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Diversity and Beauty in the Dominican Republic

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The Dominican Republic is a rich, colorful, unique, and fascinating destination steeped in a rich history dating back to 1492.

Located approximately three hours from New York City, the Dominican Republic is one of two nations occupying the island of Hispaniola—the second largest island in the Caribbean after Cuba–as discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492. The other is Haiti, on the western third of the island (it is important to note that the Dominican Republic is different from Dominica, situated between the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique).

Columbus’ discovery and establishment of a settlement in what is now the Dominican Republic was the first Spanish capital–Santo Domingo, still the capital today–and the first permanent European settlement in the Americas/New World.

The estimated 10 million denizens here are a diverse and colorful amalgamation of Taíno Indians, Spanish, Africans, French and Haitians, all of whom alternatively occupied and ruled the island for decades (except for the Africans). The official independence of the Dominican Republic (from Haiti) came in 1844, however, the U.S. military occupied the island from about 1916 to 1924 due to political unrest that eventually subsided in the late 1970s. Today, the major language is Spanish and 95 percent of the population is Roman Catholic.

Although many recognize the Dominican Republic–referred to by many of the island inhabitants as “Quisqueya” (pronounced keys-cay-ya), “mother of the earth” in the Taíno Indian language–for its picturesque beaches and as a tropical island paradise, the topography also encompasses very beautiful, towering, forested, mountainous areas. In fact, the highest mountain range in the Caribbean is here, Pico Duarte, part of the Cordillera Central that extends into Haiti. The country also possesses a unique biological diversity. Seventy-nine mile Lake Enriquillo, for example, which also extends into Haiti, holds the distinction as one of a handful of the world’s saltwater lakes populated by crocodiles. And don’t forget the weather! The average temperature in this semitropical paradise is 80 degrees year-round.

Each Caribbean island has its own unique flavor and flair and in the Dominican Republic, it is profusely visible in its cuisine, music, dance, the arts and sports.

Seeing that the island is a wonderful amalgamation of Taino Indians, Spanish, Africans, French and Haitians, the cuisine reflects those cultures in numerous ways. Here you will find, literally at every meal, a plethora of delicious entrees and side dishes, such as mangú, typically boiled cassava, plantain or another type of root vegetable that resembles mashed potatoes in consistency. Grilled fish and seafood encompass yellow fin, Kindfish, catfish, shrimp, calamari, conch and lobster.

Artisans of all types—along the streets and in museums and galleries–reflect the history of the island and the deep sense of pride in its people in various forms from painting to photography, basket weaving, sculpture, masks, textiles and other forms.

When it comes to music and dance, numerous styles and rhythms are represented here, the most popular of which are Bachata and Merengue. Whether in a club, on the street, at the beach or shopping in an establishment, you will hear music and see people gyrating “subconsciously,” or outright putting it down. 24/7.

And of course, you couldn’t visit the Dominican Republic without talking about béisbol (baseball)! Whether the major or minor leagues, baseball has been a cultural staple here since the 1800s when Cubans fleeing to the Dominican Republic brought the sport with them, creating a national pastime that like the music and dance, is as integral to life as eating and breathing.

Put it all together, and you have one of the Caribbean’s most popular tourist destinations.

Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism, 809.221.4660, www.godominicanrepublic.com

 

Major Cities

La Romana 

Puerto Plata 

Punta Cana 

Samaná

Santo Domingo

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