Occupying the eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic is a country in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean region. The country is one of the most geographically diverse in the region and provides innumerable opportunities for adventure and eco-tourism. Aside from the Dominican Republic’s image as a sun-blessed playground with spectacular beaches, it is home to lush valleys, rich flora and fauna, cascading waterfalls, and colonial buildings. Here are some interesting facts about the Dominican Republic.
Facts about the Dominican Republic
1. The Dominican Republic is the second-largest country in the Caribbean.
The Dominican Republic is the second-largest country in the Caribbean after Cuba. With an area of 48,671 km² (18,792 sq mi), the Dominican Republic is the 128th largest nation in the world. It is located on the island of Hispaniola and shares its land boundary with Haiti (376 km/234 mi).
2. The Dominican Republic is home to the highest point in the Caribbean.
About four-fifths of the Dominican Republic is mountainous, particularly in the west, where the Cordillera Central dominates the landscape. Rising to 3,098 m (10,164 ft), the mist-shrouded Pico Duarte is not only the tallest mountain in the Dominican Republic but also the highest peak in the Caribbean.
3. The Dominican Republic is also home to the lowest point in the Caribbean.
One of the interesting facts about the Dominican Republic is that it is also home to the lowest point in the Caribbean. Located in the southwest of the country, Lake Enriquillo (-46 m/-151 ft) is also the lowest-lying point on an island. This saline lake is also home to a large population of American crocodiles.
4. The coastline of the Dominican Republic is 1,288 km (800 mi).
The Dominican Republic’s 1,288 km (800 mi) long coastline is famous for its white-sand beaches, warm waters, and rocky cliffs. The coastline is bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the north.
5. Before European colonization, the Dominican Republic was inhabited by several Amerindian Arawak groups.
Little is known about the Arawaks, the Dominican Republic’s first inhabitants, who arrived in four distinct waves from the Orinoco and Amazon river basins in present-day Guyana and Venezuela, beginning around 3000 BC.
Around 600 to 800 AD, the Tainos, one of the Arawak groups, arrived in the present-day Dominican Republic and became the dominant people there. The final Arawak migrants were the warlike Caribs, who arrived after populating the Lesser Antilles, the smaller islands to the east.
6. The Dominican Republic is home to the oldest continuously-inhabited European-established settlement in the Americas.
In 1498, Bartholomew Columbus, Christopher Columbus’s brother, founded the settlement of Santo Domingo along the southern coast, near the Ozama River. Santo Domingo grew to become the first permanent European city in the New World and the capital of the emerging Spanish Empire in the Caribbean.
7. The Dominican Republic was formerly under Spanish, French, and Haitian rule.
The Dominican Republic was ruled by the Spanish for over three centuries. The demise of indigenous people on the island, resulted in Spain bringing over slaves to work the plantations.
However, the importance of the country waned during the 16th and 17th centuries as the Spanish abandoned it for more economically promising areas such as Cuba and Mexico. A series of natural and man-made disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and raiding parties – also befell the colony.
In 1795, under the Treaty of Basel, Spain ceded the country to France and the French retained it until 1809. After a brief attempt at independence, the Dominicans fell under the control of Spain. In 1821, the Dominicans proclaimed their independence from Spain seeking to become part of Simón Bolívar’s newly independent Republic of Gran Colombia.
However, in 1822, the newly-independent Haitians conquered Santo Domingo (The Dominican Republic). For 22 years, the Haitians ruled with an iron fist during which the slaves were freed and major, highly chaotic land redistribution took place.
By the 1830s, a resistance movement was brewing among white property owners, and finally in 1844 after an uprising led by Juan Pablo Duarte, the Dominicans gained independence from Haiti and established the Dominican Republic.
8. The Dominican Republic is named after Saint Dominic.
The Dominican Republic gets its name from Santo Domingo de Guzmán (Saint Dominic), founder of the Order of the Dominicans. The whole country was named Santo Domingo in English until the early 20th century and the residents were called “Dominicans” (Dominicanos).
After gaining independence, the people called their country La República Dominicana (The Dominican Republic).
9. The capital of the Dominican Republic is Santo Domingo.
The capital and largest city of the Dominican Republic is Santo Domingo. With a population of about 3 million in the metro area, Santo Domingo is also the largest metropolitan area in the Caribbean. It is also the cultural, financial, commercial, and industrial center of the country.
10. The Dominican Republic was under US occupation from 1916 to 1924.
One of the lesser-known facts about the Dominican Republic is that the country came under US occupation for a brief period in the early 20th century. After the Dominican Republic gained independence in 1844, the country remained roiled in turmoil, with periodic coups, outbreaks of civil war, and economic crises alternating with all-too-short periods of relative peace and prosperity.
In the early 20th century, the Dominican Republic’s sugar industry had attracted significant investment from the US government. Concerned about the political and economic stability of the Dominican Republic and rising German influence in the region, the United States responded by sending the Marines to the country in 1916.
From 1916 through 1924 the US Navy administered the Dominican Republic from its base in Santo Domingo. During this period, the Americans reorganized the country’s tax system, built a new system of highways, improved primary education, and suppressed much of the domestic political violence that had torn the country apart for decades.
11. From 1930 to 1961, the Dominican Republic was under the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo.
In 1930, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, a one-time telegraph operator, staged a coup, won a trumped-up election (claiming 95% of the vote), and quickly established totalitarian control over the Dominican Republic for three decades. Only one party was allowed, the press was totally controlled, and constant purges weeded out all but his most servile supporters.
Although Trujillo brought a degree of peace and economic prosperity to the republic that it had not previously enjoyed, Trujillo’s rule was marked by a litany of human rights abuses, spies, intimidation, and assassination that eliminated his opponents and created a climate of fear in the general population.
All Dominican citizens were required to carry identification cards that identified them by number; if they couldn’t provide the police with a good reason for why they were walking the streets at a certain time, they were arrested.
Trujillo transformed the Dominican Republic into his personal fiefdom and appointed family members to the highest positions in the government. By confiscating most of the country’s chief industries and a good deal of its land, Trujillo enriched himself and his cronies with the proceeds. He even had the capital renamed Ciudad Trujillo (Trujillo City) in his honor.
For most of his rule, Trujillo was actively supported by the United States because of his staunch anti-Communism. Trujillo’s reign of terror continued until 1961 when he was ambushed while traveling in his automobile and gunned down by seven assassins, some of whom were members of his own armed forces.
12. The Dominican Republic has gone through more constitutions than any other country in the world.
One of the astonishing Dominican Republic facts is that it has gone through as many as 39 constitutions, more than any other country in the world, since its independence in 1844. The Dominican Republic’s current constitution was promulgated in June 2015.
13. The Dominican Republic is the only place in the world where Larimar is found.
The extremely rare and sea-blue-colored gemstone Larimar is found only in the Dominican Republic. It is considered a healing stone and said to be finely tuned to the human body, particularly to the throat area.
14. The Dominican Republic is home to several firsts in the Americas or the “New World”.
In addition to being home to the first permanent settlement in the Americas, the Dominican Republic is home to several other firsts –
- First Hospital in the Americas: Hospital de San Nicolás de Bari
- First Cathedral in the Americas: Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor
- First Paved Street in the Americas: Street of the Ladies (Calle Las Damas)
- First Monastery in the Americas: Monasterio de San Francisco
- First Military Construction of European Origin in the Americas: Ozama Fortress
- First University in the Americas: St. Thomas Aquinas University (Universidad de Santo Tomás de Aquino)
- First Stone House in the Americas: Casa del Cordón
15. The national tree of the Dominican Republic is the West Indian Mahogany.
The West Indian Mahogany is the national tree of the Dominican Republic and is protected from unrestricted cutting.
16. The Palmchat is the national bird of the Dominican Republic.
The native thrush-bird palmchat (cigua palmera) takes its name because it builds complex nests high on the trunks of royal palm trees in coastal lowlands. The palmchat is about 20 cm (8 in) in size and is found in abundance in the Dominican Republic. It is greenish-brown in color above and cream-buff, heavily streaked with brown, below.
17. The Bayahibe Rose is the national flower of the Dominican Republic.
The pink-colored Bayahibe Rose belongs to the cactus family and is one of the few cactus species that has leaves. It is endemic to the country and found along the coastline of the Bayahibe region. Unfortunately, this beautiful flower is critically endangered due to habitat loss.
18. The Dominican Republic is the only country in the world to have a Bible on its national flag.
One of the most unique facts about the Dominican Republic is that it is the only country in the world whose national flag features a Bible. The Bible on the Dominican Republic’s flag is said to be opened to the Gospel of John, 8:32, which reads Y la verdad nos hará libre (And the truth shall set you free).
It’s also interesting to know that the national flag of the Dominican Republic is one of only eight national flags in the world whose design incorporates a depiction of the flag itself.
19. The currency of the Dominican Republic is the Dominican peso (DOP).
The Dominican Peso (DOP) was first issued for circulation in 1844 after the Dominican Republic gained independence from Haiti. The official peso symbol is “$”.
20. The Dominican Republic is ethnically diverse.
One of the remarkable facts about the Dominican Republic is how ethnically diverse its population is. The Dominican population consists of three main groups—multiracials (mulattoes and mestizos of mixed indigenous, African, and European descent), Afro-Dominicans, and people of European & Middle Eastern descent.
There is such a generalized mixing of races over time that it is difficult to define exact parameters for any individual. It is estimated that multiracials form about 70% of the population, Afro-Dominicans make up 16% of the population, and people of European ancestry (whites) account for about 13% of the population.
Afro-Dominicans are descendants of African slaves taken to Colombia from the 16th to 18 centuries from places such as modern-day Angola, Benin, Gambia, DR Congo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Liberia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Senegal. There’s also a significant number of Haitian immigrants and their descendants.
White Dominicans are mostly of Spanish descent from the early settlers, but also those who arrived in the last 150 years from places like Germany, France, the Netherlands, Hungary, Portugal, Italy, Lebanon, and Syria. The remainder of the Dominican Republic’s population is mostly East Asian (primarily ethnic Chinese and Japanese).
21. Spanish is the official language of the Dominican Republic.
Dominican Spanish shares many similarities with Canarian Spanish. In addition, it has influences from African languages and borrowed words from indigenous Caribbean languages. Haitian Creole is the second-most spoken language in the Dominican Republic.
22. Christianity is the major religion in the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican Republic is a predominantly Christian country. The majority of the population identifies as Roman Catholic (≈50-70%), while approximately 15-20% identify as Protestant. The remainder of the Dominican population is either irreligious or belongs to other religions.
23. Baseball is the most popular sport in the Dominican Republic.
Baseball is undoubtedly the most popular sport in the Dominican Republic. Since it was first introduced in the country in the late-19th century, Dominican passion for the game makes American baseball fanaticism pale in comparison.
The Dominican Republic is responsible for a disproportionate number of today’s top baseball players and after the United States, the Dominican Republic has the second-highest number of baseball players in Major League Baseball (MLB). Some of the most notable Dominican or players of Dominican heritage are Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martínez, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero, David Ortiz, Juan Marichal, Bartolo Colón, and Nelson Cruz.
24. Abortion is completely illegal in the Dominican Republic.
One of the most notable facts about the Dominican Republic is that it is one of the few countries of the world which have a complete ban on abortion, without an exception for saving maternal life.
25. La Bandera is the national dish of the Dominican Republic.
The most typical of all Dominican meals – La Bandera, meaning “the flag,” consists of meat (either beef, chicken, pork, or fish) served with rice and beans. It is sometimes accompanied by tostones (fried green plantains), and a side of salad.
26. There is only one UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Dominican Republic.
The one and only UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Dominican Republic is the Colonial City of Santo Domingo. However, there are 13 sites on the tentative list.
27. The national drink of the Dominican Republic is Mama Juana.
The potent Dominican drink called Mama Juana is made by combining rum, red wine, and honey, and then allowing that mixture to soak with tree bark and herbs. Many Dominicans claim this hard-to-stomach concoction prolongs both sexual potency and life span.
28. Members of the Armed Forces and National Police cannot vote in the Dominican Republic.
One of the more obscure facts about the Dominican Republic is that it is one of the very few nations in the world whose armed forces and national police personnel are constitutionally prohibited to vote in the national elections.
29. The Dominican Republic is the most visited country in the Caribbean.
The Dominican Republic’s year-round pleasant climate, intriguing colonial relics, friendly locals, and stunning natural scenery have helped to make it the most visited nation in the Caribbean. The country sees over 6 million tourist arrivals each year and tourism plays a big part in the economy of the Dominican Republic.
30. The merengue dance and music originated in the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican Republic is credited with creating and developing the merengue style of music and dance. Merengue music is easily identified by its omnipresent beat pattern and the instrumentation is a blend of traditional rural orchestration with contemporary electronics and strong, salsa-influenced horn sections.
The Merengue dance is the Dominican Republic’s national dance and accompanies the merengue style of music. It involves a pair of dancing partners holding hands at chest-level and moving in slow, sensuous semi-circles to the rhythm of the music.
31. Some prominent Hollywood films have been shot in the Dominican Republic.
Since the 1970s, the Dominican Republic has provided the background for numerous Hollywood productions. The country is a highly sought-after film location due to its breathtaking beauty and iconic architectural landmarks.
Some of the most notable Hollywood films to have been shot in the Dominican Republic are The Godfather Part II (1974), Sorcerer (1977), Apocalypse Now (1979), Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Jurassic Park (1993), The Good Shepherd (2006), Miami Vice (2006), Fast & Furious (2009), 47 Meters Down (2017), and XXX: Return of Xander Cage (2017).
32. The Dominican Republic is home to the largest gold mine in the Americas.
Gold mining is a major industry in the Dominican Republic and the country is home to the largest gold mine in the Americas. Located in the central Sánchez Ramírez Province, the Pueblo Viejo open-pit gold mine is also the 8th largest gold mine in the world.
33. The Dominican Republic was the first country in the Caribbean to abolish the death penalty.
The Dominican Republic abolished the death penalty in 1966, becoming the first nation in the Caribbean to do so.
34. The Dominican Republic doesn’t observe daylight-saving time.
Daylight saving hasn’t been observed in the Dominican Republic since 1974.