic has been an essentially democratic
country. Early presidents were guilty of corruption and nepotism, but
recent politicians have been upstanding and refreshingly progressive.
Presidential elections are held every four years. The next presidential
election will be held May 16, 2004.
Popular music in the Dominican Republic is of three main types: merengue, bachata, and salsa. The music scene in the country is also strongly influenced by American pop.
Dominican food, sometimes surprising to travelers, is not spicy like other Caribbean cuisine. The Bandera Dominicana, or traditional meal, is white rice with stewed beans, stewed meat, and a side or salad. This is traditionally served at lunch, which is normally the heaviest meal of the day. This could explain why most everything in the country shuts down over the lunch hours, from noon until 2:00 PM.
The DR has been
home to several Hollywood film crews. The Chavon river, which runs through
the eastern part of La Romana, subbed for the African coast in Apocalypse
Now. Additionally, the old city in Santo Domingo served as Cuba for
the filming of the Godfather Part II.
Santo Domingo also hosted the NBA's first overseas exhibition match in 2003, with the then current president, Hipólito Mejía tossing up the tip-off.
National elections were held on May 16, 2004. The opponent of the current president, Hipolito Mejia, won the election by almost 20% of the votes. The new president is Leonel Fernandez of the PLD party. For more news about elections (in spanish), go to www.jce.do (the official elections webpage) or dr1 (in english) which offers information and updates on the current elections.