The Dominican Republic is located on the island of Hispaniola (part of the Greater Antilles island chain in the Caribbean Sea). The country, which claimed independence in July of 1924, occupies five-eighths of the total island, which is being shared with the island Haiti. Hispaniola is one of two Caribbean islands, along with Saint Martin that is shared by two countries. In terms of area and population, the Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean Country (after Cuba). With roughly 18,700 square miles (48,445 square kilometers) of total land space and an estimated population of 10.1 million permanent inhabitants. Two million habitants live in the capital city of Santo Domingo.
History of the Dominican Republic – Indians: 3500 – 1496
5,000 years before Christopher Columbus discovered The Dominican Republic the island was inhabited by indigenous people whom he called “Indians.” Anthropologists have traced multiple waves of indigenous immigration from two principal places. Some of the early Amer-Indians came from Central America (most likely Yucatan and Belize) and some came from South America, descendants of the Arawakan Indians in Amazonia, many of whom passed through the Orinocco Valley in Venezuela. It is from the blending of these waves of indigenous immigrants that the Taíno Indians, the people who welcomed Columbus on his arrival, are believed to have originated.
The word Taíno meant “good” or “noble” in their language, which they showed Columbus and his Spanish crew with their peaceful and generous hospitality. Early Spanish chroniclers document they saw no Taíno Indians fighting amongst themselves in fact, they substituted a ballgame called batey for battles. Estimates based on recent archaeological and demographic research indicate there were probably thousands of Taíno’s living on the island when the spanish arrived.
History of the Dominican Republic – Columbus: 1496-1844
The history of Dominican Republic made the biggest change when Columbus arrived. The eastern half of the island Hispaniola, now known as the Dominican Republic, is the earliest of all the European colonies in the western hemisphere. The settlement of Santo Domingo is established on the south coast in 1496 by Diego Columbus, younger brother of the explorer Christopher Colon. Santo became the main base for Spanish activities until the conquest of Mexico.
In 1664 the Spanish lose to the French the western half of the island, now called Haiti, which is liberated from colonial rule by Toussaint L’Ouverture in the 1790s. Toussaint is rapidly followed by several others in the rule of Haiti.
Haiti achieves some degree of stability under Jean Pierre Boyer, who wins power after the death of Henri Christophe in 1820. Two years later Boyer invades and overwhelms the eastern half of the island, Santo Domingo, where the inhabitants have in 1821 risen in rebellion against Spain.
Boyer rules French-speaking Haiti, and governs Spanish-speaking Santo Domingo as a conquered province, until he is overthrown in a revolution in 1843. The upheaval of that year also gives Santo Domingo the chance to throw off the yoke of Haiti. The eastern half of the island proclaims its independence, as the Dominican Republic, in 1844. Hispaniola, the oldest European colony in the western hemisphere, becomes also the first region to be free.
History of the Dominican Republic – Dictators: 1844-1961
From the start some people in the Dominican Republic maintain that independence is a foolhardy step, largely because they fear invasion by their larger neighbor, Haiti. From 1861 to 1865 the nation even returns voluntarily to the status of a Spanish colony. At other times there is talk of seeking annexation by the USA.
In the early 20th century there was a danger of European countries intervening forcibly to recover their debts, and for a while US rule is forced within the country. In 1916 a combination of economic chaos and incipient civil war persuades Woodrow Wilson to send in the marines (they are already next door in Haiti). American military government lasts for eight years, until 1924, controlling the country.
A more local solution to the permanent threat of political chaos is dictatorship, under which some degree of economic progress is made at the high price of oppression, torture and corruption. Two rulers in particular, both singularly brutal and long-lasting.
The first such regime, lasting from 1882 to 1899, is that of Ulises Heureaux. The next is an even longer period of enforced stability under Rafael Trujillo, an army officer who seizes power in a coup in 1930 and retains it until his violent death, when assassins rake his car with machine-gun fire, in 1961.
History of the Dominican Republic – Delivering democracy: 1961 – 2017
During the Early attempts to establish democracy after the assassination of the dictator Trujillo are stopt by a succession of coups, civil war and even the renewal of American military intervention in 1965 on the supposed fear of a communist takeover. But from 1966 presidential elections are held every four years, and from 1978 they are fully open to opposing political parties.
The political life of the Republic during these decades is dominated by a lawyer and historian, Joaquin Balaguer, who has previously held many government posts during the Trujillo dictatorship and got elected president in 1966. Balaguer retains the post in undemocratic elections of 1970 and 1974. International pressure imposes higher standards of democracy from 1978, when Balaguer loses to Antonio Guzmán. Guzmán in turn loses to Salvador Blanco in 1982. But in 1986, 1990 and 1994 the ageing Balaguer, by now blind, is once again elected to the presidency.
Allegations of electoral fraud in the 1994 result lead to a new election in 1996 from which Balaguer is barred. His departure severs the last link with the Trujillo era. The political parties of the Dominican Republic are perhaps at last free to undertake normal political life. Currently, President Danilo Medina is in charge of the country since 2012. He has been voted as the most popular president in Latin America. The history of Dominican Republic has been a vibrant one, currently Dominican Republic is more successful as it ever has been, with a yearly economic growth of 6% in the recent years and a decrease in poverty and crime.