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Dominican RepublicThe name Dominican Republic is a relatively new name for the country. The region was called Santo Domingo for much of history (the name the capital still uses), named after St. Dominic. When the country was formed the adjective form of Dominic or Domingo was added to the country name, Dominican Republic.

República Dominicana


The Dominican Republic is home to the oldest European settlement in the Americas and life on the island exists due to the region's geography. In addition to having a mountainous interior that helped protect settlements, the land is also fertile, especially the valleys, making life on the island sustainable. Despite the fertile land that can sustain life, the region primarily flourished with the arrival of the Europeans due to trade, not because of the food and animals present on the island. The location of the island allows it to control trade in nearly every direction.

Prior to the Spanish and the trade networks they developed, the people living in the region of modern day Dominican Republic lived off the lands. These people lived simple lives with a unique culture, however with the arrival of the Spanish and other Europeans these people and their culture were almost completely destroyed through diseases and wars. After this, the Spanish controlled the region in nearly every way, including culturally as many aspects of Spanish life were brought to the island with the merchants and settlers.

With the loss of the local population, the Spanish had no laborers other than themselves so they turned to slavery for cheap labor. As much of the trade was focused on agriculture, a lot of manual labor was required in the region so people from Africa were brought in to become slaves in the fields, mines, and elsewhere. Despite the heavy Spanish cultural influences, the Spanish population was small in comparison to the growing African population as the culture dramatically changed.

This alteration in culture and way of life in the Dominican Republic continued as the sugarcane industry exploded and Spain lost power on the seas. Also throughout history many slaves fled into the mountains as the coastal settlements struggled with the rise of piracy. As the coastal culture remained primarily Spanish, in the mountains there was a growing African population and an emerging culture based on both the surviving natives as well as the slaves.

Even today all of these past cultural influences can be seen to some degree. The Spanish left perhaps the most noticeable mark as today most people speak Spanish, are Catholic, and tend to live a more European-influenced lifestyle. However, the lifestyle is still based on the lands and farms, while the African and indigenous populations have made a lasting mark on the music, food, and lifestyle in numerous other ways. In addition to these influences dictating the culture, the lifestyle and location, particularly comparing the coasts to mountains, have a lasting impact as the country is home to numerous sub-cultures.

Today these cultures and sub-cultures remain unique; people on the coasts are reliant on fishing and increasingly on tourism, while the people in the mountains and valleys focus on farming. Likewise, one town or city may appear very European, while many more rural areas may maintain its roots in Africa depending on the ethnic make-up and history of the people.

Information for Dominican Republic was last updated: March, 2014 ● View our: Sources & Special Thanks