The Dominican Republic is a Spanish-speaking representative democracy located on the eastern portion of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, bordering Haiti. A legacy of unsettled, mostly non-representative, rule for much of the 20th century — most notably the thirty-two year reign of the military leader Rafael Leónidas Trujillo — lasted until 1961.
The Dominican Republic ("do-MIN-i-kun") should not be confused with Dominica ("do-min-EE-ka"), another Caribbean country.
Main article: History of the Dominican Republic
The country has had a history of changing ownership, with Spain, France, Haiti, Spain again, and the United States (twice) taking their turns at ruling Dominican territory amid attempts at independence and self-rule. The twentieth century was marked by repeated US intervention in local affairs. Apart from the history of US support for the Trujillo dictatorship (1930-1961), the most infamous example of this is the 1965 invasion by American troops in the midst of a Dominican civil war, an uprising that was sparked by an attempt to restore the republic's first democratically-elected president of the 20th century, Juan Bosch, who had been overthrown by an American backed right-wing coup in 1963. This invasion had the effect of establishing the rule of Joaquín Balaguer (1966-1978), and ensuring that Juan Bosch's constitutional government never returned to power.
Main article: Politics of the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a representative democracy whose national powers are divided among independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The president appoints the cabinet, executes laws passed by the legislative branch, and is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president and vice president run for office on the same ticket and are elected by direct vote for four-year terms.
Legislative power is exercised by a bicameral National Congress — the Senate (32 members), and the Chamber of Deputies (150 members). Presidential elections are held in years evenly divisible by four. Congressional and municipal elections are held in even-numbered years not divisible by four.
Main article: Provinces of the Dominican Republic
Map of the Dominican Republic
Main article: Geography of the Dominican Republic
The capital is Santo Domingo. The second largest city is Santiago de los Caballeros, more commonly referred to as simply Santiago.
The country has three major mountain ranges: The Central Mountains, which originate in Haiti and span the central part of the island, ending up in the South. This mountain range boasts the highest peak in the Antilles, Pico Duarte (3 175 m above sea level). The Septentrional Mountains, running parallel to the Central Mountains, separate the Cibao Valley and the Atlantic coastal plains. The highest point here is Pico Diego de Ocampo. The lowest and shortest of the three ranges is the Eastern Mountains, in the eastern part of the country. There are also the Sierra Bahoruco and the Sierra Neyba in the southwest. This is a country of many rivers, including the navigable Soco, Higuamo, Romana, Yaque del Norte, Yaque del Sur, Yuna, Yuma, and Bajabonico.
Main article: Demographics of the Dominican Republic
The majority of Dominicans are of mixed European and African descent. About 11% of Dominicans are primarily of African descent, including many Haitian migrants and their descendants. About 16% of Dominicans are of Spanish or other European origin. The rest are Asian, mostly of Chinese descent, and Middle Easterners, mostly Arab. Dominican culture is essentially Hispanic, and also has many African, Antilliean, and United States influences.
Since the early 1960s, economic problems have led to a vast migration of Dominicans to the US, mainly to large east coast cities. New York City's Washington Heights is so densely populated by Dominicans, it is sometimes referred to as Quisqueya Heights. Quisqueya is believed to be the name given to the eastern side of Hispaniola by its original inhabitants, the Arawak Indians, although this version is disputed by some historians. Dominicans are now one of the largest Latino groups in the US.
Main article: Culture of the Dominican Republic
89% of Dominicans are baptised in the Roman Catholic Church
The Dominican Republic is known for a form of music called merengue, which has been popular since the mid- to late-1800s.