The Dominican Republic is the second largest island country in the Caribbean and is located on the isle of Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti. The eastern 5/8 of Hispaniola is the Dominican Republic. It is a country rich in history and its physical characteristics are varied, from magnificent mountains to beautiful beaches, complemented by warm people. With such a storied past, the Dominican Republic culture is also one of its greatest assets.
- It takes up 18,705 square miles and is home to almost 10 million people. About 1 million live in Santo Domingo, which is the capital. Although its history dates back to the 7th Century, it’s believed that Christopher Columbus landed on the island in 1492 and a European settlement was put into place shortly thereafter. Most of them put their roots down in Santo Domingo, which then became Spain’s first capital in what was being called the New World. The Dominican Republic became independent in 1821 after more than three years of Spanish rule.
- Spanish is the main language here, so it might be in your best interest to learn some basic Spanish with this course that is focused on understanding and responding to spoken Spanish. This will enable you to communicate well with the island’s people, but it doesn’t hurt to step it up a notch and learn how to write in Spanish as well.
- The Dominican Republic’s independence was actually short lived. It went through decades of internal political strife, a return to rule under Spain for a short time and was even occupied by the U.S. from 1916 until 1924. There was more civil strife, and in 1965, the U.S. intervened to end the civil war. Over the years, this beautiful island country has worked with a democracy type of government.
- Economically, the Dominican Republic is the second biggest in the Caribbean and ninth in Latin America. Agriculture and mining are two of its main industries. However, tourism has become one of its biggest employers. In fact, it is the most visited country in the Caribbean.
- One huge attraction is the fact that it offers year-round golfing with about 25 full courses. Golfers from all over the world flock here to enjoy round after round against the backdrop of mountains and glorious weather – the average temperature in the Dominican Republic is 78 degrees. Whether you are an amateur or a veteran on the links, it can’t hurt to hone up on your golf swing before you head to this beautiful golfing hot spot. Check out these instructional videos so you can master the various courses in the Dominican Republic.
Food, Music, Art And Baseball
With a history of Spanish people, Africans and the native Taino Indians, the Dominican Republic culture is a quite a blend, very much reflected in the food, music and dances of the country. Merengue and bachata are the most popular music and dance forms. In fact, the Dominicans are known to have created merengue, which ultimately spread to the U.S. in the ‘80s when there was an influx of Dominican immigrants to New York City and Miami. While merengue is fast-paced, bachata is more of a romantic style, which originated in the countryside of the country.
When it comes to food, the Spanish had quite an impact on this Caribbean island. Here are some of the most prominent and popular dishes:
- Sancocho – a seven-meat stew that also includes root vegetables and plantain.
- Mangu – only found in the Dominican Republic, this is mashed plantain, which are usually served with breakfast.
- Habichuelas guisadas – this is basically stewed beans, usually served with white rice.
- Pollo guisado – braised chicken seasoned in an island way.
- Tostones – twice fried plantains (that are not quite ripe).
- Bizcocho Dominicano – a special cake that is airy, buttery and with a pineapple filling.
- Morir sonando – this a Dominican tradition, made of mile and orange juice.
As to art, many Dominicans are skilled craftsman, reflected in their ability and talent for using various indigenous items to make jewelry, figurines and other art pieces. Bright colors characterize the artwork that you can find on display everywhere and buy in the local shops and open-air markets. Materials they use include bone, horn and coconut husks, clay, porcelain, hemp and larimar (a blue stone found only in the Dominican Republic) to make numerous items.
But you can’t talk about Dominican Republic culture and not mention baseball. It’s as popular as soccer, if not more so. In fact, it’s the country’s national pastime, as well as a part of its identity and pride. A whopping 40 percent of U.S. Major League Baseball players are from Latin America, with a majority of them coming from the Dominican Republic. U.S. baseball scouts practically live here during the off-season, looking for the next Pedro Martinez, Albert Pujols and Sammy Sosa.
Whether you want to scout players or indulge in some play yourself, it can’t hurt to learn about the secrets to hitting a baseball, as well as how to teach them. Who knows? Maybe you will be the one to train or discover the next superstar!
More the Dominican Republic Culture
Dominican Republic culture is reflected in the country’s celebrations, such as the Festival de Café Organico de Polo. It’s an event that is only 10 years old, but it celebrates an age-old tradition to mark the end of the coffee-growing season. The festival lasts a whole weekend and is marked by a coffee parade, merengue and bachata music, and stands that sell coffee (of course!), food and arts and crafts. It takes place the first weekend in June.
Carnival is celebrated every Sunday in February, as it is in most Caribbean and several Latin American countries. The Dominican Republic version ends in Santo Domingo on the last Sunday with a huge party and parade.
Other cultural events include the Cultural Festival on the third weekend in June, which is celebrated in different locations. Merengue, blues, jazz and folk music can be heard at Fuerte de San Felipe, while troops from the capital city of Santo Domingo engage in traditional dances from a variety of music forms, such as African spirituals, bachata and salsa.
In addition, there is the Dominican Jazz Festival in November in Santiago and the Merengue Festival at the end of July in a section of Santo Domingo called the Malecon, when the streets are blocked off and are filled with music, food and arts and crafts.
A couple noteworthy events include the Master of the Ocean competition, which is a triathlon of water sports held the final week of February. You can participate or watch athletes compete in surfing, windsurfing and kite surfing. And for the whole family, especially the kids, a fixture in Dominican Republic culture – building sand castles. There is an actual International Sand Castle Competition in Cabarete during the last week of February.
If you are headed to Cabarete, which is a gorgeous beach area, you definitely want to look your best and be in great shape to be able to enjoy the area’s water-oriented and beach activities. Before you go, take this course to get a 30-minute beach body workout. It will help you lose weight and tone your body. Who knows? Maybe you can enter the Master of the Ocean competition. Indeed, the Cabarete area is fast becoming a popular destination for the sophisticated beach goes who is also interested in water sports. One area is particular is called Kite Beach and is often filled with… you guessed it… kites filling the air. Another beach in the vicinity is Plata Cabarete, a great place to lie in the sun and watch the water sports enthusiasts.
In addition to fascinating Dominican Republic culture, this island paradise has lots of white sandy beaches. It’s almost totally surrounded by water, which gives it a lot of diversity when it comes to natural habitats. There are private (almost secret) pirate coves, rocky cliffs, windswept sand dunes and lagoons, much of which is shaded by natural palm trees.
Some things to take note of are some of the spacious bays and coves where humpback whales that are migrating often stop for a break. There is also great fishing and in fact villages devoted to fishing.
Much of the island is actually rural, filled with small rivers, lush jungle and even waterfalls. If you are in the two main cities, Santo Domingo and Santiago, there are tons of sights that reflect the Spanish rule in the architecture of homes, churches and even castles.
Some More Tidbits
- The Dominican Republic’s currency is the peso; however, most of its tourist destinations also accept American and Canadian dollars as well as euros.
- The country has the Caribbean’s highest mountaintop – Pico Duarte.
- Lake Enriguillo is the Caribbean’s largest lake and lowest elevation.
- Santo Domino is home to the America’s first cathedral, castle, monastery and fortes, all located in an area designated by UNESCO World Heritage.
- The island country is indeed a melting pot, with 73 percent of its population considered “mixed,” 16 percent white and 11 percent Black.
- Dominican Republic is more than 68 percent Roman Catholic, although you can find just about any religious affiliation within its border.
Wow. So much to do and so much to see, and we just touched on a few things. It’s a vast and beautiful island and the Dominican Republic culture offers you a lot in sights and sounds. Plan a vacation to the Dominican Republic and you won’t be disappointed!