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Dominican Republic



Dominican Republic

Republica Dominicana

CAPITAL: Santo Domingo

FLAG: The national flag, adopted in 1844, consists of a white cross superimposed on a field of four rectangles, the upper left and lower right in blue, the upper right and lower left in red.

ANTHEM: Himno Nacional, beginning "Quisqueyanos valientes, alcemos nuestro canto" ("Valiant Dominicans, let us raise our song").

MONETARY UNIT: The Dominican peso (rd$) of 100 centavos is a paper currency. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 centavos and 1 peso, and notes of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000 pesos. rd$1 = us$0.03287 (or us$1 = rd$30.42) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard, but US and Spanish weights are widely used in commercial transactions.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Epiphany, 6 January; Altagracia Day, 21 January; Duarte Day, 26 January; Independence Day, 27 February; Labor Day, 1 May; Restoration of Independence, 16 August; Day of Our Lady of Las Mercedes, 24 September; All Saints' Day, 1 November; Christmas, 25 December. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday and Corpus Christi.

TIME: Eastern Daylight Savings Time is maintained throughout the year; 8 am = noon GMT.


The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola (Española) and includes the islands of Beata, Catalina, Saona, Alto Velo, and Catalinita in the Caribbean Sea, and several islets in the Atlantic Ocean. It has an area of 48,730 sq km (18,815 sq mi), with a length of 386 km (240 mi) ew, extending from Cape Engaño to the Haitian border, and a width of 261 km (162 mi) ns, extending from Cape Isabela to Cape Beata. Comparatively, the area occupied by the Dominican Republic is slightly more than twice the size of the state of New Hampshire. Bounded on the n by the Atlantic Ocean, on the e by the Mona Passage (which separates it from Puerto Rico), on the s by the Caribbean Sea, and on the w by Haiti, the Dominican Republic has a total boundary length of 1,648 km (890 mi), of which only 360 km (194 mi) is the length of the land boundary with Haiti.

The Dominican Republic's capital city, Santo Domingo, is located on its southern coast.


The Dominican Republic is generally mountainous, with deserts in the extreme western regions. The principal mountain range, the Central Cordillera, running from east to west and extensively pine-forested, bisects the republic. Between the Central Cordillera and the Northern Cordillera (and their associated plains) lies the famous Cibao (La Vega Real) Valley (225 km/140 mi long, with an average width of 23 km/14 mi), noted for the excellent quality of its soil. Fertile valleys also abound in the central and eastern areas. The country contains both the highest mountain in the West Indies, Mt. Duarte (Pico Duarte, 3,175 m/10,417 ft), and the lowest-lying lake, Lake Enriquillo (46 m/151 ft below sea level). The Yaque del Norte, the Yaque del Sur, and the Yuna are the principal rivers.


Climate and rainfall vary with region and altitude. Generally, however, average minimum and maximum temperatures range from 1829°c (6484°f) in the winter and from 2335°c (7395°f) in the summer. The coastal plain has an annual mean temperature of 26°c (79°f), while in the Central Cordillera the climate is temperate and the mean is 20°c (68°f). Rainfall varies from an annual average of 135 cm (53 in) in the eastern regions, with an extreme of 208 cm (82 in) in the northeast, to a mean of 43 cm (17 in) in the western areas. The rainy season generally extends from June to November and the dry season from December to May. The nation lies within the hurricane belt, and tropical storms constitute a major weather hazard.


Plants and animal life vary by region. Dense rain forests are common in the wetter areas; scrub woodland thrives along the drier slopes; and savanna vegetation is found on the open plains. Dominican mahogany and highly resinous pine trees grow in the high mountains. The rare hutia (a small rodent) and herds of wild boar are found in the mountainous areas. Ducks, doves, and several varieties of pigeons are seasonal visitors. Lake Enriquillo is the natural habitat of large flocks of flamingos. Spanish mackerel, mullet, bonito, and yellowtail snapper are found in the surrounding waters. As of 2002, there were at least 20 species of mammals, 79 species of birds, and over 5.600 species of plants throughout the country.


The main agencies responsible for environmental protection are the Department of National Parks and the Department of State for Agriculture. The Dominican Republic has environmental problems in the areas of deforestation, water supply, and soil erosion, the latter of which also damages the nation's coral reefs. United Nations (UN) sources report that, as of 1993, the nation was losing 20,000 hectares per year of its forest lands largely due to commercial interests. The felling of trees was prohibited in 1967 to remedy the ill effects of indiscriminate cutting by commercial producers and farmers and the destruction by fire of large stands of timber. However, many farmers continue to cut trees surreptitiously to make more land available for cultivation. Soil erosion results from a combination of rainfall and the use of land in mountainous areas. The country has 21 cu km of renewable water resources with 89% used for farming. About 97% of the population has access to pure drinking water. Water pollution results from the effects of mining along with industrial and agricultural sources.

In 2003, about 51.9% of the total land area was legally protected. Lago Enriquillo is a Ramsar wetland site. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 5 types of mammals, 16 species of birds, 10 types of reptiles, 31 species of amphibians, 10 species of fish, 2 species of invertebrates, and 30 species of plants. Endangered species in the Dominican Republic include the tundra peregrine falcon, Haitian solenodon, three species of sea turtle (green sea, hawksbill, and leatherback), and American crocodile. The imposter hutia, the Hispaniolan edible rat, and Marcano's solenodon have become extinct.


The population of Dominican Republic in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 8,862,000, which placed it at number 86 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 5% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 34% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 102 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 1.7%, a rate the government viewed as too high. The government was initiating programs to address the high rate of adolescent fertility. The projected population for the year 2025 was 11,038,000. The population density was 182 per sq km (471 per sq mi). The southern coastal plains and the Cibao Valley are the most densely populated areas of the country.

The UN estimated that 64% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 1.99%. The capital city, Santo Domingo, had a population of 1,865,000 in that year. Other important cities are Santiago de los Caballeros, La Romana, San Pedro de Macorís, San Francisco de Macorís, and Concepción de la Vega.


Four overseas immigration movements took place 193060: approximately 5,000 refugees from the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s; a Jewish refugee group, which arrived in 1940; a continuous flow of Japanese, mainly farmers, since 1950; and 600 Hungarian refugees invited by the government in 1957. These are dwarfed, however, by the influx of Haitians, some seasonal, others permanent.

An estimated 35,000 Haitians entered the Dominican Republic after the military coup that overthrew Haiti's president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in September 1991. By May 1997, 20,000 Haitians had returned to their homeland, voluntarily or by deportation. The majority of Haitian refugees live outside the capital, Santo Domingo. The Dominican Republic government initiated a program to deport illegal migrants back to Haiti. However, this program does not affect recognized refugees or asylum seekers, as they receive temporary residence permits. In October 2005, Migration News reported that estimates of the number of Haitians in the Dominican Republic in 2005 ranged from 300,000 to 1.6 million. A census of Haitians was planned to determine how they obtained illegal Dominican identity cards. The Dominican Republic began to issue identity cards to 300,000 Dominicans living illegally in Puerto Rico.

Emigration became significant for the first time during the 1960s, when 93,300 Dominicans legally entered the United States; during 197180, the figure rose to 148,100, and during 198185, it was 104,800. In 1990 there were 357,000 Dominican-born people living in the United States, mostly along the eastern seaboard. This census total may have been an undercount, for estimates of the Dominican population in the United States ranged as high as 1,000,000, including 200,000 in Puerto Rico. The total of remittances in 2001 was $1,982,000, or 9.3% of GDP. By the end of 2004, 99 Dominicans had applied to Canada for asylum.

The net migration rate estimated in 2005 was -3.2 migrants per 1,000 population, almost equivalent to the rate of -3.03 migrants per 1,000 population in 1999.


Ethnic divisions have been estimated at 16% European, 11% African, and 73% mixed. Descendants of early Spanish settlers and of black slaves from West Africa constitute the two main racial strains.


Spanish is the official language. Some English is spoken in the capital, and a Creole dialect is used along the Haitian border.


According to a 1997 population survey, professing Roman Catholics represented an estimated 68.1% of the population and Protestants, including Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Methodists, Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, and others accounted for another 11%. However, the Catholic Church has claimed that their membership accounts for about 87% of the population and Evangelical Christians have claimed up to 25% of the population as members. As many as 20% of the population claims no religious affiliation whatsoever. It is believed that some Catholics may practice a combination of Catholicism and tradition Afro-Caribbean beliefs and customs. Other religions include Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism.

Religious freedom is protected by law, and there is no state religion. However, the Roman Catholic Church, which signed a concordat with the government in 1954, is extended special privileges not granted to other religions. Religious groups are required to register with the government for legal tax-exempt status. Roman Catholic marriages are the only religious marriages that are automatically recognized by the state. Civil unions are required for other faiths.


The national highway system is the dominant means of inland public transportation. Three main highways emanate from Santo Domingo: the Carretera Sánchez (connecting with Elias Piña on the Haitian border), the Carretera Mella (to Higüey in the extreme southeast), and the Carretera Duarte (to Monte Cristi on the northwest coast). In 2002 there were 12,600 km (7,830 mi) of roadways, of which 6,224 km (3,868 mi) were paved. In 2003, a total of 171,200 passenger cars and 207,000 commercial vehicles were licensed.

In 2004, the Dominican Republic had 1,743 km (1,084 mi) of standard and narrow gauge railroad. Of that total, 1,226 km (763 mi) were operated by sugar companies, and consisted of varying types of narrow gauge track. In that same year, there were 375 km (233 mi) of standard gauge track in operation, and another 142 km (88 mi) of narrow gauge railroad not affiliated with the sugar companies operated that year.

The Santo Domingo, Andrés, and Haina harbors, all in the Santo Domingo area, handle the vast majority of imports. Other large ports include Puerto Plata in the northwest; La Romana, Boca Chica, and San Pedro de Macorís in the southeast; and Barahona in the southwest. The Dominican merchant fleet had three cargo ship of 1,000 GRT or over, totaling 11,230 GRT in 2005.

In 2004, there were an estimated 31 airports, 13 of which had paved runways as of 2005. Dominicana de Aviación provides international service from Las Americas International Airport at Punta Caucedo, 29 km (18 mi) east of Santo Domingo. Cargo and mail service to the US mainland, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands is provided by Aerolíneas Argo. Alas del Caribe provides domestic passenger service, as does Aerovías Quisqueyanas. There are also six other international airports at Puerto Plata, Punt Cana, Santiago, Samana, Barahona, a new airport in Santo Domingo, and La Romana. In 1997 (the latest year for which data is available), about 34,000 passengers were carried on regularly scheduled domestic and international flights.


The eastern part of the island of Hispaniola was originally known as Quisqueya, meaning "mother of all lands." It was first settled by the nomadic and warlike Carib Amerindians and later by the agricultural and peace-loving Arawaks. Christopher Columbus made the European discovery of the island and claimed it for Spain in 1492. Santo Domingo, the oldest city in the New World, was founded four years later by Bartholomew Columbus, the explorer's brother. By 1517, Hispaniola had become the springboard for Spanish conquest of the Caribbean and of the American mainland. As with other Caribbean islands, the Amerindian population dwindled, and was replaced by African slaves.

The importance of Hispaniola waned during the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1697, by the Treaty of Ryswick, Spain was forced to recognize French dominion over the western third of the island, an area now known as Haiti. In 1795, under the Treaty of Basel, Spain ceded to France the eastern two-thirds of the island, which by then had been renamed Santo Domingo. The island then came under the rule of the rebellious ex-slave Toussaint L'Ouverture. After Haiti received independence in 1804, the French retained the rest of the island until 1809. After a brief attempt at independence, the Dominicans fell under the control of Spain, which regained the eastern section of the island under the Treaty of Paris (1814).

In 1821, the Dominicans, led by José Múñez de Cáceres, proclaimed their independence. The Dominicans sought to become part of Simón Bolívar's newly independent Republic of Gran Colombia, but in 1822, the Haitians conquered the entire island. For 22 years, the Haitians ruled with an iron fist. A civil war in 1843 gave the Dominicans the opportunity to try again for independence, and, under Juan Pablo Duarte, they established the Dominican Republic as an independent state.

Between 1844 and 1916, the new republic alternated among personalist leaders, who sought foreign protection against Haiti. The most prominent among these were Pedro Santana and Buenaventura Baez, who dominated Dominican politics until 1882. Santana restored the Dominican Republic to the Spanish Empire during 186165. Baez in 1869 negotiated a treaty providing for US annexation, but the US Senate refused to ratify it.

After a 17-year dictatorship, the Dominican Republic entered a turbulent period characterized by general political instability and increasing debt to US interests. In 1905, US president Theodore Roosevelt appointed an American receiver of Dominican customs, and a subsequent treaty provided for repayment of the debt. This first application of the "Roosevelt Corollary" to the Monroe Doctrine was followed in 1916 by the US establishment of a military government under Marine Capt. H. S. Knapp. It ruled the Dominican Republic until 12 July 1924, when sovereignty was restored. US customs control continued until 1941.

In 1930, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina was elected president. For the next 31 years, he ruled the Dominican Republic either directly or indirectly. Trujillo had himself reelected in 1934, 1940, and 1947, then arranged for his brother to become president in 1952 and 1957, and then installed Joaquín Balaguer in 1960. Under Trujillo, the Dominican Republic achieved some economic progress, removing its foreign debt. But Trujillo brutally suppressed fundamental human rights. Only one party was allowed, the press was totally controlled, and constant purges weeded out all but his most servile supporters. His most dubious achievements were a result of his own megalomania. In the capital city of Santo Domingo, which he renamed Ciudad Trujillo (Trujillo City), there were 1,870 monuments to Trujillo, who gave himself the title "The Benefactor of the Fatherland." He also amassed a personal fortune estimated at $900$1,500 million.

Trujillo was assassinated on 30 May 1961. In July 1961, the Balaguer cabinet resigned as street rioting broke out. The opposition agreed to an interim coalition government under Balaguer that September, with Rafael Trujillo, Jr., as head of the armed forces. In November, the United States sent warships just outside Dominican waters to prevent the armed forces chief and his two uncles from a staging a rumored coup. They went into exile immediately.

After rule by an interim Council of State, Juan Bosch of the Dominican Revolutionary Party was elected president in 1962. He assumed office in February 1963 but remained in power for only seven months, during which time very little of the promised social and economic reform could be accomplished. The military, which overthrew Bosch in September 1963, proceeded to install a three-man civilian junta, called the Triumvirate, which was in turn overthrown by the supporters of Juan Bosch in April 1965. With anarchy threateningand, according to US allegations, Communists deeply involved in the pro-Bosch insurrectionthe United States sent 23,000 troops into the Dominican Republic, ostensibly to protect the lives of US citizens. Within weeks, the OAS had set up an Inter-America Peace Force in the country. This controversial set of arrangements eventually brought order to the country. After the 1966 elections, all US and OAS troops left the island.

In the general elections of June 1966, Balaguer, returned from exile, campaigned vigorously throughout the country, while Bosch, his chief opponent, remained home, apparently fearful of an attempt on his life. Balaguer won with 57.2% of the vote. Four years later, Balaguer ran essentially without opposition, as most parties withdrew from the campaign in response to rising political violence.

Events in 1974 followed a similar pattern. Two days before the election, an opposition coalition announced their withdrawal from the contest. The opposition's principal candidate, Silvestre Antonio Guzmán Fernández of the PRD (Dominican Revolutionary Party), called for general abstention from the election, charging Balaguer with fraudulent practices. Only one candidateAdm. Luis Homero Lajara Burgos, a former chief of police under Trujilloremained in the race. The results gave Balaguer an overwhelming majority, with 924,779 votes to Lajara Burgos's 105,320.

Following the 1974 elections, the opposition coalition, an amalgam of widely divergent political elements, decided to disperse in anticipation of the 1978 campaign. Despite their lack of representation in the legislature and in municipal councils as a result of the election boycott, the major opposition parties, aided by a large degree of press freedom, remained active and vocal. In the 1978 elections, the main presidential candidates were Balaguer and the PRD's Guzmán. Guzmán won with a 158,000-vote plurality, and his party gained a majority in the Chamber of Deputies. Numerous other parties, including the newly legalized Dominican Communist Party, participated in the elections. A right-wing military attempt to prevent Guzmán from assuming office was foiled, partly because of US government pressure.

During Guzmán's term, political prisoners were freed, press censorship was practically abolished, and political parties engaged in open activity. At the same time, however, there were mounting economic difficulties, aggravated by two hurricanes in 1979, which together left 1,300 people dead, 500 missing, and 100,000 homeless. In May 1982, a left-wing PRD senator, Salvador Jorge Blanco, was elected president. On 4 July, six weeks before his term was due to expire, Guzmán committed suicide, after several close associates were accused of fraud. Power was transferred peacefully to Vice President Jacobo Majluta Azar, and in August 1982, to Blanco.

Whatever plans President Blanco may have had were soon overtaken by the country's burgeoning foreign debt. Blanco turned to the IMF for assistance. The resultant restrictive economic policy raised production costs and reduced industrial output. A cut in the US sugar quota, as well as a generally low world price for the commodity, was a further blow to the economy.

In presidential elections held 16 May 1986, former president Joaquín Balaguer was returned to office with 857,942 votes (41.6%). Jacob Majluta Azar of the PRD took 814,716 votes (39.5%), and Juan Bosch of the PLD (Dominican Liberation Party) won 379,269 votes (18.4%). Balaguer embarked on an ambitious program of public works that created employment for nearly 100,000 people. But by 1988, inflation was on the rise, and the peso had become unstable. Nationwide strikes in 1989 suggested that the country was headed for further crisis.

In 1990, Balaguer stood for reelection, and won a narrow, hotly contested victory amid claims of fraud by the opposition. Officially, Balaguer received 35.7% of the vote to Juan Bosch's 34.4%. Balaguer was inaugurated, but immediately created controversy by suggesting a set of IMF-style liberal reforms. This brought national strikes in August and November of 1990, and demands for resignation. In the Chamber of Deputies, where Bosch's PLD held a plurality, Balaguer faced serious opposition.

The results of a large portion of the May 1994 presidential vote, won once again by Balaguer, were voided by the electoral board, and Balaguer agreed to shorten his term to two years, scheduling a new election for May 1996. In that contest, no candidate won a majority, but a second round of voting on 30 June produced a victory for Leonel Fernández of the PLD, who took office in August.

Although economic reforms introduced in late 1994 helped improve growth and lower inflation, unemployment remained high, spurring substantial emigration to the United States and Puerto Rico. In March and June 1995, riots occurred in response to unauthorized increases in public transportation fares. During his four years in office, Fernández successfully privatized several state-owned enterprises and utilities. The economy expanded at an average of 5% annually, unemployment fell, and inflation was low. Fernández successfully fought government corruption and consolidated democratic institutions. In spite of his popularity, however, he was constitutionally prevented from seeking reelection in the polling scheduled for May 2000. PRD's Rafael Hipólito Mejía won the May 2000 election after PLD's Danilo Medina withdrew from the runoff. Mejía had obtained 49.5% of the vote in the first round and was expected to easily defeat Medina in the runoff. Mejía took office promising to increase social spending but vowing to maintain the macroeconomic policies adopted by Fernández that helped that country become one of the fastest growing nations in Latin America in the late 1990s. In July 2002, Joaquín Balaguer died at the age of 95.

Deadly clashes between police and protestors broke out in November 2003 during demonstrations held to protest higher prices and cuts in electricity. In January 2004, further protests took place, demonstrating against the government's economic policies; five people were killed.

In May 2004, Mejía admitted defeat in presidential elections that were won by Leonel Fernández with 57.1% of the vote. That month, severe flooding took place in the southwest and in parts of neighboring Haiti; more than 2,000 people died or disappeared. The next presidential election was scheduled for May 2008.


The constitution of 28 November 1966 established a unitary republic consisting of 26 (later increased to 31) provinces and a single National District. The government is effectively controlled by the chief executive, a president directly elected for a four-year term and eligible for reelection. Cabinet ministers (called secretaries of state) are appointed by the president, who must be at least 30 years of age.

The National Congress consists of a Senate, composed of 32 members, and a 150-member Chamber of Deputies, apportioned on the basis of population. Members of the two houses are elected for four-year terms and must be at least 25 years of age. Bills for legislative action may be introduced by the president, by the National Congress, or by the Supreme Court. Voting is by universal suffrage of citizens 18 years or older, although younger citizens, if married, may also vote. Members of the armed forces and national police may not vote. Presidential and congressional elections are not held simultaneously.


Although the Dominican Republic has three major parties and more than ten minor parties, two men, Joaquín Balaguer Ricardo and Juan Bosch Gavino, dominated its political system for decades, but starting in 1996 a new cadre of politicians emerged.

Joaquín Balaguer, a former president under Trujillo, was elected to the presidency six times, the last time in 1994. He died in 2002. He founded the Social Christian Reform Party (Partido Reformista Social ChristianoPRSC) while living in exile in New York in 1963. The party is tied to the Christian Democratic political movement, and relies principally on peasant and middle-class support. As of 2005, the PRSD held 1 of 32 Senate seats and 36 of 150 seats in the Chamber of Deputies.

Juan Bosch, who held the presidency for seven months in 1963, remained a major voice in Dominican politics into the 1990s. Bosch founded the Dominican Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario DominicanoPRD) in 1939. After withdrawing from the PRD, Bosch created his own party, the Dominican Liberation Party (Partido de la Liberación DominicanaPLD) in 1973. In the second round of voting in the 1996 presidential elections, the PLD's Leonel Fernández was elected president with just over 51% of the vote. In May 2004, Fernández defeated incumbent Rafael Hipólito Mejía and was returned to office as president with 57.1% of the vote.

The PRD continued on without Bosch, and with far more success than Bosch was ever able to achieve. The PRD won the presidential elections of 1978 and 1982, although it was unable to achieve a majority in either house of congress in 1982. Headed by Vicente Sanchez Baret, the PRD has an association with Socialist International, and a "Eurosocialist" ideological thrust of moderate economic and social change. The party draws support from landless peasants and urban workers. Rafael Hipólito Mejía emerged as the PRD leader and easily won the 2000 presidential election. The PRD went on to win the 2002 parliamentary elections with 41.9% of the vote. The PRD held 29 out of the 32 seats in the Senate and also commanded a majority control in the Chamber of Deputies with 73 out of the 150 seats. The next parliamentary elections were scheduled for May 2006.

The Independent Revolutionary Party (PRI) was the vehicle for Jacobo Majluta Azar, who served as president briefly in 1982. A former PRD member, Majluta received only 7% of the vote in 1990. As of 2006 the party held no seats in the Chamber of Deputies or the Senate.


The Dominican Republic is divided into 31 provinces and a National District, encompassing Santo Domingo. The provinces are further subdivided into municipal districts and municipalities. The president appoints the provincial governors. Municipal districts must have at least 5,000 inhabitants and produce sufficient revenue to finance their own administrative agencies. The municipalities and the National District are governed by mayors and municipal councils of at least five members, elected by popular vote.


The judicial system is headed by a Supreme Court with 16 judges, which rules on constitutional questions and serves in the last instance on appeals. Supreme Court judges are appointed by the National Judicial Council (consisting of the president, the leaders of both chambers of the National Congress, the president of the Supreme Court, and an opposition or nongoverning party member). The National Judicial Council appoints the judges of the lower courts and of the special courts. All judges are required to hold a law degree.

There are 31 provincial courts, as well as one court of first instance in the National District. The judicial system also includes one judge or court of justice for each of the country's 124 municipal districts, three courts of appeal, a court of accounts, and a land tribunal. There are also justices of the peace. The death penalty was abolished in 1924. Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, in practice the executive branch as well as public and private entities exert pressures on the courts. The constitution guarantees public trials, and indigent defendants have a right to a court-appointed attorney at state expense. Judicial reforms were being undertaken in the early 2000s.

Military courts try military personnel charged with extrajudicial killings.


Active armed forces personnel in the Dominican Republic numbered 24,500 in 2005. The Army had 15,000 active personnel and was organized into six infantry brigades, one (each) armored, special forces, mountain infantry, artillery, engineer and Presidential Guard battalions. Equipment included 12 light tanks, 28 armored personnel carriers and over 56 artillery pieces. The Air Force has 5,500 personnel, whose equipment included 6 combat capable aircraft that consisted of fighter ground attack aircraft. The Navy had 4,000 personnel. Major naval units consisted of 15 coastal defense and 4 logistics/support ships. The country's paramilitary force consisted of the 15,000 member National Police. In 2005, the armed forces were allocated $190 million.


The Dominican Republic is a charter member of the UN, having joined on 24 October 1945, and participates in the ECLAC, as well as other nonregional specialized agencies. The nation is also a member of the WTO, the ACP Group, G-77, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Latin American Economic System (LAES), the OAS, the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), and the Río Group. The country has observer status in CARICOM and the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA). In 2004, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the United States signed the USCentral America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). The agreement must be ratified by all participating countries before it enters into force.

The Dominican Republic is a member of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL) and an observer in the Nonaligned Movement. The country is a signatory of the 1947 Río Treaty, an inter-American security agreement. In environmental cooperation, the Dominican Republic is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, CITES, the London Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, and the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on Climate Change and Desertification.


Traditionally, the economy of the Dominican Republic was based primarily on agriculture, with sugar, coffee, and tobacco as the main export crops, but the services sector has become the largest employer (about 60% of the labor force), led by tourism. Between 1968 and 1974, the average annual growth of GDP was 10.5%. The improved political climate during that period stimulated public and private investment, both domestic and foreign, and the development of tourism. A sugar boom also contributed to rapid growth. During the second half of the 1970s, the growth rate slowed, in part because of rising oil prices and a weakening of the sugar market; damage from two 1979 hurricanes cost an estimated $1 billion. The GDP declined by 2.2% in 1985, reflecting low world prices for the country's exports, declining US sugar quotas, and IMF-imposed austerity. Unemployment soared to 26%, and inflation reached 37.5% the same year. The economy recovered somewhat in 1986 and 1987, due to the government's capital spending program and an increase in foreign investment.

The Dominican Republic had one of the fastest growing economies in the world in the 1990s, owing much of its success to the adoption of sound macroeconomic policies in the early 1990s and greater opening to foreign investment. Although GDP declined in both 1990 and 1991, in 1992 real GDP increased by 7%. The high inflation prevailing in the late 1980s and early 1990s was finally tamed in 1993 as a result of an austerity program that brought the annual inflation rate from 53.9% in 1992 to only 4.6% in 1993. However, very tight monetary and fiscal policies caused the economy to decline by 1.7% in 1994. Boosted by the continuous expansion of tourism, mining, and the export processing zones, the annual average growth rate 19952001 was 7.7%, despite Hurricane Georges in September 1998, which left about 300 dead, hundreds of thousands homeless, and did an estimated $1.3 billion worth of damage (8% of GDP). The rate of inflation fell from 14.3% in 1994 to 6% in 1999, but in 2000 had increased to 9%. Fiscal measures were introduced in 2001 to reduce the inflation rate in the booming economy, but this coincided with the decline in the external economy, and also became a factor in reducing the country's GDP growth rate to 2.7% in 2001, down from 7.6% in 2000 (the highest in Latin America).

In 2003, services accounted for over half of GDP (57.8%) and agriculture accounted for only 10.7%, down from about 20% in the mid-1990s. Tourism (the leading foreign exchange earner), telecommunications, and free-trade-zone manufacturing remain increasingly important industries. The Dominican Republic is among the top ten developing countries in terms of the amount of remittances received from abroad. In 2001 these totaled about $2 billion, double the rate in the mid-1990s. The economy's other major engine of growth has been its free trade zones. In 2000, net exports from the free trade aones were $1.7 billion, up from $1.2 billion in 1997, whereas traditional exports had fallen to $.97 billion from $1 billion. Both sectors declined in 2002, and in 2003 growth turned negative in (-0.4%), mainly due to the effects of a major bank fraud and limited growth in the US economy. The Dominican Republic continued to go through difficult economic times due in large part to bank frauds discovered in 2003 in which losses totaled more than 20% of GDP. In 2004 the real growth rate was only 1.7%.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2005 the Dominican Republic's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $58.5 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $6,500. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 4.1%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 4.3%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 10.7% of GDP, industry 31.5%, and services 57.8%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $2.325 billion or about $266 per capita and accounted for approximately 14.1% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $69 million and accounted for approximately 0.5% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Dominican Republic totaled $11.98 billion or about $1,371 per capita based on a GDP of $16.5 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 4.1%. It was estimated that in 2002 about 25% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


The labor force in 2002 (the latest year for which data was available) consisted of about 2.6 million persons. For that same year, 15.9% were engaged in agriculture, 21.1% in industry, and 63% in services and government. Unemployment is a persistent problem, affecting an estimated 17% of the workforce in 2005. Underemployment was also widespread.

The labor code provides comprehensive protection for workers, but as of 2005, only about 8% of the Dominican workforce was unionized. Employees in nonessential public services are provided with the right to strike. The labor code also specifies steps for union registration, entering into collective bargaining pacts, and calling strikes. While it is illegal for companies to dismiss union members and organizers, enforcement has been inconsistant and there have been reports of intimidation of union organizers and members.

The standard work week is set at 44 hours with an eight hour day. The law also provides for a rest time each week of 36 uninterrupted hours. The labor code prohibits employment of children under 14. However, economic and social conditions have forced many children to work to help support their families. The minimum wage was $119 per month in the nation's free trade zones (FTZs) and $164 per month outside the FTZs in 2005. However, these amounts were insufficient to support a worker and a family. Occupational health standards are not enforced and working conditions, especially on sugar plantations, can be particularly harsh.


With almost 33% of the total land area suitable for crop production and about 17% of the labor force engaged in farming, agriculture remains the primary occupation, accounting for 11% of GDP in 2003. Value of agricultural output grew at an average annual rate of 7.1% during 196873, but since 1975 the sector has been hampered by droughts (1975, 1977, and 1979), hurricanes (in 1979 and 1980), and slumping world prices and quota allocations for sugar (since 1985). In 1999, agricultural production was 0.4% higher than during 198991. The fertile Cibao Valley is the main agricultural center. In 2003, arable land totaled 1,546,000 hectares (3,944,000 acres).

After Cuba, the Dominican Republic is the second-largest Caribbean producer of sugarcane, the nation's most important commercial crop. The State Sugar Council (Consejo Estatal de AzúcarCEA) operates 12 sugar mills and accounts for more than half of total production. Other large producers are the privately owned Vicini, with three mills, and Gulf and Western, whose largest mill is at La Romana. In 2004, sugarcane production was 5.2 million tons, down from an average of 7.1 million tons during 19891991. Output of sugar has declined since 1982, and land is gradually being taken out of sugar production and switched to food crops. Production of raw sugar rose from 636,000 tons in 1990 to 813,000 tons in 1997 but fell to 508,000 tons in 2004/05. The Dominican Republic has the largest single allocation of the US sugar import quota.

Another leading cash crop is coffee. Part of the crop was destroyed by hurricanes in 1979 and 1980, and 197980 production was only 670,000 bags (40,200 tons). Although production was usually about 57,00059,000 tons annually in the 1980s, the acreage harvested declined from 157,000 hectares (388,000 acres) in the early 1980s to 139,000 hectares (363,000 acres) by the late 1990s, indicating a greater yield per acre. Coffee production in 2004 was estimated at 45,000 tons; exports of coffee in 2004 generated $5.8 million. Cocoa and tobacco are also grown for export. In 2004, production of cocoa beans was 45,000 tons and of tobacco, 18,000 tons. Banana production in 2004 was 480,000 tons. Production of other crops in 2004 (in thousands of tons) included rice, 640; coconuts, 181; cassava, 105; tomatoes, 154; pulses, 69; dry beans, 26; eggplants, 7; and peanuts, 3.

Under a land reform program initiated in 1962, a total of 178,602 hectares (441,333 acres) had been distributed to 36,480 farmers by the end of 1977. The government encourages fuller use of the nation's arable land through extensive land-clearing and irrigation projects and diversification of crops. Some mechanization has taken place on the large plantations, but primitive techniques are generally used. In 1973, the first stage of the Integrated Agricultural and Livestock Development Plan was initiated, calling for an investment of $38.1 million, to be financed by the IDB. The plan was designed to provide credit and technical aid to 45,000 small farmers, improve side roads, and study the country's water resources. The second stage of the plan, in the early 1980s, included extension of farm credits, reforestation, manpower training for irrigation projects, and reorganization of the Dominican Agrarian Institute.

Agricultural exports, mostly in the form of sugar, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, and cigars generated $646 million in 2004, or 48.4% of total exports. The government and private sector are emphasizing diversification to nontraditional agricultural crops such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers.


In 2005, Dominican livestock included 190,000 goats and 123,000 sheep. There were also about 2.2 million head of cattle, 60% for beef and 40% for dairy. The hog population, decimated by African swine fever in the late 1970s, decreased from 400,000 in 1978 to 20,000 in 1979; by 2005, however, it had recovered to 580,000. Poultry is the main meat source because it is cheaper than beef or pork. Poultry production relies on imports of feed grain from the United States. In 2005, 185,000 tons of poultry meat were produced, along with 78,000 tons of beef and 690,000 tons of milk.


Although the waters surrounding the Dominican Republic abound with fish, the fishing industry is comparatively undeveloped, and fish for local consumption are imported. In 2003, the total marine catch was 17,490 tons, down from 19,048 tons in 1994. Marlin, barracuda, kingfish, mackerel, tuna, sailfish, and tarpon are found in the Monte Cristi Bank and Samaná Bay, which also supports bonito, snapper, and American grouper. The inland catch amounted to 4,161 tons in 2003.


About 28.4% of the total land area consisted of forests and woodlands in 2000. Roundwood production in 2003 totaled 562,000 cu m (19.8 million cu ft). Virtually all the timber cut is for land clearing and fuel.


The Dominican Republic in 2003, was a regional producer of cement, steel, ferronickel, salt and gypsum, while the production of sand and gravel, limestone and marble were produced for the domestic market. Also, modest amounts of pectolite (larimar), amber, and limestone are produced by six artisanal mining associations. While, mining activity in the Dominican Republic has been centered on gold exploration as of 2003, there was no recorded gold production since 1999, when 651 kg were produced. In that same year, the production of gold and silver were suspended. Silver output in 1999 totaled 3,140 kg. Nickel production (mine output, laterite ore) in 2003 totaled 45,400 metric tons, up from 38,859 metric tons in 2002. The only nickel producer was Falconbridge Dominicana, an 85% Canadian-owned company.

The country was one of the few sources of amber in the Western Hemisphere. Salt Mountain, a 16 km block of almost solid salt west of Barahona, was the world's largest known salt deposit. There were also large deposits of gypsum near Salt Mountain, making the Dominican Republic one of three sources of gypsum in the Caribbean. In 2003, the country produced 230,632 metric tons of gypsum and 2,906,699 metric tons of hydraulic cement. Limestone, marble, and sand and gravel were also produced in 2003. Substantial lignite deposits were found in the early 1980s.

Production of bauxite, traditionally the principal mining product, ceased in 1992. The Aluminum Co. of America (Alcoa) mined bauxite between 1959 and 1983, when it turned its concession over to the state. Production in 1991 dropped 92% from the previous year, as a presidential decree suspended mining operations at the largest mine, in response to increasing fears of deforestation, although reforestation of mined areas was in progress.


The Dominican Republic's energy and power sector is marked by a lack of oil, natural gas and coal. Therefore, the country is heavily dependent upon imports to satisfy its fossil fuel needs. Although the country does have a small refining capacity, imports far outweigh production.

In the electrical power sector, the Dominican Republic's capacity for 2002 has been placed at 2.968 billion kW, with the bulk, 2.486 billion kW generated by fossil fuels. Hydroelectric generating capacity takes up the remaining portion at 0.482 million kW. Electric power production in 2002 totaled 10.863 billion kWh, of which: 9.957 kWh came from conventional thermal sources; 0.869 kWh came from hydropower sources; and 0.037 billion kWh from geothermal/other sources. Electric power consumption in 2002 stood at 10.103 billion kWh. The Dominican Electric Corp. (Corporación Dominicana de Electricidad) is responsible for all public production, sale, and distribution of energy. However, electrical power supply has been erratic. Power blackouts are frequent and can last up to 20 hours per day. Although the government has taken steps to remedy the power shortage, as of 2006, the reliability of the power supply remained a problem.

The Tavera Dam, with a capacity of 60,000 kW, was completed in 1972. The Sabana Yegua hydroelectric and irrigation complex, begun in 1974, opened in 1980. The Habo I coal-fired plant at Haina was inaugurated in 1984.

In 2002, crude oil imports totaled an average 39,500 barrels per day, with total oil product imports at 130,540 barrels per day. Distillate residual and gasoline imports were the top three refined products imported in that year at 29,880 barrels per day, 25,090 barrels per day and 18,670 barrels per day respectively. Consumption of refined oil products in 2002 stood at 126,150 barrels per day.

Under the terms of the San José Pact, the Dominican Republic buys oil at discount prices from Venezuela and Mexico. It imports liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Trinidad and Tobago. An LNG terminal that is part of a $400 million project built by AES Andres became operational at the beginning of 2003, but the associated 300 MW power plant was not expected to be completed until the summer of 2003.

Imports of coal in 2002 came to 257,000 tons of hard coal.


Including the processing of sugar, food processing represents more than half of the total industrial production. Dominican agriculture was hit hard during the late 1990s by droughts in 1996 and 1997, and a hurricane in 1998, but little effect was seen on the manufacturing sector. The construction sector realized high growth after the arrival of Hurricane Georges in 1998, including in housing, commercial construction, and public works projects. Small plants produce powdered and condensed milk, ceramics, aluminum furniture and fittings, concrete blocks, pipes and tiles, air conditioners, barbed wire, and other products.

Since 1990, free assembly zones have contributed more than 3.5% of the GDP, although growth in the free trade zones decreased in 2001. The most active sectors in this industry were related to the processing of clothes and textiles, tobacco, electronics, and shoes. The Dominican Republic was the seventh-largest supplier of textiles to the United States after Mexico, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, and South Korea at the end of 2001. However, lack of demand in the United States for textiles resulted in layoffs in that sector and domestic manufacturing experienced no growth in 2001. The Dominican Republic has two oil refineries, with a total production capacity in 2002 of 49,000 barrels per day.

Industry represents a 31% of GDP, mainly focused on sugar refining, pharmaceuticals, cement, light manufacturing, and construction.


The Dominican Medical Association and the Dominican Sugar Institute have their headquarters in Santo Domingo. Ten colleges and universities offer degrees in engineering, basic sciences, medicine, and agriculture. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 35% of college and university enrollments.


Santo Domingo is the principal port and commercial center, while Santiago de los Caballeros is the market and distribution center for the Cibao Valley. Most importing and exporting firms are located in Santo Domingo. Importers ordinarily represent numerous foreign manufacturers.

Department stores and supermarkets are increasing in number, but most retail stores are specialty shops. Groceries, meat, and fish are sold in most cities through a large central market, by neighborhood stores, and by street vendors. Retail credit is granted by larger stores and automobile dealers.

The domestic economy has shifted to rely on the developing tourism, which accounts for about $1.5 billion in annual earnings. Remittances from Dominicans living abroad are estimated to be about $3 billion per year.

Much of the population still lives in rural areasmany as impoverished peasants or migrant workers, others as independent small-scale landowners, and a small minority as elite landowners. Moreover, rural life in the Cibao Valley generally diverges from that of the southeastern sugar plantations and other areas, and city life varies from the frenetic pace of Santo Domingo to the more relaxed, traditional character of Santiago and smaller towns.


Numerous free trade zones make the Dominican Republic attractive to export-import businesses. After the passage of the 299 Law on 23 April 1969, the free zone sector started to develop in the Dominican Republic. The first to be installed was La Romana Free Zone, followed by San Pedro de Macorís Free Zone, which was created by law in 1971 and built in 1972. However, some FTZ businesses moved to Mexico after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, went into effect.

Clothing production brings in the majority of export revenues (32%), but the commodity market also supports the export of pig iron (7.8%), medical instruments (7.7%), sugar (5.6%), and electrical parts (5.1%). Dominican Republic imports include food, petroleum, cotton and fabrics, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.

The Dominican Republic's most important trading partner is the United States (87% of export revenues); other markets include Canada, Western Europe, and Japan. The country exports freetrade-zone manufactured products (garments, footwear, etc.), nickel, sugar, coffee, cacao, and tobacco, and it imports foodstuffs, petroleum, industrial raw materials, and capital goods. On 5 August 2004, the Dominican Republic signed a Free Trade Agreement with the United States and five Central American countries to integrate into the US-Central American Free Trade Agreement.


For more than 20 years prior to 1961, the Dominican Republic had no internal or external debt. In 1961, however, about us$70 million was taken out of the country by the Trujillo family and others. Political instability induced further net outflows of private capital throughout the 1960s. The nation's current accounts position

Current Account 867.1
   Balance on goods -2,444.0
     Imports -7,883.4
     Exports 5,439.4
   Balance on services 2,219.2
   Balance on income -1,243.6
   Current transfers 2,335.5
Capital Account
Financial Account -853.4
   Direct investment abroad
   Direct investment in Dominican Republic 309.9
   Portfolio investment assets -20.1
   Portfolio investment liabilities 552.6
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets -1,535.2
   Other investment liabilities -160.6
Net Errors and Omissions -468.1
Reserves and Related Items 454.4
() data not available or not significant.

worsened during the 1970s, as trade deficits grew. Declines in export earnings in the 1980s brought shortages of foreign exchange. Large increases in imports and a sharp drop in commodity exports pushed the merchandise trade deficit to over $1.6 billion by the end of 1992, and $1.4 billion in 1998. Tourism (now the country's largest foreign exchange earner), expatriate remittances, and earnings from the free trade zones help to finance the trade deficit. Foreign direct investment as of the early 2000s was likely to remain high.

In 2004 the purchasing power parity of the Dominican Republic's exports was $5.2 billion while imports totaled $8.9, resulting in a trade deficit of -$3.7 million.


The Central Bank of the Dominican Republic (Banco Central de la República DominicanaBCRD) is the sole bank of issue. The state-owned Banco de Reservas, established in 1941, is the largest commercial bank in the country and acts as the fiscal agent and depository for the government. The Agricultural and the Industrial Credit Bank promotes the development of agriculture as well as industry by granting medium-term and long-term credit. The National Housing Bank (Banco Nacional de Vivienda) is a primary investor in low-cost housing. Other commercial banks include the Bank of Nova Scotia, Citibank, Banco Nacional de Credito, Banco Intercontinental (BANINTER), Banco Mercantil, Banco Osaka, Banco Global, Banco Hipotecario Dominicano (BHD), Banco Domingo del Progreso, Banco Popular Dominicano, and Banco Santa Cruz.

At the end of January 1996, the central bank tightened reserve requirements for lending based on new deposits and imposed limits on new lending to the commercial sector. The prime lending rate, which had fallen from 24% in December 1995 to 17% in 1996, was 18% in 1999. The exchange rate was devalued 9% in 1998, and continued to devalue through that year, but stabilized in 1999. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $2.4 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $7.9 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 13.47%.

Securities are traded on the Santo Domingo Securities Exchange, founded in 1991.


Insurance firms are government-supervised and are required to furnish a bond to guarantee their obligations. Net premiums on life insurance are taxable, and the law requires that a certain proportion of the premiums collected must be invested locally. Workers' compensation and third-party automobile liability are compulsory insurance. The insurance market is regulated by the Superintendent of Insurance of the nation. In relation to the North American and European markets, the Dominican insurance industry has very low penetration and was among the lowest in Latin America, the result of relatively low per capita income and general lack of insurance awareness. In 2003, the value of all direct premiums written totaled $400 million, with nonlife premiums accounting for $368 million. Seguros Popular was the country's top nonlife and life insurer in 2003, with gross nonlife (including personal accident) and life insurance premiums written, totaling $98.2 million and $8.3 million, respectively.


Between 1968 and 1975, dependence on foreign loans and grants to finance the budget was substantially decreased, and by 1975 tax revenues amounted to about 12% of the GNP. In the late 1970s, this trend was reversed, with rising expenditures and increased assistance from abroad. Legislation was passed in 1997 to allow the privatization of state-owned enterprises, including public utilities,

Revenue and Grants 70,158 100.0%
   Tax revenue 63,101 89.9%
   Social contributions 2,974 4.2%
   Grants 540 0.8%
   Other revenue 3,544 5.1%
Expenditures 70,874 96.2%
   General public services 9,911 14.0%
   Defense 4,264 6.0%
   Public order and safety 3,167 4.5%
   Economic affairs 16,676 23.5%
   Environmental protection 471 0.7%
   Housing and community amenities 5,928 8.4%
   Health 9,161 12.9%
   Recreational, culture, and religion
   Education 11,889 16.8%
   Social protection 6,690 9.4%
() data not available or not significant.

the country's largest bank, an insurance company, and a number of factories. The government receives almost one-third of its revenues from taxes on imports, but the increasing use of the free trade zones diminishes indirect tax returns.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 the Dominican Republic's central government took in revenues of approximately $5.3 billion and had expenditures of $5.4 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$163 million. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 51.4% of GDP. Total external debt was $7.907 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2002, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were rd$70.158 billion and expenditures were rd$70.874 billion. The value of revenues in US dollars was us$3.770 billion and expenditures us$3.637 billion, based on a market exchange rate for 2002 of us$1 = rd$18.610 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 14.0%; defense, 6.0%; public order and safety, 4.5%; economic affairs, 23.5%; environmental protection, 0.7%; housing and community amenities, 8.4%; health, 12.9%; education, 16.8%; and social protection, 9.4%.


Personal income tax rates in the Dominican Republic in 2002 were 1525%. The personal exemption level was equal to 2.3 times the country's average income and the threshold for the highest income tax bracket was 5.8 times the average income (in contrast to 1985 when the highest bracket was 73% and the threshold was 413.5 times the average income). Since January 1995 business income has been taxed at a flat rate of 25%. The main indirect tax is the Dominican Republic's value-added tax (VAT) introduced in January 1983 with a standard rate of 16% as of 2005. Excise taxes are imposed on alcoholic beverages (2545%), tobacco products (2550%), nonalcoholic beverages, and petroleum products. There is also a technical education tax.


The customs tariff is primarily a revenue-raising instrument, although it is occasionally used to protect local industry. In September 1990, a government decree simplified the tariff schedule to six categories, with seven tariff rates, ranging from 535%.

As of 2001, the maximum basic tariff rate stood at 20%, but there were also levied consumption taxes that generally range from 1560% on "nonessential" goods. However, nonagricultural luxury goods such as perfumes, automobiles and jewelry are subject to additional consumption taxes that range from 1580%, which are calculated on the CIF (cost, insurance, freight) price. There is also a 5% foreign exchange surcharge associated with import transactions. A 16% industrialized goods and services tax is also levied on processed agricultural and nonagricultural goods based upon the CIF price plus the amount paid for taxes and duties.

There are no free ports, but at least 19 industrial free zones have been established at locations including La Romana, San Pedro de Macorís, Santiago de los Caballeros, Baní, and Puerto Plata.

In 1998, the Dominican Republic helped to establish the Central AmericanDominican Republic Free Trade Area (CADRFTA). The country also has an agreement with CARICOM and Western Hemisphere governments for a free trade area by 2005.


In August 1996, the Dominican congress passed the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agreement (MIGA) and in September 1996, President Leonel Fernández signed the accord. The program was designed to encourage the flow of foreign private investment by mitigating political risks associated with a project. It also provides guarantees to foreign investors against the risk of transfer restriction, expropriation, and war and civil disturbance in the host country. In 1997, the government established the Office for Investment Promotion (OPI).

In 1998, foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows rose to nearly $700 million, up from $421 million in 1997 and then peaked at a record $1.3 billion in 1999. For 2000 and 2001, average yearly FDI inflow was a little over $1 billion. At the end of 2000, total FDI stocks were an estimated $5.2 billion, up from $2.9 billion at the end of 1998. In 1998, the tourist sector was the destination of 44.5% of FDI inflows, but in 1999, tourism accounted for only 20% while foreign investments in electricity became the single-largest destination for inward FDI, attracting 47.2%. In 2000, the tourist sector was the destination of 7.7% of FDI inflows, investments in electricity (29.5%), telecommunications (28.6%), and trade (16%) all ahead of it.

In 2000, the leading source of FDI was the United States (21%); other major sources in 2000 were Spain (20%), Canada (14%), and France (10%). Major foreign investors include GTE and Bank of Nova Scotia of Canada; Shell of Holland/England; and Central Romana, Philip Morris, Citibank, Esso, Texaco, and Colgate Palmolive of the United States.

The International Monetary Fund reported that foreign direct investment is permitted in all sectors except the disposal and storage of toxic, hazardous, or radioactive waste; activities that affect public health or the environment; and activities related to defense and security. Furthermore, it reported that both residents and nonresidents may hold foreign exchange accounts. Payments and transfers are subject to documentation requirements. Some capital transactions are subject to approval, documentation, or reporting requirements.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) was $309 million in 2003; it was projected to be about $100 million for 2004, much of it directed at the tourism sector, free trade zones, and telecommunication sector. The decision to privatize or "capitalize" ailing state enterprises (electricity, airport management, sugar) has attracted substantial foreign capital to these sectors.


Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) and Generalized Systems of Preferencesgovernment programs that allow the import of raw materials, equipment, and goods for re-export duty-freebenefit the economy. Tax exempt status for up to 20 years is also available. Duty-free access to the European common market was granted by joining the Lomé Convention in 1989, which also provides inexpensive financing for economic development projects. The addition of free trade zones greatly improved the level of industry in the country, but the NAFTA agreement transplanted some manufacturers to Mexico.

The 1998 hurricane caused at least $1.2 billion in damage; analysts estimated that the Dominican Republic's emergency aid would amount to 25% of its annual budget. The United States offered $47 million, and the European Union (EU) offered $50 million. Foreign aid may have successfully saved the small economy, and even improved it in 1999. Still, the state has a number of parastatals to privatize, and the fairly strict tariff regime has driven most investment capital into the free trade zones.

Rising foreign direct investment, particularly in the electricity, telecommunications, tourism, and free-trade zone sectors drove the average annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate from 2.25% in the early 1990s to 7.75% in the second half of the decade. Economic growth fell to 2.7% in 2001, however, in part due to the global economic downturn, and to the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. The unemployment rate rose that year, yet the inflation rate was reduced by half. The government maintained a strict fiscal policy, and tightened monetary policy in early 2002. There was a need for further social spending and investments in infrastructure, however.

Growth turned negative in 2003 with reduced tourism, a major bank fraud, and limited growth in the US economy (the source of about 85% of export revenues), but recovered in 2004 and 2005. Resumption of a badly needed IMF loan, slowed due to government repurchase of electrical power plants, was basic to the restoration of social and economic stability.

As of 2005, the Dominican Republic was a country on the mend following the 2003 banking scandal under former President Hipólito Mejía, when inflation spiked to 63% and GDP contracted by 0.4%. Since then, President Leonel Fernández has improved banking supervision, cut government spending, and introduced tax reforms. His administration passed tax reform and arranged a $600 million IMF standby arrangement in March 2005 to ease the country's fiscal situation. Although the economy continued to grow at a respectable rate, inflation and unemployment remained the two biggest challenges. Other challenges include the continuous flow of undocumented Haitians seeking refuge and an inefficient legal system in which a lack of resources and personnel keeps rule-of-law reforms from expediting judicial processes. Additionally, a deteriorated electrical distribution system, partly sustained by subsidies, was subject to frequent outages that hurt industry and tourism. Finally, the end of global quotas on apparel exports might allow China to increase its share of sales to the United States, cutting into exports from the Dominican Republic. The DRCAFTA agreement could help the Dominican Republic to overcome such changes in global markets, but increases in the competitiveness of the economy are required.


A 2001 law created a three-part social security program to be implemented in stages until 2006. Individual accounts provide coverage for public and private sector workers, including Dominican citizens living abroad. The funding for old age, disability and survivorship programs comes from contributions from the insured and the government, with the bulk of responsibility on the employer. There is universal coverage for basic health care and pediatrics. Employers cover the total cost of workers' compensation. Family allowances are limited to unemployed single mothers with young children.

Women continue to have lower economic and social status than men. They are often paid less for similar work and occupy few top leadership positions. Employers avoid hiring pregnant women, and some administer pregnancy tests to job applicants. Divorce is easily obtainable by either spouse and women can own property in their own name. Domestic violence and sexual harassment are common. The first shelter for battered women opened in 2004. Rape is a serious and grossly underreported problem.

Haitian immigrants, many of whom are low paid agricultural workers, face considerable discrimination. An estimated half million live under harsh conditions in special camps for sugarcane workers. Reports of mistreatment of Haitian migrant workers continue. Documented human rights violations include police brutality, arbitrary detention, and mistreatment of suspects in custody.


In 2005, average life expectancy was 71.44 years; in the same year the infant mortality rate was 29.37 per 1,000 live births. The overall mortality was estimated at 4.7 per 1,000 people. Approximately 64% of women with partners (ages 15 to 49) used contraception.

Modern aqueducts, drainage systems, and garbage disposal plants have been constructed in the principal cities. The National Water Supply and Sewerage Institute was established in 1962 and the National Rural Water Service was formed in 1964. In 2000, an estimated 79% of the population had access to safe water, compared with 37% in 1970, and 71% had adequate sanitation. In 2000, however, approximately 11% of children under five years of age were considered to be malnourished and as of 1999, 14% of all births were low birth weight. As access to health care has improved, so has the under-5 mortality rate, which in 1996 was 56; in 1980 it was 94. In 1999, there were 135 cases of tuberculosis per 100,000 people.

The country immunizes over 80% of children up to one year of age against tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, and polio. Major causes of death between 1990 and 1994 were: communicable diseases (27 per 100,000), malignant neoplasms (28 per 100,000), and injuries (30 per 100,000). As of 1999 total health care expenditure was estimated at 4.8% of GDP. Approximately 80% of the population has access to health care services. As of 2004, there were an estimated 188 physicians, 184 nurses, and 84 dentists per 100,000 people. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 1.70 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 88,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 7,900 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


Rapid population growth and migration to urban areas have combined to create an increasingly serious housing shortage. Destructive hurricanes have not helped the situation either. The National Housing Institute and the National Housing Bank, both established in 1962, have been responsible for a great deal of construction, including about 10,000 homes during the period 196672. In the period 197578, construction activity slowed down, but a 1979 hurricanes prompted a construction boomnot, however, to create new housing but to replace units that had been destroyed by the storms. The Guzmán government promoted the building of low-cost housing at a rate of about 6,000 units a year. President Jorge Blanco pledged in 1982 that 25,000 low-cost houses would be built annually during his administration and President Balaguer, after he returned to office in 1986, also built low-cost housing, though at a far slower pace than announced.

Hurricane Georges in 1998 damaged about 170,000 homes or about 10% of the nation's entire housing stock. About 49,000 of these homes were completely destroyed. With assistance from foreign programs such as USAID, the government was able to complete 2,250 new homes and make repairs and utility upgrades to over 1,000 others.

At the 2002 census, there were about 2,445,315 dwellings in the country; this figure does not include institutionalized dwelling spaces. Most housing units are detached houses; accounting for 80% of all housing in the census. Concrete blocks, cement, and wood are the most frequently used construction materials for dwellings.


The foremost educational objective in recent years has been the enrollment of the entire population in the 514 age range. Nine years of education is compulsory. Primary education lasts for six years. Students have two choices for secondary education. The traditional system covers a six-year course of study with two years of general education followed by a four-year track of academic, technical, vocational, or teacher-training studies. The reform system also covers six years, with four years of science based studies and two years of specialization.

In 2001, about 35% of children between the ages of three and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 96% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 36% of age-eligible students (30% for boys and 41% for girls). It is estimated that about 93% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 39:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 31:1.

The state-run Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, founded in 1538 and the oldest in the hemisphere, has suffered from a lack of resources. There are four private universities, one technological institute, four colleges, and seven schools of art and music. In 2003, about 34% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program (26% men and 43% women). The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 87.7%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 2.3% of GDP, or 12.4% of total government expenditures.


There are about 130 libraries located throughout the country. The library of the University of Santo Domingo is the most important, with over 105,000 volumes. The Pedro Henríquez Ureña National Library, founded in Santo Domingo in 1970, had a collection of over 154,000 volumes in 2002. In general, public library collections are few and small, mostly containing only a few hundred books. Exceptions are the public libraries in Santo Domingo and Baní, with holdings of about 35,000 volumes and 38,000 volumes, respectively.

All of the leading museums are in and around Santo Domingo. The Museum of Dominican Man (formerly the National Museum) houses 19,000 pre-Columbian, colonial, and contemporary exhibits relating to the country's history. The Gallery of Modern Art promotes the music, painting, sculpture, and poetry of both Dominican and foreign artists and writers. A new complex at the Plaza of Culture houses several museums, the National Library, and the National Theater. The Alcázar de Colón is the 16th-century home of the Columbus family; the reputed tomb of Christopher Columbus is in the Cathedral of Santa María la Menor. The Zoological and Botanical Garden in Santo Domingo is unique because of its natural setting and grottoes. Ponce de Leon's fort was declared a historic site in 1972 and is maintained as a museum.


The Dominican Telephone Co. operates the domestic telephone system, and the government controls domestic telegraph service. The larger cities have automatic telephone exchanges, and most of the telephones are on an automatic dial system. In 2003, there were an estimated 115 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 271 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

In 1998 there were 120 AM and 56 FM radio stations as well as about 25 television stations, of which the government-owned Radio-Televisión Dominicana is the most important. Many privately owned radio and TV stations broadcast differing political points of view, as do the many independent newspapers and periodicals. In 2000 there were 97 television sets for every 1,000 people. In 2003, there were about 181 radios for every 1,000 people. About 64 of every 1,000 people have access to the Internet as of 2003.

The newspapers of the Dominican Republic are rated by the Inter-American Press Association as among the freest in Latin America. The leading daily is Listín Diario (circulation 88,000 in 2004). Other papers of importance also published in the capital are El Nacional (circulation 45,000 in 2002), Hoy (40,000 in 2004), Ultima Hora (40,000 in 2004), and El Caribe, an independent morning daily (circulation 10,000 in 2004). Of the dailies published outside the capital, La Información of Santiago (circulation 15,000 in 2004) is the best known.

The legally provided freedom of speech and the press are said to be generally supported in practice by the government.


Consumer associations, mainly for low-income groups, deal in basic foods such as rice, plantains, potatoes, and beans. The Confederation of Employers of the Dominican Republic and the National Council of Businessmen are the principal employers' organizations. There are chambers of commerce in Santo Domingo and other large towns. There are a couple of teachers' unions/associations as well as associations for a number of other professions.

The Asociacion Medica Dominicana promotes research and education on health issues and works to establish common policies and standards in healthcare. There are also several associations dedicated to research and education for specific fields of medicine and particular diseases and conditions.

The Dominican Revolutionary Youth, with membership of about 150,000, is the youth wing of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), which is affiliated to the Socialist International. The Federation of Dominican Students is the national students' union. The Dominican Scout Associations and the Girl Guides have active youth programs. There are also number of youth organizations with religious affiliations. Sports associations promote competition in a number of favorite pastimes, including squash, tennis, and tae kwon do. National women's organizations include the Research Center for Feminist Action and You, Woman.

Volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs International, are also present. There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society, UNICEF, Habitat for Humanity, and Caritas.


Although the Dominican Republic offers fine beaches and historical sites as well as quality hotel facilities, it had no organized tourist industry to speak of until 1967, and received no more than 45,000 visitors per year. Increased political stability made the country more attractive to tourists, and by 1973 the number of foreign visitors had grown to 182,036. By 1997 the Dominican Republic had 38,585 hotel rooms with an occupancy rate of 76%, and tourism was a mainstay of its economy. In 2003 approximately 3,268,182 tourists arrived in the Dominican Republic. There were 56,378 hotel rooms with 140,945 beds and a 72% occupancy rate. The average length of stay was 9.5 nights.

Resort centersLa Romana, Puerto Plata, Samaná, and Playa Grandeare the main attraction. Baseball is the national sport. Other popular pastimes include basketball, boxing, tennis, golf, hunting, fishing, and scuba diving. The Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center is one of the best-equipped sports facilities in the Caribbean. Citizens of the United States and Canada are not required to carry a passport; they may purchase a tourist card upon entering the country. Other visitors require a valid passport, and may require visitor visas.

In 2004, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Santo Domingo was $189. Daily expenses in La Romana were $267.


Juan Pablo Duarte (181376), national hero of the Dominican Republic, was the leader of the famous "La Trinitaria," along with Francisco del Rosario Sánchez (181761) and Ramón Matías Mella (181664), which proclaimed and won independence from Haiti in 1844. Emiliano Tejera (18411923) and Fernando Arturo de Merino (18331906), first archbishop of the Dominican Republic, were noted statesmen.

Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina (18911961) was the dominant figure in the political life of the country from 1930 until his assassination on 30 May 1961. He served four times as president and was commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Joaquín Balaguer (19092002) was a prominent political figure in the Dominican Republic. Juan Bosch (19092001), founder of the leftist PRD and later of the PLD, served for seven months as president in 1963.

Juan Bautista Alfonseca (181075), the father of Dominican music, was the first composer to make use of Dominican folklore. José Reyes (18351905), musician and soldier, wrote the music for the national anthem. José de Jesús Ravelo (18761954) composed the oratorio La Muerte de Cristo, which has been performed yearly since 7 April 1939 at the Basílica de Santa María la Menor on Good Friday. Other prominent Dominican musicians are Juan Francisco García (18921974), Luis Emilio Mena (18951964), and Enrique de Marchena (19081988).

In sports, Juan Marichal (b.1937) achieved fame in the United States as a baseball pitcher, as has Pedro Martínez (b.1971). Sammy Sosa (b.1968), a star home-run hitter, won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1998. Outfielder and slugger Manny Ramírez (b.1972) won the 2004 World Series Most Valuable Player Award for leading the Boston Red Sox to its first World Series victory in 86 years.


The Dominican Republic has no territories or colonies.


Calvert, Peter. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Latin America. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

Chester, Eric Thomas. Rag-Tags, Scum, Riff-Raff, and Commies: The U.S. Intervention in the Dominican Republic, 19651966. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2001.

Health in the Americas, 2002 edition. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Health Organization, Pan American Sanitary Bureau, Regional Office of the World Health Organization, 2002.

Metz, Helen Chapin, (ed.). Dominican Republic and Haiti: Country Studies. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2001.

Pacini Hernandez, Deborah. Bachata: A Social History of a Dominican Popular Music. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1995.

Safa, Helen Icken. The Myth of the Male Breadwinner: Women and Industrialization in the Caribbean. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1995.

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

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Dominican Republic


Major Cities:
Santo Domingo, Santiago de los Caballeros, La Romana

Other Cities:
Azua, Baní, Barahona, Constanza, Higüey, Jarabacoa, La Vega, Puerto Plata, Samaná, San Cristóbal, San Francisco De Macorís, San Juan, San Pedro De Macorís


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report for Dominican Republic. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


The DOMINICAN REPUBLIC shares with the Republic of Haiti the tropical island of Hispaniola, one of the Greater Antilles situated between Cuba and Puerto Rico. Troubled by unstable political conditions throughout most of its history, it has had little chance until recent years to develop a sound economy capable of providing more than a subsistence level of living for most of its people. The period from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, however, was marked by rapid economic development and progress, and the 1982 peaceful transition of power indicates the nation's growing stability.

Since its discovery by Columbus in 1492 and its colonization by Spain, Hispaniola has been, for brief periods, under the nominal control of Great Britain, France, Haiti, and the United States (1916-24). A bloody revolution on the French-held western end of the island in 1791 led to the establishment of Haiti as an independent country. Haitian forces dominated the island for varying periods between 1801 and 1843. The Dominican Republic gained its independence in 1844 after a successful revolt against Haitian rule, but its political history remained stormy, with foreign intervention in the country's affairs from the late 1800s to the middle part of this century. Recent political events suggest a promise of permanent democratic tradition.


Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo, the oldest continuous European settlement in the Americas, is the capital and largest city of the Dominican Republic. It serves as the commercial, social, and political hub of the country, as well as the principal seaport. It is a fast-growing city which has more than doubled its population in the last 10 years. The population is estimated at 3.6 million. Most inhabitants live in the older, poorer, barrio sections, bordering the Ozama River. Outside these areas and the commercial districts near the port, Santo Domingo is fairly modern, with new homes, apartments, and office buildings continually under construction. Here, streets and avenues are lined with palm and flame trees, and flowering shrubs.

La Plaza de la Cultura, on the western side of the city, is the most impressive cultural area in the Caribbean, boasting the Museum of Dominican Man (Museo del Hombre), with a collection of artifacts from the Indian migrations from South America through the Caribbean islands; the National Library (Biblioteca Nacional); and the National Theater (Teatro Nacional). Parks and playgrounds are numerous in the immediate outskirts of Santo Domingo, and nearby beaches lure Dominicans and tourists alike.

The present location of the nation's capital evolved through a series of incidents. Christopher Columbus made his first landing in the New World December 5, 1492, on the northwest coast of an island he named Hispaniola. On Christmas Day of that year, his flagship, the Santa María, was wrecked on the reefs of Cape Haitien, and from the salvaged timbers of this vessel the crew built the first European fort in the Western Hemisphere. Leaving a garrison of 40 men at the fort, Columbus set sail for further explorations and eventually went back to Spain. When he returned the following year on his second voyage, he found that the Indians had revolted against Spanish abuse, and had destroyed his small garrison. Columbus then ordered the construction of a new city, La Isabela, near the present city of Puerto Plata on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. His brother, Bartholomé (in English, Bartholomew), was made governor of Hispaniola.

In 1496, Bartholomé, enticed by rumors of gold, a good harbor, and fertile land, and disheartened by sickness and bickering among the colonists, transferred the seat of government to the south coast on the bank of the Ozama River. He named the new city Santo Domingo in honor of his favorite saint, Dominic. The spot served as Spain's stepping-stone to further explorations in the New World. Except for the period from 1936 to 1961, when the city was called Ciudad Trujillo, for (then) President Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina, this name has endured.

During the early 16th century, Santo Domingo was the staging area for the Spanish conquistadors. Among the famous explorers who contributed to the colorful history of the area were Ponce de León, Sir Francis Drake, Diego de Velázquez, and Hernán Cortés.


Drip-dry materials, wash-and-wear cottons, and synthetic combinations will withstand repeated washings and the bright sun of the Dominican Republic. Because dry cleaning establishments are not up to U.S. standards, washable clothing is strongly recommended. For the most part, apparel that is suitable for a Washington, DC summer is appropriate all year in the Dominican climate. Jackets, sweaters, and shawls are needed for the rare cool evening. Lightweight rainwear and umbrellas are useful during the rainy season; rubbers or boots are not. Hats and gloves are rarely worn. Sun hats, shades, and other protective clothing are recommended because the tropical sun can be hard on the skin.

Tropical-weight shirts and neckties are normal office attire but, for special functions, a white or dark business suit is appropriate. Black dinner jackets (never white) are worn on some occasions. Women dress simply in cool, sleeveless (or short-sleeved) dresses for office or other activities. Stockings are worn only for special occasions. Pantsuits may be worn to the office; slacks are acceptable for casual gatherings or for shopping. Shorts may be worn. Shoes are available locally, although they are expensive and often poorly made.

Children wear summer garments year round. Nightclothes suitable for U.S. summers are practical for older children, but infants and young children may need warmer wear in air-conditioned bedrooms. Children's shoes, both locally made and U.S. brands, are available. Teenagers in Santo Domingo are style and label conscious, and formal wear is worn much more in Santo Domingo than in the U.S.


Several modern supermarkets in Santo Domingo offer a wide variety of U.S. canned and frozen foods including baby foods, but at high prices. Coffee, bread, rice, and a variety of other local products are found in most supermarkets. Supermarkets sell pasteurized milk, yogurt, butter, and cheese. They are usually safe to consume once checked for freshness.

Fresh foods on the local market are generally in good supply and of adequate quality. Farmers' outdoor markets and door-to-door vendors also sell fresh fruits and vegetables. Special outlets for meats, eggs, baked goods, and dairy products are available. Beef, veal, pork, poultry, fish, lobster, and shrimp are also available locally. Due to the danger of ciguatera, a serious type of poisoning, do not eat fish at home or in restaurants. Both commonplace and tropical vegetables are found in season.

Local tropical fruits, including breadfruit, kumquat (nispero), gump (limoncillo), and guanabana, are plentiful and delicious. Lemons, as Americans know them, do not grow here; limes are used instead. Temperate zone fruits such as peaches, plums, and apples are imported occasionally, but are expensive.

Dairies sell pasteurized milk and will deliver. Milk in wax containers is preferable to bottled milk, as bottles may be contaminated. Local butter and cheese are usually safe, but should be checked for freshness.

The German-Jewish colony in Sosua, on the north coast, prepares excellent meats, cheeses, and good sandwich bread, all sold in Santo Domingo.

Fine local beers sell at prices approximately equal to those in the U.S. Most kinds of soft drinks are bottled here and sold at reasonable prices.

Supplies & Services

Beauty and barber shops are numerous in the cities and at the major resorts, with services varying from adequate to good. Tailoring is used mainly for alterations, but many American women find local dressmakers satisfactory. Shoe repair is satisfactory. All of these services are reasonable, but some radio, stereo, and television repairmen charge high rates. Cost estimates should be obtained beforehand. Laundries are available, but most expatriates prefer to have their laundry done at home. Washing and ironing should be supervised to prevent damage to fabrics, washers, and irons. At the few local dry cleaners, the quality of work is inconsistent.

Repair service is available on most cars, and prices for routine work are reasonable. However, major repairs can mean delays while parts are ordered; this type of service is expensive and quality often only fair. Automatic transmission repair, electrical system adjustments, work on window and door fittings, and other jobs requiring a delicate touch are sometimes risky, depending upon the garage used.

Religious Activities

The Dominican Republic is officially Roman Catholic, but many other denominations maintain churches in the country. Members of the U.S. community in Santo Domingo usually attend English-language services at these churches: Epiphany Episcopal Church, Protestant Community Church, First Baptist Church, Parroquia Santiago Apóstal (mass in English), and Hebrew Synagogue Center (English prayer books, services in Hebrew each Friday). Other denominations, which have Spanish-language services, are Seventh-Day Adventist, Plymouth Brethren, Latter-Day Saints, Assembly of God, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Roman Catholic.

Domestic Help

All types of servants are available. Generally, those who are experienced and well-trained pass from one expatriate family to another. Although efficiency and initiative are not outstanding characteristics, devotion to family and desire to please counterbalance these failings. Most servants speak only Spanish, but a few know some English. Many applicants for domestic work are illiterate and have no knowledge of American cooking or housekeeping, contrary to their claims. It is best to hire only on the recommendation of another employer, or to ask for advice at the U.S. Embassy personnel office, where a registry is kept on security-checked applicants.

The majority of Americans in the Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo, in particular) employ one or two full-time servants, and some have part-time yard boys and laun-dresses as well. Single people usually hire a maid for general housework, cooking, cleaning, and assistance with shopping at the local market. Some single people employ part-time maids. A family with children may need two servants, one acting as nursemaid in addition to helping with the housework. For security reasons, it is advisable to seek servants who will live in.

In addition to wages ($200-300 a month for live-ins), the employer furnishes all meals, uniforms, linens, and toiletries. Additional money is agreed upon to cover daily transportation for servants who live at home. It is customary to give a month's salary as a Christmas bonus to domestics who have been employed for a year. Some employers assist with medical expenses, and a certain amount of paternalism is involved in most employer-employee relationships. Servants customarily work a six-day week, with a paid two-week vacation after a year's service. Employers do not make obligatory payments for social or medical insurance.


Most American children living in the capital attend the Carol Morgan School, a private, nonprofit institution providing coeducational instruction in English through grade 12. The curriculum parallels that of U.S. public schools, and the high school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. The superintendent and teaching staff have U.S. certification. Of the total enrollment of 1,056, approximately 290 are Americans, 603 Dominicans (1994 est.), and the remainder other nationalities. School is in session from the last week in August to the first week in June, with a two-three week Christmas vacation, a week-long Easter break, and days off for the celebration of some U.S. and Dominican national holidays.

Carol Morgan School is just outside the city, in a complex of air-conditioned buildings. Spanish is taught as a foreign language in all grades, and four years of French are offered at the secondary level. The high-school curriculum is geared to college preparatory work. The physical plant has chemistry and physics laboratories, computer labs, 49 classrooms, infirmary, gymnasium, cafeteria, audiovisual facilities, and a 18,000-volume library. Physical education is offered in all grades, with intramural competition in volleyball, basketball, and softball. Extracurricular activities include a school newspaper, yearbook, literary magazine, dramatics and language clubs, and several special groups.

Santo Domingo has several other schools available to foreigners. Colegio Los Angelitos/St. George School has classes from nursery level to grade 12. The curriculum is bilingual. The school is large, well-organized, and follows a formal schedule combining British and American approaches to education. All teachers have certification. Resources and physical facilities are good. The school's name is Colegio Los Angelitos from nursery school through sixth grade, and St. George School in the upper-level classes.

ABC School offers a program based on U.S. and European educational systems. Enrollment is from kindergarten through grade six. Teachers either have college degrees or are university students.

American School of Santo Domingo provides coeducational instruction from pre-kindergarten through grade 12. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools in the U.S. The elementary classes receive instruction in English/language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, health, Spanish, art, music, and physical education. Special programs include remedial reading and comprehension, English as a second language, and mathematics. The high school follows a college preparatory program, covering all of the general areas of study, plus Dominican history and Spanish. Several electives are offered.

The George Washington School of English Education is also coeducational. An English curriculum is offered from nursery school to 12th grade.

Two nursery schools, Froebel School and Lucy's Lambs, are especially recommended. The Froebel School has excellent equipment and resources. The staff consists of a director and three assistants. The school has three classes: one for three-year-olds, a pre-kindergarten for four-year-olds, and a kindergarten for five-year-olds. Instruction focuses on the artistic, social, and academic aspects of the child's development.

Lucy's Lambs accepts children from ages two through five. There are two nursery classes for ages two through four, a pre-kindergarten for ages four through five, and a kindergarten for five-year-olds. Each class has about 20 children. The director and the kindergarten teacher are certified teachers. Instruction follows traditional approaches of learning colors, numbers, concepts, social adjustment, etc.


Swimming, water-skiing, sailing, scuba diving, motor boating, baseball, softball, horseback riding, polo, volleyball, tennis, basketball, and cockfighting are among the more popular sports in the country. Americans in Santo Domingo enjoy these activities year round. Water sports are particularly popular, and several shallow, palm-lined beaches are within an hour's drive of the city. All major Santo Domingo hotels have swimming pools. Snorkeling and scuba diving are particularly interesting because of the clear water and the variety of marine life in the Caribbean. However, sharks and sea urchins are possible dangers.

Some of the finest fishing in the Caribbean may be found off the Dominican coast. Freshwater fishing and surf casting are popular, as well as fishing for marlin, sailfish, and other game fish. Some of the best spots include Cumayasa, La Romana, Cabeza de Toro, and Boca de Yuma, all east of Santo Domingo; Palmar de Ocoa and Barahona to the south; and Monte Cristi, Puerto Plata, and Samaná to the north.

Some Americans join the Club Náutico of Santo Domingo, about a 45-mile drive from the city. There is a clubhouse with dining room and bar, a small saltwater pool, a pier with a marina, and a fair beach. The club sponsors annual hunting and fishing tournaments.

Riding has become a popular sport, as have racquetball and running. For the latter, the city offers a few places for joggers, including the oceanfront or malecon, the six-mile perimeter of the Paseo de Los Indios Park, and the almost four-mile perimeter of the National Botanical Gardens. Many informal walking groups exist in the country.

The Dominican Republic now has several golf courses, and others are being planned or built. One 18-hole course is at the Santo Domingo Country Club on the outskirts of the city; membership is open to non-Dominicans. Two other championship courses are 80 miles east of the capital in La Romana, beside the Caribbean. A fourth course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, is also of championship quality; it serves the tourist facilities around the seaport town of Puerto Plata.

Baseball is the national sport, and all games draw large crowds. There are two seasons. The professional winter season (which occasionally features players from the U.S. major leagues) lasts from late October to the end of January, and the summer season runs from April to September. Games during both seasons are played at Quisqueya Stadium in Santo Domingo, and at stadiums in Santiago de los Caballeros, San Pedro de Macorís, and La Romana.

Hunting is permitted in the Dominican Republic. Ducks, which migrate from North America in winter, and doves are the principal fowl hunted. Quail (in small numbers), yaguaza (a West Indian tree duck), and guinea hen are also hunted; no large game is found in the country.

The restored colonial section of the city is the location of Santo Domingo's principal tourist attractions. These include the Cathedral of Santa María la Menor, Torre del Homenaje, Alcazar de Colón, and the Museo de las Casas Reales (Royal Houses). The cathedral, built between 1523 and 1540, is one of the finest examples of Spanish Renaissance architecture in the Western Hemisphere. The onyx and marble monument inside the edifice was brought block by block from Barcelona, Spain. Santa María is the oldest cathedral in the New World, and is one of three places which claim to contain the remains of Christopher Columbus. The cathedral was completely rehabilitated in 1992 in time for festivities celebrating the 500th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the New World.

Torre del Homenaje, part of Ozama Fortress, was erected in 1503, and reflects the power of colonial Spain. The Alcazar de Colón is the restored fortress palace built by Diego Columbus, son of Christopher, and first viceroy of the island; it contains some fine pieces of period furniture. Museo de las Casas Reales houses exhibits of historical interest, and is the former residence of the captain general of Hispaniola.

There are several other museums of interest in the city. The Museum of Dominican Man is best known for its collection of pre-Columbian artifacts; the National Museum displays works by well-known Dominican and regional artists; and the Museum of Natural History and Geography houses exhibits dealing with the topography, agriculture, and flora and fauna of the republic.

A number of parks are scattered throughout the city. The largest of these, beautiful Paseo de Los Indios, is three-and-a-half miles long and offers scenery, botanical specimens, and recreational facilities. A municipal amusement park in this area, Mirador del Sur, has a variety of attractions for small children. The Jardín Botánico Nacional Moscoso (botanical gardens named for Dr. Rafael M. Moscoso) covers an area of over 1,800,000 square meters, and contains special laboratories with hundreds of varieties of tropical plants. Other attractions are the Great Ravine, the Japanese Park, and the world's largest floral clock; small boating facilities are available in an artificial lake in the garden. The modern Parque Zoológico Nacional is spread over 1,250,000 square meters, and includes about five miles of roads and walks. Animals from different parts of the world are displayed in open areas which resemble their natural habitats. The zoo features the largest bird cage in the world, a unique African plain, and a children's zoo.

An Olympic park, with a complex of sports facilities, was built for the XII Central Caribbean Games inearly 1974. The complex includes a stadium for soccer and track and field events, a covered sports palace with a seating capacity of 10,000, an Olympic-size pool, a cycling track, and court facilities.

The best beaches on the south coast are Boca Chica, 20 miles from the city; Guayacanes, Playa Caribe, Juan Dolio, and Villas del Mar, 30 miles; Barahona, 75 miles to the west; and Bayahibe, in La Romana, 80 miles to the east. Points of interest on the north coast are Puerto Plata and Sosua (about 150 miles from Santo Domingo) with their beautiful white-sand beaches.

Shopping in Santo Domingo is a real bargain because the Dominican peso trades favorably with most foreign currencies, and there is a wide variety of items from which to choose. Popular items include native handicrafts such as paintings, straw, macramé, and mahogany products. Amber, the country's national gem (more is mined in the Dominican Republic than anywhere else), is another good buy. Larimar, the sea-blue stone found in the western part of the country, is another recommended buy. There are duty-free zones in both Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata; Santo Domingo's is the largest duty-free area in the Caribbean.


Movies, shown in comfortable, air-conditioned theaters in Santo Domingo, are one of the principal means of entertainment outside the home. New and old U.S. films with original soundtracks and Spanish subtitles predominate, but British, Mexican, Italian, French, and German films are also shown. Santo Domingo has five popular gambling casinos at major hotels, and several nightclubs with floor shows. Also, various discotheques feature American music.

The National Theater is the center of a number of cultural presentations, including regular symphony concerts, occasional solo recitals, plays, ballets by visiting troupes, and operas or plays by local artists. The Binational Center (the Dominican-American Cultural Institute) and several private galleries offer exhibits by local artists.


Santiago de los Caballeros is the "second city" of the Dominican Republic. Its name is commonly shortened to Santiago. Situated on the banks of the Río Yaque in the north-central part of the country, it is known for its Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra, a 23-year-old institution with a highly respected academic reputation. The university is considered the nation's best, and is supported by the Catholic Church and both public and private endowments.

Santiago was founded in 1504 by "30 Spanish gentlemen," and was rebuilt 60 years later after being demolished by an earthquake. It has endured not only several more earthquakes of varying intensity, but also a turbulent history of political insurrections. During the time that Rafael Trujillo was dictator in the middle years of this century, he tore down some of Santiago's finest old buildings, and erected what is widely considered to be an ugly "Peace Monument," and a $4 million suspension bridge that leads nowhere.

Santiago has grown considerably in the past quarter-century, and is home to 1.5 people. It is the commercial center of an agricultural region and the distribution point for several industries. These industries are centered on the production of rum, furniture, cigarettes, soap, pharmaceuticals, and leather articles. It is an especially clean city which keeps a crew of workers sweeping and washing the streets daily.

Santiago is noted for its excellent hotels and restaurants, and for the paradores, or pensiones, which attract the tourist trade. It is also famous for the fine Bermudez rum distilled here.

La Romana

La Romana is a seaport city of 133,000 in the republic's eastern province of the same name. Its popularity has increased in recent years with the completion of luxury tourist resorts, Casa de Campo and Club Dominicus, outside the city.

La Romana's name, meaning "The Scales," comes from earlier days when growers brought their crops to be weighed before shipment to Puerto Rican refineries. Its image has now changed to that of a spot popular with high society. It offers championship golf courses, superb tennis courts, good fishing facilities, swimming (off Catalina Island), a village inn, restaurants, a museum, and an exhibition hall.

The Casa de Campo complex near La Romana is fast becoming the Caribbean's most famous resort. Its 7,000 acres, spread out near the sea, include two championship courses designed by the golf architect Pete Dye.

About 10 miles from this luxurious resort is Altos de Chavón, an artist's replica of a 15th-century Spanish village. One of its famous attractions is a large, hillside amphitheater which serves as the site for cultural events. The tiny church in the village is popular for weddings.

La Romana itself is Gulf and Western Americas Corporation headquarters in the Dominican Republic, and also the site of the largest privately owned sugar refinery in the world. The city is home to several industries which manufactures soap, furniture, and shoes. The Abraham Lincoln School, a company-sponsored, English-language school, is open for students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12; admissions information is available from Fondación Gulf and Western, Central Romana, La Romana, Dominican Republic.


AZUA (full name, Azua de Compostela) is located near the Caribbean Sea about 50 miles west of Santo Domingo. The original town, established in 1504, was destroyed by an earthquake, and Azua was rebuilt three miles inland at the foot of the Sierra de Ocoa. Trading includes rice, coffee, sugarcane, fruits, and timber. A paved highway connects the city with Santo Domingo. Azua's population is over 64,000.

BANÍ , capital city of Peravia Province, is located in southern Dominican Republic, 30 miles southwest of Santo Domingo. The city is a commercial center that produces rice, coffee, and bananas. Baní's population is close to 100,000.

BARAHONA (full name, Santa Cruz de Barahona) is situated on the Caribbean Sea in southwestern Dominican Republic, about 80 miles southwest of Santo Domingo. The city, site of a major port, has industries which include fishing, sugarcane, and fruits. It is also known for hunting. The city is accessible by air and roadway. Barahona's population is approximately 74,000.

CONSTANZA , 90 miles northwest of Santo Domingo over tortuous mountain roads, offers a scenery and climate change at 4,000 feet above sea level. The city's population is close to 15,200.

HIGÜEY , the capital city of La Altagracia Province, on the east coast, is known for its basilica, which houses the largest carillon in the Americas. The church represents the country's most outstanding example of modern architecture. The city is surrounded by fertile land where cacao, cattle, corn, rice, and dairy products are produced. A major highway links Higüey with Santo Domingo. The population of Higüey is about 83,700.

JARABACOA is a colonial city in the mountains, 60 miles northwest of Santo Domingo. It is now a small rural community with pleasant scenery, overlooking cloud formations in the lower mountain valleys. Potatoes, strawberries, apples, vegetables, and flowers are grown near the city. Jarabacoa has an estimated population of 13,400.

LA VEGA (full name, Concepción de la Vega) is the capital of La Vega Province in west-central Dominican Republic. Founded in 1494, La Vega is a commercial city in a fertile part of the country. Its crops include tobacco, coffee, cocoa, rice, and fruit. La Vega is located near the paved highway to the capital, and has an airfield. Its population is about 56,000.

PUERTO PLATA , situated on a crescent-shaped bay on the Atlantic Ocean, is an historic town where pirate ships docked in the 1500s. It became a free port during the 18th century, and later a coffee port, when plantation owners built their townhouses on the streets which now are part of a national preservation plan. In town, horses still pull carriages past gingerbread houses with latticed verandas. The city, originally named San Felipe de Puerto Plata, is the capital of Puerto Plata Province. About 130 miles north of Santo Domingo, Puerto Plata has a population of about 86,000. Tobacco, coffee, sugar, cacao, bananas, and hardwoods are exported here. Liquor, dairy products, pasta, and leather are manufactured in Puerto Plata. The city is among the country's ten greatest cattle producing areas. Recently, the area has become the site of a large, and still expanding, international tourist complex. Major resorts include Jack Tar Village, Playa Dorado Hotel, Dorado Naco, and Villas Dorados.

SAMANÁ (formerly called Santa Bárbara de Samaná), situated on the east coast, is about 170 miles from the capital. It was settled in 1864 by escaped slaves from the U.S., whose ship bringing them from the Underground Railroad was blown ashore. Their descendants, now numbering 7,000, speak English, and maintain several old Protestant churches built over the years. Samaná, a seaside town, has excellent beaches and, as a spot for sport fishing, was once a favorite of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The city is a commercial and manufacturing center for coconuts, timber, rice, and marble. It has grown from a fishing village to a cruise port of note. Its population is about 38,800.

SAN CRISTÓBAL , 25 miles southwest of Santo Domingo, is the site of the Mahogany House, built and furnished by the late Rafael Trujillo. The city was the site of the signing of the Dominican Republic's first constitution in 1844. Founded in 1575, the city is situated in a region that produces rice, sugar, fruit, potatoes, livestock, and coffee. It is the capital of the province of the same name and has a population of approximately 124,000.

SAN FRANCISCO DE MACORÍS , the capital of Duarte Province, is located about 60 miles northwest of Santo Domingo. It is the busy center of an important sugar-and molasses-producing area. Timber, coffee, fruits, cacao, rice, hides, and wax are other major products of the district. The population of San Francisco de Macorís is about 130,000.

SAN JUAN (full name, San Juan de la Maguana), located in west-central Dominican Republic, was founded in 1508. The Battle of Santomé in 1844, which resulted in Dominican independence, was fought near San Juan. Markets include rice, fruit, corn, potatoes, and cattle. San Juan's population is roughly 50,000.

SAN PEDRO DE MACORÍS is located in the southeastern part of the country, about 40 miles east of Santo Domingo. The city's modern port handles most of the country's exports, which include molasses, timber, cattle, and sugar. Industries include corn milling, the manufacture of clothing, and soap and alcohol distilling. The Universidad Central del Este was founded here in 1970 and is located on the main road to Santo Domingo. The city's population is approximately 124,000. In recent years, San Pedro de Macorís has become a hotbed for baseball, producing more players per capita for U.S. major league teams than any other town ever.

Several other cities of interest are located within easy driving distance of Santo Domingo. On the north coast are La Isabela, Columbus' first settlement in the New World (1493); Sosua, settled by Jewish refugees from Germany in 1939; and Macao, 95 miles from Santo Domingo, noted for its beautiful, long beach.


Geography and Climate

The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, the second largest (after Cuba) of the Greater Antilles group, and shares a 224-mile border with Haiti to the west. The island is bordered on the north by the Atlantic Ocean, on the south by the Caribbean Sea, and on the east by the Mona Passage, which separates the Dominican Republic from the island of Puerto Rico, 71 miles away.

The country has a land area of 18,712 square miles, slightly larger than Vermont and New Hampshire combined. With its 1,000-mile coastline, it extends about 240 miles east to west, and has a maximum north-south width of about 170 miles.

Much of the terrain is rugged. Four nearly parallel mountain ranges traverse the country from northwest to southeast. The Cordillera Central is the largest range and divides the country into almost equal parts. Pico Duarte, at 10,128 feet the highest mountain in the West Indies, is within this range. The largest and most fertile valley, the Cibao, about 150 miles long and 10 to 30 miles wide, is in the upper central part of the country.

Dominican rivers vary in flow with the season, and are navigable only for short distances at their mouths, if at all. Their main use is for irrigation and hydroelectric power. The major rivers are the Ozama, Yaque del Norte, Yaque del Sur, Isabela, Higuamo, and Soco.

The climate varies little throughout the year. Although the country is in the tropics, temperatures seldom exceed 90°F, mainly because of constant trade winds. Temperatures in the coastal cities average about 78°F, with seasonal variations of five to eight degrees. Rainfall varies regionally, with about two-thirds of the annual 57 inches coming in the May-to-November rainy season. However, this period differs in various parts of the country; for example, the rainy season on the south coast occurs between May and November, and in the north from November to May.

Mildew, mold, rust, and insects are problems related to year-round high humidity. Furniture, leather goods, clothing, metal items, and books must be carefully aired and protected. The climate also contributes to prevalent upper respiratory infections, skin irritations, fungus, and stomach and intestinal complaints.

Hurricanes are a significant weather threat, particularly from mid-July through October, and have caused serious damage in recent years. The worst hurricane on record, which virtually destroyed Santo Domingo, occurred in 1930. Hurricanes David and Frederick, in August and September 1979, caused considerable damage to the city and countryside. In September, 1987, Hurricane Emily barely missed Santo Domingo. Earthquake tremors are felt occasionally, but have not had serious consequences since 1948.


More than half of the Dominican Republic's 8.3 million inhabitants live in towns with populations over 10,000. The cities, however, are growing rapidly. The largest urban areas are Santo Domingo (3.6 million), and Santiago de los Caballeros (1.5 million).

The nation's population density of 171 persons per square mile makes it the seventh most densely populated country in Latin America, but it does not exceed that of most of the islands of the West Indies. Existing population pressure is accentuated by an annual growth rate of about 2%.

The nation's inhabitants are mostly descendants of both early European settlers and African slaves, but there are many relative newcomers of European and Middle Eastern origins. An estimated 16% of the population is Caucasian, another 11% are black, and the remaining 73% mixed Caucasian and Black. No traces of aboriginal Indians exist. No overt racial antagonism affects the relationship between the ethnic groups.

Spanish is the national language. It is spoken quite rapidly in the Dominican Republic, and many idioms and contractions are used in its colloquial form. English is spoken widely by the upper socioeconomic segment of society.

Under an accord with the Vatican in 1954, Roman Catholicism was formally established as the state religion, and the Dominican Government provides some financial support to the church. Freedom of worship is universal, however, and many Protestant denominations and missions of all faiths are found here.

Frequent colorful processions are held on various saints' day festivals. The nation's patron saint, Our Lady of Altagracia, is named after a vision of the Virgin Mary reported in the eastern part of the island in 1921. On holy days, mass is celebrated as a part of many public ceremonies.

The Dominican Republic does not have a large landholding class. A small but growing number of wealthy people dominate the country's social structure. For many years (1930-1961), this group held what little economic power was not monopolized by the ruling Trujillo family. The preponderance of the Trujillos in both the economic realm and in government ended with the dictator's assassination in 1961, but some of the established social patterns continue to linger. Upward mobility is geared largely to the acquisition of wealth, although increasing importance is being attached to education and professional achievement.

Two small groups top the social scale. One is composed of well-to-do persons whose extensive rural properties were not expropriated under the Trujillo dictatorship, and who have used their land to gain leadership in commerce and industry. Most of this group is centered around the northern cities of Santiago and Puerto Plata, but many maintain second homes in Santo Domingo. The second group is composed of former civil servants and military officials who attained prominence and wealth under previous governments. Their ranks include a few professionals and men of letters, but many of the latter fall into the small but growing middle class.

The middle class has suffered in recent years due to economic problems. It includes civil servants, private-sector managers, white-collar workers, teachers, and other professionals.

About three-fourths of the people are at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale. The majority earn a subsistence wage, have minimal education, live in substandard conditions, are largely rural, and are migrating to urban areas in the hope of improving their lot by serving as domestics or laborers.

Construction and public works projects employ substantial numbers of skilled and unskilled laborers in the urban areas, but not a sufficient number to offset the growing demand for jobs. It is estimated that more than 45% of the available labor force is unemployed or under-employed.

For many Dominicans, emigration is a viable alternative. Although the number seeking to enter the U.S., Venezuela, Canada, and Europe is increasing, the outflow is partially offset by significant illegal immigration of Haitians (estimated at 600,000) to the Dominican Republic.


Originally a Spanish colony and later under Haitian rule, the Dominican Republic gained independence in 1844. Its subsequent history was characterized by alternating periods of authoritarian rule and instability. The collection of Dominican customs revenues was controlled by the U.S. from 1905 to 1940. A naval mission, chiefly composed of U.S. Marines, governed the country from 1916 to 1924.

Following Trujillo's assassination on May 30, 1961, the country again underwent a series of political crises, including the election and overthrow of the government of Juan Bosch, the first democratically elected president since 1930. This government lasted only seven months before it was toppled in a military coup in 1963. An attempt to restore constitutional government in April 1965 ended in civil war and the arrival of the Inter-American Peace Force (IAPF), of which U.S. forces were a part. Peace was restored, and the IAPF withdrew its last troops in September 1966.

In June 1966, Dr. Joaquín Balaguer was elected to a four-year term as president. During this period, his administration worked primarily to promote economic and social reforms. In June 1970, Balaguer was reelected to an additional four-year term. Although his second term was marred by both left-and right-wing terrorism and violence in 1970 and 1971, and by a minor short-lived guerrilla incursion in 1973, the country registered steady economic progress. Elections, in which an opposition alliance abstained only days before (claiming unfair conditions), were held again in May 1974, and President Balaguer was returned to office for the third time. He was defeated for a fourth term in 1978 by the candidate of the Dominican Revolutionary Party, Antonio Guzmán (Fernández).

The 1982 elections brought Dr. Salvador Jorge Blanco to the presidency in an orderly succession, and a growing strength in the country's democratic institution has been demonstrated. The 1986 elections saw Joaquín Balaguer return to the presidency for a fourth term. Jacobo Majluta, the president of the Senate who opposed Balaguer in the balloting, conceded defeat after claiming irregularities in the closely fought race. Majluta lost by less than 44,000 votes. Balaguer was reelected to the presidency for a fifth term in August, 1990. The results of the May 1994 election were disputed, leading to scheduling of a new election in May 1996. Leonel Fernandez was elected president in a second round of voting and took office in August.

Under the constitution, executive power is vested in the president, who is assisted by a cabinet which includes secretaries of state for various areas of responsibilities, such as armed forces, foreign relations, finance, interior and police, education, fine arts and public worship, agriculture, industry and commerce, public health and social welfare, labor, public works and communications, and sports.

Legislative power is vested in a bicameral congress. There are 30 senators, one for each province and the National District (the city of Santo Domingo). As a result of the 1990 election, the Social Christian Reformist Party held 16 seats, the Dominican Liberation Party won 12 seats, and the Dominican Revolutionary Party gained two seats. The Chamber of Deputies has 120 members, one for each 50,000 inhabitants, based on the 1981 census.

The judiciary consists of local justices of the peace and civil courts of the first instance, special land courts in each province, district courts of appeal, and the Supreme Court of nine justices. Judges are nominated by the Senate. The judicial system does not include trial by jury.

Local authority emanates from the central government. The country is divided into 29 provinces, each administered by a governor appointed by the president. Santo Domingo and the municipalities are each governed by a mayor and a municipal council, elected by popular vote for four-year terms.

Besides the majority and opposing parties now in Congress (the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) and the Reformists), several Communist parties and factions exist, as do others with Marxist leanings. These include the Dominican Communist Party (PCD), legalized in 1977; the Dominican Popular Movement (MPD); the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD); and the Anti-Imperialist Patriotic Union (UPA). These groups are active in intellectual circles, laboring classes, and student groups.

The Dominican Republic is a member of the United Nations and its various specialized agencies, the Organization of American States (OAS), the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and is also a signatory to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

The flag of the Dominican Republic consists of two red and two blue sections divided by a white cross centered with the Dominican coat of arms.

Arts, Science, Education

The Dominican Republic has begun to achieve maturity in artistic, technical, and intellectual pursuits. In the past, opportunity to study abroad was limited and individual intellectual activity was discouraged. In recent years, an exciting ferment of new ideas, artistic expression, and an eagerness to discover and take part in the best intellectual and cultural developments has emerged. Santo Domingo's modern Cultural Plaza with its four museums, National Theater, and National Library is the scene of many artistic, musical, and theatrical productions. The opening of the National Theater in August 1973 signaled the beginning of a new cultural era for the country; the theater now draws artists and groups from around the world. The National Library, with a capacity for 200,000 volumes, and the Museum of Dominican Man were also inaugurated in 1973.

Individual artists who have achieved international renown include painters Gilberto Hernández Ortega, Guillo Perez, Ramón Oviedo, Candido Bido, Soucy de Pellerano, Ada Balcacer, Orlando Menicucci, Fernando Urena Rib, and Francisco Santos. Antonio Pratts Ventos, Domingo Liz, Ramiro Matos, and José Ramón Rotellini are leading sculptors who have done interesting work in metals and wood. Dominican architects show imagination and beauty in design.

Books of literary meritnovels, short stories, histories, and criticismare published frequently. A five-volume anthology of Dominican literature has filled a need for gathering the best in the nation's writing. Popular music, merengue, salsa, and nueva ola performers are numerous. Several troupes of folkloric dancers and singers also perform.

Public education in the Dominican Republic has suffered greatly from a lack of funding, with the result that literacy may have slipped within recent years to less than 70%. Few families can afford to do without their children's labor, and only a limited number of free secondary schools exist. In general, schools are overcrowded, understaffed, and lack educational material and equipment.

Higher education is possible for only a fraction of the literate population. However, the oldest university in the Western Hemisphere, the 60,000-student Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD), founded in the 16th century, has 10 times its enrollment of 20 years ago. Other excellent institutions are the Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra in Santiago, the Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Urena and Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo in the capital, and the Universidad Central del Este in San Pedro de Macorís. Although vocational and technical training cannot meet present needs, progress is being made in home economics, education, agriculture, commercial work, mechanics, electronics, metallurgy, and construction trades.

The principal institution for advanced technical training is the Instituto de Estudios Superiores. An English/Spanish branch of the World University of Puerto Rico is also active in Santo Domingo. Approximately 800 Dominican students attend universities in the U.S. annually, and several hundred also study in Europe (especially Spain) and in neighboring Latin American countries, particularly Mexico and Venezuela.

Commerce and Industry

Agriculture provides employment for roughly 17% of the Dominican labor force, and accounted for 15% of the total export earnings. Sugar, the mainstay of the economy, generates over $506 million annually. Other important agricultural products include coffee, tobacco, and cacao. The Dominican Republic also produces rice, potatoes, beans, plantains, yucca, and other crops for domestic consumption.

Industry has as its principal concerns sugar refining, textiles, pharmaceuticals, light manufacturing, and breweries that produce excellent local beer and rum. Mineral exports account for a substantial portion of total export value. In addition to recently discovered coal, the nation has important deposits of gold, silver, bauxite, and ferronickel.

The vigorous promotion of the Dominican Republic as a tourist haven has swelled the numbers of visitors to record levels placing the nation among the top Caribbean tourist destinations. Major resort complexes have been built on both coasts in an ambitious development program.

The U.S. is the principal trading partner of the Dominican Republic, and typically accounts for 70% of its exports and provided 46% of all imported goods. A relatively low inflation rate, import exonerations, low labor costs, and tax holidays help the investment climate. A long-needed revision of the basic foreign investment law is being considered to enhance the investment picture.


Santo Domingo's international airport, Las Americas, is 19 miles from the city. It is served by the national airline, Dominicana (Compañía Dominicana de Aviación), American, Avianca, Viasa, ALM (subsidiary of KLM), Iberia, Lufthansa, Prinair, and Varig. Aeropuerto Internacional La Unión is the modern north-coast airport for the Puerto Plata/Playa Dorada/Sosua area.

Several private companies in the capital offer chartered, air-conditioned bus tours. A group of five persons can charter a car (público ) at reasonable rates for trips to Santiago, San Cristóbal, or Barahona. Air charter service is available from Herrera Airport in Santo Domingo; also, daily service to Santiago, Puerto Plata, and other points on the island is provided by Alas del Caribe, the country's domestic airline.

Passenger and cargo ships call at Santo Domingo, Puerto Plata, Haina, and Port-au-Prince (Haiti) on an irregular basis. Freight lines of various registries call at Santo Domingo from all parts of the world.

The Dominican Republic has no passenger or freight railways. Private car lines and buses connect outlying cities to one another and to the capital. Air-conditioned express buses run daily on regular schedules from Santo Domingo to Bonao, La Vega, Moca, Santiago, Puerto Plata, San Pedro de Macorís, La Romana, and other towns in the interior.

Buses, minibuses, and públicos have regular routes throughout the capital. The latter, usually painted blue with red, white, or green roofs (depending on the zones they cover) cruise certain streets picking up as many passengers as the car will hold. Regular taxis are available at large hotels, as is private call-a-cab service; these taxis operate on a zone system, but drivers are occasionally willing to carry a passenger a short distance, called a carrera, for a minimum fare plus tip. It is advisable to settle on a fare before hiring a cab.

Traffic moves on the right. Laws are similar to those in the U.S., but local drivers are aggressive, making defensive driving necessary. It is against the law to smoke while driving. Traffic police control busy intersections, and their signals must be learned quickly and followed closely. Police cars are green and white; ambulances are white; fire trucks are red.

Santo Domingo is the hub of a fairly extensive road network. A hard-surfaced, four-lane highway leads from the capital to the international airport and beach areas east of the city, but the road narrows to two lanes about 30 miles out. A fairly good, two-lane, heavily traveled road connects Santo Domingo with Santiago de los Caballerosthe nation's second largest cityand with Puerto Plata on the north coast. There is a highway connecting Puerto Plata eastward to the Samaná Bay area. Road networks throughout the republic are improving. Blacktop and gravel roads connect many outlying communities, although rural roads and bridges are often in poor condition. Vehicles with heavy-duty suspension and four-wheel-drive are generally required for these latter roads. Most Santo Domingo streets are blacktop, and their condition ranges from excellent to poor. The city has several divided boulevards. Most streets are narrow, particularly in the downtown shopping area, and permit only one-way traffic.

International driver's licenses are not valid in the Dominican Republic. Anyone without a license from his own country must take a written examination in Spanish and a road test to qualify for a Dominican license. Minimum third-party liability insurance is required; coverage should be obtained from a local firm, since few U.S. carriers are permitted to underwrite in the Dominican Republic.


Telephone service links all major points in the republic, and long-distance connections can be made to other countries without undue delay. There are some areas where growth has out-paced telephone expansion, but difficulties are minimal; local service is adequate. International mail is handled twice daily and normally takes three to five days for delivery to and from the eastern United States.

The Dominican Republic has over 200 radio stations, including short-wave and FM outlets. There are periodic newscasts all day, as well as interviews and all-round variety music programming.

Station HIJB (FM) has two classical music programs daily, "Gala Concert" at 1 p.m. and "Concert Hall" at 8 p.m. On Sundays, Texaco sponsors an opera at 1 p.m. Good shortwave radios can also pick up Voice of America (VOA), American Forces Radio, and Puerto Rican, Jamaican, and Florida stations.

Santo Domingo has six television stations: Rahintel, Color-Visión, Teleantillas, Tele-Inde, and Telesistema, all privately owned; and Radio Televisión Dominicana, government-owned. All stations transmit in color. Programs include local and international news, weather, sports, variety shows, movies, and dramatic serials produced in Latin America and the U.S. The majority of programs are in Spanish. CNN and 18 other cable TV stations are available 24 hours a day. Many hotels have satellite dishes that allow them to receive foreign language broadcasts from countries around the world. U.S. TV sets can be used in Santo Domingo without modification. Usual broadcasting hours are 11 a.m. to midnight.

Nine major Spanish-language daily newspapers (Monday through Saturday) are published in the Dominican Republic. El Caribe, Listín Diario, Hoy, and El Sol, the morning papers, carry extensive news coverage and take independent political lines. Última Hora, La Noticia, and El Nacional are published in the afternoon. El Día, Ya, and La Información are published daily in Santiago, and serve the interests of the Cibao Valley. El Nacional, La Noticia, and Listín Diario have the only Sunday editions. Some of these papers subscribe to Associated Press, United Press International, and other news services. One major weekly news magazine, Ahora, is published locally. The Miami Herald, the Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, and The New York Times arrive the same day or a day after publication. The English-language weekly, The Santo Domingo News, provides business and tourism news.


Santo Domingo has many American-trained dentists and doctors, including specialists in obstetrics, pediatrics, neurosurgery, gynecology, cardiology, gastroenterology, dermatology, and diseases of the eye, ear, nose, and throat. Most doctors speak some English. Emergency aids, such as incubators, oxygen tents, and blood banks are available, and several laboratories are equipped to do routine tests. A number of hospitals and small clinics are adequate, but not up to U.S. standards, particularly in nursing care, cleanliness, and diet. Nonetheless, Americans use them for obstetrical care, pediatrics, some surgery, and other illnesses or injuries requiring relatively short periods of hospitalization.

Primarily because of poor storage methods, the inadequate disposal of garbage and other wastes, and the tropical climate, Santo Domingo is infested with flies, cockroaches, ants, mice, and rats. Other pests include termites, ticks, bedbugs, tarantulas, and mosquitoes. Non-poisonous snakes are also found here. Small lizards and frogs sometimes get into houses. Commercial exterminators are available.

Sanitation standards are loosely enforced, and unsanitary practices in the processing, storage, distribution, and sale of food are common. Several modern supermarkets in the capital, however, have improved their refrigeration and handling of fresh produce and meat. Most Americans prefer these stores over local markets, even though supermarket prices are much higher. City water, often filled with surface seepage and sediment after heavy rains, is not potable unless boiled for 10 minutes. Filtered bottled water is available.

Fruits and vegetables must be washed thoroughly with soapy water and soaked in an iodine or clorox solution. Fruits should be peeled. Locally bought meats should be served well done. Shellfish is safe if cooked thoroughly.

Domestic employees should receive periodic physical examinations and chest x-rays to rule out tuberculosis. They must be trained in good food-handling techniques and in personal hygiene.

Dominican health authorities, with the cooperation of the Pan-American Health Organization and other international agencies, are conducting active campaigns against disease. Although some progress has been made, observers agree that the task is formidable. Diseases which affect the local population include intestinal parasites, tuberculosis, dengue fever, AIDS, malnutrition, venereal disease and, in some rural areas, malaria. Periodic epidemics of influenza and gastro-intestinal infections exist. Diarrhea, accompanied by dehydration and fever, is common, and particularly debilitating to young children. Other complaints include upper respiratory, ear, and gynecological infections; skin irritations; and fungal infections. Animal rabies is a problem.

The following immunizations are recommended by U.S. authorities: yellow fever and tetanus-diphtheria for ages seven and up; DPT (diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus), measles, mumps, rubella, and polio for those under seven; anyone over age 12 should take gamma globulin every six months to prevent hepatitis. Inoculations against measles, tetanus, and rabies are available locally.


Passage, Customs & Duties

A valid passport, or a U.S. birth certificate, Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship, along with photo identification, are required for both entry and exit. Because of the high incidence of fraud in the Dominican Republic and potential delays with Dominican Immigration, the U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that United States citizens travel with passports. Visitors who do not obtain a visa prior to entry must purchase a tourist card to enter the country.

Americans living in or traveling to the Dominican Republic are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the United States Embassy in Santo Domingo and obtain updated information on travel and security within the Dominican Republic. The U.S. Embassy is located at the corner of Calle Cesar Nicolas Penson and Calle Leopoldo Navarro in Santo Domingo; telephone (809) 221-2171; after hours (809) 221-8100. The Consular Section is a half-mile away at the corner of Calle Cesar Nicolas Penson and Avenida Maximo Gomez. The American Citizens Services section can be reached by telephone at (809) 731-4294, or via the Internet at Consular office hours are 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays. There is a Consular Agency in Puerto Plata at Calle Beller 51, 2nd floor, office 6, telephone (809) 586-4204; office hours are 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., and 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays. U.S. citizens may register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy and obtain updated information on travel and security in the Dominican Republic.


A signed health and rabies vaccination certificate from a licensed veterinarian must be presented when importing a pet into the Dominican Republic, or the pet will be quarantined. Regulations change frequently; it is advisable to check beforehand with authorities.

Firearms & Ammunition

Dominican customs authorities strictly enforce regulations concerning the importation of firearms. Persons bringing firearms into the country, even temporarily, may face jail sentences and heavy fines. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the Dominican Republic in Washington, D.C. or one of the Dominican Republic's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

The time in the Dominican Republic is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) minus four (the same as observed during Daylight Saving Time on the U.S. east coast).

The sole monetary unit is the Dominican peso, written RD$. Currency is issued in the same denominations as U.S. currency, and the coins bear a close resemblance. The four American banks in the capital are Bank of America, Banco de Boston Dominicano (an affiliate of First National Bank of Boston), Chase Manhattan, and Citibank.

Officially, the Dominican Republic uses the metric system of weights and measures but, in practice, the U.S. system of ounces, pounds, inches, feet, gallons, and miles is commonly used.

Disaster Preparedness

The Dominican Republic is a hurricane-prone country. In the event of a hurricane alert, a notice will be posted in U.S. Embassy Santo Domingo's web page cited below. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Jan. 6 Epiphany

Jan. 21 Our Lady of Altagracia

Jan. 26 Duarte's Day

Feb. 27 Dominican Independence Day

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

May 1 Dominican Labor Day

May/June Corpus Christi*

Aug. 16 Dominican Restoration Day

Sept. 24 Our Lady of las Mercedes

Oct. 14 Columbus Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day



The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:

Finlay, Barbara. The Women of Azua: Work & Family in the Rural Dominican Republic. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1989.

Fodor's '89 Caribbean. New York:Fodor's, 1988.

Frommer's Dollarwise Guide to the Caribbean. New York: Prentice Hall, 1989.

Grasmuck, Sherry and Patricia R. Pressar. Between Two Islands: Dominican International Migration. Berkely, CA: University of California Press, 1991.

Haggerty, Richard A. Dominican Republic & Haiti: A Country Study. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1991.

Hillman, Richard S., and Thomas J.D'Agostino. Distant Neighbors in the Caribbean: The Dominican Republic & Jamaica in Comparative Prospective. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992.

Hinze, Peter. Practical Travel A to Z: Dominican Republic. Chatham, NY: Hayit Publishing USA, 1992.

Kryzanek, Michael J. The Politics of External Influence in the Dominican Republic. New York: Praeger, 1988.

Lowenthal, A.F. (ed.) Exporting Democracy: The United States and Latin America. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1991.

Lugo, Marta. The Dominican Republic Guidebook. Teaneck, NJ: Eurasia Press, 1989.

Nelson, William J. Almost a Territory: America's Attempt to Annex the Dominican Republic. Cranbury, NJ: University of Delaware Press, 1990.

Schoenhals, Kai, comp. Dominican Republic. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 1990.

Schoonmaker, Herbert Garrettson. Military Crisis Management: U.S. Intervention in the Dominican Republic, 1965. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1990.

Vargas-Lundius, Rosemary. Peasants in Distress: Poverty & Unemployment in the Dominican Republic. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1991.

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Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic

Basic Data
Official Country Name: Dominican Republic
Region: North & Central America
Population: 8,442,533
Language(s): Spanish
Literacy Rate: 82.1%
Compulsory Schooling: 10 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 2.3%
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 1,360,044
  Secondary: 263,236
  Higher: 176,995
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 94%
  Secondary: 54%
  Higher: 23%
Teachers: Secondary: 12,504
  Higher: 9,041
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 94%
  Secondary: 61%
  Higher: 27%

History & Background

Geography & Population: The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, which is located west of Puerto Rico. Its only border is with Haiti. The Dominican Republic has an area of 48,400 kilometers, and its population was estimated at 8.4 million in 1999. For political and administrative purposes, the country is divided into three regions and seven subregions, which together contain the 29 provinces and the National District.

It was originally occupied by Tainos, an Arawakspeaking people. The Tainos welcomed Columbus in his first voyage in 1492, but subsequent colonizers were brutal, reducing the Tainos population from about 1 million to about 500 in 50 years. To ensure adequate labor for plantations, the Spanish brought African slaves to the island beginning in 1503.

In the next century, French settlers occupied the western end of the island, which Spain ceded to France in 1697, and which, in 1804, became the Republic of Haiti. The Haitians conquered the whole island in 1822 and held it until 1844, when forces led by Juan Pablo Duarte, the hero of Dominican independence, drove them out and established the Dominican Republic as an independent state. In 1861, the Dominicans voluntarily returned to the Spanish Empire; in 1865, independence was restored.

Political, Social, & Cultural Bases: Economic difficulties, the threat of European intervention, and ongoing internal disorders led to a U.S. occupation in 1916 and the establishment of a military government in the Dominican Republic. The occupation ended in 1924 with a democratically elected Dominican government.

In 1930, Rafael L. Trujillo, a prominent army commander, established absolute political control. Trujillo promoted economic development and severe repression of domestic human rights. Mismanagement and corruption resulted in major economic problems. In August 1960, the Organization of American States (OAS) imposed diplomatic sanctions against the Dominican Republic as a result of Trujillo's complicity in an attempt to assassinate President Romulo Betancourt of Venezuela. These sanctions remained in force after Trujillo's death by assassination in May 1961. In November 1961, the Trujillo family was forced into exile.

The Trujillo administration initiated a campaign to increase the literacy rate, which was no higher than 30 percent in the early 1950s. These efforts resulted in a number of primary schools being established in rural areas. Urban needs were also met, to the extent that at the end of the regime, at least one primary school had been established in each town. These schools, however, were overcrowded, and many of them had to operate on double shifts, problems that have persisted into the twenty-first century.

Trujillo had also signed a concordato (agreement) with the Catholic church that included all Catholic schools under the auspices of public support. The Catholic church initiated several institutes for technical instruction that raised the level of professional training within the country. During President Joaquin Balaguer's terms of governance (1966-1978, 1986-1996) the Catholic church played a key role as a recipient of international aid for running educational and social programs.

The period of 1967 to 1971 saw the intervention of the World Bank and other international agencies to create many of the most recent initiatives in the educational system. These years saw the creation of organizations to teach American English to Dominicans and the use of scholarships to create a professional elite formed in American university systems. The San Jose Reform of 1967-1969 emphasized vocational training to improve industrial capacity.

The Dominican economy has undergone profound changes since the 1980s. Until the mid-1970s, traditional export products, mainly from agriculture, represented 60 percent of the total value of the country's exports. Over the last two decades, the service sector has led the economy, particularly economic and financial services related to tourism and industrial free trade zones, which by 1995 accounted for more than 70 percent of exports.

In 1992 the gross domestic product (GDP) began to recover, and by 1996 it was maintaining an average annual growth rate of more than 5 percent. In 1999, the country was singled out as the best economic performer in Latin America after having sustained a growth rate of more than 6 percent for several consecutive years.

This stability and macroeconomic growth have improved the purchasing power of the working population, and absolute poverty appears to have diminished. Despite this, reduced public spending for education and health has affected family budgets, unemployment rates (which stood at 15 percent in 1996-1997), and the percentage of the population linked to the informal economy and nonwage-earning activities. There has therefore been a considerable increase in relative poverty and the number of people who are in need. The public domestic debt, estimated at about US$400 million in mid-1997, has been burgeoning, and this has tended to inhibit private domestic investment. A particularly vulnerable factor is economic dependence on the 43 free trade zones.

After a long history of authoritarian regimes, the Dominican Republic is entering a new era of democracy and social participation, including education. At the same time, the proportion of children in the overall population is shrinking. The vast majority of the population is of working age (15- to 64-years-old).

Although the Dominican Republic has one of the fastest growing economies in the world (average growth of 7.5 percent from 1997 to 2000), it has one of the lowest investments in education in the hemisphere. Public investment in education has increased since the 1990s, but it is still very low in comparison with other Latin American countries.

Nonetheless, the Dominican Republic shows enormous advances in education. The country developed its planning capacity and implemented some key programs. According to the Deputy Secretary of Education, Josefina Pimentel, there were developments in several areas: new education laws to replace the obsolete legislation of 1951; new curricula developed for Basic Education; new textbooks published and distributed throughout rural and urban schools; and an increase in the amount of compulsory education to nine years of basic education, including a preschool year.

Consititutional & Legal Foundations

General Survey: Although there are a number of programs and rights granted in educational legislation, generally these rights are not enforced by the courts in the way that they are in countries such as the United States. This is largely because the Dominican legal system, which is based on the French Code, is not oriented to the enforcement of the "minor" rights of educational entitlement.

Until shortly after independence in 1865, education in the Dominican Republic was not legally regulated, and most schools were run by Catholic groups. In 1857, the national budget provided for no more than five schools for the entire country. In 1884, Puerto Rican political activist and educator Eugenio Ma. de Hostos enacted the first educational law, making local authorities responsible for providing and financing primary schools and the newly created normal schools, but entrusting the central government with secondary education.

The real base for the educational system was created in 1918 as a direct result of the American occupation, with orden ejecutiva 145 (executive order 145), which reformed the existing system along American lines. Though widely condemned at the time as anti-Dominican in intent, this system was further developed by the Trujillo dictatorship (1930-1961) with law 418, the General Law of Education (1938), and the Organic Law of Education (law 2909; 1951).

The reforms of middle secondary school (educacion media ) in 1967 were created by Resolucion 56-66, for the development of the Liceo Laboral (Labor High Schools) and the Laboral Especializado (Specialized Labor High Schools), training schools for work in industry that put special emphasis on the training of women.

Another reform measure for high school level development, Ordenanza 2-69 (Ordinance 2-69), emphasized a humanistic view of individual development and treated those aspects relating to technical and labor development as the means by which the individual could contribute to society. The goals of higher education were also based on integral humanistic development, where those who wished to retrain for a second career could acquire a technical degree and as such create the means by which they could be gainfully employed while furthering their education. These schools were termed Liceos Diversificados.

Institutions of higher education are established by law and their right to award degrees is sanctioned by the government. The Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo (UASD), the only public university in the Dominican Republic, was granted autonomous status and continuous state support in Law 5778 (1962). All private institutions of higher education are regulated by Law 236 (1967), which regulates both their structure and their right to award degrees.

In 1970, the objectives of the Ciclo Comun in middle school education emphasized human development as a goal for the first time. Within the reforms initiated by UNESCO in 1973 were two main efforts: the creation of a network of integrated centers of educational development with the goal of answering to the needs of both school-age and adult education, and technical schools dedicated to training individuals in rural education and agricultural work and health services. Literacy and vocational education scheduled at night for adults began in 1968, and the use of a radio-based program of primary school classes for campesinos began in 1974.

The 10-Year Plan: Between 1988 and 1990, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and UNESCO, working in tandem, began to quietly reinvest in Dominican education. As early as 1985, UNESCO began the formulation of what was to be the Plan Decenal (10-year plan), fostering interest among leaders of the education and business sectors in participating in an overall restructuring of the Dominican educational system. It took some five years from the first legal documents created in 1992 until the final version of the General Law of Education 66/97 was approved in 1997 for the different elements of the Plan Decenal to begin fully functioning. The more important acts are as follows:

  • Ordenanzas 1'92, 2'92 established the legal base for the Pruebas Nacionales, the national standardized tests administered at the end of 4th, 8th, and 12th grades.
  • Ordenanza 1'95 established the curricula for the Initial, Basic, and Middle schools and also for special and adult education.
  • Ordenanza 1'96 established the evaluation model for all academic levels.

The combined law 66/97 integrates all other acts and gives the final version of the general law of education, the organization of its administration, and the relationship of all parts to the whole. Major foundations of the law are:

  • that the universal right to education is "appropriate and free of cost, including those who are gifted, physically impaired, learning disabled and who, as such, must receive special education" (II.4.m);
  • that nutrition and health in general are determining primary factors in scholastic achievement (II.4.ll); and
  • that the goal of Dominican education is to form "people, men, and women, free-thinking, critical, and creative, able to participate in and construct a free society... that they can combine profitable work, community service, and humanistic, scientific, and technological training... to contribute to both national growth and their own personal development" (II.5.a).

The 12 major articles of the law address the principles and objectives of the Dominican educational system; the structuring of the educational system into preschool (inicial ), basic, middle (medio ), and higher (superior ) education; safeguards for quality within the system; the executive structuring of the educational system; the decentralization of the educational system and the rights and responsibilities of the regions, districts, and local centers; professional requirements for teachers and academic staff and their training, rights, and duties; the social benefits due to teachers, including insurance, pensions, and retirement; student welfare; participation within the educational system; the financing of education; the accreditation of studies; and those bodies responsible for the carrying out of the provisions of the educational law and concerning equity within the system.

Educational SystemOverview

Structure & Degrees: In 1985 the structure of the educational pyramid consisted of three years of noncompulsory preschool education; six years in primary school; and six years in middle school, divided into two years of intermediate education and four years of secondary school, or into four years and two years (Plan de Reforma ). Students who continued to that point received their high school degree (bachillerato ) and might continue to the tertiary education provided by the Dominican universities, which conferred either licentiates (licenciaturas ), ingenerias, or doctorados (doctoratesfor law and medicine only), depending on the field of study.

The revised structure is no longer a simple pyramid. Of the three years of preschool education, one year became compulsory, as did nine years of basic primary school, effectively extending compulsory schooling by four years. Middle school (to receive the bachillerato degree) has been reduced to only three years and is noncompulsory, as is higher education. Middle school students are separated into academic and technical-professional tracks, receiving high school diplomas that specify their tracks. Education provided by the Dominican universities continues to confer licenciaturas, ingenerias, and doctorados, but with extended programs, especially in the areas of medicine and law, whose programs have been effectively doubled in both material and time. Also of note is the inclusion of maestrias and nonmedical doctorados as the higher education system expands its postgraduate degree systems.

Special Groups: Like many other countries the Dominican Republic must deal with the children of temporary migrant workers, primarily from Haiti. There appear to be no barriers to attendance within the school system, but many Haitian parents want their children to work in the fields and earn money rather than attend school. Some schools have been constructed in those zones where large populations of Haitians reside (the bateys ).

In both secondary school and tertiary institutions, women predominated at the beginning of the millennium. The increase in women's employment, particularly in industrial free zones, has increased the pressure for wide availability of preschool. Some employers have begun a pilot program of four days working, four days off to allow women to go to school.

Education Reforms: In 1988, a "private" initiative combining interested business sectors and Pontificia Universidad Madre y Maestra (PUCMM, the major private Catholic university, a recipient of international money dedicated to research), with funding from the World Bank, began to work on a reconstruction of Dominican educational policy. This reconstruction plan was termed the Plan Decenal, or the 10-year Educational Plan. The unique participatory process that led to the formulation of the Plan Decenal produced three general outcomes: an identification of the main problems of education in the country; an understanding of research conducted about those problems, and the development of a series of proposals and innovations to solve them. More importantly, such a process increased the social capital of the nation for collective action around common goals. The initial success of the reform suggests that there is motivation and basic capacity in the country for undertaking national debates on social issues and developing general plans. The national government enthusiastically adopted the plans, which also garnered support throughout the international community.

Plan Decenal outlined the following goals:

  1. Raising the Educational Level of the General Population: increasing school attendance, reducing illiteracy, expanding adult education, and developing programs for informal learning.
  2. Increasing the Quality of Education: promoting innovation in education, compensating for the low socioeconomic level of students, bettering the living conditions of teachers, bettering the physical and pedagogical environment of the classroom, and raising the quality of the educational process.
  3. Strengthening Educational Technology: promoting scientific and technological innovation, introducing the use of computers, expanding and bettering educational techniques, creating new technical careers, and establishing new technical schools.
  4. Decentralizing the Educational System: modernizing the administrative system, encouraging the use of administrative meetings, and institutionalizing and standardizing the decision-making process.
  5. Strengthening Community Ties to the School System: encouraging reciprocity between school and community, strengthening parent-teacher associations, and bringing the secular world into the classroom.
  6. Increase the Investment in Education: by 1998, have use of 16 percent of the national budget for education; by 2001, have use of 25 percent of the national budget.

Organizational work continued throughout 1989 to 1990, when the commission Nacional del Plan Decenal (National 10-Year Plan) was formed through an alliance of SEEBAC (the Dominican Department of Education, later renamed SEEC), EDUCA, ADP (the teachers' union), the regional UNDP, and Plan Educativo, a Santo Domingo-based group of educators and industrialists. These groups worked both at the executive level of planning through use of chosen representatives and more extensively in the national consultas (consulting groups) that were to be developed for expanding and promoting the plan.

The system of consultas incorporated more than 100 institutions and involved more than 50,000 individuals. They were organized at five levels: open advising, institutional advising, national advising, internal advising, and regional advising. By 1993, through the process of the consultas, more than 100 organizations were officially listed as participants in the formulation of the Plan Decenal.

Preprimary & Primary Education

The Pre-Kinder and Kinder programs of the Dominican Republic were initiated by Rene Klang de Guzman, the wife of Antonio Guzman, in 1981. While this program never developed much beyond a pilot program, the organization for the welfare of children and their rights, CONANI, has lasted for over 20 years.

At the time of the midway assessment of the Plan Decenal in August 2000, approximately 23 percent of eligible children were in preschool (including those in mandatory kindergarten). The education department's goal is to increase that figure to 50 percent.

While the Kinder program is already mandated by law, very few schools have begun to create these levels due to a lack of classroom space and qualified personnel. While some universities have responded by opening training for this level, it will take years before an adequate number of people can be trained to fill the national demand.

Beyond the revamping of the curriculum for basic and middle schools, the most significant innovations of the Plan Decenal were likely the standardization of the school calendar to 42 weeks of five-hour days and the addition of national standardized tests for the fourth, eighth, and twelfth grade levels. These tests provide the system some means of comparison between school districts and allow for some quality control. A program was also designed to retain students, including free books, prizes, computer labs, and free breakfasts.

Additions to the curriculum include English and French (beginning in fourth grade), art and music, computer science, and a greater emphasis on math and science. These subjects add approximately 15 more teaching hours per week.

Secondary Education

Once past the sixth grade, two tracks are established for continuing students: the academic track that continues on through the twelfth grade with academic studies for those students who wish to pursue a university education, and the technical-professional tracks, for those who wish to enter any of the technical schools. Actual differentiation into tracks occurs at entry into secondary level at tenth grade. The simplest degree is that of the tecnico basico, wherein the student is prepared just one year past basic schooling. The two- and three-year technical track schools are mainly for business training (for the bachillerato commercial certification), agricultural training (for the Perito agronomo, or 13th grade agricultural diploma), and industrial training certifications. These schools offer a curriculum distribution of 30 percent academic subjects and 70 percent specialized subjects. Individuals in the technical-professional track number 62,286.

Participation in secondary education can still be characterized as weak. For each 1,000 students that enter first grade, only 219 enter ninth grade. Of those, 62 percent of secondary students complete their studies and receive their certification. There was a total of 432,793 students in secondary level in 2000, showing an increase of almost 100 percent from the 1993 total of 232,383 students. This makes it the fastest growing sector of the education system, compared to preschool (48.6 percent growth) and elementary school (24 percent). Eighty-one percent of all secondary students are in public schools, compared to 62 percent of preschool students and 87 percent of elementary school students.

The projected unit cost per secondary student was estimated at US$177 for the academic tracks and US$360 for the technical-professional tracks, as of 2001. The total number of secondary school teachers stands at 13,698, approximately 59 percent of whom work in the public school system. This yields a student-teacher ratio of 43:1 in public schools and 51:1 in private schools.

Updates to the curriculum include an increased emphasis on literature, art and music, and computer science, as well as stronger programs in math and science, adding approximately 15 more teaching hours per week. Problems in secondary education include over-age students (over one-fourth of students are more than 19 years old), overcrowding, and the dropout rate.

Higher Education

Public & Private Universities: The present university system, both public and private, owes much of its standards and administrative policy to the influence of the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo (UASD). This university, the oldest in Latin America, was created by Pope Paul II in 1538 by Papal Bull and has a long academic tradition and influence in local politics. Awarded autonomous status in 1961, it remains the largest university system. Admission into the public university is very cheap and admission standards are low.

Private universities began with the 1962 formation of Roman Catholic Universidad Madre y Maestra (UCMM), later Pontificia Universidad Madre y Maestra (PUCMM), following a name change by Pope John Paul II in 1987. Precedent for awarding government subsidy to private universities was established in 1965 when the government awarded UCMM a subsidy of 1.2 million pesos. Following the establishment of UCMM, a multitude of universities were incorporated, including the Universidad Nacional Pedro Henriquez Urena (UNPHU, 1966), Universidad Central del Este (UCE, 1971), Instituto Technologico de Santo Domingo (INTEC, 1972), and Universidad Technologica de Santiago (UTESA, 1972).

Certification: The rapid expansion of the university system created problems of certification validity. These came to a head in the early 1980s with the closing of El Centro de Estudios Tecnicos (CETEC) in 1982. Of most concern for certification validity is the position of the English-language medical programs, which accept applications from many international students from such diverse areas as Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Canada, and the United States.

In response to such concerns, the Dominican Council for Higher Education (CONES) was created through Decreto 1255 in 1983 to legislate, regulate, certify, and give consulting support to universities. In 1998 CONES recognized 29 universities with a combined total enrollment of 213,200. Not all universities, however, meet international agency standards for "full" university status, such as professional training with research-based departments. The Britannica Yearbook of 2000, for example, lists only seven universities and 73,461 students, numbers much lower than other sources. The state of California recognizes six of the medical programs. Much progress, however, was made during the 1990s to update curricula and improve the quality of academic professionals working within the university system. The study of medicine and law have been scrutinized heavily, and both programs have been substantially expanded and updated to meet system standards.

Enrollments & Courses: In 1997, according to the Consejo Nacional de Educacion Superior (National Council on Higher Education), the government department in charge of overseeing universities, there were 176,935 university students in the country. The UASD had 81,753 student. The largest private university, UTESA, had 21,353 students, followed by O&M with 17,504 students. CONES recognized 36 higher education institutions, including 29 universities and 7 institutes. Of the 29 universities recognized by CONES, 17 are located in Santo Domingo.

The 1997 study showed that most students opted to study accounting. From 1992 to 1997, some 10,376 students graduated in accounting, and 22,413 accounting students were enrolled. Education placed second, a turnaround from past years. There were 20,786 students enrolled in education, a marked increase from the 9,777 graduates of the previous five years. Marketing was another popular major, with some 17,672 students enrolled. Some 17,697 students chose computer sciences. Law maintained a steady enrollment of 19,100, but few Dominicans chose medicine, with only 2,224 enrolled.

The director of the CONES, Alejandrina German, said that her department is carrying out a study to determine the real demand for professionals in the country in order to make recommendations to high schools orienting their students in their choice of a university career.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Administrative Structure: Apart from CONES, the supervisory board that oversees the entire system, the administrative system is comprised of the Secretariat, headed by the Secretary of Education, a position that is decidedly political. The auditing, insurance, international and public relations, judicial concerns, and project implementation departments all rely on the Secretariat. The subsecretariats of Education, Administration, and Culture form a second administrative level, with its regional and subregional offices forming the educational framework. The regional system is broken down into regional directives and subdivided into districts. The districts themselves are comprised of the individual schools.

The director of each district, apart from three consultantsone external, one internal, and a computer systems experthas a staff divided into three sections: academic, special services, and operations. Each separate staff is comprised of eight individuals in charge of specific areas of focus, for example, the math coordinator or the national coordinator.

Each district has an administrative board and an internal consultant. Beyond this, the district has a staff of five, one each in charge of national exams, community participation, physical education, supervision, and administrative support. Each district also has direct control of the individual schools.

Each school director has a Board of Regents, a Parent-Teachers Association, a Student Association, and two consultants to which to respond. Under his control is a staff of eight, one each in charge of registration, health and nutrition, medical aid, social work, student services, curriculum development, maintenance, and administrative assistance. Each director also has direct control of the teachers and students.

The highly participatory educational reform process of the Plan Decenal was not able to effect much change in the persistently centralized and slow decision-making mechanisms of the Secretary of Education. Neither national consensus nor the formulation of new legal rules have been able to substantially change the patterns of interaction among the actors in education.

Expenditures: Dominican educational reform has been financed by money from international organizations and the legal provision requiring that a percentage of the national budget be devoted to education. Although the full amount was not appropriated in the first years of the plan, appropriations by 1998 neared the required percentage of 16 percent. By contrast, annual per capita expenditures on education from 1987 to 1990, adjusted for inflation, were just 40 percent of the total expenditures in 1980.

The needs for financing the Plan Decenal were laid out for investors and contributors following meetings held in early 1993. The plan was to be developed in three phases: a four-year emergency program to jumpstart the improvement of primary schools, a consolidation program to evaluate gains and "consolidate" achievement of objectives, and a support program to fund administration and infrastructure.

Projected costs of these programs for 1993 alone were US$244.8 million, of which only 15 percent would be covered by foreign aid. It was believed that if the government lived up to its funding commitments and could maintain a gross national product (GNP) increase of 3.5 percent, the plan would be effectively funded. The General Law of Education 66/97, which mandates that 16 percent of the national budget be paid into the educational system, also requires the equivalent of 4 percent of the GNP.

Other provisions of Chapter 1, Title 9, call for 80 percent of the budget be dedicated to operating costs and less than 20 percent to capital expenses. Tax-deduction incentives for private business funding nonprofit education, research, or technical innovation endeavors can be applied for up to 5 percent, and educational materials are exempt from customs duties. Funds generated from the confiscation of unclaimed inheritances, 5 percent of inheritance taxes, 5 percent of any property sold by the state, 20 percent of unclaimed bank accounts, and all sale of property confiscated by police due to criminal activity are also earmarked for the National Fund for Educational Development. Apart from direct mandated financing from the national government, local schools and school districts can further depend on support supplied by the Parents and Friends Associations and patronage by private businesses.

In the 1998 fiscal year, the amount of funds budgeted for education represented 15.51 percent of the total budget. Given the growing state of the Dominican economy, increasing resources are becoming available. More importantly, the gap between the mandated rate of money earmarked for education and the amount spent in actuality is slowly narrowing. Between 1993 and 1996, for example, only 66 percent was paid into education, compared to 90 percent corresponding to 1998. Of the total educational budget of 1998, approximately 48 percent went to basic education, 813.4 million of which went into construction and infrastructure improvements. Of the personnel budget, approximately 66 percent went to payment of teachers, almost 24 percent went to administrative technicians, and about 9 percent went to management.

Nonformal Education

The Plan Decenal addresses inclusion of the nonformal programs and informal branches of the educational scheme (e.g., adult education, literacy, and vocational training). Special education is no longer isolated from traditional school programs, and there are interphasing links between the nonformal education network and the normal academic program. Total enrollment in adult education is 129,132, with literacy programs consisting of 42,132 students taught by 14,557 professionals in 669 night school centers. These classes are based on the ABCD Espanol Program.

Literacy and basic education is being expanded by use of radio and television transmissions to more isolated rural areas. Educational radio programs are offered in classes for grades one through eight. A new educational TV system is being installed for use in rural zones. This project, with funding from UNESCO, will transmit programs via a satellite signal from Mexico. New technology that will be implemented in the near future also includes establishing 500 new school computer centers and the creation of virtual classrooms.

All artistic institutions and training centers are financed and regulated from the Direccion de Bellas Artes (Direction of Fine Arts), a division of SEEC. Art and performing arts academies include Escuela de Bellas Artes (School of Fine Arts) in the San Francisco de Macoris; Escuela de Artes Plasticas (School of Plastic Arts) and the Instituto de Cultura y Artes (Institute of Culture and Art) in Santiago; Acadimia Dominicana de Musica (Music Academy), the Conservatorio Nacional de Musica (National Conservatory of Music), the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes (National School of Fine Arts), and the Escuela de Arte Dramatico (School of Drama) in Santo Domingo. The Altos de Chavsn School of Design, a Dominican institution located in La Romana and run by a U.S. foundation, has been affiliated with the Parsons School of Design, a division of New School University in New York City, for 20 years. By graduating more than 800 students, largely Dominican, the school has added a significant Dominican presence to the international design world. More than 200 of the graduates have gone on to study at the Parsons School of Design in New York. Another school of design exists in San Juan de la Maguana.

At present there are two open universities in the Dominican Republic, both of which base their curriculum on andragogical teaching methodology: the Universidad para la Tercera Edad (UTE) and the Universidad Abierta para Adultos (UAPA). Neither university offers online classes at this time.

Teaching Profession

Qualifications: In the past it was considered ordinary for a public school teacher to be a graduate only of one of the normal schools that trained high school graduates for two years in teaching techniques. Reforms have mandated that each teacher must have a licenciatura or a university five-year degree to be able to teach in the public school system. Under the Plan Decenal funds were made available for teachers to return to school to upgrade their credentials.

Given that this was a tremendous jump from the previous system, the emergency program has designated funds for retraining teachers. Most teachers have the opportunity to return to the university to complete their education with funds provided by the government. Between 1994 and 2000, approximately 11,000 teachers returned to school to upgrade their knowledge.

A related issue is the lack of qualified language teachers. Most language teachers are accustomed to receiving higher pay than the public school system can offer and are in high demand. Rural areas simply do not have them. While this problem may be balanced in the future, it creates uncomfortable conditions for the present.

Compensation: A significant development for the teaching profession has been the tripling of teachers' salaries since 1995, which has begun to attract teachers back into education. Because their insurance programs and retirement plans are mandated by law, while the private school system's is not, the public school system is now at an advantage in attracting well-qualified teachers. The 10-year plan also encouraged teacher housing projects.


Five-Year Evaluation: The five-year evaluation of the Plan Decenal in August 2000 addressed the relative successes and failures in solving chronic problems within the Dominican educational system. Issues assessed for progress included illiteracy and enrollment, school calendar, standardized testing, curriculum reform, teacher shortages and professionalism, support associations, and health care and nutrition.

Illiteracy & Enrollment: The plan set a goal of eliminating illiteracy in the under-30 age group and ensuring that 9 out of every 10 children attend school. As of August 2000, the rate of illiteracy in the 15 to 24 age group had fallen to 9.5 percent, 11.2 percent of which is represented by males and 7.8 percent by females. School attendance in the 6 to 14 age group rose from 70.6 percent in 1990 to 85.6 percent in 1999, with an average growth rate per year of 2 to 4 percent. Current rates of promotion stand at 80 percent, repetition at 5.2 percent, and dropout at 15 percent, creating a 85.1 percent retention rate in basic education. Longitudinal cohort studies show that of 1,000 students that enter ninth grade, only 559 graduate.

Enrollments by gender demonstrate high numbers of females, with a 58 percent enrollment in secondary education and a 70 percent enrollment in postsecondary education. Total enrollment in education in 2001 stands at 229,161 for preschool, 1,713,783 for elementary school, 398,702 for secondary school, and 215,000 for university levels. Private schools now account for only 20 percent of total school enrollment.

School Calendar: Longer school calendars and school days were another aim of the plan, which specified expansion of the school calendar and daily schedule to 42 five-day weeks, with each day five-hours, from early September through the end of June. By 1995, the school calendar had been divided into 186 teaching days, 13 days dedicated to testing, and 18 days excluded for Christmas and Holy Week. Compliance with the new calendar is still not complete. In 1998, elementary and secondary schools reported an 82 percent compliance with the mandated schedule. Particularly problematic is compliance in the afternoon shifts that are the most likely to limit time.

Standardized Tests: The use of standardized tests has diverged somewhat from a diagnostic function and has focused solely on their promotional function. Still, the tests have provided a means by which nationwide standards may be set. By 2001, testing was being done annually in fourth, eighth, and twelfth grades, assessing students in language (Spanish, the language of instruction), math, natural sciences, and social sciences. Major problems still exist in the mechanics of test creation and scoring, and in reporting grades. Political opposition to testing from many quarters is said to be one reason for the slow implementation of the Plan Decenal.

Curriculum Reform: The creation and implementation of a new curriculum has had its greatest success in the design and publication of objectives, modalities, and specifications. Foci of the curriculum include computer science, compulsory English and French from fourth grade, ecology, and sports, as well as strengthening the traditional studies of language and math. Most areas now have government-issued books for 100 percent of basic education and 60 percent of secondary, together with their teachers' guides. These books are supplied for at least a minimal fee, however, and availability is not universal. Many schools, especially private schools, still opt for commercial texts approved by the Secretariat that are sold at prices that are almost prohibitive for the average breadwinner. Much training has been done to orient public teachers in the use of audiovisual equipment, yet most public schools lack both equipment and electrical supply for their use. Language and math programs, however are broadcast by means of contracted radio stations, especially to the border zones.

Teaching: In 1990, the salary paid to full-time teachers was RD$607.75 (US$50.00) per month, an amount that could only supply one-third of a typical family's cost of living. By the year 2000, this amount had been raised by 400 percent to a minimum of RD$3,200 (US$200.00). In 1992, the total number of education students in normal schools and university programs was only 1,463; by 1997, that number had risen to 26,240, equivalent to almost half of the public teaching population in 1990.

Support Associations: As part of the broad community support for the Plan Decenal, Parent/Friends Associations were to be created to aid schools. Most success has been seen at the individual school level, where 6,422 schools have active co-ops. These associations have initiated fundraising activities to boost income for supplies and maintenance needs, as well as activities to orient the community to responsibility in the educative process.

Health Care & Nutrition: School breakfasts are now served to one million children in kinder and elementary schools, compared to 45,000 in 1993. Of that one million, 70 percent come from 25 provinces and marginal urban zones of Santo Domingo. In the frontier zones, where poverty levels are more severe, 120,000 children receive more complete nutrition, including meat, through the United Nations Food Aid Program. This program is considered key in reducing the school desertion and repetition rate. Programs for visual screening had reached 40,950 children by 2000, and deparisitization programs had reached 190,000.

Second 10-Year Plan: Since the first 10-year plan did not complete all the desired educational reforms, a second 10-year plan is being formulated. The Secretariat states that while the first 10-year plan stressed quantity, the second 10-year plan will stress quality.


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Virginia Nordin

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Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic

Basic Data

Official Country Name: Dominican Republic
Region (Map name): North & Central America
Population: 8,581,477
Language(s): Spanish
Literacy rate: 82.1%
Area: 48,730 sq km
GDP: 19,669 (US$ millions)
Number of Television Stations: 25
Number of Television Sets: 770,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 89.7
Number of Radio Stations: 180
Number of Radio Receivers: 1,440,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 167.8

Background & General Characteristics

The Dominican Republic, a former Spanish colony, occupies the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, which is located west of Puerto Rico and southeast of Cuba in the Greater Antilles. The Dominican Republic has an area of 48,730 sq. km (18,704 sq mi), and its population was estimated at 8.6 million by the World Bank in 2001. The island is the second largest of the Caribbean island chain strung from Cuba in the northwest to Trinidad in the south. Its only border is with the Republic of Haiti.

Although they share a common border, the two countries occupying Hispaniola are culturally and linguistically distinct. The Dominican Republic is Hispanic, Spanish-speaking, predominantly mulatto or white, while Haiti is French and African culturally, racially black, with an official language of Haitian Creole (Kreyol). The Dominican population is a racial "melting pot" in which the mulatto (Caucasian and black mixture) has become the dominant element numerically (73 percent). Caucasians represent 16 percent of the population and blacks 11 percent. Also adding to the ethnic composition has been the influx of diverse immigrant populations of Chinese, Japanese, and Middle Eastern nationals as well as immigrants from neighboring Caribbean countries such as Haiti and Cuba. Traditionally, race and class tend to be closely related with whites forming the elite. More recently, social trends follow Brazil's model of phenotypic upward mobility. Changing rapidly from the dominantly rural mode of the past, the population is now 61.8 percent urban with a population density of 161.7 people per sq km (rural density 293.0), a fertility rate of 2.9 live births per woman and an annual growth rate of 1.8 percent. Well over 1 million Dominicans live as immigrants in the United States, making them the second largest group of incoming migrants into the American economy and remittances from Dominicans living abroad are a substantial addition (10 percent) to the capita gross domestic product.

Since the restoration of macroeconomic stability in the early 1990s, the Dominican Republic (DR) has been the fastest growing economy in Latin America. This Spanish-speaking and strongly Roman Catholic nation has emerged from the financial crisis of the late 1980s with an unprecedented growth, which has averaged eight percent per year from 1996 to 1999 and which is having a positive impact in the quality of life of the average Dominican. Recent government estimates indicate that between 1992 and 1998 more than fifteen percent of the country's poor emerged out of poverty. This finding is consistent with improvements in other indicators of welfare such as life expectancy, access to water and sanitation, and average educational attainment of the labor force. Since the year 2000, however, this promising rate of growth has leveled off to the now current GNP growth of 4.3 percent, according to Banco Central 2001-2002 figures, a trend that leaves fewer funds available for government investment in social welfare programs.

With a 2000 income per capita of US$2,080 but a highly skewed distribution of income, two million of some 8.6 million Dominicans live in poverty. The Dominican poor share most of the characteristics of the poor across the world: large families, little or no education, and limited access to water and sanitation services. Poverty tends to be especially severe in rural areas (35 percent of the total population), where misdirected agriculture practices and insufficient public investments, particularly in education, limit opportunities. Illiteracy runs at about 16 percent and the average level of educational attainment is 4.9 years of schooling. Those able to achieve higher levels of education (5.7 percent) tend to migrate out of the rural areas leaving behind the most disadvantaged, creating in the process entrenched pockets of poverty. Nowhere is that more true than in the areas bordering Haiti, where extreme poverty is prevalent. The poor are also vulnerable to catastrophic losses as the country is routinely subjected to hurricanes. Publicly provided safety nets are practically non-existent, while the private safety nets, mainly in the form of remittances from the very large number of Dominicans living in the United States, benefit primarily the middle and higher income groups.

Considerable controversy surrounds the question of Haitians present within the Dominican Republic. Prejudice against Haitians runs through society, disadvantaging many Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian ancestry. The government has not acknowledged the existence of this discrimination nor made any efforts to combat it. Existing mostly as illegal immigrants, Haitians constitute an important economic factor as they fill the need for low-paid, unskilled labor in construction and agriculture, working with salaries as low as 8 dollars per day. Estimates range as to their numbers, but official reports are unreliable, as their presence remains undocumented. Lack of personal documentation hinders the ability of children of Haitian descent to attend school where there is one available. Despite their large numbers, as of yet there are no Haitian publications within the Dominican Republic or any appreciable publications in Kreyol, the official language of Haití, a fact that is not surprising given the low literacy attainment of the average Haitian. National newspapers, on the other hand, tend to reflect popular Dominican opinion concerning their presence. However, recently some radio stations have began to include broadcasts in Kreyol.

The newspaper with the largest circulation in the Dominican Republic is the Listín Diario with a daily circulation of 166,000, a Saturday edition with a circulation of 180,000, and a Sunday edition with a circulation of 150,000, numbers that nearly double those of any major competitor. Formerly in private hands, it is now run by Editora Listín Diario, which is owned by the BanInter Group. Other newspapers, in order of circulation, are the Hoy with a daily, Saturday, and Sunday circulation of 82,000; El Nacional with a daily, Saturday, and Sunday circulation of 42,000; and the Última Hora (statistics NA), all of which are published out of the capital of Santo Domingo. Other national papers are El Caribe, circulation 40,000, whose former editor, Germán Ornes, won special recognition from the International Press Institute in 2000 as one of 50 "Heroes of Journalism of the last 50 years", and El Nuevo Diario, circulation 20,000. The largest circulation of regional interest is La Información of Santiago, circulation 22,000, and one English language paper, The Santo Domingo News.

Most Dominican magazines that focus on the news are generally weekly productions. The most important ones are Ahora and Rumbo. Of lesser importance is the yellow press weekly Sucesos which specializes in graphic depictions of violent events. Religious groups also issue some publications such as El Semenario Camino and Despertar !.

The history of television in the DR has gone through various stages since its initiation with La Voz del Yuna in 1942. Today Radio Televisión Dominicana is government owned. The TV channels most watched, however, are Color Visión (Canal 9), Circuito Independencia, and Canal 6 (the only station with national availability). In total, there are seven land-based television stations to which must be added 30 cable operators whose coverage augments the average number of stations to that of 40. As concerns radio coverage, there are more than 180 stations with at least 56 FM stations throughout the country, two of which are nationally owned. These broadcast not only national news and events, but also radio educational programs such as primary grade courses directed to students living in remote areas. 1997 figures place television ownership at 770,000 units and radio ownership at 1,440,000 units.

Current Press Situation

Dominican journalists reported very few restrictions on press freedom in 1999, a situation that had changed by 2001. Two major developments raised concern among the local press. In September, the electoral board passed a resolution imposing restrictions on campaign advertising for the May 2000 presidential elections. The resolution requires news organizations to accept price controls for advertising and denied them the right to reject advertisements at their own discretion. Some local journalists viewed this law favorably because it also prevents newspapers from charging different advertising fees to different candidates. Another resolution, passed in July by the National Commission on Public Performances, required newscasters and other journalists to secure credentials from the Commission before appearing on radio or television. By the end of the year, this new regulation had been used to prevent 24 journalists from going on the air. Local press groups have condemned the resolution as unconstitutional.

In the Dominican Republic, defamation is a crime punishable by jail terms of up to six months. In 1997, the penal code was amended to ban publishing montages of an individual's image(s) or quoted speech without the individual's consent, unless the product is clearly identifiable as a montage. This "crime" carries a prison sentence of up to two years.

The Dominican press has been accused of not providing impartial coverage of presidential elections of May 16. The government party, the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (PLD), lost control in a three party split between their candidate Danilo Medina (PLD) and Hipólito Mejía of the Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD) and the late ex-president Joaquín Balaguer of the Partido Reformista Social Cristiano (PRSC). Mejía obtained a little less than 50 percent of the votes, the quantity necessary to avoid a second round of voting, but he was declared the winner by the Electoral Council, the Junta Central Electoral after the other contenders bowed down claiming that a second round of voting would lead to political and economic instability.

Press coverage of the elections came into question when newspapers partial to the PLD began to portray Mejía as violent and unstable. Other newspapers also began to publish very inaccurate results from opinion surveys, which led many to question whether these surveys had been manipulated to favor the official party.

Economic Framework

The Dominican economy has undergone profound changes in the last two decades. Until the mid-1970s, traditional export products, mainly from agriculture, represented 60 percent of the total value of the country's exports. Over the last two decades the service sector has led the economy, particularly economic and financial services related to tourism and industrial free trade zones, which by 1995 accounted for more than 70 percent of exports. The shift came with major dislocations and economic and social imbalances. Annual per capita expenditures on education during 1987-1990, adjusted for inflation, were 40 percent of what they had been in 1980. In 1992 the gross domestic product (GDP) began to recover, and by 1996 it was maintaining an average annual growth rate of more than five percent and negative inflation. In 1999, the country was singled out as the best economic performer in Latin America after having sustained a growth rate of more than six percent for several consecutive years.

The government maintains a high tariff on imported reading materials. The high cost of these and local materials and the isolation of many areas from television coverage increase the importance of newspapers as a universal source of popular reading material and information. While the government does not subsidize the press, competition between rival publishing concerns has led to the publishing of free newspapers. The Última Hora, previously the leading circulating afternoon paper, is now given away free. Also El Expreso and Diario Libre are published for free distribution. The former is published by Editora Listín Diario, while the latter is published by The Hoy group. These newspapers, people speculate, are distributed freely to both increase future circulation, and to compete with El Caribe, which came out under the ownership of Banco Popular at RD$ 5.00, instead of RD$ 10.00 for the other newspapers. Newpaper prices are now universal for the major papers, however, now that El Caribe has raised its rates back to RD$10.00 with Saturday and Sunday editions costing RD$15.00. The current cost of periodic quality paper now runs at US$ 700 a ton. Transmission of pictures and the elaboration of graphics are now run off digital systems that streamline all publishing processes. Distribution of newspapers, which is completely owner controlled, has also become streamlined so that all newspapers are on sale by 8 a.m. daily despite distances of 350 km from the central publishing area of Santo Domingo, with distribution agents present at all distribution points.

Press Laws

The Constitution of 1994 in Art. 8, Section 6 states that:

All persons have the right, without being subject to censure, to express freely their thoughts in either written words or any other medium of expression, either graphic or oral. When such expressed thought be an attack against the dignity or morality of other persons, public peace, or against community standards, those sanctions as dictated by law may be applied. All subversive propaganda is prohibited, either by anonymous agents or by any other means of expression that has as its object the provocation of disobedience of law, yet without impinging by this the right to analyze or give critique of those same legal precepts.

Defamation is a criminal offence under which the press may be punished both as a crime against the press code and also under the common civic code. The difference lies in the procedure as it is handled in court. When defamation is committed as a published entity, it is subject to the guidelines established in the press code. When the defamation or slander is committed outside of the published medium (as crimes of expression), then its persecution is through common law with a penalty of up to three years with prisión preventiva while crimes as adjudicated within the press code carry penalties of up to 2 months in prison with no prisión preventiva. The law of Expression and Diffusion of Thought establishes a civil and penal responsibility in the minds of the proprietor and director of newspapers, even when they have delegated to others all or part of their executive functions.

The press code speaks of the responsibility of proprietors as indicated in Article 48: "The owners of newspapers and other news publications are responsible for the impecunious condemnation pronounced by third parties against those persons described in conformity with Art. 1382, 1382, 1384 of the Civil Code." Paragraph d) of Law 1951 from the year 1949 mandates that all directors of newspapers and radio broadcasters be Dominican, of legal age, residents within the country, and in full possession of their civil liberties.

In June of 2000, former president Leonel Fernández appointed a commission to review the legislation regulating the press. The commission was to take its guidelines from the ten fundamental principles as outlined in the Declaration of Chapultepec. Fernández created a special decree to form the commission, commenting that, "A study of the norms that govern the freedom of expression and the diffusion of opinion must be made so that mechanisms can be created that would guarantee public liberties which would eliminate legislation gaps, insufficiencies, and errors." The special commission was to revise and modernize Law 6132, the 1962 Law of Expression and Dissemination of Thought, within a period of 45 days so that a draft would be ready to present to Congress for discussion. Continuing work on this legislation has progressed despite the change of government from Fernandez to Mejía in August 2000. In September, President Mejía submitted a bill to revise as Law 6132. Drafted by local press organizations, newspaper executives, and media law specialists, it widens access to information and provides for civil penalties in cases of defamation committed through the press. Some local journalists criticized the proposal, arguing that there has been insufficient debate on the bill, and little disclosure of its content. The bill was still pending at year's end.


In terms of civil liberties that influence the expression of opinion and the dispersion of news, the Dominican Republic presents a mixed picture of unbalanced censorship. World Bank reports suggest that the country presents negative indicators for voice and participation in public affairs compared to the Caribbean nations of Jamaica and Belize, but compares favorably with Cuba, neighboring Haiti, and the rest of the developing world in general. It also scored negatively in government effectiveness and level of graft. Conversely, positive growth was indicated in the areas of rule of law, absence of political instability and violence, and economic growth. USAID reports of comparative exercise of political rights varies from a 1985 high of "free" (one on a scale of seven) to a 1994 low of partly to not free (four) to the current score of two for relatively free.

The communication media is regulated to a considerable degree by the government and is considered only partially free, especially as this control is based on financial considerations: the press depends heavily on both the publicity that the government generates and the rates that they impose. The frequency of elections adds to the amount of influence political factions have in the reporting of the news. During the last ten years, daily newspaper ownership has shifted from being privately owned to being owned by banks and large corporations. The BanInter group now owns the Listín Diario, once a family-run enterprise. Banco Popular, the country's largest private bank, has purchased El Caribe and Editora Corripio, the publishing subsidiary of a large Dominican corporation, now owns the second largest morning daily the Hoy. Even La Informacion, the Santiago local newspaper, is owned by local economic groups, which, it would appear, have strategic interests as to how the news is told.

State-Press Relations

Strong economic growth and poverty reduction has taken place in the midst of positive changes in governance. After a deep political crisis in 1994, democratic institutions have emerged strengthened, and both the legislative and judicial systems now enjoy unprecedented levels of independence. Civil society and the organized business community are also playing an increasing role in influencing policy making through their growing demands for accountability of state actions. In this climate of limited literacy yet enhanced democratic participation, the newspaper plays a critical role in the formation of public opinion and democratic action.

A nadir reached in 1994 in press/state relations was the heavily commentated disappearance of university professor and political columnist Narciso González who had been openly critical of the then incumbent president, Joaquín Balaguer. Subsequent investigations seem to point to his death at the hands of the Dominican military at the direction of Balaguer adherents.

On a brighter note, the murderers of another presumed victim of Balaguer's military was sentenced to thirty years in jail for the assassination in 1975 of the executive director of Ahora, Orlando Martínez. While the Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa applauded the judicial action, they also lamented the lack of accused before the bench, commenting that the twenty-five year lapse between crime and punishment had allowed many of the perpetrators to die of natural causes. In a landmark August 4 decision, Judge Katia Miguelina Jiménez delivered stiff prison sentences to three defendants who had been found guilty in the 1975 murder of Orlando Martínez Howley, the director of the magazine Ahora and a columnist for the Santo Domingo daily El Nacional. Retired Air Force general Joaquín Pou Castro and two accomplices were sentenced to the maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, along with a 5 million peso (US$300,000) fine. On December 21, the defendants appealed the decision to a higher court. The journalist's family and friends had ignored death threats and pursued the case for years, arguing that Martínez's murder resulted from the fact that his reporting had angered then-president Balaguer and other senior officials. In 1997, President Leonel Fernández ordered the case moved to trial. Balaguer, who was 93 years old when he died in 2002, was subpoenaed but declined to testify on health grounds, although he was healthy enough to run for president again in 2000. The August judgment was seen as a major victory for the journalist's family and others who demanded justice for press freedom and other human rights violations committed under Balaguer, president of the Dominican Republic for 22 of the last 40 years.

Dominican president Hipólito Mejía has received mixed reviews for his policy toward the press since he took office in August 2000. Although Dominican journalists are generally free to express their views, and the government does not officially restrict the press, journalists have complained of government attempts to influence coverage. President Mejía, with his blunt and sometimes confrontational style, has used insulting language when referring to journalists and editors who criticize his administration. In late June, the Santo Domingo daily El Caribe reported that Mejía's government had diverted funds from public works programs to buy buses for a public transportation plan. Mejía said of the story, "That is a lie. That's only in the mind of Bernardo Vega [El Caribe's editor], one of those idiots who writes things that are not true," according to the daily Listín Diario.

In an August 17 interview with the Santo Domingo daily Última Hora, José Tejada Gómez, then-president of the journalists' association Colegio Dominicano de Periodistas (CDP), noted that Mejía's insults were common, and that his first year in office was marked by "constant conflicts" with journalists. According to the CDP, signs of government intolerance toward the press abound. In late June, Darío Medrano and Ramón Carmona, reporter and cameraman, respectively, for U.S.-based Univisión TV network and the Santo Domingo TV channel Color Visión-Canal 9, were threatened, allegedly by government officials, for their coverage of nationwide street protests against a government-imposed economic adjustment package. Gen. Luis Rodríguez Florimón, of the National Police, meanwhile, warned in early August that he would monitor radio and TV programs and threatened to jail anybody who criticized or offended the president. The general did not carry out his threats, but his words were typical of the government's hard-line reactions to criticism. Dominican journalists have also complained about low salaries and job instability, which makes them vulnerable to bribery and other economic pressures.

Another case of the press in confrontation with civil authorities came in the investigation of alleged corruption and abuse of public trust by the department of Bienes Nacionales. In May of 2001, reporters from major news services were barred from the courtroom despite affirming their constitutional right to be there. This action by judge Adrilya Vales Dalmasí was later criticized by both the president of the Supreme Court, Jorge Subero Isa, and the Attorney General, Virgilio Bello Rosa.

In another case in July of 2001, a daily program of political commentary, "Los Hechos y la Historia" directed by ex-government representative and political party advocate Rafael Flores Estrella and lawyer Tomás Castro and produced by the radio/television chain Teleradio América was shut down. According to the station executives where the program is produced, they had received "pressure" from a high-ranking government official to close down the program on the grounds that Flores Estrella and Castro had used slanderous language meant to reflect negatively against the honor of the president. The association of journalists, the Colegio de Periodistas, requested that the station release the name of the "high government official" referred to in the incident, but that request has not yet been complied with.

That same month, cameraman Cristino Rodríguez from the program "Detrás de la Noticia" of the city of Santiago was hurt by gunfire. The director of that same program, journalist Esteban Rosario had suffered a beating earlier in the year. The police state that an investigation is underway which points to a government party member as responsible for the shooting of cameraman Rodríguez. Coincidentally, the day following the shooting Rosario was arrested under orders from a Santiago judge wherein he is accused with the rape of a minor. After arraignment and subsequent to two days of questioning, Rosario was freed under bail.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

Under Dominican law, foreign ownership of national companies or corporations is restricted to 49 percent, a law that in truth does not actually discourage foreign influence in Dominican affairs as many Dominicans eager for financing will accept a nominal role as major shareholder. As indicated by the switch in ownership of many news networks, foreign investment in Dominican journalism has increased substantially since 1990. Entry of foreign news is unrestricted both through international cable news services and the distribution of foreign news publications such as the Wall Street Journal and Spanish language editions of Newsweek magazine.

Dominican journalists have been very active in Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa which seeks to seeks to protect free press thoughout Latin America and ten news organizations are active members. In 2002, the Dominican Republic hosted their semi-annual meeting at Casa De Campo.

News Agencies

All of the newspapers mentioned are subscribers to the major international news services available such as AP, UPI, EFE, and Reuters. Others have created contracts with major news sources. Hoy, for example, subscribes to biweekly editions of Fortune Americas. International editions in Spanish of the New York Times, the Miami Herald, and the Wall Street Journal arrive electronically and are published by local printers daily.

The Dominican Republic also provides its own 24-hour CNN style news service through the recently organized radio-TV-Internet network entitled Cadena de Noticias CDN that is owned by Banco Popular.

Broadcast Media

The Telecommunications Law of 1966, Law 1951 of 1949, Regulation 824 of 1949, and other complementary regulations establish certain norms for television and radio broadcasting. Prohibited activities include the broadcasting of events or taped materials that would offend public moral traditions or good taste, or damage international relationships. There is also a proscription against the airing of movies that contain high erotic content, scenes or dialog that would pervert morality, and in a general sense, all material that in its detail or plot demonstrate pernicious experiences that would be inappropriate for children. Despite regulation, however, the TV media is in practical terms barely if ever regulated as to content or scheduling.

Electronic News Media

The Dominican Republic rates 55th worldwide as advanced in technological advancement showing a score of 0.244 as compared to Finland, the most advanced with an indicator of 0.744 and the United States at 0.733. As of the year 2000, 1.7 hosts per 1000 had Internet access, 90 percent of which were located in the capital city of Santo Domingo. With more than 709,000 telephone main lines in use, Internet use should increase substantially within the immediate future as the infrastructure for more advanced telecommunications is being expanded from the relatively efficient system based on an island-wide microwave radio relay network, one coaxial submarine cable and a satellite earth station -1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean).

In the Dominican Republic, as is true in the rest of the world, Internet access is not subject to any regulation, and as such, there is no control or pressure in respect to its use. As concerns the news media, the arrival of Internet access has allowed the local journalist a wider access to international opinions and styles that in themselves have created changes of both style and substance in the way that the news is reported.

Newspapers that maintain electronic circulation on the Internet are DEDOM (Diario Electrónico Dominicano), Diario Resumen (a summary of many newspapers and sources), Dominican Republic One (DR), the Hoy, the Listín Diario, El Nacional, and the Última Hora.

Education & TRAINING

Even though the Colegio Dominicano de Periodistas was created by law, this has never had an obligatory character to its function. Indeed, the Supreme Court of Justice ruled in 1989 that ruling 148 in 1983 that created the institution null and void. Nonetheless, the Colegio has a disciplinary tribunal and a functioning code of ethics. The Instituto Dominicano de las Telecomunicaciones (INDOTEL) regulates the use electronic media and the interrelationship of its users, assigning television and radio frequencies and monitors its lawful use. It is currently attempting to elaborate regulations for the use of the Internet.

Most major universities such as Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo, the oldest university in America, Pontífica Universidad Católica Madrey Maestra, UNIBE, and UTESA maintain departments dedicated to the study of Communications. The Department of Communication Sciences at the Universidad Católica de Santo Domingo is the most renowned in the country. In actuality, the study of telecommunications gains more popularity than the more traditional studies of journalism, despite the still limited number of job positions available for this field.

Academic publishing is generally limited to publishing houses sponsored by the different universities such as the Universidad Autónomo de Santo Domingo (UASD) and the Pontífica Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCAMAIMA). National and local papers, however, welcome the input of scholarly articles, particularly in the areas of social welfare, cultural, and literary criticism. The Listín Diario, El Nacional, and El Caribe maintain special weekly cultural segments that focus on such issues.


Beyond those stated events wherein the state has directly or indirectly blocked unrestricted reporting, there have been other events that have taken place in the last eight years which many see as just as threatening events. During this period, newspaper ownership has shifted from privately owned to be owned by banks and large corporations. The newspaper with the largest circulation, the Listín Diario, is now owned by the BanInter group,El Caribe has been purchased by Banco Popular, and theHoy, the second largest morning newspaper, is now owned by Editora Corripio, a subsidiary of a large Dominican corporation. Even La Informacion, the Santiago local newspaper, is owned by local economic groups. Symptomatic of this trend is the introduction of the publication of "free" newspapers, an event that may greatly change the way the press is received by Dominicans. Such developments are already viewed as circulation wars among rival economic entities and most major newspapers are popularly believed to reflect media manipulation in rivaling bids for power and influence among the competing commercial alliances.

Given this transparent rivalry for media control as a means to influence the politics and economy, the future of Dominican media is not easily predicted. In a state of steady flux both in terms of financing sources and reader-ship, even well established news sources must struggle to maintain their audience. With the rapidly expanding use of Internet, however, Dominicans may become increasingly sophisticated in the use of media sources and eventually make their own choices as to the quality and influence of news coverage.

Significant Dates

  • 1994 -Balaguer is re-elected, but agrees to serve only a two-year term after being accused of fraud. This disputed election of Balaguer results in change of the electoral process. Presidential elections start a 4-year sequence beginning in 1996, while congressional and local elections start a 4-year sequence beginning in 1998. Journalist Narciso González disappears, and a New Constitution with media laws is approved.
  • 1996: Leonel Fernández Reyna of the leftist Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) is elected president. Election of Pres. Leonel Fernández is considered by many to be the first free election in recent history.
  • 1997: Forty-eight hour general strike in protest against frequent power cuts, the cost of living and deteriorating public services.
  • 1998: Hurricane George causes widespread devastation.
  • 2000: PRD returned to power with Hipólito Mejiá as president.
  • 2001: Convictions served on defendents in the 1974 murder of newspaper editor and journalist Orlando Martínez.


Banco Central, Departamento de Cuentas Nacionales y Estadísticas Económicas, Available from

CIA. World Factbook: Dominican Republic Available from

Committee to Protect Journalists. The Dominican Republic 2000: Country Report Available from Wednesday, 7 March 2001.

. The Dominican Republic 1999: Country Report. Available from Wednesday, 7 March 2001. . The Dominican Republic 1999: Country Report. Available from

Dollar, David. "Governance and Social Justice in Caribbean States." Development Research Group, the World Bank.

Flores, Ramon. Ciencia, tecnologia, globalizacion y educacion. Presentado al Simposio Educativo Internacional, Magisterio 2000.

Filmer, Deon, Lant Pritchett, and Yee-Peng-Tes. "Educational Attainment Profile of the Poor. DHS Evidence from Around the Globe." Mimeo, Washington, DC: The World Bank, 1998.

France Telecom. "Dominicana." Available from

Fullan, Michael. "Managing Change." (Restructuring Brief). A publication of the North Coast Professional Development Consortium, 1993.

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Statistics on Dominican Republic. Available from

ICFJ-International Journalists' Network. "Dominican Republic" Available from

Inter-American Development Bank. Economic and Social Progress in Latin America. 1996 Report. Making Social Services Work. Washington, DC: IDB, 1996.

International Press Institute. "Boston-Presentation of 50 World Press Freedom Heroes". Available from

Listín Diario. Available from í">http://www.Listí

Oficina Nacional de Estadistica. Estadísticas seleccionadas de la República Dominicana. Santo Domingo: Oficina Nacional de Estadística, 1999.

Revista Foro Comercio e Inversión Caribe-Estados Unidos. 1999. Edición única.

Sala de Prensa "Academia: Rep. Dominicana". Available from

Shaffer, Janes, n.d. Institutions, Behavior, and Economic Performance: Comments and Institutional Analysis Available from

Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa. "Leyes de radio y television y contenido de la información." Available from

. "Colegiación y exigencia de título universitario: Rep. Dominicana." Available from

. "Informe de Medio Ano de 20 Guatemala"Available from dominicana200.

UNESCO. 1999. Available from

UNDP. "Today's technological transformations-Creating the network age." Available from

United States Agency for International Development (USAID). 2000. Competitiveness Program of the Dominican Republic Paper, unpublished.

The World Bank. Available from

World Economic Forum (1999) Global Competitiveness Report. Available from

Virginia Davis Nordin

Charlene E. Santos

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Dominican Republic


República Dominicana



A country occupying the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola (Haiti occupies the western third) between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, the Dominican Republic has an area of 48,730 square kilometers (18,815 square miles), more than twice the size of New Hampshire. It has a total coastline of 1,288 kilometers (800 miles), and a border with Haiti of 275 kilometers (171 miles). The capital city, Santo Domingo, is located on the country's southern coast.


The population of the Dominican Republic was estimated at 8,442,533 in July 2000, an increase of 15 percent from the 1993 census figure of 7,293,390. In 2000, the birth rate was estimated at 25.15 per 1,000, while the death rate stood at 4.72 per 1,000. At a current growth rate of 1.64 percent annually, the country's population should reach 9,500,000 by 2010.

The Dominican population is mostly of mixed African and European descent, with 73 percent of people describing themselves as mixed-race or mulatto. Some 16 percent define themselves as white, mostly descended from Spanish and other European migrants, while 11 percent are classified as black. The population is generally young, with 34 percent of Dominicans under the age of 14, as opposed to 5 percent over the age of 65. Most people live in urban areas, especially in the Santo Domingo area, which has a population of more than 2.5 million. The average population density of 169.1 per square kilometer (1997) is unevenly distributed, with population concentrations around the coastal towns and Santo Domingo in particular.

The Dominican Republic's population growth rate is offset by a high level of outmigration, estimated at 4 persons per 1,000 in the year 2000. Most migrants aim to settle in the United States, where there are greater economic opportunities. There are no official figures, since a considerable amount of Dominican migration is undocumented, but estimates put the Dominican population in the United Statesparticularly in the New York areaat more than 1 million. Conversely, the Dominican Republic receives thousands of Haitian migrants each year, many of whom come to cut sugarcane and perform other low-paid jobs.


Since the 1960s the Dominican Republic's economy has shifted significantly from reliance on sugar and other agricultural commodities to an emphasis on tourism, mining, and manufacturing. Initially the country had a sparse population and was the neglected outpost of the Spanish Empire. Then the territory's ranching economy was replaced by labor-intensive sugar plantations in the wake of the U.S. occupation (1916-24). Sugar remained the dominant economic factor for another half century until large losses incurred by the state-controlled sugar corporation and low international prices spurred a search for diversification.

Commodities, notably ferronickel, gold, and silver, remain important to the Dominican Republic, and sugar is still exported to the United States, but the main areas of growth in the last few decades of the 20th century have been tourism and export-oriented manufacturing. The Dominican Republic is now one of the Caribbean's most popular tourist destinations, specializing in all-inclusive resorts. Tourist arrivals averaged more than 1.5 million annually during the 1990s. Annual spending by tourists averaged about US$2 billion. The tourism industry has encouraged a construction boom, with new hotels and other infrastructure accounting for a rapid increase in construction share of the GDP.

Successive governments have also attempted to build up the country's manufacturing sector by creating so-called "industrial free zones " to which foreign companies are attracted by low wages and a series of tax concessions. Some 500 corporations are based in 50 free zones, mostly involved in assembling clothing and electrical components for the U.S. market. However, the future of such zones has been under question since the creation of the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) in 1994, through which Mexico can compete effectively with the Dominican Republic and other developing countries on low-wage manufacturing and easy access to the U.S. market.

The Dominican Republic has had to come to terms with the economic legacy of the dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, who ruled the country from 1930 to 1961. Trujillo controlled much of the Dominican economy, including sugar plantations and areas of manufacturing, and when he was assassinated, the state inherited these assets. Government attempts to divest itself of large parts of the national economy have been problematic, as many state-owned businesses are heavily indebted and unprofitable. Recently, however, governments have managed to privatize the electricity sector and even parts of the sugar industry. Foreign companies have invested in these areas as well as in tourism and manufacturing. The Dominican Republic had an estimated external debt of US$4.7 billion in 2000 and remained highly dependent on importing many basic goods. Tourism receipts helped to offset negative trade balances, but tourism remained highly vulnerable to competition, natural disasters, and recession in the developed world.

Although the Dominican Republic has undergone considerable modernization and free-market reform, poverty stubbornly remains, with an estimated 25 percent of Dominicans living under the poverty line. Many more are unable to afford anything other than basic items for survival. Rural poverty is particularly prevalent, causing many to move to cities or to attempt emigrating to the United States. The remittances sent home by Dominicans living overseas are estimated at around US$1.5 billion annually and provide vital income for many poor families.


The Dominican Republic is a multi-party democracy, with the president, 149-seat Chamber of Deputies, 30-seat Senate, and local officials elected by popular vote. The Supreme Court judges are elected by a council made up of executive and legislative representatives.

Since the death of Trujillo in 1961, 3 main political parties have dominated Dominican politics. The Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), a moderate social-democratic organization, won elections in May 2000, with Hipolito Mejia assuming the presidency. The PRD replaced the Party of Dominican Liberation (PLD), whose president, Leonel Fernández Reyna, had introduced important free-market reforms from 1996. The third party is the Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC), which presented the 94-year-old Joaquín Balaguer, 7 times president since the 1950s, as its candidate in 2000.

Little separates the main parties in terms of economic policy, although Balaguer's PRSC has proved to be more hostile than the others to privatization. All are in favor of moving towards a free-market economy and encouraging foreign investment in the country. Differences between Dominican parties tend to be more personal than ideological, although the PRSC is generally regarded as more conservative and less committed to redistributing wealth than its competitors. Balaguer's autocratic style of government also concentrated economic decision-making and resources in the hands of the president, allowing him to control a large proportion of the national budget.

Government economic policy since the 1960s has been more or less consistent, but some administrations have been forced to adopt unpopular austerity programs due to recession and a deteriorating economic situation. After the recession of the 1980s, successive Dominican governments have attempted to maintain strong economic growth while keeping inflation under control. Priorities have included not only the sale of state-owned enterprises and an end to subsidies to these bodies but also considerable investment in roads and other infrastructural development related to tourism and manufacturing. The damage caused by Hurricane Georges in September 1998, estimated at US$2 billion, also required exceptional government investment, but part of this money was provided by grants and loans from multilateral institutions such as the World Bank. The PRD administration elected in 2000 intends to follow free-market reforms, continuing to privatize state assets, attract foreign investment, and promote the country as a tourism destination and stable offshore manufacturing location.

Government tax revenue relies more on sales and business taxes than income tax . Low levels of income-tax collection, due in large part to tax evasion and bureaucratic incompetence, have forced successive governments to increase taxes on consumer goods and services. Pressure to dismantle tariff barriers in keeping with trade agreements with the United States and other countries have reduced revenues on imported goods, with a resulting rise in sales taxes on many basic items. In 2001 the Mejia administration raised a number of indirect taxes but was forced to introduce subsidies and relief programs to offset the impact on the poor.

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Dominican Republic 52 178 95 15.5 31 0.3 N/A 7.63 25
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Jamaica 62 480 182 73.1 22 N/A 39.4 1.04 60
Haiti 3 55 5 N/A 0 N/A N/A 0.00 6
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.


Until the 1960s the Dominican Republic had a backward and crumbling infrastructure, ruined by decades of neglect and under-investment on the part of the Trujillo dictatorship. Since the advent of tourism as a major economic sector, however, Dominican governments, especially those from 1986 onwards, have invested heavily in roads, airports, and docks and other forms of tourism-based construction. These improvements do not, however, benefit the country as a whole. Many of the more remote rural areas still have often impassable roads, made worse by natural disasters such as frequent tropical storms. Small farmers often struggle to bring their produce to market or to other buyers, while coastal resorts enjoy modern highways.

Of the 12,600 kilometers (7,830 miles) of roads existing in 2000, about half were paved, while the others were of variable quality, depending on remoteness and weather conditions. Well-maintained roads connect Santo Domingo with the north coast via Santiago de los Caballeros and run from the capital to the Haitian border and eastward to the modern tourist resorts. Elsewhere, rutted tracks and potholes are commonplace. There are occasional stretches of railway line, but these are owned by sugar plantations and are used for transporting sugar-cane rather than passengers.

The Dominican Republic has 13 airports, 5 of them classified as "international." The government's aim is to spread tourist arrivals throughout the country, thereby reducing congestion at the main airport in Santo Domingo. In keeping with its privatization agenda, the government sold control of the airport's management to various foreign consortia (business groups) in 1999. Tourists also disembark from cruise ships at modern port terminals in Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata, while other ports handle merchant shipping.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to the country's industrial development since the 1960s has been its unreliable electrical service. After years of near bankruptcy and frequent power cuts, the state-run Dominican Electricity Corporation (CDE) was dismantled, and in 1999 the first 50 percent of shares were sold to foreign investors.

Telecommunications are more efficient, although traditional main lines, operated by Codetel or Tricom, are losing ground rapidly to cellular phones. Codetel is also an Internet service provider, but there are frequent complaints about its standard of service. In early 2001, Code-tel announced that only 14 percent of Dominicans had a domestic phone connection, 7 percent used mobile phones, and 1 percent had personal access to the Internet.


Since the 1960s, agriculture's share of GDP has declined in the Dominican Republic, while the share contributed by industry and services has grown. The CIA World Factbook estimated that in 1999, agriculture contributed 11.3 percent to the country's GDP, while industry contributed 32.2 percent, and services, mostly tourism, contributed 56.5 percent. Governments have sought to encourage some areas of agriculture by cutting duties on imported products and offering cheap loans to farmers, but they have also been willing to sell off the profitable parts of the state-owned sugar industry and abandon those that are unprofitable.

The economy remains extremely vulnerable to economic developments beyond its control. Competition among Caribbean countries for the North American tourism market, for instance, is extremely fierce, and tourism revenues can be adversely affected by natural disasters, bad publicity, or recession in the United States. Likewise, the Dominican Republic has to compete with Mexico and other developing countries as a supplier of low-cost apparel and electronic components for the North American market. Key sectors of the national economy are also dominated by foreign companies: Canadian in the case of ferronickel, German and Spanish in the case of tourism, and American in the case of offshore manufacturing.


Although it has declined dramatically since the 1960s, agriculture remains an important factor in the economy of the Dominican Republic, accounting for an estimated 11.3 percent of the GDP in 1999. In 1998, about 17 percent of Dominicans were employed in agricultural work, either as small farmers or plantation workers. Sugar continues to occupy first place in the country's agricultural production and exports, but output has fallen considerably since the 1980s, and there are many other crops grown, including food for local consumption and non-traditional exports such as pineapples and exotic fruits destined for the United States. The Dominican Republic is an importer of certain foodstuffs, notably wheat, but it is overall a net exporter of agricultural products, with sugar, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, and meat among its principal exports. Dominican cigars now outsell Cuban ones which are embargoed by the United States. In the late 1990s tobacco exports averaged US$100 million annually. Significant growth has also been recorded in non-traditional exports such as cut flowers, ornamental plants, and exotic fruits, which together earned nearly US$200 million in 1997. The Dominican Republic is also a major producer of bananas, and although most are consumed locally, some producers have begun exporting organic bananas to a growing market in Europe and the United States.

Much Dominican farming is aimed at local markets, especially the production of rice. Other crops include maize, plantains, and tomatoes. All agricultural activity is extremely vulnerable to hurricanes, droughts, and other natural hazards.

Although fishing takes place around the country's extensive coastline, there is no export industry, and most fish is destined for hotels and restaurants. Some fish, mostly salted or frozen, is imported.


The industrial sector contributed an estimated 32.2 percent to the country's GDP in 1999, led by mining (ferronickel, gold, and silver) and the manufacture of goods for export to the United States. To a lesser extent, there is the manufacture of food products, consumer non-durables, and building materials for the local market and for neighboring Haiti. The sector employed an estimated 24.3 percent of the workforce in 1998.


It has been estimated that the Dominican Republic contains about 10 percent of the world's ferronickel deposits, but mining is a highly unpredictable part of the industrial sector, vulnerable to fluctuating world prices and unsustainable production techniques. In 1998, for instance, ferronickel exports earned the Dominican Republic US$372 million, but in 1993 declining world prices, due to oversupply, forced the country's export earnings down to US$128.2 million. Since then, prices and export income have stabilized. Gold and silver have been of importance to the Dominican economy since the 1970s, but export earnings have again been irregular. Some gold and silver is exported as basic commodities, while the Dominican Republic also exports semi-finished metals and jewelry.


About 500 companies in the Dominican Republic manufacture goods primarily for the North American market. Situated in 50 industrial free zones around the country, these mostly foreign-owned corporations take advantage of generous tax and other financial inducements offered by the government to businesses that operate within the zones. Approximately 200,000 people, or about 8 percent of the workforce, are employed in this sector. The principal attractions for the foreign companies, which are based in the United States, Canada, Korea, and Taiwan, are a large pool of cheap labor and proximity to the North American market. They mostly produce clothing, electronic components, footwear, and leather goods, which are assembled rather than manufactured by a mainly female workforce. The raw materials or semi-manufactured goods are usually imported duty-free from other developing countries (electronic parts are imported from industrialized Puerto Rico) and put together in the free zones. They are then exported under the terms of the Caribbean Basin Initiative, which gives duty-free entry into the United States to goods produced in the Dominican Republic. The value of exports amounted to US$1.9 billion in 1996, but the contribution to the trade balance was only US$520 million because many of the basic materials for the free zones had to be imported and paid for.

Other, more traditional manufacturing is based on sugar refining, cement, iron and steel production, and food processing. Rum is a significant export commodity, and beer and cigarettes are manufactured for local consumption. Most industry of this sort is located around the working-class perimeter of Santo Domingo and other large towns.



Services were estimated to contribute 56.5 percent of the GDP in 1999 and to employ an estimated 58.7 percent of the workforce, making this the most important sector of the Dominican economy. Tourism is the single biggest revenue earner, with receipts increasing more than tenfold from US$173 million in 1980 to more than US$2 billion by 2000. Successive governments have invested heavily in tourism development, creating upgraded airports and other infrastructure. Foreign investment has also been important, with several large Spanish, German, and French companies building or managing some of the larger hotels. Some 2.1 million tourists arrived in the country in 1999, not including visiting Dominicans. Most come from Europe, with about 25 percent originating from the United States or Canada. The country now has almost 50,000 hotel rooms, more than any other Caribbean country. About 50,000 Dominicans are directly employed in this sector, mostly working in hotels, and another 110,000 are indirectly employed as taxi drivers, tour guides, or tourist-shop staff. Most tourists visit the Dominican Republic on account of its beaches, but there is an expanding eco-tourism and outdoor activity sector, focused on the country's mountains and wildlife.


Retail activity in the Dominican Republic takes many forms, from U.S.-style supermarkets and shopping malls in Santo Domingo to rural markets and tiny family-run corner stores in villages. A small but affluent middle class can afford to shop at the former, while the large impoverished rural community resorts to buying small amounts of daily essentials from colmados (small stores that often double as bars). Much of this small-scale retail activity occurs within the so-called informal sector , and reliable statistics are unavailable. In an attempt to regulate the retail sector, the government has recently reformed taxation laws, so that small shops pay taxes on a regular monthly basis. Many transactions, however, go unrecorded.


The Dominican Republic does not as yet have a financial services sector aimed at foreign investors, but a securities exchange was opened in 1992 as the first step towards a stock exchange.


Since its independence in 1844, the Dominican Republic's main trading partner has been the United States. Initially this trade overwhelmingly consisted of sugar exports,

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Dominican
Exports Imports
1975 .894 .889
1980 .962 1.640
1985 .735 1.487
1990 .735 2.062
1995 .767 3.639
1998 .795 N/A
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

but currently trade is more diversified, with the Dominican Republic still exporting sugar but also other commodities such as clothing, footwear, and electronic components. The United States exports a large range of goods to the Dominican Republic, including automobiles, machinery, chemicals, and some foodstuffs. In 1999, the United States accounted for 66.1 percent of Dominican exports and 56 percent of its imports. Belgium is also an important export market, while Venezuela, the Dominican Republic's main supplier of petroleum, accounts for 23 percent of the import bill. Trade with neighboring Haiti is much less, largely because much of the flourishing informal-sector trade that takes place across the border is not regulated or recorded and hence does not appear in national accounts.

The Dominican Republic has for many years spent much more on imports than it earns from exports. The CIA World Factbook estimated that in 2000, for instance, its import bill totaled US$9.6 billion, while exports brought in only US$5.8 billion. This huge trade deficit is offset by earnings from tourism (approximately US$2 billion annually) and by the money sent back to the country by Dominicans living overseas (estimated at US$1.5 billion each year). Even so, the Dominican government often records a deficit in its balance of payments . While deficits are not necessarily damaging, they generally mean that there is a shortage of foreign reserves in the country's banking system and that the government may need to borrow from abroad to finance its spending.

In 1998 the Fernandez administration signed free-trade agreements with the Central American Common Market (CACM) and the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM). The Dominican Republic has also made it clear to the United States that it would like to be part of an enlarged NAFTA or similar regional free-trade bloc. The country also has preferential access for certain goods into the European Union (EU) and access to EU financial aid.

Exchange rates: Dominican Republic
Dominican pesos per US$1
Jan 2001 16.888
2000 16.415
1999 16.033
1998 15.267
1997 14.265
1996 13.775
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].


For many years the Dominican peso stood at par with the U.S. dollar, but in 1985 it was devalued as part of an IMF-approved program to pull the country out of recession. Subsequently it was allowed to float against the dollar and has gradually lost much of its value. In 1990, US$1 was worth 11.20 pesos, but in early 2000, the dollar was worth 16.20 pesos. This rate means that imported goods from the United States have steadily become more expensive, including many staple items on which poor Dominicans depend. On the other hand, a cheap peso makes the Dominican Republic attractive both to foreign investors, who can pay even lower wages and to tourists whose dollars stretch further than elsewhere.

The country is currently experiencing relatively low levels of inflation, averaging less than 10 percent annually since the mid-1990s. This rate compares favorably with very high inflation rates in the early 1990s, which reached 54 percent in 1991 alone.


Steady economic growth has brought considerable wealth to some Dominicans, but a considerable sector still lives in extreme hardship, without access to social services or proper educational opportunity. Recent figures are not available, but in 1989 it was estimated that the richest 10 percent of Dominicans accounted for al/tamost

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Dominican Republic 1,179 1,325 1,325 1,366 1,799
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Jamaica 1,819 1,458 1,353 1,651 1,559
Haiti 500 607 527 481 370
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage
Share: Dominican Republic
Lowest 10% 1.7
Lowest 20% 4.3
Second 20% 8.3
Third 20% 13.1
Fourth 20% 20.6
Highest 20% 53.7
Highest 10% 37.8
Survey year: 1996
Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

40 percent of national income, while the poorest 10 percent received only 1.6 percent.

While free primary school education is available, many children fail to complete their early education, often because they are required as workers to supplement family income. There is no national system of health care or old-age pensions. The state occasionally attempts to lessen the impact of price rises by subsidizing basic foods such as milk powder or rice and by job-creation schemes in the poorest neighborhoods.

Dominican society is highly stratified, with a very small and very wealthy upper class, a medium-sized middle class, and a very large working class or poor peasant class, many of whom live in absolute poverty. The middle class encompasses professionals such as teachers or hospital workers or those involved in retail, while the poor include agricultural and factory laborers, those working in the informal sector, and the unemployed. There is little upward social mobility, with the exception of musicians or baseball stars who may escape a life of poverty and become millionaires.

The poorest areas of the country are to be found both in Santo Domingo, where shantytowns sprawl around the edges of the city, and in remote rural areas. Perhaps the most impoverished district is in the southwest, near the border with Haiti, where thousands of Haitian migrants and poor Dominican families inhabit rudimentary shacks.


Few Dominicans enjoy pleasant or healthy working conditions. In rural areas, small farmers and agricultural laborers endure back-breaking work, the worst of which is often performed by imported Haitian cane-cutters who do the plantation work that most Dominicans refuse to touch. Conditions in most industries are different, but little better, with workers exposed to a dirty and dangerous environment in return for low wages. Only in tourism, within the more modern resort hotels, are conditions more acceptable, though wages are low.

According to the International Labor Organization, the active Dominican workforce in 1997 numbered 3,464,000, with some 500,000 people unemployed, over 14 percent. Of these a large percentage were defined as working in personal services, meaning in many cases domestic service. The second largest category was trade, restaurants, and hotels, with manufacturing coming third. There is also an enormous unregulated informal sector that offers work to women and children who would not find opportunities within formal employment and which is even more exploitative and low-paid than its formal equivalent.

Approximately 200,000 people, or about 8 percent of the workforce, are employed in the free-zone sector. Wages in the free zones are low, averaging no more than US$120 monthly, with supervisors earning perhaps US$350. Trade unions are in theory legal and entitled to operate in workplaces, but many employers routinely fire union activists as "troublemakers." The industrial free zones, in particular, are notoriously hostile to union activity. The union movement is further weakened and fragmented by inter-party competition. The largest union, the National Confederation of Dominican Workers (CNTD), claims fewer than 200,000 members nationally. Public-sector workers such as teachers, doctors, and hospital workers have been especially successful in organizing strikes in recent years.

Supporters of the free zones argue that they bring employment to areas where there are few other opportunities and that women are the main beneficiaries of this work. Women are estimated to comprise about one-third of the formal workforce, but many more are employed informally in private homes, in street vending, and in small-scale sweatshops. The same applies to hundreds of thousands of children, who begin work from ages as low as ten. Women are also particularly in demand in the industrial free zones, where rights are strictly curtailed. There have been allegations that companies hire workers as low-paid apprentices and fire them after their apprenticeship period has ended.


1492. Christopher Columbus arrives on island of Hispaniola; Spanish colonization begins.

1697. Western part of Hispaniola is ceded to France under terms of the Treaty of Ryswick. The French develop the colony of Saint-Domingue, while Santo Domingo remains Spanish.

1791. Slave insurrection breaks out in Saint-Domingue, leading to 13-year period of war.

1822-44. Haitian forces occupy Spanish colony of Santo Domingo.

1844. Dominican Republic declares independence.

1861. Spanish sovereignty is re-established at the request of the Dominican government.

1865. Second independence is declared.

1916-24. First U.S. occupation occurs after a period of political chaos. Influx of U.S. capital leads to development of sugar industry.

1930-61. Rafael Leónidas Trujillo is dictator. National assets are centralized under personal control of the Trujillo family.

1939. Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) is founded in Havana.

1961. Trujillo is assassinated.

1965. Second U.S. occupation takes place after fighting between supporters of ousted PRD President Juan Bosch and military forces threatens civil war.

1966. Joaquín Balaguer wins election and begins 30-year domination of Dominican politics.

1996. Leonel Fernandez is elected on modernizing program in first free and fair elections.

2000. Hipolito Mejia is elected president.


The Dominican Republic enters the 21st century having made considerable strides in modernizing its economy and ridding itself of dependency on sugar. Its economy is now relatively diversified between agriculture, manufacturing and services. It also has considerable potential for expanding its tourism industry, for developing export markets for non-traditional agricultural commodities, and for maintaining a steady level of income from mining. The movement towards privatization is likely to continue, as governments try to divest themselves of loss-making assets. The country is well positioned in terms of international trade to take advantage of preferential treatment both from the United States and from the European Union. After decades of regional isolation, it is now also looking to increase its commercial cooperation with other Caribbean and Latin American countries.

However, severe problems remain. Tourism and manufacturing, as well as mining, are still vulnerable to external economic shocks. Too little manufacturing is aimed at the domestic market, with the result that the country spends too much on imported goods. Stubborn trade deficits and dependency on foreign capital appear likely to continue as obstacles to sustained economic health. Privatization will likely have a negative impact on the poor through reduced employment and rising prices. No Dominican government has yet succeeded in radically altering the imbalance of wealth and opportunity in the country, and it will take unusual political courage to do so.


Dominican Republic has no territories or colonies.


The Dominican Republic, South America, Central America and the Caribbean, 2001. London: Europa Publications, 2001.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Dominican Republic, Haiti and Puerto Rico. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2000.

Embassy of the Dominican Republic in Washington, D.C. <>. Accessed October 2001.

Howard, David. Dominican Republic in Focus. London: LatinAmerica Bureau, 1999.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <>. Accessed October 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Background Notes: Dominican Republic, October 2000. <>. Accessed October 2001.

James Ferguson


Santo Domingo.


Dominican peso (DOP). The peso is divided into 100 centavos. There are coins of 25 and 50 centavos and 1 and 5 pesos, and notes of 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 pesos.


Ferronickel, sugar, gold, silver, coffee, cocoa, tobacco.


Foodstuffs, petroleum, cotton and fabrics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals.


US$48.3 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).


Exports: US$5.8 billion (f.o.b, 2000). Imports: US$9.6 billion (f.o.b., 2000).

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Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic

Official name : Dominican Republic

Area: 48,730 square kilometers (18,810 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Pico Duarte (3,175 meters/10,417 feet)

Lowest point on land: Lake Enriquillo (46 meters/151 feet below sea level)

Hemispheres: Northern and Western

Time zone: 8 a.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 386 kilometers (240 miles) from east to west; 261 kilometers (162 miles) from north to south

Land boundaries: Haiti 275 kilometers (177 miles)

Coastline: 1,288 kilometers (800 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 11 kilometers (6 nautical miles)


The Dominican Republic is a Caribbean country that covers the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola. The Atlantic Ocean forms its northern border and the Caribbean Sea its southern coast. Haiti is along the western border of the country. With a total area of about 48,730 square kilometers (18,810 square miles), the Dominican Republic is slightly more than twice the size of New Hampshire. The nation is divided into twenty-nine provinces.


Dominican Republic has no territories or dependencies.


The Dominican Republic has a semitropical climate tempered by the prevailing easterly winds. Temperatures range from 18° to 29°C (64° to 84°F) in the winter and from 23° to 35°C (73° to 95°F) in the summer. Temperatures are highest along the coast and much cooler in the mountains.

Annual precipitation averages about 152.5 centimeters (60 inches), but varies considerably by region, from 43 centimeters (17 inches) in the arid west to 135 centimeters (53 inches) in the east. The mountainous areas in the north have an average rainfall of about 208 centimeters (82 inches). The wet season is from June to November, with the dry season from December to May. Tropical hurricanes occur every few years and can cause great damage.


The Dominican Republic has a rugged and mountainous terrain with fertile valleys in the central and eastern areas. The Cordillera Central mountain range runs from east to west throughout the center of the country. The expansive valleys that lie to the north and south of this range have rich soils. The Dominican Republic is home to both the highest point and the lowest-elevation lake in the West Indies.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

The Dominican Republic borders both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. On the Atlantic coast, there is an offshore rocky ledge. This platform is highly developed in the shallow waters of the Bay of Samaná (Bahía de Samaná) and stretches westward along the northern coasts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The platform extends seaward from a width of a few hundred meters to more than 48 kilometers (30 miles) and a maximum depth of 61 meters (200 feet). In some spots, the shelf rises to form tiny islands and jagged coral reefs that lie close to the surface. These reefs represent hazards to navigation in waters east of Monte Cristi.

Sea Inlets and Straits

The Mona Passage is a 130-kilometer-wide (80-mile-wide) strait that separates the Dominican Republic from Puerto Rico. It connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Caribbean Sea.

Islands and Archipelagos

Of the numerous islands scattered off the Dominican Republic's coastline, only three are permanently inhabited. The largest, Saona Island (Isla Saona), covers an area of about 144 square kilometers (60 square miles) and is located at the southeastern tip of Hispaniola. Beata Island (Isla Beata, 52 square kilometers/ 20 square miles) lies off the Pedernales Peninsula in the extreme west.

Coastal Features

Sandy beaches and rocky escarpments (steep slopes that separate areas of different elevations) mark the northern coast. The Bay of Monte Cristi (Bahía de Monte Cristi) marks the westernmost part of the north coast. Further east, Cape Francés Viejo (Cabo Francés Viejo) projects north into the Atlantic. Southeast of Cape Francés Viejo, the Samaná Peninsula and its cape (Cabo Samaná) project eastward, forming a narrow bay of the same name.

The Caribbean coast in the south is better suited to port development, since there are fewer reefs and islets and inland access to ports is easier. The best of the natural harbors are located on rivers that meet the Caribbean at the cities of Santo Domingo, San Pedro de Macorís, and La Romana. The Pedernales Peninsula juts into the Caribbean at the west end of this coastline, with the Bay of Neiba (Bahía de Neiba) on its eastern side. Otherwise, the coast is fairly even, meeting with the north coast to form Cape Engaño at the eastern end of the island.


The largest of the country's natural lakes is Lake Enriquillo in the Neiba Valley. A remnant of the strait that once occupied the area, its surface is 46 meters (151 feet) below sea level, which also makes this lake the lowest point in the country and the lowest-lying lake in the West Indies. Although Lake Enriquillo is fed by many streams from the surrounding mountains and has no outlet, the high rate of evaporation in the valley is causing its waters gradually to recede. On Isla Cabritos, a small island in the center of Lake Enriquillo, there is a national park that supports and preserves the habitat of the crocodile.


The rivers of the Dominican Republic are mostly shallow and subject to wide seasonal change in flow. Consequently, they are of little use for transportation.

The North Yaque River (Yaque del Norte) is the country's longest river. It begins in the Cibao Valley and flows north for 280 kilometers (170 miles), emptying into the Atlantic Ocean near Monte Cristi. The Yuna River also begins near the Cibao Valley and runs northeastward into the Bay of Samaná. A large marshland area extends inland from the delta of the Yuna River. There is also an area of salt marshes along the rivers south of Monte Cristi Bay.

Two main rivers flow from the San Juan Valley. The Artibonito River (Río Artibonito) flows westward across the border and becomes the principal watercourse of Haiti. The South Yaque (Yaque del Sur) flows into the Caribbean at the Bay of Neiba.


There are no desert regions in the Dominican Republic.


The largest of the lowland regions is the Caribbean Coastal Plain; the plain covers more than 2,849 square kilometers (1,100 square miles). It is composed principally of a limestone platform formed by corals and alluvial deposits. Inland, the soil is highly fertile, but the soil to the west of Santo Domingo is derived from acid clays and is not suited to agriculture. The Caribbean Coastal Plain is the center of the country's cattle-raising and sugar industries.

The country's other lowlands consist of long valleys that extend northwest from origins close to the Caribbean Sea to lowlands in Haiti. The fertile soils of these flood plains and terraces are suitable for intensive agriculture, and the shallower soils provide good pasture. The most extensive of the valleys, the Cibao, is the breadbasket (center of grain cultivation and harvest) of the country.

The Cordillera Oriental is a narrow band of hills that stretches from the Cordillera Central through the eastern portion of the country to the Atlantic coast and the shore of the Bay of Samaná. The western third of the range permits fairly easy access from the capital city to the interior lowlands. The remainder is more rugged. Elevations are generally less than 305 meters (1,000 feet).


The principal mountain system is the Cordillera Central, which rises in the east near Santo Domingo and veers northwestward into Haiti, where it is called the Massif du Nord. The Cordillera Central divides the country into two parts. Its ridges crest between 1,524 and 2,438 meters (5,000 and 8,000 feet), but there are individual peaks with considerably greater heights. The highest peak in the country, Pico Duarte, is found in this range. Pico Duarte has an elevation of 3,175 meters (10,417 feet) and is the highest peak in the West Indies.

The two ranges that lie to the south of the Cordillera Central, the Sierra de Neiba and the Sierra de Baoruco, begin as escarpments flanking Neiba Bay and continue northwest-ward into Haiti. Elevations range between 914 and 1,219 meters (3,000 and 4,000 feet), but some peaks are as high as 1,828 meters (6,000 feet). The eastern part of the Sierra de Neiba is separated from the remainder of the range by the South Yaque and is known as the Sierra de Martin Garcfa. The Sierra de Baoruco is an extension of the southern mountain ranges of Haiti. North of the Cordillera Central lies the Cordillera Septentrional, a mountain range characterized by extremely steep slopes and deeply etched valleys.


The Cabarete Caves are now part of the El Choco National Park near the city of Cabarete. These limestone caves were the homes of the earliest Dominican Republic natives.

The Three Eyes of Water (Los Tres Ojos de Agua) is a series of caves located near Santo Domingo. The caves are named for the three lagoons that were created by the underground rivers that run through the caves. There are many stalactites and stalagmites throughout the caves, as well as lush tropical vegetation surrounding the lagoons.


The West Indies is the chain of islands that extends from the south coast of Florida to the eastern coastline of Venezuela. The chain forms a northern boundary for the Caribbean Sea. Visited by Christopher Columbus in 1492, they were named by him in the mistaken belief that he had reached the Asian coast on his journey to discover a westward route to India.


There are no major plateau regions in the Dominican Republic.


A dam on the North Yaque River at Tavera creates a reservoir and provides irrigation for the central Cibao Valley.



Bell, Ian. The Dominican Republic. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1980.

Furlong, Kate A. Dominican Republic. Edina, MN: Abdo Publications, 2000.

Landau, Elaine. Dominican Republic. New York: Children's Press, 2000.


Lannom, Gloria. "The Jewel of the Dominican Republic." Faces: People, Places, and Cultures, February 1999, Vol. 15, Issue 6, 14.

Web Sites

The Embassy of the Dominican Republic in the United States. (accessed March 2003).

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Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic (dəmĬn´Ĭkən), republic (2005 est. pop. 8,950,000), 18,700 sq mi (48,442 sq km), West Indies, on the eastern two thirds of the island of Hispaniola. The capital and largest city is Santo Domingo.

Land and People

The land ranges from mountainous to gently rolling, with fertile river valleys. It has a moderate subtropical climate, ample rainfall, and fertile soils. Periodic hurricanes can cause extensive damage. The majority of the population is of mixed African and European descent. Spanish is the official language, and Roman Catholicism the predominant religion. Population growth is a continuing problem in the Dominican Republic, and emigration to the United States, particularly to New York City, has been high. There are large numbers of Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic as well as a significant population of native-born inhabitants who are of Haitian descent. A constitutional court decision in 2013 declared all inhabitants of non-Dominican descent born in the country after 1929 to be noncitizens. In 2014 legislation was passed allowing the granting of citizenship to those affected by the decision, but relatively few individuals applied under the program.


The country's economy has traditionally depended on agriculture. Although sugarcane is the chief crop and sugar is an important export, sugar production has sharply declined in recent years. Other major crops are coffee, cotton, cocoa, tobacco, and rice. There are deposits of nickel, bauxite, gold, silver, and other minerals, and mining is of growing economic importance. Free-trade zones have led to an increase in light industry, especially the manufacture of textiles and clothing. Tourism is also important to the economy, and the service sector is now the country's largest employer. The United States, Mexico, and Colombia are the main trading partners.


The country is governed under the constitution of 2010. The president, who is both the head of state and the head of government, is elected by popular vote to a four-year term; there are no lifetime term limits, but an individual may not be elected to more than two terms consecutively. The legislature is the bicameral National Congress. The members of the 32-seat Senate and the 183-seat Chamber of Deputies are all directly elected for four-year terms (except for those elected in 2010, who serve for six years). Administratively, the country is divided into 31 provinces and the National District. The major parties are the conservative Social Christian Reformist party, organized by Joaquín Balaguer, the rival and social-democratic Dominican Revolutionary party, organized by Juan Bosch, and the centrist Dominican Liberation party.


History to the Twentieth Century

The history of the country has been unusually turbulent and has been closely linked with that of the neighboring republic of Haiti. After Spain by the Treaty of Basel (1795) ceded the colony of Santo Domingo to France, the area now known as the Dominican Republic was conquered by Haitians under Toussaint L'Ouverture. Toussaint was defeated by the French, who invaded Haiti under General Leclerc. The resident French commander was able to fend off the attacks of Jean Jacques Dessalines, but in 1808 the people revolted and in 1809, with the aid of an English squadron, ended French control of the city of Santo Domingo. Spanish rule was reestablished.

In 1821 the inhabitants expelled the Spanish governor, but in 1822 they were reconquered by the Haitians under Jean Pierre Boyer. A revolt broke out in 1844, the Haitians were defeated, a constitution was promulgated, and a republic was established under Pedro Santana. Frequent revolts as well as continued Haitian attacks led Santana to make his country a province of Spain in 1861, but opposition under Buenaventura Báez was so severe that Spain withdrew in 1865.

Unable to preserve order, Báez himself negotiated a treaty of annexation with the United States, which the Dominicans approved but which the U.S. Senate failed to ratify. All semblance of order vanished. There were kaleidoscopic changes in the presidency and a long (1882–99), ruthless dictatorship under Ulíses Heureaux, ended by his assassination and followed by more revolutions.

The Early Twentieth Century

The republic was hopelessly bankrupt by 1905 and faced intervention by European powers. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt arranged a U.S. customs receivership. Although there was a marked improvement in finances, fiscal control brought virtual political domination by the United States. Disorder continued, however, and the country was occupied by U.S. marines in 1916. They were withdrawn in 1924 and the customs receivership terminated in 1941.

After the overthrow of Horacio Vásquez in 1930, Rafael Trujillo Molina became dictator. Border clashes with Haiti occurred, and in 1937, Dominican troops massacred thousands of immigrant Haitians. War was narrowly averted. Trujillo suppressed domestic opposition, and he and his retinue gradually turned the country into a private fiefdom. Material improvements in roads, agriculture, sanitation, and education contributed to the prolongation of the regime. Feuds with other Caribbean nations developed. In 1961, Trujillo was assassinated.

The Balaguer-Bosch Era

Joaquín Balaguer, who had been named president by Trujillo in 1960, initiated democratization measures and withstood attempts by the Trujillo family to regain power. Balaguer was deposed (Jan., 1962), but the governing council, after surviving a military coup, promulgated (Sept., 1962) a new constitution. In Dec., 1962, in their first free election since 1924, the Dominicans elected Juan Bosch president by a substantial majority. Bosch committed himself to an ambitious program of reforms, but right-wing opposition led to his overthrow in Sept., 1963. A civilian triumvirate was installed by the military leaders, and Donald Reid Cabral emerged as its chief member.

In 1965 civil war broke out again after military supporters of Bosch toppled the government. A cease-fire was negotiated by the Organization of American States (OAS) and in 1965 a compromise agreement was reached. In 1966, with Bosch and Balaguer the leading candidates, an election was held. Balaguer, the Social Christian Reform party (PRSC) candidate, won and took office on July 1. The authoritarianism of the Trujillo period continued under Balaguer, who enjoyed the support of the right, the military, and the Church.

Balaguer was reelected in 1970 and 1974. The political climate, however, remained uneasy, with the economy stagnant, and from 1978 to 1986 the Dominican Revolutionary party (PRD) held power. Rising prices resulting from a program of economic austerity cost the PRD its ruling position, and the aging Balaguer again won the presidency in 1986, in 1990, and (for a two-year term) in 1994, but he was barred from running again 1996.

Post-Balaguer Politics

Elections in 1996 led to a runoff that was won by the Dominican Liberation party (PLD) candidate, Leonel Fernández Reyna. A protégé of Bosch, Fernández was a lawyer who had been raised in New York City and had not previously held political office. Although the country enjoyed steady economic growth under Fernández, farmers and poorer Dominicans saw little improvement in their well-being, and his term was marred by corruption scandals.

In 2000, Hipólito Mejía Dominguez, an agronomist and businessman who was the PRD candidate, won the presidential election; he promised to aid those who had not benefited from the years of growth. The economy worsened, however, under Mejía, and he failed to win a second term in 2004, as voters elected his predecessor, Leonel Fernández, to the presidency. Also in 2004 the country agreed to join in a free-trade area with the United States and most Central American nations.

Improved economic conditions benefited Fernández's PLD in 2006, when the party secured a majority in the congressional elections, and Ferńndez himself was reelected in 2008. In 2010 the PLD again won the congressional elections. Danilo Medina Sánchez, the PLD candidate, was elected president in 2012, defeating former president Mejía.


See S. Rodman, Quisqueya: A History of the Dominican Republic (1964); J. A. Moreno, Barrios in Arms: Revolution in Santo Domingo (1970); J. Galíndez Suárez, The Era of Trujillo (1973); H. J. Wiarda and M. J. Kryzanek, The Dominican Republic, a Caribbean Crucible (1982); M. J. Kryzanek, The Politics of External Influence in the Dominican Republic (1988); S. Grasmuck and P. R. Pessar, Between Two Islands: Dominican International Migration (1991).

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Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic Independent nation occupying the e two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola in the West Indies; the capital is Santo Domingo. Dominican Republic is mountainous: the Cordillera Central range, running nw to se, includes the highest point in the Caribbean, Duarte Peak, at 3175m (10,417ft). Christopher Columbus visited Hispaniola in 1492, and the Spanish eventually established a settlement at Santo Domingo. In 1697, France received the w third of the island (now Haiti). In 1795, the whole island came under French rule but the e part returned to Spain in 1809. In 1821, the colony declared independence as the Dominican Republic, but was quickly annexed by Haiti. It won independence a second time in 1844. Its subsequent history was one of anarchy and civil war, punctuated by dictatorships and US military interventions. The most notorious dictator (1930–61) was Rafael Trujillo. In 1966, a new constitution was adopted and Joaquín Balaguer was elected president (1966–78, 1986–96). Hipóliti Mejía became president in 2000 elections. Mineral deposits are an increasingly important export, although agriculture is still the economic mainstay (2000 GDP per capita US$5700). Area: 48,734sq km (18,816sq mi). Pop. (2000) 8,621,000.

Political map

Physical map


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Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic

Culture Name



Identification. The Dominican Republic became a nation on 27 February 1844 when a group of revolutionaries seized power from the Haitian rulers of the island of Hispaniola. When Christopher Columbus first discovered the island in 1492, he named it La Isla Española, which became Hispaniola. A few years later the city of Santo Domingo became the Spanish capital of the New World, and because of its location in the trade winds, it was the gateway to the Caribbean. France gained a foothold on the western end of the island, which became prosperous, and by 1795 Spain ceded the entire island to France. By 1804 the black African slaves in the western portion of the island (now Haiti) rebelled against the French and ruled the entire island. French troops eventually reclaimed the island, but were able to occupy only the western end. In 1838 a small group of Spanish-speaking Dominican intellectuals from Santo Domingo organized a secret society called La Trinitaria to overthrow the Haitian rule. The society was established by Juan Pablo Duarte, the son of a wealthy Dominican family. After the overthrow, Pedro Santana, one of the leaders in the revolution, became the first president of the Dominican Republic.

The complex heritage of Arawak, Spanish, African, and French traditions, plus an early independence, set the Dominican Republic apart from other Caribbean islands. Independence was won before slavery was abolished in the Spanish Caribbean and a century before the decolonization of the other islands. The Dominicans consider themselves more Latin American than Caribbean. In addition, they retain close ties with the United States, which occupied the island in the early twentieth century. The national community is struggling to build a democracy against a corrupt and authoritarian political elite.

Location and Geography. The Dominican Republic is located on the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola and is 18,816 square miles (48,734 square kilometers), about twice the size of New Hampshire. The western portion of the island is occupied by the republic of Haiti. Hispaniola is near the center of the West Indies, a group of islands that extend from Florida to Venezuela. To the north of Hispaniola is the Atlantic Ocean, to the south the Caribbean Sea, to the east Puerto Rico, and to the west Cuba. Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Jamaica are referred to as the Greater Antilles.

The mountains of the Dominican Republic divide the country into northern, central, and southwestern regions. The northern region includes the Cordillera Septentrional (northern mountain range), the Cibao Valley, which is the country's major agricultural area; and the tropical Samaná Peninsula with its coconut plantations and bay, where humpback whales breed.

The central region is dominated by the Cordillera Central (central range) which ends at the Caribbean Sea. The highest point in the Caribbean is Pico Duarte, which reaches an elevation of over 10,414 feet (3,175 meters) and has alpine forests near the summit. The Caribbean coastal plain includes a series of limestone terraces that gradually rise to a height of about 328 feet (100 meters) and has sugarcane plantations.

The southwestern region lies south of the Valle de San Juan and encompasses the Sierra de Neiba. Much of the region is a desert and it includes Lake Enriquillo, the island's largest lake. Lake Enriquillo is a saltwater lake that lies 150 feet (46 meters) below sea level and is inhabited by unique fauna, including crocodiles, huge iguanas, and flamingos.

The diverse geography of the country includes 800 miles (1,288 kilometers) of coastline with beautiful white-sand beaches and rocky cliffs and warm water, all of which are attractive to tourists. The most significant river in the country, with a drainage basin of 2,720 square miles (7,044 square kilometers), is Yaque del Norte, which starts at Pico Duarte and empties into the Bahia de Monte Cristi on the northwest coast.

The weather is mostly tropical, especially along the southern and eastern coasts. The time and magnitude of the rainy season varies in different parts of the country, but generally occurs in late spring and early fall. In the west and southwestern regions the climate is dry and desertlike because of low rainfall and/or deforestation.

The capital, Santo Domingo, was the first permanent European settlement in the New World and was established by Spain in 1496. The Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo is one of the great treasures of Spanish America today, with many original buildings intact and restored.

Demography. The population of the Dominican Republic is about 8.4 million (2000 estimate) and is increasing at a rate of 1.6 percent per year. More than 1 million Dominicans live full or part time in New York City and are called Dominican Yorks. Seventy-three percent of the population is mixed racecombinations of descendants of Spaniards and other Europeans, West African slaves, and natives. Sixteen percent is Caucasian and 11 percent is black, which includes a Haitian minority.

Dominicans have migrated from rural areas to the cities. The capital, Santo Domingo, has over 2.14 million people, while the population of other large cities, including Santiago de los Caballeros, La Romana, and San Pedro de Macorís, ranges from 124,000 to 364,000. Estimates of the birth rate range from seventeen per thousand (1994) to twenty-five per thousand (2000 estimated). The death rate estimate varies from one per thousand in 1994 to five per thousand (2000 estimated). The infant mortality rate is quite high at thirty-six deaths per thousand live births (2000 estimated). Nevertheless, the total fertility rate is three children born per woman (2000 estimated). The net migration rate is minus four migrants per thousand (2000 estimated).

Linguistic Affiliation. Spanish is the official language and is universally spoken. Dominicans pride themselves on the purity of their Spanish and it is considered by some to be the most classical Castilian spoken in Latin America. Nevertheless, Dominican Spanish has a distinctive accent and incorporates numerous African and Taino (native) expressions. For example, small rural houses are now called bohios, after the rectangular houses of the Tainos. A large number of place-names as well as social and cultural terms are inherited from the Tainos. Some English is spoken in Santo Domingo, particularly within the tourist industry. Some Creole is spoken near the Haitian border and in the sugarcane villages, where many Haitian workers live.

Symbolism. The colors and shapes used in the national flag symbolize patriotism and national pride. The flag has a large white cross, a symbol of salvation, that divides it into four quarters. Two quarters are red and two are blue. The blue sections represent liberty, while the red sections symbolize the blood of the heroes who died to preserve it. In the center of the cross is the Dominican coat of arms.

A recent national symbol, constructed in 1992, is the Columbus Lighthouse. It was a work project conceived of by President Joaquín Balaguer when he was 85 years old and blind. It is an enormous cross, flat on the ground, facing the sky and bursting with lights, and was built as a tourist attraction. The physical remains of Columbus have been moved to the lighthouse (although Spain and Cuba also claim to have them). The lighthouse burns so brightly it can be seen from Puerto Rico, but, ironically, it is situated in the midst of a poor neighborhood where the people live without water or electricity and with unpaved, dusty streets and uncollected garbage. A wall was built around the lighthouse to protect the visitors from the neighborhood. Some Dominicans call it the Wall of Shame and argue that the country needs basic services, such as dependable electricity and transportation, not expensive monuments to Columbus. In addition, Dominicans have mixed feelings about Columbus and superstitiously refer to him only as the Great Admiral, believing that to say his name will bring about bad luck.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The Taino were the native people of the Dominican Republic who greeted Columbus. They were a peaceful subgroup of Arawaks who had their origins in the tropical forests of South America. Columbus encountered an island populated by at least 500,000 Tainos living in permanent villages and subsisting on agriculture. The houses were made of wood with thatch roofs, and several families lived together in the same house. Most people used hammocks to sleep in, and goods were stored in baskets hung from the roof and walls. The houses were irregularly arranged around a central plaza, where the larger home of the chief was situated. Villages were arranged into districts, each ruled by one chief, and in turn the districts were grouped into regional chiefdoms headed by the most prominent district chief. There were only two classes of villagers, which chroniclers equated with nobility and commoners. There were no slaves. Instead of simply slashing and burning the forest to make a clearing for agriculture as is common in the Amazon, the Tainos made permanent fields to cultivate root crops. They retarded erosion and improved the drainage, which permitted more lengthy storage of mature tubers. The Tainos mined gold and beat the nuggets into small plates. Then the gold was either inlayed in wooden objects or overlaid on clothing or ornaments. Columbus took special notice of the Tainos' gold work, believing it offered him a chance to repay his debt to the king and queen of Spain. Because nearly all the Tainos died within about three decades of Columbus's arrival, the culture and traditions of these gentle people are not as clearly present in everyday life as, for example, the Maya culture in Mexico today. A more nomadic and warlike group of Arawaks called the Caribs was present on a small portion of the island and are said to have shot arrows at Columbus upon his arrival.

In 1492, when Columbus first landed, he named the island La Isla Española, which later changed to Hispaniola. Although Columbus was a superb navigator, neither he nor his brother Bartholomé could rule the new colony. Both alienated the Spanish by demanding that they work, and they also disrupted the native agriculture by forcing each Indian to dig up a set amount of gold instead of allowing farming. By 1496 many natives had died, and those that rebelled were harshly punished. Food was in short supply and the population of natives was greatly diminished. It was then that Bartholomé transferred the capital from Isabella to the new city of Santo Domingo, located in a more productive region with a good harbor. It was a natural destination for ships following the easterly trade winds from Europe and the Lesser Antilles and remained the Spanish capital of the New World for the next fifty years, when a change in sailing routes made Havana the preferred port. When Columbus returned to Santo Domingo for the third time, he was faced with a revolt by the colonists. To placate the rebels, he distributed not only land but also native communities. Spanish settlers could legally force their Indians to work without wages in a kind of semislavery called encomienda, a system that rapidly caused the demise of the Taino Indians because of the harsh forced-labor practices and the diseases the Spanish brought with them. The Spanish imported African slaves to work in the mines and established a strict two-class social system based on race and state domination.

The Spanish abandoned Hispaniola for more economically promising areas such as Cuba and Mexico, but the Spanish institutions of government, economy, and society have persisted in the Dominican Republic. The island became the hiding place for many pirates and was captured for ransom by British admiral Sir Francis Drake. For nearly two hundred years Hispaniola remained in a state of disorganization and depression. In 1697 Spain handed over the western third of Hispaniola to the French, and that portion began to prosper by producing sugar and cotton in an economy based on slavery. By 1795 Spain gave the rest of the island, where most people were barely surviving on subsistence farming, to the French. By 1809 the eastern part of Hispaniola reverted back to Spanish rule. In 1822 the black armies of Haiti invaded and gained control of the entire island, which they maintained until 1844.

On 27 February 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. He named it the Dominican Republic. The first of the strong-armed leaders called caudillos, Pedro Santana, became president. The emerging nation struggled, going in and out of political and economic chaos. Using the Monroe Doctrine to counter what the United States considered potential European intervention, the United States invaded the Dominican Republic in 1916 and occupied it until 1924.

During the period of U.S. occupation, a new class of large landowners resulted from changes made in land-tenure. A new military security force, the Guardia Nacional, was trained by the U.S. Marines to be a counterinsurgency force. 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 and his friends held nearly 60 percent of the country's assets and controlled its labor force while they abolished personal and political freedoms. He typified the caudillismo that has shaped Dominican society.

After Trujillo was assassinated in 1961, his son fled the country and a democratic election was held. Ultimately, the Dominican military with the help of twenty-three thousand U.S. troops defeated the constitutionalists in 1965. The Dominican economic elite, having been reinstalled by the U.S. military, achieved the election of Joaquín Balaguer, one of Trujillo's puppet presidents. Until the early 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. Most of the benefits went to the already wealthy while the unemployment rate, illiteracy, malnutrition, and infant mortality rates were dangerously high. With the mid-1970s surge in oil prices, a crash in the price of sugar, and increases in unemployment and inflation, the Balaguer government was destabilized, and human rights and political freedom were better observed. The country, however, incurred enormous foreign debt, and the International Monetary Fund required drastic austerity measures, such as a government wage freeze, a decrease of funding, an increase in prices of staple goods, and restricted credit. These policies resulted in social unrest and Balaguer, nearly eighty years old and legally blind, regained control of the country. He once again turned to massive public-works projects in an attempt to revitalize the economy, but this time was unsuccessful. Balaguer was forced to step down in 1996 and Leonel Fernández Reyna was elected.

National Identity. A large factor that influences Dominican national identity is its Spanish heritage and early independence. The native population was decimated or assimilated within decades of the arrival of Columbus, and the island was repopulated with Spanish colonists and their African slaves. Spanish is the national language, universally spoken today. Light skin color, which is considered to reflect European ancestry, is valued, while dark skin tones reflect the West African slave ancestry. The Roman Catholic cathedrals still stand and the majority of the population is Roman Catholic. A proud aggressive attitude is admired in sports, business, and politics. Machismo permeates society, especially among rural and low income groups, with males enjoying privileges not accorded to females.

The common expression, Si Dios quiere (If God wishes), expresses the belief that personal power is intertwined with one's place in the family, the community, and the grand design of the Deity. People have been forced to accept the strong class system begun by the Spanish and maintained by the strongman leaders where only a few historically prominent families hold a great deal of the wealth and power. Some of the few surviving traits of the gentle Tainos may account for acceptance of the system with relatively few revolts.

The family unit is of primary importance. Relationships among people are more important than schedules and being late for appointments, and people often spend time socializing rather than working. Dominicans are warm, friendly, outgoing, and gregarious. They are very curious about others and forthright in asking personal questions. Children are rarely shy. Confianze (trust) is highly valued and not quickly or easily gained by outsiders, perhaps as a result of the human rights and economic abuses the people have suffered at the hands of the powerful.

Ethnic Relations. Dominican society is the cradle of blackness in the Americas. It was the port of entry for the first African slaves, only nine years after Columbus arrived. Blacks and mulattoes make up almost 90 percent of the population. There has been a longstanding tension with Haiti, particularly over the Haitian desire to migrate there. In the early fall of 1937 Trujillo's soldiers used machetes, knives, picks, and shovels to slaughter somewhere between ten thousand and thirty-five thousand Haitian civilians, claiming it was a Dominican peasant uprising. Even loyal personal servants and Haitian spouses of Dominicans were killed by the soldiers. Today there is still great disdain for Haitian and other blacks.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

A massive migration from rural to urban areas characterized the twentieth century. About 60 percent of Dominicans live in urban areas. The capital, Santo Domingo, is the largest city by far and has a population of 2.14 million. Its population approximately doubled every ten years between 1920 and 1970. The second and third largest cities, Santiago and La Romana, also experienced rapid growth, especially in the 1960s and 1970s.

Santo Domingo was a walled city, modeled after those of medieval Spain, and for three decades was the seat of Spanish power and culture in the New World. Today the area known as the Zona Colonial stands as a monument to Spain's time as a superpower, with some buildings dating back to the early sixteenth century. The layout of the city followed the classic European grid pattern, with several plazas. Plazas are popular meeting places for area residents, tourists, vendors, taxi drivers, guides, and shoeshine boys. The plazas usually contain shade trees, park benches, and monuments.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The main meal is served at midday and can last up to two hours. La bandera (the flag) is a popular national dish; the white rice and red beans remind people of the flag colors, hence the name. The third ingredient is stewed meat, and it is usually served with fried plantain and a salad. Another favorite dish is sancocho, a meat, plantain, and vegetable stew. On the coast, fish and conch are enjoyed, and coconut is used to sweeten many seafood dishes. Root vegetables include sweet potatoes, yams, cassava, and potatoes. Small quantities of chicken, beef, pork, or goat are eaten with a meal. Food is generally not spicy.

Dining out is popular and restaurants in Santo Domingo are superior and reasonably priced. The Hotel Lina has been voted one of the ten best restaurants in the world. Even the food sold by street vendors, such as grilled meat or tostones (fried plantain patties), is delicious.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. On special occasions, such as Christmas or Easter, extended families sit down together for large feasts. Roasted pig, pigeon peas (small yellow beans), and boiled chestnuts are served at Christmas. Fish is the traditional dish at Easter.

Basic Economy. The Dominican Republic is among the fastest-growing economies in Latin America. Even though the gross domestic product (GDP) tripled in the last generation, 70 percent of the people are affected by poverty and unemployment is high. Throughout history, the economy has been based on the production and export of sugar. Sugarcane is still a big cash crop, along with rice, plantains (starchy green bananas), and bananas. Fluctuating world prices make the market volatile.

Land Tenure and Property. Land-tenure patterns reflect both Dominican and international politics. Sugar and cattle production require large tracts of land and ownership has changed over time. In 1916 when the United States invaded, the military enacted legislation to facilitate the takeover of Dominican land by U.S. sugar growers. Communal lands were broken up and transferred to private ownership. By 1925 eleven of the twenty-one sugar mills belonged to U.S. corporations and most of the sugar was exported to the United States.

Cattle raising, an important source and symbol of wealth in the countryside, was feasible for many because the animals were branded and left to graze freely on open land. Much of the land was expropriated by Trujillo, and later he established a law requiring livestock to be enclosed, ending the free grazing. By the 1970s the government created state-subsidized credits for cattle production, enabling people to buy land for grazing in an attempt to increase production.

Major Industries. Agriculture, including forestry and fishing, contributed about 13 percent of the GDP in 1996. Industry, including mining, manufacturing, construction, and power, provided about 32 percent of the GDP in 1996. The services sector contributes 55 percent of the GDP. With the relative stability of the Dominican democracy and tax incentives, tourism is the most rapidly growing sector of the economy. With more hotel rooms than any other Caribbean country and beautiful beaches, tourism in the country is now the largest source of foreign exchange, along with manufacturing in the free trade zones. The government is working to increase electric generating capacity, a key to continued economic growth, and the state-owned electric company was ultimately privatized by 2000.

Trade. Mining of ferro-nickel, gold, and silver has recently surpassed sugar as the biggest source of export earnings. Manufacturing of food, petroleum products, beverages, and chemicals contributes about 17 percent of the GDP. A rapidly growing part of the manufacturing sector is occurring in the free trade zones, established for multinational corporations. Products such as textiles, garments, and light electronic goods intended for export are assembled. Industries locate in these zones because they are permitted to pay low wages for labor intensive activities; also, the Dominican government grants exemptions from duties and taxes on exports.

Division of Labor. The Dominican Republic is the world's fourth-largest location of free trade zones, and much of the nation's industrial work occurs there. Two-thirds of these zones are owned by U.S. corporations. The majority of the workers are women; in 1990 the average monthly salary was $59 (U.S.) with no benefits. Most are assembly and factory workers who produce electronics, jewelry, furniture, clothing, and shoes for export. Nevertheless, free trade zones have created much-needed jobs and have brought more advanced technology to the island. Companies pay rent and purchase utilities and supplies.

On most sugarcane farms, working conditions are dreadful, and Dominicans are too proud to work for such low wages. Companies hire Haitians to work the fields for twelve to fifteen hours a day. Workers are as young as eight years old. There are no cooking or sanitary facilities. Children born to Haitian sugarcane workers effectively have no country and no medical or educational benefits.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Dominican social stratification is influenced by racial and economic issues. The upper class is historically descended from European ancestry and is light skinned. The lower class is most often black, descendants of the African slave population or Haitians. The mulattoes are people of mixed African and European ancestry and make up the majority of the population; they have created a growing middle class. This middle class is divided into indio claro, who have lighter skin, and indio obscuro, who are darker skinned. The term indio (Indian) is used because many Dominicans do not yet acknowledge their African roots.

Symbols of Social Stratification. The symbols of social stratification are similar to those in Western cultures. Many of the growing middle-class population own homes and cars, and enjoy updating them with the latest electronic appliances. Their children graduate from high school, and may go on to college. People take pride in their personal appearance and prefer New York fashions and jewelry. However, there is still a large segment of the population which lives in urban slums and poor rural areas without electricity or running water.

Political Life

Government. The Dominican Republic is divided into twenty-nine provinces, each run by a governor who is appointed by the president. The president and vice president and a bicameral Congress of thirty senators and 120 deputies are elected by popular vote every four years. The voting age is eighteen. A nine-member Supreme Court is formally appointed every four years by the Senate, but is greatly influenced by the president.

Leadership and Political Officials. One of the most influential political parties is the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) and it has a liberal philosophy. A spin-off is the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) and it is considered even more liberal. A conservative group is the Revolutionary Social Christian Party (PRSC).

Unfortunately, many people aspire to be elected to government positions so that they can obtain bribes. Each time government salaries are cut, the corruption in government grows. Also, government contracts are awarded to business in return for money paid directly to the official who makes the decision.

Social Problems and Control. During much of its history the Dominican Republic has been governed by strongarm dictators who have denied human rights to their citizens, particularly darker-skinned people. The most recent constitution was adopted in 1966 after the civil war following Trujillo's rule. Although it puts few limitations on the powers of the president, it stresses civil rights and gives Dominicans liberties they had never before been granted. In 1978 reforms were made to reduce the military's political involvement in order to prevent a coup. The military were given civic duties such as building roads, medical and educational facilities, and houses, and replanting forests. The judicial branch is subject to the political mood since they are appointed every four years. Since the 1960s the court has become more independent, even if it is not an equal branch of government.

Military Activity. Military service is voluntary and lasts for four years. In 1998 the armed forces totaled 24,500 people, with most in the army, followed by the air force and the navy. There are about fifteen thousand members of the paramilitary. The defense budget in 1998 was slightly less than the amount spent on welfare.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

A voluntary national contributory scheme exists to provide insurance coverage for sickness, unemployment, dental injury, maternity, old age, and death. Only about 42 percent of the population benefits from it.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Many nongovernmental organizations exist. Some collaborate with international organizations such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the Organization of American States, and private voluntary organizations such as Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross, CARE, and Catholic Relief Services. They implement a wide variety of projects in agriculture, microenterprise, water and sanitation, and health.

In the 1970s and 1980s, after the end of the Trujillo regime, there was an increase in Dominican interest groups. For example, the Central Electoral Junta is an independent board that monitors elections. The Collective of Popular Organizations is a political pressure group. Many organizations exist to promote business, including the Dominican Center of Promotion of Exportation and the Dominican Sugar Institute.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. About one-quarter of the lower-class people are unemployed. Among this group, women tend to find jobs more easily than men, especially in rural areas, and are paid less. Women often support their households, but do not make enough to bring them out of poverty.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. In middle-class and upper-class families the structure is patriarchal, and the dominant father-figure is the norm. As women gain control over the number of children they bear, they have been able to gain greater educational and employment opportunities. Among the lower-class families, the structure is often matriarchal because the father does not live in the house.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Three different types of marital union include church marriages, civil marriages, and consensual or common-law unions. Church and civil marriages are most prevalent among the upper classes and the ceremonies can be costly, whereas consensual unions predominate among the poor. These patterns can be traced back to the Spanish colonial and slave periods. The Spanish settlers brought with them a strong ethic of family solidarity, and the father was the dominant figure. Slave families were broken up and marriages were often not allowed. Informal unions between the Spanish settlers and African slave women were encouraged, and the present-day range of skin tones and marriage practices are reflections of the colonial heritage.

Domestic Unit. The extended family, composed of three or more generations, is prevalent among the Dominican elite. The oldest man holds authority, makes public decisions, and is responsible for the welfare of the family. The oldest married woman commands her household, delivers the more private decisions, and nurtures the family. Married brothers and their wives and children are part of the extended family, and have a strong allegiance to their father. Married daughters become part of their husbands' families.

Consensual unions create a more loosely structured family, and responsibilities fall to the mother. The result is a lower-class household which often becomes an extended matriarchy with the oldest woman at the head and her unmarried children, married daughters, and grandchildren constituting the household. Some men have more than one wife and family and are often absent from a particular household.

Inheritance. Among the two-parent families, land, money, and personal possessions are usually left to the surviving spouse and children. When the household is headed by a woman or when there is a consensual union, inheritance policies are more loosely structured.

Kin Groups. Family loyalty is a virtue ingrained from early childhood when individuals learn that relatives can be trusted and relied on. At every level of society a person looks to family and kin for both social identity and succor. A needy relative might receive the loan of a piece of land, some wage labor, or gifts of food. More affluent relatives may adopt a child from needy relatives and help out the parents of that child as well.

Formal organizations succeed best when they are able to mesh with pre-existing ties of kinship. Until the 1960s and 1970s, most community activities were kin-based and consisted of a few related extended families joined together for endeavors. Families with relatively equal resources shared and cooperated.

When kinship is lacking and where families wish to establish a trusting relationship with other families, they can become compadres. Strong emotional bonds link compadres or co-parents, and they use the formal "usted" instead of "tu" when addressing one another. Compadres are chosen at baptism and marriage, and the relationship extends to the two couples and their offspring.


Child Rearing and Education. Public education is provided through the high-school level at no cost except for the school uniform and books. Attendance is mandatory to sixth grade, although many children, particularly girls, drop out before then. Over one thousand schools were destroyed by Hurricane George in 1998. Scarce funding before and after the hurricane has resulted in limited resources and understaffed facilities. Many urban families send their children to private schools. Considering the lack of enforcement of education laws, the adult literacy rate of 83 percent is quite high, nearly double that of neighboring Haiti.

Higher Education. The oldest public university in the New World was built by the Spanish in 1588, and the University of Santo Domingo is its descendant. Most of the twenty-eight Dominican universities are privately owned and offer student loans. Total enrollment for all colleges and universities in 1998 topped 100,000. Some students go abroad to attend schools and universities.


Politeness is a very important aspect of social interaction. When you enter a room or begin a conversation, it is polite to make a general greeting such as buenos días, which means "good day." Handshakes are another friendly gesture.

Personal appearance is important to Dominicans and they do their best to look neat and clean. They like the latest in New York fashions. Men wear long pants and stylish shirts except when at the beach or doing manual labor. Professional men wear business suits or the traditional chacabana, a white shirt worn over dark trousers. Rural women wear skirts or dresses, but in urban areas jeans and short skirts are acceptable. Bright colors and shiny fabrics are favored. Children are often dressed up, especially for church or visiting. Short pants are not allowed in government buildings and shorts and tank tops are not worn in church.

Formal introductions are rare, but professional titles are used to address respected persons. Older and more prominent people may be addressed as Don (for men) or Doña (for women), with or without their first names. Most women ride sidesaddle while on the backs of motorcycles, because sitting with the legs apart is considered unladylike. Personal space is limited, touching is normal, and crowding, particularly on public transportation, is common.

Dominicans are animated and often make gestures and use body language. "Come here" is indicated with the palm down and fingers together waving inward. To hail a taxi or bus, one wags a finger or fingers depending on the number of passengers in need of a ride. Dominicans point with puckered lips instead of a finger. Men shake hands firmly when they greet and close friends embrace. Most women kiss each other on both cheeks, and a man who trusts a woman will also kiss her.


Religious Beliefs. About 95 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, even if not all of these people attend church regularly. Catholicism was introduced by Columbus and the Spanish missionaries and even today is an important force in shaping society. Although many Dominicans are fairly secular, children are often taught to ask for a blessing from their parents and other relatives when greeting them. For example, a child might say "Bless me, aunt," and the response is "May God bless you." The dominance of the Catholic Church was diminishing at the end of the twentieth century, due to a decrease in funding, a shortage of priests, and a lack of social programs for the people. Although some Protestants are descendants of non-Spanish immigrants who came to the island in the early 1800s, the Protestant evangelical movement has been gaining more support. The style of worship is much less formal than that of the Catholic Church and emphasizes family rejuvenation, biblical teachings, and economic independence. Despite differences in belief and opinion, there is little conflict between religious groups.

During World War II (19391945) the small town of Sosúsa was built by a group of European Jews who escaped persecution, and is still the center for the tiny Jewish population of the island.

Voodoo is practiced secretly, primarily along the border with Haiti, and originated with the African slaves, particularly those from the Dahomey region. Practitioners believe in one God and many lesser spirits. They believe that each individual has a protector spirit who rewards that person with wealth and punishes him or her with illness. Nature spirits oversee the external world. Ancestral spirits are the souls of dead ancestors and will protect the living if properly remembered with funerals and memorials. Because the early colonists forbade the practice of voodoo, people learned to disguise the spirits as Roman Catholic saints. For example, the Madonna who represents motherhood, beauty, love, and sex is Erzulie. Although many voodoo products are for sale in markets, voodoo is unpopular with most Dominicans.

Religious Practitioners. Roman Catholicism has been combined with traditional folk religion, particularly in rural areas. It is quite common for devout Catholics to consult a folk practitioner for spiritual advice or to prevent some calamity. The ensalmo is a healing chant that is usually performed by an elderly woman, and is among the most respected folk practices. Folk healers work through the saints and ask for special help for those in need. A few people are skilled in the use of herbs and other natural objects for healing, and are called witch doctors. They are also believed to have the power to banish evil spirits.

Medicine and Health Care

Public clinics and hospitals provide free care, but people who can afford to prefer to go to private doctors. Public institutions tend to be poorly equipped and understaffed, and the focus is on curative rather than preventive care. There are about one thousand people to each doctor, with over eight hundred people per each hospital bed. There is a separate system for members of the armed forces. Private health care is also available, primarily in urban centers. Many people still consult native healers, including witch doctors, voodoo practitioners, and herbalists. Parasites and infectious diseases are common. Contaminated water must be boiled in rural areas. Malaria and rabies are still a problem. In spite of this, the life expectancy is sixty-eight for men and seventy-two for women.

Secular Celebrations

Secular holidays include New Year's Day on 1 January; Juan Pablo Duarte's Birthday on 26 January; Independence Day from Haiti, celebrated with a carnival featuring parades, costumes and parties on 27 February; Pan-American Day on 14 April; Labor Day on 1 May; the Foundation of Sociedad la Trinitaria on 16 July; the Santo Domingo Merengue Festival, in late July; the founding of Santo Domingo on 5 August; Restoration Day on 16 August; Columbus Day on 12 October; and United Nations Day on 24 October.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. There are a variety of organizations and schools which support all forms of art, from fine arts to traditional crafts. The Fine Arts Council controls the Academies of Music, the National Conservatory of Music and Elocution, the School of Scenic Art, the Fine Arts School (in three different cities), and the School of Plastic Arts. The Institute of Dominican Culture promotes cultural tradition and encourages artistic creation and expression of the spirit of the Dominican people. Recently, Dominican artists have gained international recognition.

In the capital city of Santo Domingo there is a neighborhood of Haitian immigrants, which includes many people who try to make a living by selling their paintings to tourists. The paintings are usually oil on canvas and are colorful, stylized, and inexpensive. These people have a history of being mistreated by the police.

Literature. The Dominican literary heritage has historically come from the elite, particularly the Henríque-Ureña family, who had the advantage of formal education. The literary works and style have a European influence, particularly Spanish and French. Gaston Fernando Deligne led the movement into modernism. Don Pedro Mir is known as the National Poet. More recent Dominican authors, such as Julia Alvarez, are leaving the Spanish influences behind and creating a unique Dominican style.

Graphic Arts. Folk arts provide a cottage industry for many. Both glazed and unglazed terra-cotta pottery pieces are sold in markets. Particularly popular are terra-cotta figures for Christmas nativity scenes. Carved calabash or gourds are made into masks or filled with seeds to rattle as maracas. Women in rural areas are well known for their macramé hammocks and bags. Other crafts include basket making, palm weaving, and jewelry made from native coral and seashells. More elaborate jewelry is made from the high-quality native amber and larimar, a semiprecious ocean-blue gemstone found only in the Dominican Republic.

Performance Arts. Dominicans love music and dancing. Merengue, with its African tom-tom beat and Spanish salsa spirit, is the most popular. Other influences are the sound of reggae from Jamaica and the Spanish guitar. Music can be heard on every street corner and there are large outdoor festivals. There is also the National Conservatory for Music and Speech.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

The University of Santo Domingo, founded in 1538, is autonomous, although state-supported. After the fall of Trujillo, the Madre y Maestra Catholic University and Pedro Henríquez-Ureña National University and others were also formed in Santo Domingo. Likewise, there are universities in most of the largest cities.

Among the oldest of the technical colleges is the Higher Institute of Agriculture, which was founded in 1962. The Institute of Technology of Santo Domingo offers undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and research. The Technological University in Santiago has faculties of social and economic sciences, architecture and engineering, health sciences, and science and humanities. There are also a variety of joint programs such as Indiana University's Underwater Science program, which is supported by the Catholic University of Santo Domingo and grants from local groups for the study of underwater archaeology of the Columbus shipwreck and Taino sites.

Two research institutes are the Dominican Sugar Institute and the Military Cartographic Institute. There is a natural history museum and a museum of Dominican man in the capital. Technology is also being brought into the country by multinational corporations in the free trade zones for light manufacture. United States AID also provides grants for research.


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Web Sites

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Elizabeth Van Eps Garlo

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Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic


The people of the Dominican Republic are called Dominicans. The population is about 16 percent white, 11 percent black, and 70 percent mulatto (mixed black and white).

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