views updated May 17 2018




Identification. "Dominicans" is the term used to describe the people of the Dominican Republic. The native population of Taino Indians was decimated during the Spanish Conquest, which began in 1492 and came to be characterized by forced labor and newly introduced diseases. Africans were imported as slaves to replace the Indians on the plantations and in the mines. Today Dominicans physically reflect the ancestry of Europe and Africa; over 70 percent of Dominicans are now officially considered mulatto. Even though the majority of the Dominican people are classified by the government as mulattoes, social status and skin color are correlated, with lighter-skinned Dominicans dominating business, government, and society. Mulattoes constitute most of the Dominican middle class; the working classes are mostly Black or dark mulatto. Other ethnic groups in the Dominican Republic are Lebanese, Chinese, Italians, French, Jews, Japanese, Haitians, and West Indians.

Location. The island of Hispaniola, one of the Greater Antilles, lies between Cuba and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea. The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds (i.e., 48,464 square kilometers) of Hispaniola and is strikingly diverse geographically. The Dominican Republic contains mountain ranges interspersed with fertile valleys, lush rain forests, semiarid deserts, rich farmlands, and spectacular beaches. The western third of the island of Hispaniola is the nation of Haiti.

Many Dominicans have migrated to other countries in search of employment and increased opportunity. Between 5 and 8 percent of the population of the Dominican Republic live and work in the United Statesmost of them in New York City, but substantial numbers have also settled in New Jersey and Florida. Migration between the Dominican Republic and other islands of the Caribbean is less well documented.

Demography. There were about 7,915,000 Dominicans in 1993. About half of them lived in the campo (countryside) and worked mainly as peasant farmers. Because of the relative poverty in the countryside, more and more Dominicans have migrated to cities such as Santo Domingo (the capital city), Santiago de los Caballeros, La Vega, San Francisco de Macorís, La Romana, and Puerto Plata on the north coast.

During the period of Rafael Trujillo's rule, from 1930 to 1961, Dominican immigration to the United States was severely limited, given Trujillo's domestic agenda, which depended on a steady supply of an expendable labor source. Dominicans did migrate however, even with Trujillo's restrictive policies. Between 1950 and 1960, almost 10,000 Dominicans emigrated to the United States and became legal residents. Following the overthrow of Trujillo in 1961 and the lifting of his restrictive policies, migration to the United States increased substantially. Between 1961 and 1981, 255,578 legal immigrants entered the United States from the Dominican Republic. It is much more difficult to estimate the number of undocumented Dominicans in the United States. Reports suggest that Dominicans are third among immigrant groups from Latin America admitted into the United States. The economic crisis of the early 1980s has further increased the number of Dominicans seeking to emigrate to the United States. Research suggests that those Dominicans who succeed in doing so are most often young, predominantly urban in origin, often skilled and semiprofessional, and better educated than Dominican nonmigrants.

In 1993 the crude birthrate in the Dominican Republic was 25.2 per thousand, the crude death rate was 5.8 per thousand, the infant mortality rate was 49.3 per thousand, and total life expectancy at birth was 69 years.

Linguistic Affiliation. Spanish is the language spoken by Dominicans. Although there are some regional dialects of Spanish in the Dominican Republic, Dominicans pride themselves on the "purity" of their Spanish. Dominican Spanish is considered by some to be perhaps the clearest, most classical Spanish spoken in Latin America. According to some authors, this may be the result of the virtual elimination of the native population and the fact that the Dominican Republic was the first Spanish-settled colony in the New World.

History, Politics, and Cultural Relations

The history of the Dominican Republic, both colonial and postcolonial, is marked by continued interference by international forces and a Dominican ambivalence toward its own leadership. Between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Dominican Republic was ruled both by Spain and France and occupied both by the United States and Haiti. Three political leaders influenced Dominican politics from the 1930s to the 1990s. The dictator Rafael Trujillo ran the country for thirty-one years, until 1961. In the years following Trujillo's murder, two aging caudillos, Juan Bosch and Joaquín Balaguer, vied for control of the Dominican government.

In 1492, when Columbus first landed in what is now the Dominican Republic, he named the island "Española," which means "Little Spain." The spelling of the name was later changed to Hispaniola. The city of Santo Domingo, on the southern coast of Hispaniola, was established as the Spanish capital in the New World. Santo Domingo became a walled city, modeled after those of medieval Spain, and a center of transplanted Spanish culture. The Spanish built churches, hospitals, and schools and established commerce, mining, and agriculture.

In the process of settling and exploiting Hispaniola, the native Taino Indians were eradicated by the harsh forced-labor practices of the Spanish and the diseases the Spanish brought with them, to which indigenous peoples had no immunity. Because the rapid decimation of the Taino left the Spanish in need of laborers in the mines and on the plantations, Africans were imported as a slave labor force. During this time, the Spanish established a strict two-class social system based on race, a political system based on authoritarianism and hierarchy, and an economic system based on state domination. After about fifty years, the Spanish abandoned Hispaniola for more economically promising areas such as Cuba, Mexico, and other new colonies in Latin America. The institutions of government, economy, and society that were established, however, have persisted in the Dominican Republic throughout its history.

After its virtual abandonment, once-prosperous Hispaniola fell into a state of disorganization and depression lasting almost two hundred years. In 1697 Spain handed over the western third of Hispaniola to the French, and in 1795 gave the French the eastern two-thirds as well. By that time, the western third of Hispaniola (then called Hayti) was prosperous, producing sugar and cotton in an economic system based on slavery. The formerly Spanish-controlled eastern two-thirds was economically impoverished, with most people surviving on subsistence farming. After the Haitian slave rebellion, which resulted in Haitian independence in 1804, the Black armies of Haiti attempted to take control of the former Spanish colony, but the French, Spanish, and British fought off the Haitians. The eastern part of Hispaniola reverted to Spanish rule in 1809. The Haitian armies once again invaded in 1821, and in 1822 gained control of the entire island, which they maintained until 1844.

In 1844 Juan Pablo Duarte, the leader of the Dominican independence movement, entered Santo Domingo and declared the eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola an independent nation, naming it the Dominican Republic. Duarte was unable to hold power, however, which soon passed to two generals, Buenaventura Báez and Pedro Santana. These men looked to the "greatness" of the sixteenth-century colonial period as a model and sought out the protection of a large foreign power. As a result of corrupt and inept leadership, the country was bankrupt by 1861, and power was handed over to the Spanish again until 1865. Báez continued as president until 1874; Ulises Espaillat then took control until 1879.

In 1882 a modernizing dictator, Ulises Heureaux, took control of the Dominican Republic. Under Heureaux's regime, roads and railways were constructed, telephone lines were installed, and irrigation systems were dug. During this period, economic modernization and political order were established, but only through extensive foreign loans and autocratic, corrupt, and brutal rule. In 1899 Heureaux was assassinated, and the Dominican government fell into disarray and factionalism. By 1907, the economic situation had deteriorated, and the government was unable to pay the foreign debt engendered during the reign of Heureaux. In response to the perceived economic crisis, the United States moved to place the Dominican Republic into receivership. Ramón Cáceres, the man who assassinated Heureaux, became president until 1912, when he was in turn assassinated, by a member of one of the feuding political factions.

The ensuing domestic political warfare left the Dominican Republic once again in political and economic chaos. European and U.S. bankers expressed concern over the possible lack of repayment of loans. Using the Monroe Doctrine to counter what the United States considered potential European "intervention" in the Americas, the United States invaded the Dominican Republic in 1916, occupying the country until 1924.

During the period of U.S. occupation, political stability was restored. Roads, hospitals, and water and sewerage systems were constructed in the capital city and elsewhere in the country, and land-tenure changes that benefited a new class of large landowners were instituted. To act as a counterinsurgency force, a new military security force, the Guardia Nacional, was trained by U.S. marines. In 1930 Rafael Trujillo, who had risen to a position of leadership in the Guardia, used it to acquire and consolidate power.

From 1930 to 1961, Trujillo ran the Dominican Republic as his own personal possession, in what has been called the first truly totalitarian state in the hemisphere. He established a system of private capitalism in which he, his family members, and his friends held nearly 60 percent of the country's assets and controlled its labor force. Under the guise of economic recovery and national security, Trujillo and his associates demanded the abolishment of all personal and political freedoms. Although the economy flourished, the benefits went toward personalnot publicgain. The Dominican Republic became a ruthless police state in which torture and murder ensured obedience. Trujillo was assassinated on 30 May 1961, ending a long and difficult period in Dominican history. At the time of his death, few Dominicans could remember life without Trujillo in power, and with his death came a period of domestic and international turmoil.

During Trujillo's reign, political institutions had been eviscerated, leaving no functional political infrastructure. Factions that had been forced underground emerged, new political parties were created, and the remnants of the previous regimein the form of Trujillo's son Ramfis and one of Trujillo's former puppet presidents, Joaquín Balaguervied for control. Because of pressure from the United States to democratize, Trujillo's son and Balaguer agreed to hold elections. Balaguer quickly moved to distance himself from the Trujillo family in the realignment for power.

In November 1961 Ramfis Trujillo and his family fled the country after emptying the Dominican treasury of $90 million. Joaquín Balaguer became part of a seven-person Council of State, but two weeks and two military coups later, Balaguer was forced to leave the country. In December 1962 Juan Bosch of the Dominican Revolutionary party (PRD), promising social reform, won the presidency by a 2-1 margin, the first time that Dominicans had been able to choose their leadership in relatively free and fair elections. The traditional ruling elite and the military, however, with the support of the United States, organized against Bosch under the guise of anticommunism. Claiming that the government was infiltrated by communists, the military staged a coup that overthrew Bosch in September 1963; he had been president for only seven months.

In April 1965 the PRD and other pro-Bosch civilians and "constitutionalist" military took back the presidential palace. José Molina Ureña, next in line for the presidency according to the constitution, was sworn in as interim president. Remembering Cuba, the United States encouraged the military to counterattack. The military used jets and tanks in its attempt to crush the rebellion, but the pro-Bosch constitutionalists were able to repel them. The Dominican military was moving toward a defeat at the hands of the constitutionalist rebels when, on 28 April 1965, President Lyndon Johnson sent 23,000 U.S. troops to occupy the country.

The Dominican economic elite, having been reinstalled by the U.S. military, sought Balaguer's election in 1966. Although the PRD was allowed to contest the presidency, with Bosch as its candidate, the Dominican military and police used threats, intimidation, and terrorist attacks to keep him from campaigning. The final outcome of the vote was tabulated as 57 percent for Balaguer and 39 percent for Bosch.

Throughout the late 1960s and the first part of the 1970s, the Dominican Republic went through a period of economic growth and development arising mainly from public-works projects, foreign investments, increased tourism, and skyrocketing sugar prices. During this same period, however, the Dominican unemployment rate remained between 30 and 40 percent, and illiteracy, malnutrition, and infant mortality rates were dangerously high. Most of the benefits of the improving Dominican economy went to the already wealthy. The sudden increase in oil prices by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in the mid-1970s, a crash in the price of sugar on the world market, and increases in unemployment and inflation destabilized the Balaguer government. The PRD, under a new leader, Antonio Guzmán, once more prepared for presidential elections.

Since Guzmán was a moderate, he was seen as acceptable by the Dominican business community and by the United States. The Dominican economic elite and military, however, saw Guzmán and the PRD as a threat to their dominance. When the early returns from the 1978 election showed Guzmán leading, the military moved in, seized the ballot boxes, and annulled the election. Because of pressure from the Carter administration and threats of a massive general strike among Dominicans, Balaguer ordered the military to return the ballot boxes, and Guzmán won the election.

Guzmán promised better observance of human rights and more political freedom, more action in health care and rural development, and more control over the military; however, the high oil costs and the rapid decline in sugar prices caused the economic situation in the Dominican Republic to remain bleak. Even though Guzmán achieved much in terms of political and social reform, the faltering economy made people recall the days of relative prosperity under Balaguer.

The PRD chose Salvador Jorge Blanco as its 1982 presidential candidate, Juan Bosch returned with a new political party called the Dominican Liberation party (PLD), and Joaquín Balaguer also entered the race, under the auspices of his Reformist Party. Jorge Blanco won the election with 47 percent of the vote; however, one month before the new president's inauguration, Guzmán committed suicide over reports of corruption. Jacobo Majluta, the vice president, was named interim president until the inauguration.

When Jorge Blanco assumed the presidency, the country was faced with an enormous foreign debt and a balance-of-trade crisis. President Blanco sought a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF, in turn, required drastic austerity measures: the Blanco government was forced to freeze wages, cut funding to the public sector, increase prices on staple goods, and restrict credit. When these policies resulted in social unrest, Blanco sent in the military, resulting in the deaths of more than one hundred people.

Joaquín Balaguer, nearly eighty years old and legally blind, ran against Juan Bosch and former interim president Jacobo Majluta in the 1986 election. In a highly contentious race, Balaguer won by a narrow margin and regained control of the country. He once more turned to massive public-works projects in an attempt to revitalize the Dominican economy but this time was unsuccessful. By 1988 he was no longer seen as an economic miracle worker, and in the 1990 election he was again strongly challenged by Bosch. In the campaign, Bosch was portrayed as divisive and unstable in contrast to the elder statesman Balaguer. With this strategy, Balaguer again won in 1990, although by a narrow margin.

In the 1994 presidential election, Balaguer and his Social Christian Reformist party (PRSC) were challenged by José Francisco Peña Gómez, the candidate of the PRD. Peña Gómez, a Black man who was born in the Dominican Republic of Haitian parents, was depicted as a covert Haitian agent who planned to destroy Dominican sovereignty and merge the Dominican Republic with Haiti. Pro-Balaguer television commercials showed Peña Gómez as drums beat wildly in the background, and a map of Hispaniola with a dark brown Haiti spreading over and covering a bright green Dominican Republic. Peña Gómez was likened to a witch doctor in pro-Balaguer campaign pamphlets, and videos linked him with the practice of Vodun. Election-day exit polls indicated an overwhelming victory for Peña Gómez; on the following day, however, the Central Electoral Junta (JCE), the independent electoral board, presented preliminary results that placed Balaguer in the lead. Allegations of fraud on the part of the JCE were widespread. More than eleven weeks later, on 2 August, the JCE finally pronounced Balaguer the winner by 22,281 votes, less than 1 percent of the total vote. The PRD claimed that at least 200,000 PRD voters had been turned away from polling places, on the grounds that their names were not on the voters list. The JCE established a "revision committee," which investigated 1,500 polling stations (about 16 percent of the total) and found that the names of more than 28,000 voters had been removed from electoral lists, making plausible the figure of 200,000 voters turned away nationally. The JCE ignored the findings of the committee and declared Balaguer the winner. In a concession, Balaguer agreed to limit his term in office to two years instead of four, and not to run for president again. Bosch received only 15 percent of the total vote.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Throughout most of its history, the Dominican economy has been based largely on the production and export of sugarcane. Sugarcane is still the biggest cash crop grown in the Dominican Republic, with coffee and cocoa being the other most important export crops. Agriculture continues to be the largest source of employment in the Dominican Republic, but mining has recently surpassed sugar as the biggest source of export earnings. Tourism is the most rapidly growing sector of the Dominican economy, with receipts in 1990 of U.S.$944 million. With the relative stability of Dominican democracy since the 1970s, tax incentives for building tourist facilities, the most hotel rooms of any country in the Caribbean, and beautiful uncluttered beaches, tourism is now the largest source of foreign exchange. Manufacturing, especially in the Free Trade Zones (FTZ), is also a rapidly growing sector of the Dominican economy.

Industrial Arts. The three main industrial activities in the Dominican Republic are mining, manufacturing, and utilities. In 1991 mining accounted for 33.5 percent of the total earnings from exports. Ferro-nickel is the major mineral mined in the country; bauxite, gold, and silver are also extracted. Manufacturing accounted for 16.1 percent of the Dominican gross domestic product in 1991. A rapidly growing part of the Dominican manufacturing sector are the FTZ being established by foreign multinational corporations. In these FTZ, the main activity is the assembly of products (mainly textiles, garments, and light electronic goods) intended for sale in nations such as the United States. Assembly industries locate in these zones because there they are permitted to pay low wages for laborintensive activities and because the Dominican government grants exemptions from duties and taxes on exports from FTZ. Sixteen FTZ had been established in the Dominican Republic by 1991, comprising more than 300 companies, which employed around 120,000 workers.

Trade. In 1991 the Dominican Republic had a trade deficit of U.S.$1,070.5 million, with the United States receiving 56 percent of Dominican exports. The other major trading partners of the Dominican Republic are Venezuela and Mexico. The main exports from the Dominican Republic in 1991 were raw sugar and ferro-nickel.

Division of Labor. In 1991 an estimated 34.9 percent of Dominicans worked in the agricultural sector, 28.1 percent were employed in industry, and many others worked in the service sector, which caters mainly to tourism. Labor is divided along the lines of ethnicity, class, and gender. Light-skinned individuals control most of business, finance, government, and other high-status professions, whereas darker-skinned individuals are predominant in the military officer corps and constitute much of the new middle class. More than three-quarters of the workers in the free trade zones are women; employers can pay them low wages and keep them from forming strong labor unions.

Land Tenure. Land-tenure patterns reflect both Dominican and international politics. Sugar and cattle are significant products for the Dominican economy, and land-tenure patterns associated with sugar production and cattle raising have changed over time. The 1916 U.S. invasion is often conceptualized an action under the Monroe Doctrine to protect regional security and counter European "interference" in the Americas, especially to stop German expansion in the region; however, the invasion was also a means to protect U.S. sugar producers in the Dominican Republic. World War I destroyed the European sugar-beet industry, allowing for the rapid expansion of Dominican sugar production. During the U.S. occupation, U.S. military authorities enacted legislation to facilitate the takeover of Dominican land by U.S. sugar growers. The 1920 Law Registration Act was designed to break up the communal lands and transfer them into private ownership. In 1925, one year following the withdrawal of U.S. troops, eleven of the twenty-one sugar mills in the Dominican Republic belonged to U.S. corporations, and 98 percent of the sugar exports went to the United States.

Cattle raising, an important source and symbol of wealth in the Dominican countryside, was feasible for many people because the animals were branded and then left to graze freely on open land. In the 1930s Trujillo expropriated large portions of land, reducing the amount available for free grazing. Those lands became further reduced in the 1950s when Trujillo established "La Zona," a law requiring the enclosure of large livestock that effectively prohibited free grazing. In the 1960s and 1970s the Balaguer government tried to increase cattle production for meat exports and, in so doing, created state-subsidized credits for cattle production. Some of these credits made it easier and more rewarding for people to buy parcels of land on which to graze their cattle.


Kin Groups and Descent. Kinship in the upper classes of Dominican society is patrilineal, based on the Spanish model. The eldest man is the ultimate authority; brothers and unmarried sisters stay very close, and sons give their allegiance to their father and mother. Brothers and sons help to support their unmarried sisters and mother, whereas married sisters are expected to become part of their husbands' families. The extended family is also the locus of social activity among the Dominican upper class.

Kinship among the Dominican lower class, on the other hand, is more matrilineal. The eldest woman is the head of the family, with very close ties with her daughters and their children. Because of the practice of consensual unions among lower-class Dominicans, men are not as integral a part of the kin grouping.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. Three different types of marital union can be found among Dominicans: church marriage, civil marriage, and consensual or common-law union. Church and civil marriage are most prevalent among the upper classes of Dominican society, whereas consensual unions predominate among the poor. These patterns of marriage in Dominican society can be traced back to the Spanish-colonial and slave periods. Among the Spanish settlers that came to Hispaniola, there was a strong ethic of family solidarity, and the father was the dominant figure in the family structure. Among the slaves, however, families were frequently broken up, and marriages were often not allowed. There was also an established pattern of informal unions between Spanish-colonial settlers and African slave women. Reflections of these practices are present today in the range of skin tones and marriage practices among Dominicans.

There are also contemporary reasons for the strong class and racial basis of the different types of marital union. One reason is the high cost of church and civil-marriage ceremonies in the Dominican Republic. Another is that, as throughout the Caribbean, early pregnancies result from consensual relationships. Both sexes initially tend to form a series of consensual unions, each resulting in more children.

Domestic Unit. The extended family, composed of three or more generations, is the predominant domestic unit among the Dominican elite. Within this extended-family structure, the oldest man holds authority, makes public decisions on all family matters, and is responsible for the welfare of the rest of the family. The eldest married woman commands her household, delivers the decisions in the private sphere, and is a source of love and moral support for the family. The family unit often includes grandparents, parents, and unmarried siblings, along with married brothers and their wives and children; married daughters become part of their husbands' families.

The practice of consensual unions, more prevalent among the Dominican lower classes, creates a much more loosely structured domestic unit. Given that the father often does not live in the household, parental authority and responsibility fall to the mother. In this situation, the eldest woman becomes the center of both public and private authority and the main breadwinner, in contrast to the patriarchal public authority among the elite. The result of this pattern is that a lower-class household often becomes a kind of extended matrilineal family, with the matriarch at the head and her unmarried children, married daughters, and grandchildren constituting the household.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Dominican society is organized strongly on the basis of class and race. Dominicans of the more powerful classes, who control the economic and political processes of the country, have historically been of European ancestry. The poorest of Dominicans are most often Black, descendants of the original African slave population or migrant workers from Haiti. Mulattoes make up the majority of the Dominican population and have created a burgeoning middle class. In the twentieth century the military and lower levels of government have provided avenues of advancement for darker-skinned men, and some have reached the level of general, and even president (i.e., Trujillo).

Political Organization. The Dominican Republic consists of twenty-six provinces, each run by an appointed governor, and the Distrito Nacional (DN), where the capital is located. The 1966 constitution established a bicameral National Congress (Congreso Nacional), which is split into the 30-member Senate (Senado) and the 120-member Chamber of Deputies (Camara de Diputados). Members of Congress are elected for four-year terms. There is an executive branch with a president who is elected by popular vote every four years, a vice president, and a cabinet. There is also a Supreme Court (Corte Suprema).

Although the Dominican political system has long been modeled after that of the United States, with a constitution and tripartite separation of power, the political reality is different. Dominican politics has been based on a system of presidential control since colonial times. Developed to its extreme under the totalitarian dictatorship of Trujillo, this system, even in its most liberal periods, has not strayed very far from its historical model.

In the 1990s the major political parties in the Dominican Republic were the Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC), led by Joaquín Balaguer; the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), led by Juan Bosch; the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), led by José Francisco Peña Gómez; and the Independent Revolutionary Party (PRI), led by Jacobo Majluta.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The Catholic church and Catholic beliefs are nominally central to Dominican culture. It is estimated that 98 percent of Dominicans are Catholic, even if not all of these people attend church regularly. Catholicism was introduced to the Dominican Republic by Columbus and the Spanish missionaries and has remained a force in Dominican society ever since. Toward the end of the twentieth century, the dominance of the Catholic church diminished because of a decrease in funding, a shortage of new priests, and a lack of social programs for the people. As a result, Protestant evangelical movements, with their emphasis on personal responsibility and family rejuvenation, economic entrepreneurship, and biblical fundamentalism, have been gaining support among some Dominicans. An unknown number of Dominicans practice synchronistic religions combining Catholicism and Vodun. Santería is also found among Dominicans.

Medicine. The Dominican Republic, like many other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, has three parallel public health-care delivery systems. The largest is the government-funded Secretaria de Estado de Salud Publica y Asistencia Social (SESPAS), which serves the general population. Because of structural and economic constraints, SESPAS is concentrated in urban areas, has a focus on curative rather than preventive care, often has inoperative medical equipment, and is known for high absenteeism among physicians. These factors severely limit access to health care for the majority of Dominicans in the rural areas. This system, which is inadequate for the needs of the majority of Dominicans, is a result of the Spanish-colonial tradition and the biomedical system put into place by the United States during its occupation from 1916 to 1924. The other health-care delivery systems in the Dominican Republic are the Instituto Dominicano de Sequros Sociales (IDSS), which is a social-security health system, and the Instituto de Seguridad Social de las Fuerzas Armadas (ISSFAPOL), which provides health care to members of the armed forces. Private health care is also available, primarily in the urban centers.


Ferguson, James (1992). The Dominican Republic: Beyond the Lighthouse. London: Latin America Bureau.

Georges, Eugenia (1990). The Making of a Transnational Community: Migration, Development, and Cultural Change in the Dominican Republic. New York: Columbia University Press.

Whiteford, Linda M. (1990). "A Question of Adequacy: Primary Health Care in the Dominican Republic." Social Science and Medicine 30(2): 221-226.

Whiteford, Linda M. (1992). "Contemporary Health Care and the Colonial and Neo-Colonial Experience: The Case of the Dominican Republic." Social Science and Medicine 35(10): 1215-1223.

Whiteford, Linda M. (1993). "Child and Maternal Health and International Economic Policies." Social Science and Medicine 37(11): 1391-1400.

Whiteford, Linda M., and Donna Romeo (1991). "The High Cost of Free Trade: Women, Work, and Health in Dominican Free Trade Zones." Manuscript.

Wiarda, Howard J., and Michael J. Kryzanek. (1992). The Dominican Republic: A Caribbean Crucible. 2nd ed. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.

World Health Organization (1993). Demographic Data for Health Situation Assessment and Projections. Geneva: World Health Organization, Division of Epidemiological Surveillance and Health Situation and Trend Assessment.



views updated Jun 08 2018


The Order of Friars Preachers (OP), commonly known as the Dominicans, comprises: the First Order, fathers and laybrothers; the Second Order, contemplative nuns; and the Third Order. The last includes: (1) the conventual third order and (2) lay tertiaries. The habit of the fathers consists of a white robe, scapular, and cowl, with a black open mantle and cowl. Lay brothers wear a black scapular and cowl. Sisters of the second and third orders replace the cowl with a veil. All fasten the robe at the waist with a leather belt from which is suspended a rosary. The Dominicans in England have been called Black-friars because of the black mantle, and the French Dominicans are sometimes referred to as Jacobins after their priory of Saint-Jacques in Paris.

Foundation, Spirit, and Organization. The First Order is a clerical, religious institute of mendicant friars with solemn vows, living under the Rule of St. Augustine and its own constitutions, and subject only to its own superiors and the Holy See. The preaching mission among the albigenses of southern France in the early 13th century was the occasion for the beginning of the Dominican Order. St. dominic was the director of this preaching from 1207 onward. To combat the pretensions of the heretics, the preachers practiced evangelical poverty. In April 1215 Dominic transformed this voluntary association into a permanent institute with the approval of Fulk of Marseilles, Bishop of Toulouse (d. 1231). After consultation with Pope Innocent III, Dominic and his companions, meeting in a founding chapter in 1216, adopted the Rule of St. Augustine and drew up the first part of the constitutions. Although they abandoned ownership of property, they temporarily retained income from rents granted to them. On Dec. 22, 1216, Honorius III gave papal confirmation to the order and, on Jan. 17, 1217, approved its name and preaching mission.

The order is a synthesis of the contemplative life and the apostolic ministry. The contemplative element includes the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience; the chanting of the Divine Office; community life; monastic observances; and the assiduous study of sacred truth (Constitutions, 1932, no. 4). The apostolic element, conceived as an imitation of the evangelical life of Christ, embraces the teaching and defense of Catholic truth primarily through preaching. The two elements are so blended that contemplation not only sanctifies the friar but prepares him for the apostolate. The Dominican motto, "To contemplate and to give others the fruits of contemplation," neatly sums up these concepts. Dominic resolved the apparent contradiction between the two elements by widening the scope of dispensation to favor students and preachers when monastic observances impeded their work. On Aug. 15, 1217, he inaugurated the universal mission of the order by sending his friars away to found new centers, notably in the university cities of Paris (1217) and Bologna (1218). In 1220, when a dozen or so houses existed, Dominic convened the first general chapter at Bologna. Under his presidency the chapter shaped the core of the second part of the constitutions, regulating the order's government, preaching, and study. Absolute poverty, which prohibited the holding of both property and revenues, and made the order dependent on free-will offerings and the quest for alms by the friars, was adopted. The second general chapter, Bologna, 1221, divided the order into provinces and determined their government.

The government of the order, by Dominic's desire, is democratic. It preserves a careful balance between democratically constituted chapters and strong, but elected, superiors. The composition of successive general chapters gives a preponderance of power to elected definitors (representatives) chosen by the provinces, rather than to provincials. Delegates from the priories sit on equal terms with their priors in the provincial chapter. Professed friars who are clerics form the chapter of the priory. The provinces, composed of both priories and nonpriorial houses, enjoy a considerable degree of autonomy. Congregations or vicariates, consisting of houses under a vicar, have been common since the 15th century. They do not possess all the rights of provinces and occasionally have no fixed territory. Only the general chapter, the supreme Dominican authority, may modify the constitutions, provided three successive chapters approve. It shares with provincial chapters and superiors the power to issue executive orders. Until 1370 it met annually; thereafter, every two or three years; since 1561, triennially. Successive chapters rotate among the major cities. In 1949, in Washington, DC, the chapter convened for the first time outside Europe. Except that they have not the lawmaking power, provincial chapters hold authority in the provinces paralleling that of the general chapter in the entire order. They met annually until 1410, biennially until 1629, and quadriennially thereafter. The master general is the major superior over the entire order; the provincial, over his province; and a prior, over his priory. All superiors, except vicars, are elected by the chapters of their respective jurisdictions. Terms of office, which in the medieval period perdured until terminated by higher authority, are now restricted to 12 years for the general; four for the provincial; and three for priors and vicars. The curia of the master general is made up of eight associates (1945) and the procurator general, the order's liaison officer with the Holy See.

Dominicans vow to obey their superiors according to the rule and constitutions, rather than to obey the statutes themselves. This makes obedience the keystone of Dominican life and gives flexibility to administration. The order's law, apart from vows, precepts, and laws derived from higher authority, does not bind under sin but obliges only to the acceptance of penalties for violations. This regulation affords great liberty of spirit. The novelty and perfection of the Dominican constitutions led to their imitation by other mendicant orders.

The primitive version of the constitutions was superseded in 1241 by a text cast in improved juridical form by (St.) raymond of peÑafort. Subsequently, major revisions were made in 1518, 1566, 1871, and 1932. The first printed edition appeared in 1505. The Dominican Order has its own liturgical rite with distinctive Missal, Breviary, rubrics, and liturgical calendar. Among its members the order has 18 saints and about 312 blesseds.

First Three Centuries, 1215 to 1500. Under their founder, the Dominicans made establishments in all the western countries of Europe, including Hungary and Scandinavia. Dominic's death in 1221 did not halt the order's rapid progress, for his five immediate successors (Bl.) jordan of saxony, Raymond of Peñafort, John of Wildeshausen (d. 1252), humbert of romans, and (Bl.) john of vercelli, were conspicuously able men of saintly character. Under their government, which extended over a period of 60 years, the order developed its characteristic apostolate and activities, founded many new priories, and increased its membership. In 1221 eight provinces existed or were being formed: Spain, Provence, France, Lombardy, Rome, Hungary, England, and Germany. Poland, Scandinavia, Greece, and the Holy Land joined them before 1228. Except for mission territory, these divisions marked the area of activity until 1510, but the number of provinces increased by subdivision, so that in 1303 there were 18; in 1500, 22. In 1277 the order counted 404 priories; in 1303, 590; in 1358, 635. Membership was approximately 13,000 in 1256, and was probably above 21,000 in 1347 at the beginning of the Black Death, which greatly reduced the order's numbers.

Scholarship. Dominic laid the foundation of the Dominican educational system and intellectual excellence. He did this at the first general chapter when he included provisions in the constitutions that regulated and encouraged study and stipulated that no priory might be erected without a professor. He established the school at Paris and secured its incorporation into the university, where, in 1229, the order obtained its first chair of theology; in 1230, its second. The English Dominicans had a chair at Oxford before 1248. The order's curriculum of studies, completed in 1259, ranged upward through priory schools, provincial schools of arts, philosophy, and theology, to a general house of studies at Paris, where the order promoted friars to the mastership in theology. In 1248 additional general houses opened at Oxford, Cologne, Montpellier, and Bologna. After the 13th century all the major provinces established general houses of studies.

The friars at Paris, under the direction of hugh of saint-cher, undertook major scientific works such as the correction of the Vulgate text of the Bible and the compilation of Biblical commentaries and concordances. By the middle of the 13th century (St.) albert the great and (St.) thomas aquinas, robert kilwardby and (Bl.) Peter of Tarentaise (innocent v), had carried the order to preeminence in the scientific and theological fields. The Thomistic philosophico-theological system, a profoundly unifying and cohesive factor in the order, was transmitted and developed by a constant succession of commentators and theologians.

Only a few of the host of friars who wrote in the scholastic and other cultural fields can be mentioned here. william of moerbeke's translations of the works of Aristotle and other Greek writers powerfully aided the speculations of the scholastics. Raymond of Peñafort, with his compilation of the Decretals and his Summa de poenitentia, achieved eminence as a canonist and moralist. The treatises of Cardinals Juan de torquemada and John Stojkovic of ragusa in ecclesiology, and the Summa moralium of St. antoninus in moral theology, pioneered new fields of theological research. The Golden Legend of james of voragine was universally read and loved. The directories for inquisitors by bernard gui and Nicholas Eymeric (d. 1399), and the exposition of the tenets of the Cathari and Waldenses by Moneta of Cremona (d. c. 1260), strengthened the Catholic apostolate among the heretics. vincent of beauvais in his Speculum majus provided an encyclopedic work that aimed to give a compendium of contemporary knowledge. The humanist Francis Colonna (d. 1527) later attempted a similar feat regarding the knowledge of antiquity in his celebrated romance, The Dream of Poliphilus. Jerome of Moravia (fl. c. 1250) wrote the most important 13th-century work on liturgical chant. The Catholicon of John Balbus (d. c. 1298) was a pioneer treatise on, and etymological dictionary of, the Latin language. Bernard Gui, Ptolemy of Lucca, nicholas trevet, martin of troppau, and Antoninus rank as historians.

Apostolic Activities. Preaching, the primary work of the order, absorbed the energies of the greater number of Dominicans. Their priories, erected by preference in the cities, became centers of an organized ministry. Each priory subdivided its territory and assigned friars to preach systematically in the rural parishes of individual districts. In remote areas "preaching homes" were built so the friars could stay for long periods of intense evangelization. The so-called penitential preachers, proclaiming penance and reform of life, developed roving apostolates over a wide area. John of Vicenza led a crusade for peace in Lombardy and the Marches in 1233. venturino of ber gamo preached penance in the 14th century; (St.) vin cent ferrer, Manfred of Vercelli (d. c. 1431), and savonarola did the same in the 15th.

Dominicans constructed spacious churches to accommodate large congregations. They preached sermons in their churches as often as 250 times a year, speaking morning and evening on Sundays, and daily during Advent and Lent. To prepare preachers, they stocked large libraries, collected sermons, wrote preaching manuals, and compiled books of illustrative materials, such as John Bromyard's (d. c. 1352) great Summa for Preachers. Except for sermons to clerical audiences, they used the vernacular languages. The opposition that arose from the secular clergy bears witness to the scope of the friars' preaching and ministry. Pastors challenged the right of the mendicant orders to preach, hear confessions, and bury. The resulting quarrel, which simmered throughout the 13th century, was partially allayed when Boniface VIII in 1300 restricted, but did not destroy, mendicant privileges with the bull Super cathedram.

Many other Dominican activities developed from preaching. The rapid growth of the Second Order indicates the order's contribution to the development of the contemplative life of religious women. Another facet of this apostolate was the directing of beguines in the Rhineland and the Netherlands. The Dominican Third Order was an offshoot of preaching to the laity. The confraternities founded in the order's churches provided congregations for the preachers and perpetuated the fruit of their sermons. In 1274 Gregory X, at the instance of the Second Council of Lyons, commissioned the order to preach devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. From this preaching, the Holy Name Society was to develop. The Rosary Confraternity, founded by alan de la roche about 1470 at Douai, made the rosary the most popular nonliturgical devotion in the Western Church.

The popes drew on the experience of the friars by enlisting them to reform monasteries and dioceses; to administer convents of nuns; to serve as masters of the Sacred Palace, papal penitentiaries, preachers of the crusade, collectors of crusading levies; and to carry out diplomatic missions. Dominicans habitually, though not exclusively, staffed the inquisition, a task for which their doctrinal training made them especially suited. The order gave two popes, 28 cardinals, and hundreds of bishops to the Church before 1500. The kings of France, England, Spain, and Portugal, as well as many princes, often had Dominican confessors.

Missions. Dominic, desiring to evangelize the pagans, had sent friars to the frontiers of Europe. By 1225 the friars in Spain had contacted the Arabs and Jews of the peninsula and had moved into Africa. Under Raymond of Peñafort's direction the Spanish province pioneered schools for Oriental languages. raymond martini, the finest Orientalist before the modern age, supplied his brethren with treatises, especially his Pugio fidei and Capistrum Judaeorum, for their controversies, and Pablo Cristiani (d. c. 1265), a converted Jew, achieved fame as a polemicist. Dominicans of Scandinavia, Poland, and Germany worked among the Baltic peoples, the Lithuanians, and the Russians. St. hyacinth, founder of the Polish province, pushed as far east as Kiev in 1222. Hungarian Dominicans built a flourishing church among the Cumans of the Russian steppes until the Mongol invasions of 1241 destroyed it.

The province of Greece and the Holy Land worked in the Latin Empire of Constantinople and in the crusader states, evangelizing Western Christians, dissident Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Mongols. Friar polemicists through their treatises and friar diplomats through their negotiations worked for the reunion of the dissidents with Rome. william of tripoli, a friar in Palestine, claimed to have baptized 1,000 Arabs, while ricoldus da Monte i Croce learned Arabic and preached to Nestorians, Jews, and Muslims in the Khanate of Persia. William's On the State of the Saracens, Ricoldo's Itinerary and Refutation of the Koran, and Burchard of Mount Sion's (fl. 1290) Description of the Holy Land, gave Europe new knowledge of Islam and the western Asiatic peoples. With the fall of the crusader states, the provinces of Greece and the Holy Land had to retreat to the islands of the Mediterranean.

The Congregation of Friars Pilgrims for Christ among the Gentiles opened a new mission phase about 1300, founding residences eastward from Pera (Constantinople) through the Black Sea area into India. Its members supplied the bishops for the ecclesiastical province of Sultanieh, erected by John XXII in 1318. Its most striking achievement was the conversion of the monks of Qrna (1331), who founded the Order of Friars Unitors of St. Gregory the Illuminator, subject to Dominican jurisdiction, to work for the cause of reunion. Great initial success, radiating from 50 monasteries, was dissipated when excessive zeal provoked a nationalistic reaction after 1380. Although Tamerlane's invasions closed the East to all but the most intrepid friars, Portuguese Dominicans heralded a new mission era when they penetrated into the heart of the Congo after 1480.

Decline and Reform. Early idealism carried Dominicans through their golden age, the 13th century. About 1290 the order began to experience a decline of fervor and relaxation of discipline. The observance of poverty had brought even earlier embarrassment. Free-will offerings and the quest for alms did not keep pace with the order's expansion of priories, personnel, and apostolate. Seeking security, priories began to sign over property offered to them by benefactors to a monastery or confraternity with the obligation of providing a regular quota of consumer goods in return. Individual friars received permission to seek funds through their own industry or from friends, first for books, later for clothing. Concurrently, strict observance, no longer buttressed by early fervor, weakened under the impact of interpretation and compromise. The Black Death, beginning in 1347, sharpened these trends and brought a widespread collapse of observance and life in common, particularly neglect of choral obligations and attendance in refectory. Unwise recruiting, looking more to numbers than to quality, compounded the damage.

Friars in Tuscany made the first attempt to bolster discipline in about 1300. Though nicknamed "spirituals," because of their similarities to the Franciscan fra ticelli, they avoided the doctrinal errors and excessive emphasis on poverty of the latter. The Black Death dissipated the strength of this movement, but its remnants supported a more official attempt at reform begun in 1369 by Stephen Lacombe (d. c. 1416), provincial of Tuscany and Italian vicar of the master general. His adherence to the Avignon Obedience when the Western Schism began in 1378 nullified his efforts. The reform then turned to (Bl.) raymond of capua, the confessor of (St.) cather ine of siena, and secured his election as master general in the Roman Obedience in 1380. With papal support he put reform on a solid footing by creating vicars of observance and founding priories where primitive observance, including that of strict poverty, was introduced.

Reformed priories were grouped in congregations of observants. The congregations of Holland and Lombardy were outstanding in influence and extent; the latter produced many saints and blesseds during the 15th century. Reform did not lead to schism in the order; although the observant congregations enjoyed considerable autonomy, Dominican emphasis on obedience kept them loyal to the master general. Strict poverty soon proved impossible even for the observants, forcing Master General Bartholomew Texier (d. 1449), an exponent of reform, to seek from Martin V, in 1425, authority to permit priories, according to need, to own possessions and fixed revenues. Sixtus IV in 1475 granted all mendicant orders, save the Franciscans, the right to own property, thus lifting the insupportable yoke of absolute poverty and aiding the Dominican revival of the 16th century. This mitigation was accompanied among the observants by a lessening of severity that prepared for a rapprochement with nonreformed Dominicans who had meanwhile tightened their discipline.

The Modern Period, 1500 to 1850. The order entered the 16th century with 22 provinces and a new strength gained when observant congregations took control of the provinces of Germany, Spain, Lombardy, Central Italy, and Holland. The decrees of the Council of Trent and of Pius V gave additional strength.

Scholarship. This vitality was especially evident in a vigorous renewal of theological studies in France, Spain, and Italy, under Peter crockaert, Francisco de vitoria, and cajetan (Tommaso de Vio). Under the impact of Protestantism, the Dominicans broadened their curriculum and concentrated education in larger houses of study. General houses of study increased until there were 27 to 1551. In addition, Thomistic studies flourished in the colleges of St. Gregory in Valladolid, 1488; St. Thomas in Seville, 1515; and the two Roman collegesSt. Thomas at the Minerva, 1577, and the Cassanata, 1700. Overseas the order opened at least 12 colleges and universities, such as San Domingo, 1538; Santa Fé de Bogotá, 1612; Manila, 1645; and Havana, 1721.

The Summa theologiae became the theological text, and great commentatorsCajetan, ferrariensis (Francesco Silvestri), and members of the Spanish school developed the Thomistic synthesis. The participation of approximately 130 Dominican bishops and theologians at the Council of Trent made thomism an important influence in the discussions and decrees of the Council. Controversies over grace, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, and probabilism, engaged the attention of Dominican theologians. Outstanding scholars appeared also in fields other than theology and philosophy: Santes pagnini and Sixtus of Siena in Biblical science, Jacques goar and Michael le Quien (16611733) in Oriental studies, Francis Combefis (160579) in patristics, Noel alexandre in history, and Nicholas coeffeteau in linguistics. Dominican historians established the general archives of the order in Rome and published the Bullarium ordinis Praedicatorum and the Scriptores ordinis Praedicatorum.

Two Dominican Popes, St. pius v (156672) and benedict xiii (172430), 41 cardinals, and more than 1,000 archbishops and bishops served the Church. By privilege Dominicans permanently held the offices of commissary of the Holy Office and Secretary of the Index (abolished in 1917). The master general and the master of the Sacred Palace are also ex officio consultors to the Holy Office.

Dominicans and the Protestant Reformation. Protestantism did great damage to the Dominican order. The provinces of Scotland, Scandinavia, and Saxony disappeared, while England, Holland, Germany, and Ireland were crippled for several centuries. Poland, Bohemia, and the four French provinces experienced great losses. At the same time, Hungary and Dalmatia suffered from the attacks of the Turks. This weakening in northern Europe concentrated Dominican strength until the 20th century in the Latin countries. Protestantism faced numerous Dominican opponents in the pulpit, in controversy, and in writing. The order ran well ahead of other Catholic defenders in point of time, numbers, and excellence of doctrine [P. Tacchi-Venturi, SJ, Storia della Compagnia di Gesù in Italia (2d ed. Rome 1950) 1.113]. In Germany "no other religious organization produced so many and such outstanding literary champions as the Order of St. Dominic" [N. Paulus, Die deutschen Dominikaner im Kampf gegen Luther, 151863 (Freiburg im Breisgau 1903) vi].

Expansion. Losses during the Reformation were compensated for by overseas expansion and the development of new provinces in Europe; by 1789 the provinces numbered 45. Membership had reached a peak in the 17th century, when there were an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 friars and nuns. In 1720 there were 1,200 priories and houses, and 200 monasteries. Dominicans entered America in 1510 and founded the province of the West Indies in 1530. By 1724 there were 11 provinces in the Spanish colonies and the Congregation of the Holy Cross (1551) in Portuguese possessions. Dominicans, especially Bartolomé de las casas, author of the Historia de las Indias, championed the natives against the exploitation of the Spanish settlers. St. Louis bertrand, Apostle of New Granada (156269) was noted for his numerous conversions, the gift of tongues, and many miracles. The Philippine province, created in 1592, evangelized in China, Formosa, Tonkin China, and Japan. These missions suffered many persecutions: Ignacio Delgado (17611838), Jerónimo Hermosilla (180061), Díaz Sanjurjo (181857), and their respective companions have been beatified as martyrs. The French Fathers established missions in Guadaloupe and Martinique. Italian Dominicans worked in the Near East, Mesopotamia, and Kurdistan.

Conflicts and Suppressions. The government of the order in the modern period remained structurally the same, with refinement of details, but the administration suffered greatly from political and religious changes. The Holy See, through the cardinal protector, intervened frequently in the government, forcing the resignation of two masters generalSixtus Fabri in 1589, and Nicholas Ridolfi in 1644. After 1650, political conditions kept general chapters from convening, for the most part, except for elections to the generalship. This fact gave relatively more importance to the position of the masters general, who were obliged to govern for long periods without help from the chapters. The order lost most of its political influence in a world of absolutist rulers who had little sympathy for religious orders, though in Spain Dominicans continued to serve as royal confessors until 1700. After 1765 the courts of Vienna, Naples, and Madrid prohibited recourse to the master general. In Austria, the Sicilies, Russia, and France, the sovereigns suppressed many houses. This tyranny and the spirit of the Enlightenment impeded vocations, diminished religious fervor, and again made reform necessary.

From 1789 to 1850, a series of calamities disrupted the order's government; destroyed or weakened its priories, monasteries, and provinces; crippled its foreign missions; scattered its members; and brought it close to extinction. No general chapter convened between 1777 and 1832. Between 1790 and 1819 the houses of France, Belgium, and Germany were suppressed. In Italy only 105 of 750 houses survived. After 1808 the wars of independence destroyed most of the Latin American provinces. Suppression of the Portuguese and Spanish provinces followed in 1834 and 1837, respectively. Russia gradually smothered the Lithuanian, Russian, and Polish houses under its dominion after 1842. But the provinces of Ireland, England, Holland, Dalmatia, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, the Philippines, and the U.S. continued without interruption. Of these only the Philippine province was strong in membership. In 1804 Charles IV of Spain, with papal consent, separated the provinces in his dominions from the jurisdiction of the master general, a separation that lasted legally until 1872.

Contemporary Period, 18501963. From 1850 the Dominican Order experienced gradual recovery. Most significant for the future was the establishment of the province of St. Joseph in the U.S. in 1805. Steady restoration began in 1850 with the reestablishment of the province of France with strict observance under the leadership of Jean Baptiste Henri lacordaire, who received the habit in 1839. Vincent Jandel, his disciple, as vicar general and then as master general (185072), marshaled the order's internal forces and gave the restoration consistency and strength. He established a province in the Austrian Empire in 1857 and restored the provinces of Spain and Belgium in 1860, Lyons in 1862, and Toulouse in 1865. He visited the provinces, held three important general chapters, issued new editions of the liturgical books and of the constitutions, opened new mission fields, and restored the Spanish-speaking provinces to the order's jurisdiction.

Jandel's regime was troubled by repeated persecutions of the Italian provinces during the unification of Italy. European conditions remained so disturbed that his successor, Joseph M. Larroca, had to be chosen in 1879 by the unprecedented procedure of sending ballots through the mail. The French Dominicans were expelled from France in 1881, while in Germany the friars suffered exile during the Kulturkampf under Otto von Bismarck. Nevertheless, important progress was made in the intellectual field. Dominicans became the collaborators of Leo XIII in his revival of Thomistic studies and took over the theological faculty at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. In 1890 Joseph Lagrange began his pioneer work in Biblical studies and founded St. Stephen's Biblical School (École biblique).

While French anticlerical laws kept the theological faculty of the French province in exile (in Corbora, Corsica, and then in Kain, Belgium) until 1937, it was reestablished on French soil then near Paris at Ètiolles. This faculty of theology, called "Le Saulchoir," became famous for its extraordinary output of academic production in books and periodicals and for the notable figures who taught there. All these persons, significant in Neo-Thomism, were connected to "La Saulchoir" for at least some time: Mandonnet, Gardeil, Sertillanges, Roland-Gosselin, Chenu, and Congar. In particular, this school became the center for a Dominican reading of Aquinas rooted in history, culture, and social context that would influence Dominican scholars around the world.

At the time of the Second Vatican Council, Yves congar (who would end his days as a cardinal of the Roman Church) was appointed a member of the Theological Preparatory Commission of the Council and had great influence on the preparation of several Council documents, most notably Lumen gentium. M.-D. chenu, a peritus for an African bishop, generated the idea of a "Message to the World" from the Council as it inaugurated its work. Another French Dominican, J. L. Lebret, the founder of the Center Èconomie et Humanisme (near Lyons), played an important role in the evolution of Gaudium et spes.

Progress in the 20th Century. Under the masters general of the 20th century the order continued its restoration, developing works in many new fields. Internal life gained strength from the regular convening of chapters after 1891, from the periodic visitation of the provinces, and from the splendid encyclical letters of the masters general. The foundations of Dominican life were reinforced by revisions of the liturgy (1923; 196165), the constitutions (1932), the rule for the Third Order (1932;1964), and by creation of the Historical Institute (1929), the Liturgical Commission (1934), and the school for the training of novice and student masters (1938).

This development took place despite suppression in France (1903), expulsion from Mexico (1910), and heavy losses during the Spanish Civil War. The two World Wars severely affected the European provinces and saw the mobilization of the friars as chaplains and soldiers. More than 100 Dominicans lost their lives in World WarII. After the war, the Communists suppressed the provinces of Hungary and Bohemia.

In the intellectual field, new norms for the curriculum of studies were published (1907; 1935; 1965). The "Angelicum," founded (1910) by Hyacinth cormier, with faculties in theology, philosophy, and Canon Law, was raised by John XXIII to university rank, March 7, 1963, under the title Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. Pontifical institutes were erected also in various provinces, e.g., the pontifical faculty of theology at the House of Studies, Washington, D.C., and the pontifical philosophical faculty at River Forest, IL. The English Dominicans returned, after 400 years, to Oxford in 1929 and to Cambridge in 1939. The order has established important special institutes, such as the Instina Study Center at Paris for Russian studies and the Institute of Oriental Studies in Cairo for Islamic studies. The various provinces publish about 320 popular, cultural, and scientific periodicals and sponsor series of learned works, such as the Études bibliques and the Studia Friburgensia.

The traditional works of the order have taken diversified forms since 1919. Preaching, while continuing in the traditional forms of domestic missions and retreats, has also entered the fields of film, radio, and television. The fathers of the French, Belgian, German, and Canadian provinces have been active in the field of social action and labor. Henry Pire, the Belgian Dominican, won the Nobel prize for peace in 1958 for his humanitarian work for refugees.

In 1922 Dominicans worked in 20 mission countries; in 1957, in 40. To develop native provinces, novitiates were founded in 1951 at Hanoi in Vietnam, Sendai in Japan, and Viadana in the Congo, where 51 African novices took the habit at the inception. The rise of Communism in China interrupted the work of the Chinese missions after 1946.

The Order in the U.S.A. The story of the Dominican Friars in the United States may be divided roughly into three periods. The first period would include individual Dominican Friars who either accompanied early explorations of the North American continent, such as Pedro de Cancer, who was martyred in Florida in 1549, or came to this country on their own and ministered as individuals. The second period could be seen as beginning in the early 19th century with the efforts of Edward Dominic Fenwick, OP (17681832), who was born in the American colonies and educated in Europe, entering the Order there. He obtained permission to move to the United States with some companions (1804) and they were assigned by Bishop John Carroll to missions in Kentucky at Springfield near Bardstown. After considerable hardship, Fenwick (subsequently appointed Bishop of Cincinnati) and his companions were able to establish in 1828 the Province of St. Joseph (also called the Eastern Province). From this province were formed the Provinces of the Holy Name of Jesus in 1912 (Western Province), the Province of St. Albert the Great in 1939 (Central Province) and the Province of St. Martin de Porres in 1979 (Southern Province, formed from states in St. Joseph and St. Albert Provinces). Of note in the 19th century was the individual missionary work of Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli in Wisconsin and Michigan. Spanish Dominican friars ministered in New Orleans from 1903 till 1939 and in South Texas from 1925 till the present. Small numbers of Spanish Friars ministered in the Archdiocese of Miami, FL (Beticia Province) and French (Lyons Province) and French-Canadian Friars (Canadian Province) in the Diocese of Portland, ME, and Fall River, MA.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, the Province of St. Joseph remained relatively small (about 100 members) but during the 20th century, it experienced the general expansion of Catholic population, especially through immigration, and vocations multiplied, making a division of territory feasible. The principal ministries that characterized the Friars in the United States in this second period were parish ministry (reflecting the priorities of the American hierarchy), educational (campus ministry at secular and Catholic universities and teaching philosophy and theology in Catholic colleges and high schools) and devotional (groups of preachers who specialized in parish missions, retreats, novenas, etc.). The Province of St. Joseph continues to sponsor and staff Providence College (f. 1917) in Providence, RI, and the Province of St. Albert the Great sponsors and staffs Fenwick High School in Oak Park, IL. Foreign Missions were also established by St. Joseph Province (Pakistan and Kenya), St. Albert the Great (Nigeria and Bolivia), and Holy Name (Mexico). Each of the three provinces formed in this period also established their own studia generalis to educate and form Dominican priests. These are now located in Berkeley, CA at the Graduate Theological Union (Western Province), St. Louis, MO, at Aquinas Institute (serving both the Central and Southern Provinces) and Washington, DC (Eastern Province). In addition, each of these studia have served or continue to serve as the location for preaching formation programs or theological journals (e.g. D. Min. in Preaching at Aquinas Institute, The Thomist at Washington, DC) and other theological and philosophical programs.

The third period of Dominican history in the United States may be said to have begun with the General Chapter of 1968 in River Forest, IL. This chapter responded to the call of the Second Vatican Council (196265) to reform constitutions and customs to more accurately reflect the original founding charism of the particular religious order. In the case of Dominicans (officially titled "Order of Preachers"), this meant a return to a focus on preaching as the primary charism and mission of the Order. The elaborate constitutions were simplified to bring out the essential characteristics of Dominican life (prayer, study, vowed community and ministry) as ordered to the mission of preaching. The democratic governmental structure (a unique characteristic of the order from its beginning) was simplified to eliminate ex officio or privileged voting that had grown up over the centuries. A new document, The Fundamental Constitution, was added at the beginning to give voice to the basic purposes and values of the Order. The term of the Master of the Order was shortened from twelve to nine years and the unique cycle of General Chapters meeting every three years, each giving representation to either leadership or grassroots membership, was retained. In 1979, a new province (St. Martin De Porres) was established in the southern states with the hope of generating a "new birth in hope" and a renewed identity for all the provinces in the United States. During this period, the four provinces of Friars experienced, along with all other religious orders, the difficult years of adjustment following the second Vatican Council. The departure of members and the diminishment of numbers entering meant that some ministries were discontinued and others cut back. At the beginning of the third millennium a gradual increase in new membership is offering hope. A new era of collaboration with the Dominican sisters' congregations has been manifested through the Dominican Leadership Conference, representing the leaders of the provinces and congregations of Dominican men and women, and the Parable Conference of Dominican Life and Mission which sponsors retreats, pilgrimages and conferences featuring teams of Friars and Sisters and Dominican Laity. New collaborative ventures include an annual meeting of Dominican artists and a project called OPUS which is working on a comprehensive history of Dominicans in the United States.

Bibliography: a. m. walz, Compendium historiae ordinis Praedicatorum (2d ed. Rome 1948). w. r. bonniwell, A History of the Dominican Liturgy, 12151945 (2d ed. New York 1945). r. devas, Dominican Revival in the Nineteenth Century (London 1913). g. r. galbraith, The Constitutions of the Dominican Order, 12161360 (Manchester 1925). w. a. hinnebusch, Early English Friars Preachers (Rome 1951). b. jarrett, The English Dominicans, rev. and abr. w. grumbley (2d ed. London 1938). v. f. o'daniel, The Dominican Province of St. Joseph (New York 1942). d. d. c. pochin mould, The Irish Dominicans (Dublin 1957). j. b. reeves, The Dominicans (reprint, Dubuque 1959).

[w. a. hinnebusch/p. philibert/r. b. williams]


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DOMINICANS . The popular name of the Order of Friars Preachers (Ordo Praedicatorum, abbreviated O.P.) was derived from the name of the order's founder, Domingo de Guzmán (11701221), generally called Dominic. In France the Dominicans were once known as Jacobins, from their priory of Saint Jacques at the University of Paris, and in England they were known as Black Friars, from the black mantles that they wore over their white habits.

Along with the Franciscans, the Dominicans constitute the heart of the mendicant friar movement of the thirteenth century. After the renaissance of the twelfth century, the presence within medieval society of a growing number of urban-dwelling and literate laypeople, critical of and often alienated from the institutional church, posed a great pastoral problem. The secular and religious clergy at the beginning of the thirteenth century seemed ill equipped to meet the spiritual needs of an urbanized laity and unable to cope with the rapid spread of the Albigensian and Waldensian heresies in the cities of southern France and northern Italy.

Between 1215 and 1221, Dominic with papal approval founded a religious order whose members would not be bound by monastic stability but would be itinerant doctrinal preachers, living a life of poverty in community and educated to minister to the spiritual needs of a literate urban laity. The presence of the Dominicans at the burgeoning universities of Europe established a mutual relationship that would have profound consequences for the history of European thought. From the local priory, which was seen as an ongoing theological school for preachers, to the great centers of study at Paris, Oxford, Bologna, and Cologne, the houses of the order constituted a vast educational network. Albertus Magnus (11931280) and Thomas Aquinas (12251274), with their monumental achievements of utilizing the insights of Aristotelian thought in the formulation of a new Christian philosophical and theological synthesis, represent the best of the Dominican tradition of study at the service of preaching the gospel in ever new and challenging milieus.

The same creative élan that marked the Dominican presence at the great university centers of Europe was also manifest in missionary activity. Within the first hundred years of their existence, the Dominicans had established missions in Scandinavia, the Baltic area, eastern Europe, Greece, Persia, the Holy Land, and North Africa.

Dominican emphasis on doctrinal preaching led popes and bishops to use the order in the work of the Inquisition. This darker aspect of Dominican history is somewhat counterbalanced by the positive impact that the order's model of government by elected representatives had upon the emerging parliamentary system of Europe.

From its earliest days the Order of Preachers embraced not only priests, student brothers, novices, and lay brothers, all of whom constituted what came to be called the first order, but also contemplative nuns (the second order) and women religious and laypeople living in the world (the third order). The first order grew rapidly in the first hundred years of the order's existence. In 1277 there were 12 provinces and 404 priories with about thirteen thousand friars whereas in 1303 there were 18 provinces and 590 priories with about twenty thousand friars. Because the Black Death took a great toll in the middle of the fourteenth century, the number of Dominican friars probably never exceeded thirty thousand at any one time during the Middle Ages.

The monasteries of Dominican second-order nuns, which numbered 4 during the last years of Dominic's life, increased to 58 in 1277, 141 in 1303, and 157 in 1358. Munio of Zamora, seventh master of the order (12851291), drew up a rule in 1285 for lay men and women who wished to be Dominicans while continuing to live in the world. It is impossible to estimate how many men and women shared the Dominican life and mission as members of the third order, but Catherine of Siena (13471380), mystic and doctor of the church, stands as an eloquent witness to the third order's profound influence upon medieval society.

The German Dominicans Meister Eckhart (12601327), Johannes Tauler (13001361), and Heinrich Suso (c. 12951366) were leaders in the fourteenth-century mystical movement, but like all other religious orders the Dominicans experienced a considerable loss of members and a marked decline in observance and morale as a result of the Black Death. Raymond of Capua, twenty-third master of the order (13801400), inaugurated a reform movement in the last decades of the fourteenth century that resulted in the renewed life of the order in the fifteenth century, exemplified by Antoninus of Florence (13891459), Fra Angelico (13871455), and Girolamo Savonarola (14521498).

The Dominicans Johann Tetzel (14651519) and Thomas de Vio Cajetan (14691534) played key roles in the events that inaugurated the Reformation, and Dominicans were to be found both joining the ranks of the Reformation preachers and defending the old faith before and after the Council of Trent (15451563). Although religious changes in Europe caused the disappearance or decline of the Dominican provinces in northern Europe, seven new provinces were founded in Central and South America. Dominican missionary activity in the New World was rendered illustrious by the preaching of Louis Bertrand (15261581), by the charitable work of Martín de Porres (15791639) and Juan Macias (15851645), and by the struggles of Bartolomé de Las Casas (14741566) to protect the Indians from the exploitation of Spanish colonial officials.

Although the order numbered between thirty and forty thousand friars and nuns in forty-five provinces in the seventeenth century, and Thomism flourished under such distinguished commentators as John of Saint Thomas (15891644), much of the outward structure of the order was swept away during the difficult period from 1789 to 1848. Under the impulse of the French Dominican preacher Jean-Baptiste-Henri Lacordaire (18021861) and the outstanding leadership of Vincent Jandel, seventy-third master of the order (18551872), the Dominicans entered upon a new spring in the mid-nineteenth century that ultimately produced in the early decades of the twentieth century the biblical scholar Marie-Joseph Lagrange (18551938) and the Thomistic theologians Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange (18771964) and Juan Arintero (18601928).

Dominican theologians Yves Congar, Dominic Chenu, and Edward Schillebeeckx were leaders in the new theological movement that flourished after World War II in Europe and culminated in Vatican II. The renewal of the order in accordance with the norms of the council began with the publication of the new constitutions written at the general chapter held at River Forest, Illinois, in 1968. The four subsequent general chapters have continued the renewal process and given special emphasis to new forms of preaching and to the modern media of communication, the ministry of social justice, and the development of the order in South America, Africa, and Asia. In 1974 the concept of the first, second, and third orders was replaced by that of the Dominican family. New emphasis was given to the common mission of the men and women of the order to preach the gospel, while recognizing the diverse ways in which the ministry of preaching is carried out by the clerical, religious, and lay members of the order.

Over the past seven centuries 18 Dominican men and women have been canonized, and 334 members of the Dominican family have been beatified. Furthermore, 4 popes, 69 cardinals, and several thousand bishops have been drawn from the Dominican order to the service of the universal church. In 2000, the Dominican family throughout the world included 5,171 brothers in solemn vows, 4,672 priests, and 477 lay brothers. In 1983 there were 4,775 nuns in 225 cloistered monasteries, 40,816 women religious in 140 congregations, and 70,431 laity or secular Dominicans.

See Also

Albertus Magnus; Catherine of Siena; Dominic; Eckhart, Johannes; Las Casas, Bartolomé de; Savonarola, Girolamo; Tauler, Johannes; Thomas Aquinas.


The most scholarly history of the Dominican order from its beginnings to the Reformation is The History of the Dominican Order, 2 vols., by William A. Hinnebusch, O.P. Volume 1 is titled Origins and Growth to 1500 (New York, 1966); volume 2, Intellectual and Cultural Life to 1500 (New York, 1973). Hinnebusch's untimely death in 1981 prevented his completing two further volumes that would have taken the history of the order from the Reformation to the present. However, a concise summary of the material planned for the two final volumes can be found in his work The Dominicans: A Short History (New York, 1975).

The publication of two works edited and translated by Simon Tugwell, O.P.Early Dominicans (New York, 1982) and On the Beginnings of the Order of Preachers by Jordan of Saxony (Oak Park, Ill., 1982)have provided excellent selections of primary documents necessary for an understanding of the early history of the Dominican family. Both works also contain superb introductions to the sources of Dominican spirituality.

New Sources

Borgman, Eric. Dominican Spirituality. New York, 2001.

Conrad, Richard. The Catholic Faith: A Dominican's Vision. New York, 1994.

Thomas McGonigle (1987)

Revised Bibliography


views updated May 29 2018



LOCATION: Dominica

POPULATION: 72,00082,000

LANGUAGE: English; kwéyòl (French-based dialect)

RELIGION: Roman Catholicism; small groups of Anglicans, Methodists, Pentecostals, Baptists, Seventh-Day Adventists, Baha'is, and Rastafarians


Dominica is a mountainous island in the Caribbean island chain known as the Lesser Antilles. Historically, the island's rugged terrain discouraged foreign settlement; more recently, it has slowed modernization. Today, Dominicareferred to as "the nature island of the Caribbean"is one of the world's few locations with virtually untouched tropical rain forests. The island is also home to the Lesser Antilles' largest settlement of American Indians, the Caribs. They live on a reserve on Dominica's northeast coast. The Caribbean Sea is named after the Caribs.

The Caribs lived on Dominica, which they called Waitikubuli, when it was sighted by explorer Christopher Columbus (14511506) on a Sunday (dies dominica) in 1493. The Spanish did not attempt to colonize Dominica. Later, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the French and British fought for possession of the island. During the struggle, both nations attempted to dominate the Caribs. In 1805 the French gave up its claims to Dominica. The island remained a British colony until it gained independence in 1978. However, due to the long French presence on the island and the proximity to the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, the cultural influence of the French has endured.

Dominica remained relatively poor and undeveloped until recently. In 1951, universal adult suffrage (the right to vote) was granted by the British government. This was followed by a new constitution in 1960. The independent Commonwealth of Dominica was established on November 3, 1978. In 1980, Dame Mary Eugenia Charles (1919), head of the Democratic Freedom Party, became the first female head of government in the Caribbean. Reelected in 1985 and 1990, Dame Charles retired in 1995 at the age of seventy-five.


Dominica is at the midpoint of the Lesser Antilles island chain, near the Leeward Islands. It faces the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Caribbean Sea to the west. Dominica's area of 290 square miles (750 square kilometers) is slightly more than four times the size of Washington, D.C. Rainfall is extremely heavy. Much of the land is covered by dense, relatively untouched rain forests containing rare wild-life species. One of the island's most unusual features is the volcanically bubbling Boiling Lake, the second-largest lake of its kind in the world. An egg will supposedly boil within three minutes in its 198°f (92°c) waters.

Dominica is located just west of the chief point of origin of the hurricane belt. Hurricanes David and Frederick in 1979 caused more than 40 deaths and 2,500 injuries. Two-thirds of the population were left homeless, and crop damage was extensive.

Estimates of Dominica's population vary from 72,000 to around 82,000. With a population density of about 95 people per square mile (37 people per square kilometer), Dominica is one of the least populated countries in the Caribbean. The Carib population numbers approximately 3,400, most of whom live on a 3,700-acre reserve in the northeast called the Carib Territory.

The Caribs, whose language is no longer spoken, are working to preserve what little remains of their culture. They do not celebrate the nation's Independence Day (November 3) because the holiday also commemorates the date in 1493 when Columbus first sighted Dominica. That event ultimately led to the political, economic, and cultural decline of the Caribs. Today, most of Dominica's Caribs are of mixed ancestry; the population of full-blooded Caribs is estimated to be less than fifty.


English is the official language of Dominica. Most of the population also speaks a French-based patois (dialect) called kwéyòl(derived from the word "Creole"). Kwéyòl has elements in common with dialects spoken on other islands in the area that were colonized by the French. Kwéyòl is a source of pride among Dominicans and its use in print is growing. A kwéyòl dictionary was published in 1991.

KwéyòlStandard English
ouyou (singular)
zòyou (plural)
KwéyòlStandard English
Sa ki non'w?What is your name?
Non mwen sé Paul.My name is Paul
Bon jou, Misyé.Good day, sir.
Bonn apwé midi.Good afternoon.
Bon swé.Good night.
Mon swèf.I am thirsty.
Mon fen.I am hungry.
Mon pa fen.I am not hungry.
Jodi sé yon bèl jou.It is a beautiful day.
Lapli ka tonbé.It is raining.

Cocoy, a type of pidgin English (a simple version of English mixed with other words), is spoken in the villages of Marigot and Wesley in northeastern Dominica. These villages were originally settled by freed slaves from the island of Antigua.


According to a Carib legend, a giant boa constrictor (a kind of snake) called the Master Boa has lived for centuries in a hole on Morne Diablotin. The Escalier Tête-Chien (Master Boa's Staircase), a rock formation near Sineku, is believed to be the spot where the snake crawled onto the island from its original home at the bottom of the sea. Looking at the Master Boa is supposed to be fatal unless a person has abstained from both food and sex for a certain number of days beforehand.

Many Dominicans believe in obeah, a collection of religious beliefs and practices from Africa. Obeah is believed to have the power both to heal the sick and to harm one's enemies. Its practices include the use of herbal potions.

Flying witches called suquiyas are the subject of a number of Dominican proverbs.


Because of the French influence on Dominica, the island's population is about 80 percent Roman Catholic. The rest belong to the Anglican, Methodist, Pentecostal, Baptist, and Seventh-Day Adventist churches. The Baha'i and Rastafarian religions are represented as well. The Caribs' religious practices combine features of Christianitysuch as belief in Jesus, the saints, heaven, and hellwith the nature worship common among their ancestors.


Dominica's public holidays are New Year's Day (January 1), Carnival (two days preceding Ash Wednesday), Good Friday and Easter Monday (late March or early April), May Day (May 1), August Monday (August 1), National Dayalso called Independence Day (November 3), Community Service Day (November 4), and Christmas Day and Boxing Day (December 25 and 26). The most important religious holidays are Christmas and Easter.

Tou Saintes (All Saints' Day) is celebrated on November 1. The country's largest festival is Carnival, which occurs on the two days preceding Ash Wednesday. It is marked by masquerades, calypso (folksong) contests, feasting, street dancing (called "jump ups"), and parties.

Independence Day on November 3 commemorates the date in 1978 when Dominica became an independent nation. It is celebrated with speeches, parades, and calypso music. On Creole Day, usually the Friday before Independence Day, Dominicans celebrate and display their Creole heritage. They wear traditional costumes, conduct all business in kwéyòl (their native dialect), eat Dominican dishes such as crapaud (frogs' legs), and dance to Dominican folk music.


Major life transitions, such as birth, marriage, and death, are each marked by religious ceremonies.


Dominicans are more reserved than some of their neighbors in the Caribbean. They place a high value on good manners. A common greeting is Cakafete, which means "How are you?"


Dominica is one of the poorest nations in the Caribbean. Many Dominicans live in single-story wooden houses with iron roofs.

Average life expectancy is seventy-four years for males and eighty years for females. The infant mortality rate (proportion who die in infancy) is 9.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. Health care is provided at local clinics, twelve health centers, and the 136-bed Princess Margaret Hospital in Roseau. There are also hospital facilities at Portsmouth, Marigot, and Grand Bay.


In addition to formal marriages, Dominicans also enter into common-law relationships (men and women living togetherwith or without childrenwithout being married) and "visiting unions," where the man and woman live apart. Women are the heads of households in common-law relationships and visiting unions.


Dominicans wear modern Western-style clothing. However, on Creole Day and other special occasions, women still wear the traditional national costume. This includes the brightly colored jupe (a skirt with lace petticoats), la wobe douilette (a wide blouse), and a madras hat called tete case.


Dominican food combines French, English, and African influences. Basic dietary staples include fish, yams, and other vegetables. The ti-ti-ri, a tiny whitefish found in Dominican rivers, is eaten fried with garlic and lime. A unique local food is mountain chicken, which is not actually chicken but the legs of the crapaud, a local frog.

Other regional favorites include crab backs (stuffed crabshells); boija, a coconut-cornmeal bread; funchi, a cornmeal-andokra pudding; and pumpkin soup. A recipe for pumpkin soup follows.


Pumpkin Soup


  • 3 cups canned pumpkin or 2 pounds cooked fresh pumpkin
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 Tablespoon buter
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnnamon
  • ½ cup finely chopped ham or bacon


  1. Put the milk in a large saucepan and heat it until it boils. Remove from heat.
  2. Add the pumpkin to the milk and stir to combine.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and return to the heat. Heat slowly until mixture is heated through, but do not boil.

Cassava bread is a staple among the Carib population. A popular beverage is a sea-moss drinkmade from vanilla, algae, and milkwhich is also a favorite in Grenada. Another local drink, Bwa bande (brewed from the bark of the tree of the same name), is believed to enhance male sexual potency.


The adult literacy rate (percentage of the population able to read and write) in Dominica is approximately 95 percent. Widespread access to public education was not provided until the 1960s. Children attend school from age five to age fifteen, at which point they are in the U.S. equivalent to eighth grade. Most students end their secondary schooling in the U.S. equivalent of the tenth grade. A few continue their studies in order to qualify for admission to a university. Many qualified Dominican students lack the financial resources to attend college. The United States, Great Britain, Canada, and France have made scholarships and other forms of financial aid available to Dominican students. Education is a high priority even though many young people must work to supplement the family income.


Dominican-born novelist Jean Rhys (18941979) spent much of her life in Europe. Caribbean scenes appear in her 1934 novel, Voyage in the Dark. Her last work, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), is set in the Caribbean. Phyllis Shand Allfrey (190886), a poet and novelist, returned to Dominica in the 1950s after being educated in the United States and England. Lennox Honychurch (1952), author of The Dominica Story: A History of the Island and Our Island Culture, is a well-known Dominican historian, folklorist, and painter.

Alwin Bully, a Dominican playwright, co-authored Speak Brother Speak and was a founding member of the Peoples' Action Theatre. He has also written radio plays and musicals. Dominica also has a School of Dance and a professional dance troupe, the Waitukubuli Dance Company. The Carib Territory is home to several famous artists, including Faustulus Frederick and Jacob Frederick.


The Dominican labor force totals about 25,000 people. About 40 percent are employed in agriculture (including food processing), while industry and commerce employ 32 percent. The rest work in other areas of the economy. The standard work day is eight hours long. Unemployment is between 10 and 15 percent. Many Dominicans have sought work on St. Thomas and other nearby islands.


The nation's most popular sports are cricket and soccer (called "football"). Major cricket games draw thousands of fans. The game is especially popular in the Carib Territory. Other popular sports include volleyball, basketball, and squash. Tourists, although relatively few in number, enjoy scuba diving and snorkeling.


Dominican men, like men in other parts of the Caribbean, enjoy playing dominoes in one of the many rum shops on the island. Popular music on the island includes reggae, Zouk, and Cadance. In 1997, Dominica launched an annual music festival featuring performers from all over the Caribbean region.


A popular traditional Dominican dance is the "Jing-ping." Instruments used to accompany this dance include an accordion, a bass instrument called a "boom-boom," and a percussion instrument called a "shak-shak."

The Carib Territory has sixteen craft shops that turn out intricate, colorful straw hats, baskets, and other woven goods. The Caribs are also known for their carved canoes. Other crafts on Dominica include mats woven from a grass called vertivert.


Dominica's limited water supply is threatened by pollution from agricultural chemicals, untreated sewage, and industrial waste. Dominica has been used by international drug traffickers as a shipping point for narcotics.


Booth, Robert. "Dominica, Difficult Paradise." National Geographic (June 1990): 100120.

Cameron, Sarah, and Ben Box, eds. Caribbean Islands Handbook. Chicago: Passport Books, 1995.

Meditz, Sandra W., and Dennis M. Hanratty. Islands of the Commonwealth Caribbean: A Regional Study. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989.

Myers, Robert A. Dominica. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio Press, 1987.

Schwab, David, ed. Insight Guides. Caribbean: The Lesser Antilles. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.

Walton, Chelle Koster. Caribbean Ways: A Cultural Guide. Westwood, Mass.: Riverdale, 1993.


Caribbean Investments Ltd. [Online] Available, 1997.

Dominica Festivals Commission. [Online] Available, 1997.

Microsoft. [Online] Available, 1998.

World Away Travel. [Online] Available, 1998.

World Travel Guide. Dominica. [Online] Available, 1998.


views updated May 23 2018



LOCATION: Dominican Republic; United States (primarily New York City)

POPULATION: 7.8 million in the Dominican Republic; 0.51 million or more in New York City


RELIGION: Roman Catholicism; Evangelical Protestantism; voodoo


The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with the nation of Haiti. Hispaniola was sighted by Christopher Columbus (14511506) in 1492. Four years later, his brother, Bartolome (c.14441514), founded Santo Domingo, the present-day capital of the Dominican Republic and the oldest European-founded city in the Western Hemisphere. Because of its importance as a trading port location in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic was ruled by several foreign powers, including France, Haiti, and Spain.

Under the leadership of national hero Juan Pablo Duarte (181376), independence from Spanish rule was declared in 1844, but the government remained unstable. The nation was again ruled by the Spanish between 1861 and 1865. The United States occupied the Dominican Republic from 1916 to 1924. The thirty-year rule of Rafael Trujillo began in 1930. Trujillo was assassinated (18911961) in 1961, and writer Juan Bosch (1908) came into power briefly before being ousted by a military coup in 1963. The U.S. military intervened in 1965. Joaquin Balaguer (1907) was elected president, a position he held into the 1990s. The country has basically been governed democratically since the 1960s.


With an area of approximately 18,819 square miles (48,741 square kilometers), the Dominican Republic is about the same size as Vermont and New Hampshire combined. Bordered on the north by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the south by the Caribbean Sea, the island is separated on the east by a seventy-mile-wide body of water called the Mona Passage. The country includes rugged mountain peaks, rolling hills, rich valleys, lush sugarcane plantations, and fine, white beaches. The climate is tropical. Both the highest and lowest points in the Caribbean region are found in the Dominican Republic. Pico Duarte is the highest mountain, rising 10,417 feet (3,820 meters) above sea level. The barren area between the two southern mountain ranges is called the Culde-Sac and is the lowest point.

Almost 8 million people live in the Dominican Republic, 60 percent in the cities and 40 percent in rural areas. The capital city of Santo Domingo houses a population of a little more than 2 million people.

About one in seven Dominicans now lives outside of the country. New York City has more Dominicansbetween 500,000 and 1 millionthan any city in the world except Santo Domingo. Large numbers of Dominicans also live in Florida and New Jersey. The money sent home by these dominicanos ausentes (absent Dominicans), estimated to be about $500 million each year, is an important factor in their homeland's economy.

About 70 percent of the country's population is classified as mulatto (of mixed black and white ancestry), 16 percent as white, and 11 percent as black. The Dominican people actually use a more specific system of racial labeling. Blanco (white) refers to whites and persons of mixed white and Amerindian (native) descent (mestizos); Indio claro (tan) refers to mulattos, including those with Amerindian ancestry; Indio oscuro (dark Indian) describes anyone who is mostly black with some white or Amerindian ancestry; and Negro (not a derogatory term in the Dominican Republic) is reserved for persons who are 100 percent African.


Spanish is the official and universally spoken language of the Dominican Republic. Compared with other Latin American countries, Dominican Spanish is considered close to classical (Castillian) Spanish, but has a distinctive accent and includes many local expressions. Some English is spoken in the capital city of Santo Domingo.


Combining Catholic beliefs with African customs, formularios and oraciones are special chants that are used in the belief that they attract good luck or avoid the evil eye. Many Dominicans believe that the Catholic saints possess a kind of magical power, and express this belief in santos (saints) cults. Believers keep images of one or two saints in the house, and offer things to the images in the hope that their wishes will be fulfilled. On the "Night of the Saints" (Noche Vela), the saints are believed to be called to earth.


Reverence for religion in the Dominican Republic is demonstrated by the cross and bible in the center of the nation's coat of arms. Although 93 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, many Dominicans do not attend church regularly. Religious customs among Catholics include rosarios, which are processions organized to pray for help from a patron saint or the Virgin Mary.

Evangelical Protestantism has become popular in recent years. Its emphasis on family values and condemnation of alcohol, prostitution, and wife-beating, have made this religion attractive to low-income Dominicans, who traditionally have had unstable family structures.

Followers of spirit worship and voodoo, which was introduced into the country by Haitian immigrants, are thought to number about 60,000.


Many holidays in the Dominican Republic are religious ones. In addition to Christmas and Good Friday, the Day of Our Lady of Altagracia (January 21), Corpus Christi (June 17), and the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy (September 24) are celebrated. Secular, or non-religious, holidays include Día de Duarte, a commemoration of the birthday of national hero Juan Pablo Duarte (January 26), Independence Day (February 27), Labor Day (May 1), and Dominican Restoration Day (August 16).

Every town also holds a festival in honor of its patron saint, combining religious observance with non-religious activities; dancing, drinking, and gambling. The Dominican Independence Day (February 27) falls around the beginning of Lent. It is the occasion for a rambunctious Carnival celebration that draws more than half a million people each year to Santo Domingo.


Major life events such as birth, marriage, and death, are marked by religious ceremonies according to each Dominican's faith community.


When greeting one another, Dominicans use the formal pronoun usted instead of the familiar form tu, unless the relationship is a very close one.

Compadrazgo, a relationship similar to that of godparents in the United States, is an important part of growing up in the Dominican Republic. The compadre (which literally means, "co-parent") is chosen when a child is baptized, and the special relationship of the compadre with the child and the child's parents is enduring, strong, and loyal.


Traditional rural dwellings are made of wood with thatched or tin roofs and are often painted in bright colors. To keep the house cool, cooking is usually done in a separate structure that has slotted sides to release smoke and heat. The extensive rural-to-urban migration has created a severe housing shortage in the cities. Slums and squatter settlements have sprung up in the capital city of Santo Domingo.

The Dominican Republic's infant mortality rate in 1993 was forty-nine deaths per one thousand births, and average life expectancy was sixty-nine years. Hospitals and medical practioners are concentrated in the two largest cities of Santo Domingo and Santiago. There is a lower quality of health care in rural areas. Health programs are offered through the nation's welfare system, which covers between 70 and 80 percent of the population. The poor economy has resulted in shortages of doctors and nurses, medicine, and surgical supplies. Those who can afford it consult private physicians.

Very few Dominicans own a car. Most of the passenger cars are driven either by the very wealthy or tourists.


Traditionally, the extended-family household with a dominant father figure has been normal among the middle and upper classes. In contrast, low-income families have less stable ties, and many of these households consist of either a couple (with or without children) living together in a common-law marriage, or a female-headed household with an absentee father. Women still consider the man the head of the household, but they have exerted more authority within the family, have won greater educational and employment opportunities, and exercised more control over the number of children they bear.


People in the Dominican Republic wear Western-style clothing suitable for their tropical climate.


The popular Caribbean dish of rice and beans (arroz con habichuelas) is a staple in the Dominican diet. It is nicknamed "the flag" (la bandera) and served with stewed beef. Another favorite dish is sancocho, a stew made with local meats and vegetables, often including plantains. Plantains, closely related to bananas and found throughout the Caribbean islands, are especially popular in the Dominican Republic. Ripe fried plantains are called amarillas, green fried ones are patacon pisao, and they become tostones when fried and mashed. Popular snack foods include chicarrones (pieces of fried pork) and empanadillas (tangy meat tarts). Dominican food is rather greasy since most of the dishes are fried. Puddingsincluding sweet rice, corn, and bananaare popular desserts.


Banana Pudding


  • 6 overripe bananas, peeled and mashed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons melted butter or margarine
  • 3 egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 Tablespoons of sweetened shredded coconut for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 325°f.
  2. Combine bananas, melted butter or margarine, orange juice, and sugar with mixing spoon or electric mixer.
  3. Carefully fold in stiffly beaten egg whites and transfer mixture to buttered or nonstick casserole or baking pan.
  4. Bake for about 40 minutes or until puffy and golden brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle top with shredded coconut.


In 1990 the estimated literacy rate (percent of the population who can read and write) was 83 percent. The law requires students to attend school for eight years, but many leave earlier to help support their families. Additional problems with education include a shortage of teachers, especially in rural areas, and a lack of adequate facilities. Institutions of higher learning include the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo and four private universities.


The Henriquez-Ureña family has been at the center of the Dominican Republic's literary heritage. Salomé Ureña de Henriquez (185097) was a nineteenth-century poet who established the country's first higher education facility for women, the Instituto de Señoritas. In the twentieth century, the critic Pedro Henriquez-Ureña was deeply involved in education. Many consider Gaston Fernando Delingue (18841946) the Dominican national poet. The country's best-known writer internationally is Juan Bosch, who served briefly as president. The Dominican Republic has a National Symphony Orchestra and a National School of Fine Arts, located in Santo Domingo.


Agriculture has always been the main source of employment in the Dominican Republic, but today a growing number of Dominicans work in service-related jobs, especially in tourism. Most Dominican farmers do not own their land and are sharecroppers or tenant farmers. Those who do own their own farms generally have fewer than two hectares (five acres) and grow only enough food to feed their own families. The country suffers from an extremely high unemployment rate, one of the main reasons Dominicans leave the country. Race has traditionally been a significant factor in the employment options of Dominicans. Higher-status jobs in business, government, and the professions are usually held by lighter-skinned persons. Women's unemployment rate is also higher and many are denied full employment benefits.


The Dominican Republic's national sport is baseball, with a season from October to February. Thousands of fans attend the games at Santo Domingo's stadiums. Major and minor league baseball teams in the United States have many Dominican players. Other popular Dominican sports include horse racing and cockfighting.


Dance is a national passion in the Dominican Republic. The most popular dance is the merengue, traditionally accompanied by music played by a trio. Even the smallest towns have a dance hall. There are annual merengue festivals in Santo Domingo, Puerto Plata, and Sosúa. Salsa music is also very popular. The major cities, especially Santo Domingo, have numerous nightclubs and gambling casinos where patrons may legally play blackjack, craps, and roulette.


Dominican folk music reflects Spanish, African, and Amerindian influences. A native percussion instrument, the güira, is a legacy of the island's original inhabitants. With maracas, palitos (also in the percussion family), and guitar, the güira is used to accompany romantic decimas ( folk songs.)

Other popular folk instruments include the balsié (accordion) and pandero (tambourine). The national dance of the Dominican Republic is the merengue, which features a stiff-legged step that is something like a limp. Other folk dances include the yuca, the sarambo, the zapateo, and the fandango.

Local crafts include woodcarvings, pottery, handmade rocking chairs (which have been popular ever since one was given to U.S. president John F. Kennedy [191763] as a gift), ceramics, macramé, and handknitted clothing. Dominicans also produce hand-crafted jewelry of amber and larimar, also known as Dominican Turquoise, a light-blue stone unique to the region.


The Dominican Republic suffers from serious economic and social problems, including an unemployment rate of 30 percent. Another 20 percent of the work force is underemployed. Migration from rural to urban areas has created a shortage in housing and a rise in urban crime. In the country's capital city, Santo Domingo, much of the housing is substandard and the quality of the water is poor.


Creed, Alexander. Dominican Republic. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.

Schoenhals, Kai P. Dominican Republic. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio Press, 1990.

Walton, Chelle Koster. Caribbean Ways: A Cultural Guide. Westwood, Mass.: Riverdale, 1993.


Embassy of the Dominican Republic, Washington, D.C. Dominican Republic. [Online] Available, 1998.

Ruiz-Garcia, Pedro. The Latino Connection. [Online] Available, 1998.

World Travel Guide, Dominican Republic. [Online] Available http:/, 1998.


views updated Jun 11 2018


DOMINICANS , Roman Catholic religious order, whose official name is Ordo Fratrum Praedicatorum, the Order of Friar Preachers. Often referred to as "Jacobins," after their Saint-Jacques Monastery in Paris, they were also popularly known as domini canes, "the [watch-] dogs of the Lord" because of their leading role in the *Inquisition. Founded by Saint Dominic and sanctioned by Pope Honorius iii in 1216, the order's first mission was preaching against Christian heresies in the south of France. From 1232, the Dominicans (along with the *Franciscans) were also in charge of the Inquisition, which was initially an institution directed only against the Christian heresies of the *Albigenses and the Waldenses. Because of their duties in these and other spheres, the activity of the Dominicans soon became largely directed against the Jews.

When Popes Gregory x in 1274 and Nicholas iv in 1288 and 1290 reissued the Turbato corde bull of Clement iv (1267), which had likened to heretics those converted Jews who had later returned to Judaism together with those who had assisted them in the process (see Papal *bulls), they entrusted the Dominican and Franciscan inquisitors with the prosecution of such persons. The Dominicans proceeded with these prosecutions in southern France from the close of the 13th century. In his Practica inquisitionis, an Inquisition textbook written in about 1323, the Dominican Bernard Guy, inquisitor in Toulouse, inserted lengthy passages dealing with the Jews. The interrogatory model which he proposes was above all intended to uncover the accomplices of the converted Jews who had reverted to Judaism. Without any doubt, the cruelest role in the imposition of Inquisition policies against converted Jews was played by the Dominican Tomás de *Torquemada, inquisitor-general in Spain until his death in 1498.

The Dominicans also played a predominant role in the proceedings against the Talmud (see Burning of *Talmud) and the *censorship of other Jewish books following the denunciation by Nicholas *Donin in 1239; after the confiscation of March 3, 1240, these books were collected by the Dominicans (as well as by the Franciscans). When at this point one bishop came to the defense of the Jews, the Dominican Thomas de Cantimpré accused him of having been corrupted by the Jews. Both in order to be able to understand such books themselves, and also to be the better prepared for their spoken and written missionary activities among the Jews, the Dominicans introduced the study of Hebrew from the middle of the 13th century, a development in which the Spanish Dominican *Raymond de Peñaforte played an important part. Raymond *Martini, another Spanish Dominican, held a chair in Hebrew until his death (shortly after 1284), but at first it was mainly converted Jews who directed these studies. At the Council of Vienna in 1312, the Spanish Dominican Raymond Lully elicited a general decision calling for the teaching of languages (Hebrew and Arabic) for missionary activities. However, after the meeting of their general chapter in Rome in 1571, the Dominican attitude toward the teaching of Hebrew grew more reserved. On the insistence of the apostate Pablo *Christiani and Raymond de Peñaforte, the compulsory attendance of the Jews at Dominican missionary sermons was decreed in 1263 (see also *Sermons to Jews). In 1278, Pope Nicholas iii ordered the grand master of the Dominicans to make such sermons and their compulsory attendance general practice. The Dominicans obtained the consent of Edward i of England for the introduction of such sermons in 1279; and subsequently many Dominicans, especially Vicente *Ferrer, and Peter *Schwarz, made widespread use of forced sermons to the Jews. The Dominicans were also in the forefront in organizing public *disputations, beginning with the one in *Paris in 1240, to which the Jews were compelled to send delegates. The disputation of *Barcelona in 1263 was convened on the initiative of Raymond de Peñaforte and Pablo Christiani.

Anti-Jewish polemics occupy an important place in Dominican writings. Raymond Martini drew up the Capistrum Judaeorum and the Pugio fidei christianae (Paris 1621, 1651; Leipzig, 1687), written in both Hebrew and Latin. Pierre de Janua, Martini's assistant, who was also well versed in Hebrew, wrote an Opus adversus Judaeorum errores accuratum. Alfonsus *Bonihominis, a Spaniard who lived for many years in Paris (d. 1353), claimed to have translated the Epistola Rabbi Samuelis (printed 1480?) from Arabic; however, it is probable that he composed the work himself. Other Dominican anti-Jewish works were In sectam hebraicam by the Italian Gratiadei Aesculanus (d. 1341); Liber contra Judaeos nomine Thalamoth (mid-14th century) attributed to Pierre de Pennis; and Capistrum Judaeorum (before 1418) by the Italian Lauterius de Batineis (or Laurentius de Valdinis, or de Ubaldinis). The obaldius of Saxony (first half of the 15th century), one of the participants at the Council of Constance, wrote a Refutatio errorum Thalmud. The Spaniard Joannes Lopez (or Lupus, d. 1464) collected several anti-Jewish sermons and arguments under the title Opus eruditum contra superstitiones Judaeorum. The German Peter Schwarz, who appears to have learned Hebrew in a Jewish school in Spain and had attacked the Jews during a public disputation in Ratisbon, was the author of Tractatus contraperfidos Judaeos de conditionibus veri Messiae… ex textibus hebraicis which includes various appendices in Hebrew and a "reply to several Jewish arguments." Later authors were the Catalonian Gaspar Fayol, who wrote Tractatus contra Judaeos (end of the 15th century); John Baptist Theatinus, who knew some Hebrew, author of De Trinitate et cognitione Dei contra philosophos et Judaeos (early 16th century); and the Spaniard Cyprianus Benetus (d. 1522), to whom is attributed Aculeuscontra Judaeos. Augustus Justiniani, who lived in northern Italy during the first half of the 16th century, translated several biblical texts from Hebrew, as well as Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed, and translated the New Testament into Hebrew; he also published Victor Porcheti's pamphlet Adversus impios Hebraeos. On a more everyday plane, Sixtus Medices, who was in Venice during the second half of the 16th century, attacked the activity of Jewish moneylenders in De foenore Judaeorum. Antoninus Stabili (d. 1583) published in Italy Fascicolo delle vanità Judaiche diviso in giornate sedeci. In the older tradition of Dominican Hebrew scholars was Franciscus Donatus of Rome (d. c. 1653), who demonstrated his sound knowledge of the language in several works on Hebrew accents and abbreviations and made various translations from Hebrew.

Anti-Jewish polemics continued in the 17th century; especially prolific was the Italian Petrus Pichius, author of: De partu virginis Deiparae adversus Judaeos; Epistola a gli Hebrei d'Italia nella quale si dimostra la vanità della loro penitenza ed aspetatione del Messia; Trattato della passione del Messia contra gli Ebrei; Stolte dottrine degli Ebrei con la loro confutazione. The Italian Tommaso Campanella (d. 1639), author of about 80 works of all kinds, compiled Adversus astrologos Judaeos; and the Frenchman Johannes of Sancta Maria (1604–1660), in addition to a Hebrew grammar and commentaries on some of the prophets in which he made wide use of Hebrew sources, published the polemic, De futura legalium apud Judaeos observatia post eorum ad Christi fidem conversionem. Josephus Maria Ciantes of Rome (d. 1670), who had studied Hebrew and rabbinic literature and in 1625 had been appointed by Pope Urban viii to "instruct" the Jews, was the author of De sanctissima Trinitate contra Judaeos and De Sanctissima Christi incarnatione contra Judaeos; the Hebrew translation of Thomas Aquinas' Summa is also his work. The Dominicans in Cologne, under their prior Jacob van Hoogstraaten, played a prominent and hostile role in the *Reuchlin-*Pfefferkorn controversy (1509–20) over the destruction of Hebrew books. In 1664, the general of the Dominicans, Giovanni Battista de' Manni, ordered members of the order in Poland to preach from the pulpit against the *blood libel. Although the Dominican Order continues to include in its ranks a considerable number of converted Jews, it has nevertheless given up all organized missionary activities among the Jews. Of late, the Dominicans have made important contributions to biblical studies and on the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Ecole Biblique et Archéologique Francaise de Jérusalem. They have adopted a positive attitude toward the State of Israel, where they have several monasteries and churches in Jerusalem.


A.M. Walz, Compendium Historiae Ordinis Praedicatorum (19482), 278ff., 291, 509; B. Altaner, Die Dominikaner-mission des 13. Jahrhunderts (1924), 94ff.; W. Eckert, in: K. Thieme (ed.), Kirche und Synagoge (1968), 217ff.; P. Browe, Die Judenmission im Mittelalter… (1942), index. add. bibliography: dominicans in the holy land: S.P. Colby, Christianity in the Holy Land (1969); E. Schiller, Christians and Christianity in Eretz-Israel (2002); Directory of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land (2005).

[Bernhard Blumenkranz]


views updated May 23 2018


Dominicans (Order of Preachers). The Dominican order was one of several religious orders important in colonial Latin America. Having been founded in medieval Europe as a means of combating heresy, it was particularly well suited to missionary activity in the Americas.

The Dominican order arrived in the New World in 1510 with a contingent of friars sent by the crown to Hispaniola. Although the Franciscans and others had begun the early missionary work on the island, the Dominicans would leave a lasting impression. The order was chosen for two reasons. The Spanish crown had received disquieting rumors of the outbreak of heresy in the new colony, and there was a generally conceded need for more priests. The first contingent was organized by Friar Alonso Loaisa. Although some fifteen friars were chosen, only nine, led by Friar Pedro de Córdoba, sailed for the New World, arriving in Santo Domingo in September 1510.

The impact of the Dominicans on Hispaniola was dramatic. Well trained in theology, as expounded by the famous Dominican, Saint Thomas Aquinas, the friars began to attempt to reform Spanish society. They taught the doctrine of the equality of all human beings in the sight of God. In 1511, Friar Antonio de Montesinos began to rail in the pulpit against the system of forced Indian labor prevalent on the island. His sermons raised such ire in the colony that he was forced to return to Spain to defend his views. One settler, Bartolomé de Las Casas, deeply influenced by Montesinos, entered the Dominican order in 1523. Las Casas spent the remainder of his life continuing the struggle for social justice and for the protection of the American Indians.

The first contingent of Dominicans to arrive in Mexico after the Conquest came in 1526. The group of twelve friars, led by Friar Tomás Ortíz, suffered badly during the first year. Five of their number died, and four more were forced to return to Spain because of ill health, leaving only three friars: Domingo de Betanzos, Gonzalo Lucero, and Vicente de las Casas. Betanzos assumed leadership of the order in Mexico, overseeing its development until 1528, when seven more friars arrived.

In Mexico the Dominicans initiated their mission in the Valley of Mexico and surrounding regions. Their greatest efforts were made in the south, especially among the Mixteca and Oaxaca. In the south they had near complete autonomy. Some of the most impressive early churches were built by Dominicans, including Teposcolula, Yanhuitlán, and Cuilapán. Their devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary resulted in several magnificent works of ecclesiastical decoration, notably the Rosary chapel of the Church of Santo Domingo in Puebla.

The Dominicans were among the first orders to arrive in Peru. In 1529 a group of six Dominicans, led by Friar Reginaldo Pedraza, accompanied Pizarro on his return to the New World as participants in his expedition. Five of the six died or abandoned the enterprise, leaving only Friar Vicente de Valverde to participate with Pizarro in the conquest. He was counted among the men of Cajamarca and rewarded with the bishopric of Cuzco, in reality all of Peru, for his efforts.

The formal establishment of the order in Peru occurred in 1540, when Friar Francisco Toscano arrived with twelve other friars. The order quickly established monasteries in both Lima and Cuzco. Their church and convent in Cuzco was built upon the sacred temple of the Sun, the Coricancha. At the same time, the Dominicans under Friar Alonso de Montenegro established themselves in the other Inca capital of Quito.

Although the Dominicans were deeply involved in missionary activity among the Indians, they also had close ties to the Spanish population. In the capital cities, the Dominican conventual churches were often among the most ornate and best endowed. Many Dominicans also participated in the literary life of the colonies. In Lima, Friar Diego de Ojeda (Hojeda) won great repute for his poetry, especially the sacred epic La cristiada.

The Dominicans played an important role in the study of native languages. The order was responsible for the production of one of the most popular early catechisms in Mexico. In 1548 and 1550 their Doctrina cristiana was published. Later, in 1565, Friar Domingo de la Anunciación published his Doctrina christiana breve, another key early catechism, this one written in both Spanish and Nahuatl, the Aztec language. Among early students of the indigenous cultures, Friar Diego Durán ranks as very important. In his Historia de las indias de la Nueva España he compiled much information about the ancient rites and culture of the Aztecs, acquired during his childhood in Texcoco, near Mexico City. In Peru the efforts of the Dominicans to study the native languages was represented by Friar Domingo de Santo Tomás who published the first grammar and a dictionary of Quechua in 1560.

In Europe the Dominican order participated in the Holy Office of the Inquisition, but in the New World the Holy Office was organized under the monarch. The role played by the Dominicans was no greater than that of any other order. At the close of the sixteenth century one Dominican who had achieved some fame for his work in the Inquisition and for his skills as an historian was Friar Agustín Dávila y Padilla, author of the Historia de la fundación y discurso de la provincia de Santiago, a history of the Dominicans in Mexico.

As in other orders, by the end of the sixteenth century, nearly half of the membershp of local monasteries consisted of Creoles. Another important faction within the order were peninsular Spaniards who had entered the order in the New World, hijos de provincia. In order to cope with the competition for political power among these three groups, the Dominicans adopted the system known as the alternativa in their regular leadership elections. In this system, the leadership of local monasteries regularly rotated from peninsulars to creoles to hijos de provincia.

There were several Dominicans who became bishops during the colonial period. Some of the most famous of these include Friar Bartolomé de Las Casas, the first bishop of Chiapas, Friar Alonso de Montúfar, the second archbishop of Mexico and Friar Diego de Loaysa, first archbishop of Lima.

In Lima, during the seventeenth century a rich culture emerged out of the Dominican order. Saint Martín de Porres (1579–1639) was the mulatto son of a local gentleman. He sought entry into the Dominican order, but due to his illegitimate birth and mixed ancestry he was denied. Through quiet determination de Porres continued his quest, until in 1603 he was admitted as a lay brother. He was canonized in 1962. Juan Macias (1585–1645) arrived in Lima as a begging orphan. After living in the streets for several years, Macias entered the Dominican order and gained great fame for his piety and the austerity of his prayer life. He was beatified in 1837. Saint Rosa De Lima (1586–1617) was born into polite Lima society. Although baptized as Isabel, as a child she took the name Rose of Saint Mary. She did not formally enter the Dominican order, but dressed as a Dominican tertiary. She lived her life in extreme austerity, devoting long hours to prayer and mortification. She was canonized in 1671. Saint Mariana de Jesús Paredes (1618–1645) also was a member of the Dominican order. Born in Quito, she was orphaned at age five. Raised by her older sister, she soon demonstrated a vocation for the contemplative life. Although she studied with the Jesuits, she entered the Dominican convent of Santa Catalina in Quito. When an epidemic threatened to destroy everyone in the city, she offered herself to God as a sacrifice. The pestilence stopped, and within a day of her vow she died. Canonization proceedings began immediately and met with success in 1950.

See alsoCatholic Church: The Colonial Period .


Daniel Ulloa, Los predicadores divididos: Los dominicos en Nueva España, siglo XVI (1977); Los dominicos y el Nuevo Mundo (1988).

Additional Bibliography

Brading, D.A. First America: The Spanish Monarchy, Creole Patriots, and the Liberal State, 1492–1867. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Casas, Bartolomé de las, and Stafford Poole. In Defense of the Indians: The Defense of the Most Reverend Lord, Don Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, of the Order of Preachers, Late Bishop of Chiapas, Against the Persecutors and Slanderers of the Peoples of the New World Discovered Across the Seas. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1992.

Medina, Miguel Angel, O.P. Los Dominicos en América: Presencia y actuación de los dominicos en la América colonial española de los siglos XVI-XIX. Madrid: Editorial MAPFRE, 1992.

Mier Noriega y Guerra, José Servando Teresa de, Susana Rotker, and Helen R. Lane. The Memoirs of Fray Servando Teresa de Mier. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Peréz Casado, Ángel. En las fronteras de la fe: Dominicos en la Amazonía Peruana. Salamanca: Editorial San Esteban, 1995.

                                        John F. Schwaller


views updated May 09 2018


DOMINICANS, or Order of Preachers, are part of a worldwide Roman Catholic religious community of friars founded in 1216 by Saint Dominic. The Dominicans arrived in America with the Spanish explorers. Although the first two Catholic bishops of New York—Richard L. Concanen (1808) and John Connolly (1815)—were Dominicans, the first community (organized with a democratic constitution) was established at Saint Rose in Springfield, Kentucky, in 1806. Its founder, Edward Dominic Fenwick, also established the first Catholic school for boys west of the Alleghenies (1806) and the first Catholic church in Ohio—at Somerset in 1818. In California, community life was established by José Sadoc Alemany, who was appointed bishop of Monterey (1851) and later the first archbishop of San Francisco (1853). About the same time, the Dominicans established themselves in Washington, D.C. (1852) and New York (1867).

By the 1990s, there were three Dominican provinces in the United States, with more than 1,000 priests, brothers, and sisters engaged chiefly in parochial, educational, and missionary apostates. Dominicans staff Providence College in Rhode Island and teach at many other universities, some high schools, and their own seminaries. In 1909, they organized the Holy Name Society, which, by mid-century, had a membership of over 5 million and joined an expanding list of Dominican lay organizations, including the international Dominican Youth Movement. The Dominicans publish scholarly periodicals (The Thomist and Cross and Crown) and critical editions of the writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Significant foreign missionary work has been done by American Dominicans in Pakistan, Peru, Chile, China, Kenya, Bolivia, Nigeria, Ghana, and the Philippines.


Woods, Richard. Mysticism and Prophecy: The Dominican Tradition. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis; London: DLT, 1998.

Cornelius P.Forster,O. P./a. r.

See alsoCatholicism ; Franciscans ; Jesuits ; Missions, Foreign .


views updated May 17 2018

Dominicans (or ‘black’ or ‘preaching’ friars) were a mendicant order founded by a Spanish Augustinian and preacher, St Dominic, to combat the Albigensian heresy in southern France. The order was confirmed by Pope Innocent III in 1215, and its rule, largely based on the Augustinian rule, codified by 1221. Though following ideals of corporate poverty, the order was dedicated to educational activity and quickly established itself at the forefront of intellectual life—Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican—and friaries were found in virtually every university town in the medieval West. Like the Franciscans there were also strictly enclosed communities of contemplative nuns. Its rule, with its system of representational government under the authority of the master-general, is famous for its organizational sophistication, and partly accounts for its success and appeal both to the ecclesiastical hierarchy, especially the papacy, which used it for administrative, as well as evangelizing, duties, and to the laity.

The Dominicans first settled in England in Oxford and London in 1221 and by their dissolution in 1538–9 there were over 50 English friaries, constituting the English province, and divided into the four disciplinary ‘visitations’ of London, Oxford, Cambridge, and York.

Brian Golding


views updated May 11 2018

Dominicans. The ‘Order of Friars Preachers’, founded by St Dominic in 1215 and confirmed in 1216. From the first foundation in Toulouse it spread rapidly; today its members work in most regions of the world. The goal of the order is to proclaim the word of God by preaching and teaching. It espoused mendicant poverty, simplified conventual life and study as its main observances. There are also monasteries of enclosed nuns under the jurisdiction of the order, and a large number of congregations of active sisters attached to the order, though juridically independent. There are also Dominican lay fraternities and secular institutes.

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