The Dominican Republic is a sovereign state occupying the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western one-third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands, along with Saint Martin, that are shared by two countries. The Dominican Republic is the second-largest Caribbean nation by area (after Cuba) at 48,445 square kilometres (18,705 sq mi), and 3rd by population with 10.08 million people, of which approximately three million live in the metropolitan area of Santo Domingo, the capital city.
Christopher Columbus landed on the Western part of Hispaniola, in what is now Haiti, on December 6, 1492, which the Taíno people had inhabited since the 7th century. The island became the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas; and the oldest continuously inhabited city and the first seat of the Spanish colonial rule in the New World. After more than three hundred years of Spanish rule the Dominican people declared independence in November 1821. The leader of the independence movement José Núñez de Cáceres, intended to unite with the country of Gran Colombia. However, once no longer under Spanish rule, the newly independent Dominicans were forcefully annexed by their more powerful neighbor Haiti in February 1822. After the 1844 victory in the Dominican War of Independence against Haitian rule the country fell again under Spanish colonial rule. The crown was ousted permanently during the Dominican War of Restoration of 1865.
The Dominican Republic experienced mostly internal strife (Second Republic) until 1916. A United States occupation lasted eight years between 1916 and 1924, and a subsequent calm and prosperous six-year period under Horacio Vásquez Lajara was followed by the dictatorship of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molinauntil 1961. A civil war in 1965, the country's last, was ended by another U.S. military occupation and was followed by the authoritarian rule of Joaquín Balaguer, 1966–1978. Since then, the Dominican Republic has moved toward representative democracyand has been led by Leonel Fernández for most of the time since 1996. Danilo Medina, the Dominican Republic's current president, succeeded Fernandez in 2012, winning 51% of the electoral vote over his opponent ex-president Hipólito Mejía.
The Dominican Republic has the ninth-largest economy in Latin America and is the largest economy in the Caribbean and Central American region. Though long known for agriculture and mining, the economy is now dominated by services. Over the last two decades, the Dominican Republic have been standing out as one of the fastest-growing economies in the Americas - with an average real GDP growth rate of 5.4% between 1992 and 2014. GDP growth in 2014 and 2015 reached 7.3 and 7.0%, respectively, the highest in the Western Hemisphere. In the first half of 2016 the Dominican economy grew 7.4% continuing its trend of rapid economic growth.
Recent growth has been driven by construction, manufacturing and tourism. Private consumption has been strong, as a result of low inflation (under 1% on average in 2015), job creation, as well as high level of remittances. The Dominican Republic has a vibrant national stock market, Bolsa de Valores de la Republica Dominicana (BVRD). The Dominican Republic's economic progress is exemplified by its advanced telecommunication system and transportation infrastructure. Nevertheless, unemployment, government corruption, and inconsistent electric service remain major Dominican problems. The country also has "marked income inequality." International migration affects the Dominican Republic greatly, as it receives and sends large flows of migrants. Mass illegal Haitian immigration and the integration of Dominicans of Haitian descent are major issues. A large Dominican diaspora exists, mostly in the United States. It contributes to the Dominican Republic's development, sending billions of dollars to Dominican families in remittances.
The Dominican Republic is the most visited destination in the Caribbean. The year-round golf courses are among the top attractions on the island. A geographically diverse nation, the Dominican Republic is home to both the Caribbean's tallest mountain peak, Pico Duarte, as the Caribbean's largest lake and point of lowest elevation, Lake Enriquillo. The island has an average temperature of 26 °C (78.8 °F) and great climatic and biological diversity. The country is also the site of the first cathedral, castle, monastery, and fortress built in all of the Americas, located in Santo Domingo's Colonial Zone, an area declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Music and sport are of great importance in the Dominican culture, with Merengue and Bachata as the national dance and music, and baseball as the favorite sport.
The Dominican Republic is situated on the eastern part of the second largest island in the Greater Antilles, Hispaniola. It shares the island roughly at a 2:1 ratio with Haiti. The country's area is reported variously as 48,442 km2(18,704 sq mi) (by the embassy in the United States) and 48,730 km2 (18,815 sq mi),making it the second largest country in the Antilles, after Cuba. The Dominican Republic's capital and largest metropolitan area Santo Domingo is on the southern coast.
There are many small offshore islands and cays that are part of the Dominican territory. The two largest islands near shore are Saona, in the southeast, and Beata, in the southwest. To the north, at distances of 100–200 kilometres (62–124 mi), are three extensive, largely submerged banks, which geographically are a southeast continuation of the Bahamas: Navidad Bank, Silver Bank, and Mouchoir Bank. Navidad Bank and Silver Bank have been officially claimed by the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican Republic has four important mountain ranges. The most northerly is the Cordillera Septentrional("Northern Mountain Range"), which extends from the northwestern coastal town of Monte Cristi, near the Haitian border, to the Samaná Peninsula in the east, running parallel to the Atlantic coast. The highest range in the Dominican Republic – indeed, in the whole of the West Indies – is the Cordillera Central ("Central Mountain Range"). It gradually bends southwards and finishes near the town of Azua, on the Caribbean coast.
In the Cordillera Central are the four highest peaks in the Caribbean: Pico Duarte (3,098 metres or 10,164 feet above sea level), La Pelona (3,094 metres or 10,151 feet), La Rucilla (3,049 metres or 10,003 feet), and Pico Yaque (2,760 metres or 9,055 feet). In the southwest corner of the country, south of the Cordillera Central, there are two other ranges. The more northerly of the two is the Sierra de Neiba, while in the south the Sierra de Bahoruco is a continuation of the Massif de la Selle in Haiti. There are other, minor mountain ranges, such as the Cordillera Oriental ("Eastern Mountain Range"), Sierra Martín García, Sierra de Yamasá, and Sierra de Samaná.
Between the Central and Northern mountain ranges lies the rich and fertile Cibao valley. This major valley is home to the cities of Santiago and La Vega and most of the farming areas in the nation. Rather less productive are the semi-arid San Juan Valley, south of the Central Cordillera, and the Neiba Valley, tucked between the Sierra de Neiba and the Sierra de Bahoruco. Much of the land in the Enriquillo Basin is below sea level, with a hot, arid, desert-like environment. There are other smaller valleys in the mountains, such as the Constanza, Jarabacoa, Villa Altagracia, and Bonao valleys.
The Llano Costero del Caribe ("Caribbean Coastal Plain") is the largest of the plains in the Dominican Republic. Stretching north and east of Santo Domingo, it contains many sugar plantations in the savannahs that are common there. West of Santo Domingo its width is reduced to 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) as it hugs the coast, finishing at the mouth of the Ocoa River. Another large plain is the Plena de Azua ("Azua Plain"), a very arid region in Azua Province. A few other small coastal plains are in the northern coast and in the Pedernales Peninsula.
Four major rivers drain the numerous mountains of the Dominican Republic. The Yaque del Norte is the longest and most important Dominican river. It carries excess water down from the Cibao Valley and empties into Monte Cristi Bay, in the northwest. Likewise, the Yuna River serves the Vega Real and empties into Samaná Bay, in the northeast. Drainage of the San Juan Valley is provided by the San Juan River, tributary of the Yaque del Sur, which empties into the Caribbean, in the south. The Artibonito is the longest river of Hispaniola and flows westward into Haiti.
There are many lakes and coastal lagoons. The largest lake is Enriquillo, a salt lake at 45 metres (148 ft) below sea level, the lowest point in the Caribbean. Other important lakes are Laguna de Rincón or Cabral, with fresh water, and Laguna de Oviedo, a lagoon with brackish water.
Dominican Republic is located near fault action in the Caribbean. In 1946 it suffered a magnitude 8.1 earthquake off the northeast coast. This triggered a tsunami that killed about 1,800, mostly in coastal communities. The wave was also recorded at Daytona Beach, Florida, and Atlantic City, New Jersey. The area remains at risk. Caribbean countries and the United States have collaborated to create tsunami warning systems and are mapping risk in low-lying areas.
The Dominican Republic's population was 9,760,000 in 2007. In 2010 31.2% of the population was under 15 years of age, with 6% of the population over 65 years of age. There were 103 males for every 100 females in 2007. The annual population growth rate for 2006–2007 was 1.5%, with the projected population for the year 2015 being 10,121,000.
The population density in 2007 was 192 per km² (498 per sq mi), and 63% of the population lived in urban areas. The southern coastal plains and the Cibao Valley are the most densely populated areas of the country. The capital city Santo Domingo had a population of 2,907,100 in 2010.
Other important cities are: Santiago de los Caballeros (pop. 745,293), La Romana (pop. 214,109), San Pedro de Macorís (pop. 185,255), Higüey (153,174), San Francisco de Macorís (pop. 132,725), Puerto Plata (pop. 118,282), and La Vega (pop. 104,536). Per the United Nations, the urban population growth rate for 2000–2005 was 2.3%.
The Dominican Republic's population is 73% of racially mixed origin, 16% White, and 11% Black. Ethnic immigrant groups in the country include West Asians—mostly Lebanese, Syrians, and Palestinians.
Numerous immigrants have come from other Caribbean countries, as the country has offered economic opportunities. There are about 32,000 Jamaicans living in the Dominican Republic. There is an increasing number of Puerto Rican immigrants, especially in and around Santo Domingo; they are believed to number around 10,000. There are over 700,000 people of Haitian descent, including a generation born in the Dominican Republic.
East Asians, primarily ethnic Chinese and Japanese, can also be found. Europeans are represented mostly by Spanish whites but also with smaller populations of German Jews, Italians, Portuguese, British, Dutch, Danes, and Hungarians. Some converted Sephardic Jews from Spain were part of early expeditions; only Catholics were allowed to come to the New World. Later there were Jewish migrants coming from Iberia and Europe in the 1700s.Some managed to reach the Caribbean as refugees during and after the Second World War. Some Sephardic Jews reside in Sosúa while others are dispersed throughout the country. Self-identified Jews number about 3,000; other Dominicans may have some Jewish ancestry because of marriages among converted Jewish Catholics and other Dominicans since the colonial years. Some Dominicans born in the United States now reside in the Dominican Republic, creating a kind of expatriate community.
The Dominican Republic is a tropical, maritime nation. Due to its diverse topography, Dominican Republic's climate shows considerable variation over short distances and is the most varied of all the Antilles. The annual average temperature is 25 °C (77 °F). At higher elevations the temperature averages 18 °C (64.4 °F) while near sea level the average temperature is 28 °C (82.4 °F). Low temperatures of 0 °C (32 °F) are possible in the mountains while high temperatures of 40 °C (104 °F) are possible in protected valleys. January and February are the coolest months of the year while August is the hottest month. Snowfall can be seen in rare occasions on the summit of Pico Duarte.
The wet season along the northern coast lasts from November through January. Elsewhere the wet season stretches from May through November, with May being the wettest month. Average annual rainfall is 1,500 millimetres (59.1 in) countrywide, with individual locations in the Valle de Neiba seeing averages as low as 350 millimetres (13.8 in) while the Cordillera Oriental averages 2,740 millimetres (107.9 in). The driest part of the country lies in the west.
Tropical cyclones strike the Dominican Republic every couple of years, with 65% of the impacts along the southern coast. Hurricanes are most likely between August and October. The last major hurricane that struck the country was Hurricane Georges in 1998.
As of 2014, 57% of the population (5.7 million) identified themselves as Roman Catholics and 23% (2.3 million) as Evangelical Protestants (in Latin American countries, Protestants are usually called Evangelicos). Recent immigration as well as proselytizing has brought other religions, with the following shares of the population: Spiritist: 2.2%,The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: 1.1%,Buddhist: 0.1%, Bahá'í: 0.1%,Chinese Folk Religion: 0.1%, Islam: 0.02%, Judaism: 0.01%. The Dominican Republic has two patroness saints: Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia (Our Lady Of High Grace) and Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes (Our Lady Of Mercy).
The Catholic Church began to lose popularity in the late 19th century. This was due to a lack of funding, priests, and support programs. During the same time, the Protestant evangelical movement began to gain support. Religious tension between Catholics and Protestants in the country has been rare.
The Dominican Republic has historically granted extensive religious freedom. In the 1950s restrictions were placed upon churches by the government of Trujillo. Letters of protest were sent against the mass arrests of government adversaries. Trujillo began a campaign against the Catholic Church and planned to arrest priests and bishops who preached against the government. This campaign ended before it was put into place, with his assassination.
During World War II a group of Jews escaping Nazi Germany fled to the Dominican Republic and founded the city of Sosúa. It has remained the center of the Jewish population since.
The Dominican Republic is the largest economy (according to the U.S. State Department and the World Bank) in the Caribbean and Central American region. It is an upper middle-income developing country, with a 2015 GDP per capita of $14,770, in PPP terms. Over the last two decades, the Dominican Republic have been standing out as one of the fastest-growing economies in the Americas - with an average real GDP growth rate of 5.4% between 1992 and 2014. GDP growth in 2014 and 2015 reached 7.3 and 7.0%, respectively, the highest in the Western Hemisphere. In the first half of 2016 the Dominican economy grew 7.4%. As of 2015, the average wage in nominal terms is 392 USD per month ($17,829 DOP).
During the last three decades, the Dominican economy, formerly dependent on the export of agricultural commodities (mainly sugar, cocoa and coffee), has transitioned to a diversified mix of services, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, and trade. The service sector accounts for almost 60% of GDP; manufacturing, for 22%; tourism, telecommunications and finance are the main components of the service sector; however, none of them accounts for more than 10% of the whole.
Remittances in Dominican Republic increased to 4571.30 million USD in 2014 from 3333 million USD in 2013(according to data reported by the Inter-American Development Bank). Economic growth takes place in spite of a chronic energy shortage, which causes frequent blackouts and very high prices. Despite a widening merchandise trade deficit, tourism earnings and remittances have helped build foreign exchange reserves. The Dominican Republic is current on foreign private debt.
Following economic turmoil in the late 1980s and 1990, during which the gross domestic product (GDP) fell by up to 5% and consumer price inflation reached an unprecedented 100%, the Dominican Republic entered a period of growth and declining inflation until 2002, after which the economy entered a recession.
This recession followed the collapse of the second-largest commercial bank in the country, Baninter, linked to a major incident of fraud valued at $3.5 billion. The Baninter fraud had a devastating effect on the Dominican economy, with GDP dropping by 1% in 2003 as inflation ballooned by over 27%. All defendants, including the star of the trial, Ramón Báez Figueroa(the great-grandson of President Buenaventura Báez), were convicted.
According to the 2005 Annual Report of the United Nations Subcommittee on Human Development in the Dominican Republic, the country is ranked No. 71 in the world for resource availability, No. 79 for human development, and No. 14 in the world for resource mismanagement. These statistics emphasize national government corruption, foreign economic interference in the country, and the rift between the rich and poor.
The Dominican Republic has a noted problem of child labor in its coffee, rice, sugarcane, and tomato industries. The labor injustices in the sugarcane industry extend to forced labor according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Three large groups own 75% of the land: the State Sugar Council (Consejo Estatal del Azúcar, CEA), Grupo Vicini, and Central Romana Corporation.