Dominican Republic

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Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic (dəmĭnˈĭkən), republic (2015 est. pop. 10,528,000), 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 many could not provide the required documentation; some 184,000 secured residency permits. In 2015 the government began deporting residents and migrants of Haitian descent or background, but many more fled, sending tens of thousands of refugees into Haiti.


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 2015. The president, who is both the head of state and the head of government, is elected by popular vote to a four-year term, and may serve for two terms. 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. 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 Louverture. 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 Fernández himself was reelected in 2008. In 2010 the PLD again won the congressional elections. Danilo Medina, the PLD candidate, was elected president in 2012, defeating former president Mejía, and in 2016, benefiting from a prosperous tourism sector, he was reelected. Luis Abinader Corona, the candidate of the Modern Revolutionary party (PRM; which formed in 2014 after a split in the PRD), won the 2020 presidential election. The PRM also won majorities in the National Congress.


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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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Dominican Republic


(República Dominicana), a state in the West Indies, located in the eastern part of the island of Haiti. It is bordered in the north by the Atlantic Ocean and in the south by the Caribbean Sea. In the east it is separated by the Mona Passage from Puerto Rico, and in the west it borders on the Republic of Haiti. The Dominican Republic has an area of 48,700 sq km and a population of 4.3 million (1970, estimate). Its capital is Santo Domingo. The country is divided into 26 provinces and a national district.

Constitution and government. The Dominican Republic is a bourgeois republic whose operative constitution was adopted in 1966. The head of state and the government is the president, who is elected to a four-year term by universal suffrage and may be reelected an unlimited number of times. The president appoints and removes ministers (state secretaries), has the right of legislative initiative and veto, and is the supreme commander in chief of the armed forces.

The highest legislative body is parliament (the National Congress), which consists of two houses—the Senate (27 members) and the Chamber of Deputies (74 members), elected by the people to four-year terms. The right to vote is enjoyed by all citizens who have reached the age of 18, with the exception of those who have been deprived of their civil rights or who are serving in the armed forces or police. Each province is headed by a governor appointed by the president. Elected municipal councils are the local governmental bodies.

The judicial system includes a supreme court, courts of appeal, courts of first instance, and courts of justices of the peace, which are located in each community. In addition, there is a special land court. The procurator general is in charge of the office of prosecution and the court police.

Natural features. The center of the Dominican Republic is occupied by the crystalline mountain range the Cordillera Central (Mount Duarte, 3,175 m), to the south of which extend the Central Plain and the Azua Lowland, drained by the San Juan River. Further southwest lies the deep depression around Lake Enriquillo, which is ringed by mountains. A lowland depression watered by the Yaque del Norte River in the west (Cibao Valley) and the Yuna River in the east (Vega Real Valley) separates the central mountains from the northern coastal limestone range, the Cordillera Septentrional (maximum elevation, 1,249 m). A broad lowland bounded on the north by the Cordillera Oriental (maximum elevation, 701 m) occupies the southeastern part of the country. Mineral resources include bauxite, nickel, gold, iron ore, salt, and gypsum.

The country has a tropical tradewind climate. The average monthly temperatures in the lowlands range from 25° to 27°C. Maximum annual precipitation on the windward northeastern slopes is 2,000 mm and on the leeward slopes and in inland regions, 1,000 mm. Tropical hurricanes are frequent. The humid mountain slopes have mixed evergreen tropical forests with valuable varieties of trees, such as mahogany and logwood, growing on cinnamon red lateritic soils and mountain cinnamon red soils. More arid regions have deciduous forests, savannahs, and shrub growths on red lateritic soils.


Population. About 70 percent of the inhabitants are Spanish-Negro mulattoes, about 15 percent are Negroes, and about 15 percent are whites (descendants of the Spanish colonists and later settlers from North America and European countries). The official language is Spanish, the dominant religion is Catholicism, and the official calendar is the Gregorian.

Between 1963 and 1970 the annual population growth was 3.6 percent. In 1969 more than 50 percent of the working population was employed in agriculture. Approximately two-thirds of the inhabitants are peasants who own little or no land, tenants who rent land under one-sided, enslaving conditions from the owners of large estates, and farm laborers who are exploited on plantations that belong primarily to US monopolies. In 1969, 20 percent of those able to work were unemployed. A considerable number of people work at handicrafts. Approximately 75 percent of the industrial workers are employed in the sugar refineries. The average population density is 89 persons per sq km (1970). Santo Domingo and the area along the northern coast are the most densely populated regions. Of the total populations, 40 percent is urban (1970). The most important cities (based on 1969 statistics) are Santo Domingo (655,000) and Santiago (107,000).

Historical survey. PRECOLONIAL AND COLONIAL PERIODS (TO THE MID-19TH CENTURY). Until the end of the 15th century the territory of the island of Haiti was inhabited by numerous Indian tribes, which were at the stage of clan structure. In 1492 a Spanish expedition under Columbus discovered the island and named it Hispaniola. The independent development of the Indians was disrupted, and most of them were exterminated. At the beginning of the 16th century the Spaniards established their own colony on Haiti—the audiencia of Santo Domingo. The colony’s gold mines, cattle ranches, and sugarcane plantations required a large labor force, and the colonists began to import slaves from Africa.

At the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century France and England also laid claims to the island of Hispaniola. Under the Treaty of Ryswick (1697) the western part of Hispaniola (the territory of present-day Haiti) was transferred to France and came to be known as St.-Domingue, while the eastern part (present-day Dominican Republic) remained under the rule of Spain. Prior to this time the history of the Dominican Republic had been indivisible from the history of the Haitian state.

By the end of the 18th century the population of Santo Domingo was approximately 115,000. Of the inhabitants, 65 percent were free mulattoes, 22 percent were whites, and 13 percent were Negro slaves. The main occupation was live-stock raising. The liberation struggle, which developed at the end of 1790 in the western part of the island, later encompassed Santo Domingo. However, as a result of the war that began in 1793 between France and Great Britain in alliance with Spain, the entire island fell into the hands of the French. The colonists were expelled in 1804, as a result of a popular uprising that had spread throughout the island. J. J. Dessalines proclaimed independence and restored the old Indian name of the island—Haiti.

Taking advantage of Great Britain’s intervention, Spain again captured Santo Domingo in 1808. In 1821, during the War for the Independence of the Spanish Colonies in America (1810-26), Santo Domingo succeeded in freeing itself from Spanish domination. The provisional constitution that was adopted in 1821 provided for unification with the Republic of Greater Colombia. However, by 1822, Santo Domingo had lost its independence and was included in the Republic of Haiti, which had been established in the western part of the island. It was only in 1844 that Santo Domingo achieved independence as the result of a successful anti-Haitian revolt, taking the name of the Dominican Republic.

AFTER THE PROCLAMATION OF INDEPENDENCE (1844-1916). In the late 1840’s and early 1850’s, Haiti continued its efforts to capture the Dominican Republic. France and the USA attempted to establish their own protectorates there, and in 1861, Spain again occupied the Dominican Republic by taking advantage of the latter’s economic and political weakness. A struggle for independence developed throughout the country, and in 1865 the Spanish yoke was cast off forever. By this time the population was approximately 125,000. A clique of large estate owners held power.

Between 1862 and 1866 the first American companies were established in the Dominican Republic. The USA, which had managed to put a naval base on Samaná Bay and which was attempting to annex the country, began sending warships to the Dominican Republic in the late 1860’s. US designs were opposed by Great Britain and France, who were pursuing their own expansionist goals. In 1869, Great Britain granted a large loan to the Dominican Republic. In 1893 the San Domingo Improvement Company, an American monopoly that was subsidizing Dominican banks and building railroads in the Dominican Republic, announced the conversion of all foreign loans and released bonds worth more than $2 million. By this time the main branch of the economy was sugar for export. Bourgeois relations began to develop in the country, but the process occurred slowly because of opposition from the large estate owners. Taking advantage of the fact that the Dominican Republic had ceased to make payments on its foreign debts because of manipulation by foreign capitalists, the USA sent warships to the Dominican Republic in 1904. In 1905 the US forced the Dominican Republic to accept a protocol, under which the American government took responsibility for the “regulation” of the foreign debt by establishing US control over the customs collections of the Dominican Republic and the distribution of customs receipts among the country’s creditors.

The establishment of financial control facilitated US intervention in the country’s political life. Some of the frequently replaced presidents (puppets of the USA) attempted to transform the Dominican Republic into an American protectorate or even to annex it to the USA. Indignation at US policy grew within the country. In April 1916 a revolt flared up. In order to suppress it, the USA sent detachments of marines, and on May 5, 1916, American troops occupied the Dominican Republic.

1916 THROUGH 1970. The USA established a military occupation regime in the Dominican Republic. Constitutional rights were abolished, and legislative and executive power was concentrated in the hands of a military governor. The occupying forces seized land, monopolized the Dominican Republic’s trade, and hindered the development of local industry in many ways. An anti-imperialist movement developed and became stronger particularly under the influence of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia. Throughout the country donations were collected to support the struggle against the occupation forces. Dockworkers’ and tobacco workers’ trade unions were organized. (The first trade unions had been founded at the end of the 19th century.) In 1921 a demonstration was held in the capital under the slogan of unconditional removal of the occupation regime, and in July 1924, American troops were recalled.

In October 1924 the US puppet H. Vasquez became president and obtained a new American loan of $10 million. American financial control was retained. (US control over the customs duties continued until 1940.) With the beginning of the world economic crisis of 1929-33 the price of Dominican sugar fell. As the economic situation became worse, the workers’ movement became more active. The first Communist groups were founded in the late 1920’s, and in 1928 the trade unions formed the Federation of Trade Unions of the Dominican Republic.

In May 1930, R. L. Trujillo took power. A representative of the interests of extreme right-wing reactionaries—the large landowners and bourgeoisie, who were closely linked with US imperialism—Trujillo concentrated all power in his own hands, establishing a regime of bloody political terror. He cruelly persecuted opposition forces and permitted activity by only one party—the Dominican Party, which he founded in 1931. The trade union movement was subjected to harsh repressive measures, and the Trujillo government pursued a policy of discrimination against immigrants from Haiti. As a result of a massacre organized by right-wing circles in the Dominican Republic in 1937, more than 10,000 Negro Haitians were killed on the Dominican-Haitian border. The Dominican Republic’s economy became increasingly colonial. US investments reached $49.1 million in 1940.

During World War II (1939-45) the Dominican Republic, supporting the US declaration of war in 1941, declared war on Japan, Germany, and Italy. The successes of Soviet armed forces in the course of the war against fascist Germany had a great influence on the upsurge in the national liberation struggle in Latin America and promoted the growth of the democratic movement in the Dominican Republic. In 1944 a party of Dominican Communists was founded—the Dominican Revolutionary Democratic Party. (In 1946 it took the name Dominican Popular Socialist Party, and since 1965 it has been known as the Dominican Communist Party.) In 1942, 1945, and 1946 there were major strikes by workers in the sugar industry and by dockworkers, and in 1946 the trade unions succeeded in satisfying a number of the workers’ economic demands. However, after the strikers’ victory harsh repressive measures were enforced. In June 1947 the Dominican Popular Socialist Party and all democratic organizations were officially banned.

However, repressive measures and terror could not extinguish the people’s protest, and the struggle against the Trujillo regime intensified. In 1956 an armed antigovernment uprising took place, but it was crushed by the army. In 1958 a number of officers took part in a conspiracy against the government, and in 1959 and 1960 there were new uprisings against Trujillo’s dictatorship. In August 1960, Trujillo handed over the office of president to his puppet, J. Balaguer, but in fact he continued as dictator. Popular resistance to the dictatorial regime grew, the crisis among the elite ruling clique intensified, and Trujillo was assassinated in May 1961 by a group of his former accomplices.

Prominent leaders of parties that had been banned during the Trujillo dictatorship returned to the country from abroad. The achievements of the Cuban Revolution, which was victorious in 1959, gave a powerful stimulus to the growth of the national liberation movement. Mass meetings and demonstrations were held throughout the country, demanding the establishment of a democratic regime. The power of President Balaguer became considerably weaker. Fearing that democratic forces might come to power, the USA sent warships to the shores of the Dominican Republic.

In December 1961 a so-called State Council was created as a “transitional form of government” from dictatorship to “a representative democracy.” In December 1962 the State Council held an election, which was won by J. Bosch, the leader of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (founded in 1939). Coming to power in February 1963, he adopted a number of democratic laws, permitting the activity of left-wing political parties and trade unions, introducing controls over sugar exports, and dissolving a one-sided, enslaving agreement with the USA concerning the construction of an oil refinery.

In April 1963 a constitution was adopted, which proclaimed agrarian reform and a number of democratic and political liberties, as well as the protection of state sovereignty. Measures directed at strengthening the national economy and weakening the country’s dependence on the USA caused alarm among local reactionaries and North American monopolies. On Sept. 25, 1963, a reactionary military group supported by the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency carried out a coup d’etat. The Bosch government was overthrown, parliament was dissolved, and the Constitution of 1963 was abolished. Power was seized by a junta triumvirate, which was soon headed by D. R. Cabral, who was closely linked with the USA. The junta declared a state of emergency, established a regime of the harshest terror, outlawed all democratic parties, smashed the trade unions that had been organized during Bosch’s presidency, and banned the progressive press.

A broad front was created to combat the triumvirate and restore democratic institutions. In an atmosphere of general dissatisfaction with the triumvirate, the Dominican Popular Socialist Party advanced the slogan “return Bosch and restore the Constitution of 1963.” By the end of April 1965 a revolutionary situation had developed in the Dominican Republic. On April 24 a number of military units rebelled against the triumvirate, led by the constitutionalist colonel F. Caamaño. The actions of the military were supported by broad strata of the population: progressive workers, the radical petite bourgeoisie, and progressive students and members of the intelligentsia.

The patriotic movement grew into a mass revolutionary struggle. During the armed conflict with reactionary forces a specific form of people’s power came into being—the so-called commandos, which included military constitutionalists, progressive workers, students, and the urban poor. On April 25 the insurgents captured the capital, and J. M. Ureña, who had been president of the Chamber of Deputies before the coup d’etat in 1963, was proclaimed provisional president. Right-wing groups led by General E. Wessin y Wessin formed the bulwark of the reaction. With the support of the USA the counterrevolutionaries formed a military junta.

In violation of the charter of the Organization of American States (OAS), the UN, and rules of international law, the USA began an open, armed intervention against the Dominican Republic on Apr. 28, 1965. From that time the struggle of the Dominican people became one of national resistance. On May 4, 1965, Colonel Caamaño was elected provisional president. The patriotic constitutionalist troops led by him waged a heroic struggle for democracy, liberty, and independence against the interventionist troops and local reactionaries. After the landing of major contingents of American troops (approximately 42,000 men) the ratio of forces changed abruptly, and the constitutionalists were compelled to go over to the defensive.

Striving to “legalize” its aggression, in May 1965 the USA pushed through the OAS a resolution creating an “inter-American peace force,” which was sent to the Dominican Republic. (The peace force consisted almost entirely of US troops, an insignificant number of troops from certain Central American countries, and token contingents from Brazil and Paraguay.) In August the representatives of the constitutionalists, the military junta, and the mediation commission of the OAS signed the Dominican Act of Truce and a supplementary Institutional Act. On the basis of these documents, H. G. Godoy, a representative of banking circles closely associated with US financial monopolies, became provisional president of the Dominican Republic on Sept. 3, 1965, and subsequently formed a provisional government.

The truce and its supplementary document laid down the conditions for stopping the conflict between the constitutionalists and the military junta. The provisional government was charged with immediately beginning negotiations on the conditions and dates of the withdrawal of foreign troops from the Dominican Republic. However, with the accession to power of the provisional government, the political situation was not normalized. With the support of the interventionists and the acquiescence of local authorities the reactionary forces unleashed a campaign of terror and repressive measures against the patriots. Colonel Caamaño and other prominent leaders of the constitutionalists were appointed to diplomatic posts abroad, which in fact signified their exile.

On June 1, 1966, parliamentary and presidential elections were held under the military occupation of the country by the “inter-American peace forces.” J. Balaguer won the presidential election. Demonstrations against the presence of occupation troops in the country continued. In September 1966 the USA announced the withdrawal of its troops from the Dominican Republic. However, a large number of military personnel, representatives of the Central Intelligence Agency, the United States Information Service, and other US organizations remained in the country in the guise of specialists and experts. In the elections of May 1970 almost 70 percent of the voters either voted against Balaguer or abstained. Nonetheless, Balaguer managed to hold on to the presidency.

The progressive, patriotic forces of the Dominican Republic are opposed to the existing regime, and the movement of resistance to the reactionary dictatorship continues to grow stronger and broader.


Political parties and trade unions. The Reformist Party (Partido Reformista) was founded in 1964. The ruling party, it represents the interests of those associated with US imperialist circles—the landowners, the bourgeoisie, and a part of the reactionary military group. The Dominican Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Dominicano), which was founded abroad in 1939, unites representatives of the petite urban and village bourgeoisie, progressive intelligentsia, and students. The principal opposition party, it argues from antimilitaristic antioligarchic points of view and favors democratic reforms. The Dominican Communist Party (Partido Comunista Dominicano) was founded in 1944 and was called the Dominican Revolutionary Democratic Party until 1946. It was known as the Dominican Popular Socialist Party from 1946 to 1965, and in 1965 it took its present name. The National Conference of Free Workers is a trade union association. There are several other political parties and trade unions in the Dominican Republic.


Economy. The Dominican Republic is an economically underdeveloped, agrarian country. Agriculture provides about 40 percent of the national income and about 90 percent of its export receipts. Industrial development is insignificant. The gross national product per capita is low—$275 (1971). The dominant position in the economy is occupied by US monopolies, whose direct capital investments in 1967 totaled $150 million. American capital is invested in sugar production (the Romana Company) and in mining bauxite (the Alcoa Company) and other minerals. Most of the banana plantations belong to the American United Fruit Company.

AGRICULTURE. Agriculture is characterized by a combination of very large estates and plantations and tiny peasant farms. Sharecropping is widespread, encompassing 40 percent of all farms. About half of the farms consist of less than 1 hectare (ha) of land, and one-fourth of the land is held by 1 percent of the property-owners. Agrarian reform is proceeding very slowly: between 1962 and 1969 only 2 percent of those needing land received it. In 1960 farmlands made up 39.7 percent of the country’s territory, of which 21.9 percent was either plowed or planted with fruit and 17.8 percent was meadows and pastures. Forests accounted for 45.7 percent of the land. The best lands are occupied by plantations of export crops. The cultivated lands are located in the north, in the Cibao and Vega Real valleys, along the southern coast, and on the Central Plain.

The principal export crop is sugarcane, which covers 152,000 ha, primarily in the southeastern lowlands, and yields about 1 million tons of raw sugar per year. Among the other crops the most important are bananas (13,000 ha located in the northwestern part of the Cibao Valley and in the Vega Real Valley; yielding 250,000 tons in 1969), coffee (plantations located in the southeastern lowlands and in the eastern part of the Vega Real Valley; yield 45,000 tons in 1969), cacao beans (planted in the Vega Real Valley, the southwestern Cibao Valley, and along the eastern coast; yield, 30,000 tons in 1970), and tobacco (grown around the city of Santiago and in the southwestern lowland). In 1970 crops grown for domestic consumption included rice (82,000 ha, 200,000 tons), corn (31,000 ha, 50,000 tons), cassava (14,000 ha, 170,000 tons in 1969), and sweet potatoes and yams (10,000 ha, 86,000 tons in 1969). Livestock-raising (pasture methods) is well developed. According to 1970 UN data, in 1969-70 livestock raised in the Dominican Republic included 1.1 million head of cattle, 1.33 million head of pigs, and 760,000 goats. In the mountains valuable timber is prepared for marketing.

INDUSTRY. There are only a few branches of industry. Moreover, the principal enterprises are controlled by US capital. Food-processing and tobacco-curing enterprises provide about 70 percent of the production value of the processing industry. The most highly developed branch of industry is food processing, particularly sugar refining (886,000 tons in 1969).

After World War II the mining industry became more important. In the southwest near the Haitian border the American Alcoa Company mines bauxite (more than 1 million tons in 1971), all of which goes to the USA. In the central part of the country in the Atillo region a small amount of iron ore is extracted (82,000 tons). In 1967 the Falconbridge Dominican Company, which is controlled by Canadian and US capital, began to mine nickel ore for a nickel complex, which was under construction in 1972 on the southern coast.

The rated capacity of electric power plants, which operate primarily on imported fuel, is 273,000 kilowatts, and 0.9 billion kilowatt-hours of electric power were produced in 1969. In addition to the 16 sugar refineries controlled by the government and capital of the USA, there are other food-processing enterprises. Among the country’s other industries are cement (391,000 tons in 1969), tobacco, chemicals (including nylon), sawmilling, and furniture. In 1972 construction of an oil refinery was begun near the city of San Cristobal. Most of the enterprises of the processing industry are located in the cities of Santo Domingo, San Cristóbal, Santiago, Barahona, and La Romana.

TRANSPORTATION. There are 1,200 km of railroads and 8,846 km of highways, including 4,700 km paved with asphalt (1968). As of 1969, there were 50,600 motor vehicles. The principal seaports are Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata. The merchant fleet totals 10,000 gross registered tons (1967). There is an international airport at Punta Caucedo.

FOREIGN TRADE. The principal exports are sugar (51 percent of the export value in 1969), coffee (11.5 percent), cacao (10.9 percent), bauxite (8 percent), tobacco (5 percent), and fruits. The basic imports are foodstuffs, machinery and tools, chemicals, cotton fabrics, and electrical equipment. The country’s principal trading partners are the USA (87 percent of the exports and 55 percent of the imports in 1967), Japan, and the Federal Republic of Germany. The country’s foreign state debt increased from $19.3 million in 1960 to $232.1 million in 1969. The monetary unit is the peso (1 peso = US $1 [November 1971]).


Armed forces. The Dominican Republic’s armed forces, consisting of the army, air force, and navy, number approximately 19,000 men (1970). The supreme commander in chief is the president. The army (approximately 12,000 men) includes four infantry brigades, an artillery regiment, an antiaircraft artillery regiment, and intelligence, engineering, and communications units. In addition to infantry weapons and artillery, the country has several French-made tanks. The air force (approximately 3,500 men) has about 110 airplanes of obsolete design. The navy (approximately 4,000 men) has five patrol boats, six patrol cutters, a coast guard ship, and several auxiliary ships and vessels. In addition to the armed forces there is a gendarmerie (about 10,000 men).

Health. In 1969 the birthrate was 35.9 per 1,000 inhabitants, and the total mortality rate was 6.6 per 1,000 inhabitants. The infant mortality rate was 72.6 per 1,000 live births (1968). Among the most widespread diseases are bacterial dysentery (10.9 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 1967), leprosy (about 3,000 cases), amebiasis (14 percent of the population infected), ancyclostomiasis, wuchereriasis, yaws, and syphilis. Among the noninfectious diseases the most widespread are those caused by malnutrition.

An insignificant part of the population is provided with medical care that is covered by social insurance. In 1968 there were about 2,000 physicians in the country (one physician per 1,900 inhabitants). There were 75 pharmacists, about 2,200 nurses, and approximately 1,000 assistant nurses in the state service. In 1967 the country had 460 hospitals with 11,300 beds (2.9 beds per 1,000 inhabitants), including 98 state hospitals with 8,300 beds. In 1968, 7.4 percent of the state budget was spent on public health.


Education. In 1951 a law was adopted on the compulsory education of children from age seven through 14, but it has not been fully implemented. More than 50 percent of the adult population is illiterate. In 1954 the country signed a concordat with the Vatican, under which instruction in the schools must be based on the principles of the Catholic religion. The Catholic Church is guaranteed the freedom to organize any kind of educational institution. At age seven children enter elementary school, in which the term of instruction is six years in the cities and from three to six years in rural areas. After completing the six-year elementary school, the child may enter a two-year intermediate school. A full secondary education is provided by the four-year lycées, which offer instruction in a variety of subjects. After graduating from the lycée and passing examinations, the student is awarded a bachelor’s degree that permits him to enroll in a university. During the academic year 1968-69 approximately 645,000 pupils were enrolled in elementary schools and 90,400 in intermediate schools and lycées.

Vocational training is offered at lower vocational schools, which give one to four years of instruction on the basis of the six-year elementary school curriculum, as well as at secondary vocational-technical schools, which provide three to five years of instruction. During the academic year 1968-69 more than 2,000 students were enrolled in vocational training schools. Teachers for elementary schools are trained at three-year teachers colleges (in the academic year 1968-69 the enrollment was 550). Teachers for the intermediate schools and lycées study at two higher teachers colleges for three years or at the universities.

The largest and most important higher educational institution is the University of Santo Domingo, one of the oldest universities in America (founded in 1538 and reorganized in 1914). Among its schools and faculties are the humanities, philosophy and teacher-training, law, medicine, pharmacy and chemistry, dentistry, engineering and architecture, economics, agronomy, and veterinary science. The university library has 188,700 volumes. In 1962 a Catholic university was opened in Santiago, and in 1966 the National University was founded in Santo Domingo. During the academic year 1970-71 there were 15,700 students enrolled at these higher educational institutions.

Scholarly research is limited basically to problems of history and art. In 1931 the Academy of History was established. The study of the natural sciences is still in the early stages of development. Research is conducted at the higher educational institutions.

Santo Domingo has a National Museum (founded in 1927) and a National Gallery of Fine Arts (1943).


Press, radio, and television. By the beginning of 1972, 20 periodical publications were being issued, eight of which were daily newspapers. The largest newspapers, all of which are published in Santo Domingo, include El Cáribe, a daily founded in 1948, with a circulation of more than 40,000, El National, a daily founded in 1966, with a circulation of more than 20,000, and Listin Diario, a daily founded in 1889, with a circulation of about 15,000. Also important are Prensa Libre,a daily founded in 1962, with a circulation of 5,000, and El Sol, founded in 1971, with a circulation of 5,000. El Popular,founded in 1946 as the organ of the Dominican Communist Party, is published underground.

In 1971 the country had 90 radio stations, one of them government-owned. Broadcasts are in Spanish. The official, government-owned radio and television station is Radio-Television Dominicana. Television broadcasts are carried on three channels. The largest privately-owned stations are Radio Commercial, Radio Continental, Radio Aora, and Radio Cristal. In 1971 there were three television stations operating in Santo Domingo. The largest privately owned station is HIN, which broadcasts television programs on two channels. The Central Board of Telecommunications, which is controlled by the government, is located in Santo Domingo.


Literature. Dominican literature has developed primarily in Spanish. Its founder is considered to be F. M. del Monte (1819-99), the author of patriotic poems in the neoclassical style. In their quest for originality Dominican writers turned to observations on the island’s native inhabitants. A. Angulo Guridi (1822-1906) published the novella Love of the Indians in 1843, and his brother J. Angulo Guridi (1816-84), used Indian folklore motifs in his poems. Indian subject matter remained in the forefront during the second half of the 19th century. Defense of the “natural man” in the conventional romantic spirit and patriotic motifs characterized the creative work of J. J. Pérez (1845-1900) and the poet Salomé Urena (1850-97). An effort to bring the conventional poetic language closer to the language of the people distinguished the poems of A. B. Pellerano Castro (1865-1916). Manuel de Jésus Galván (1834-1911) was the author of the first Dominican novel (Enriquillo, 1882), which was based on the history of the conquest of the West Indies by the Spaniards and was permeated with compassion for the Indians. The influence of modernism, which penetrated the literature of the Dominican Republic from other Latin American countries at the beginning of the 20th century, was revealed in the poetry of O. Bazil (1884-1946) and in A. Lugo’s poetic miniatures in prose (1870-1952).

The tyranny of dictators and the occupation of the Dominican Republic by US troops (1916-24) led to the strengthening of motifs of opposition in the country’s literature. In the novel Blood (1914), T. M. Cestero portrayed the despotic regime of President U. Heureaux, and in the novel The Inquisitors (1924), O. Reid (born 1899) depicted the US intervention.

Trujillo’s dictatorship caused many writers to emigrate. The books that they created abroad reflected the people’s growing indignation (for example, the novels of A. F. Requena (1908-52)—Enemies of the Land (1936), Path of Fire (1941), and Cemetery Without Crosses (1949). In the novel Excess Profit (1939), R. Marrero Aristy (born 1913) told of the exploitation of farm laborers on the sugar plantations. The short stories of the prose writer and statesman J. Bosch (born 1909) are devoted to the life of the Dominican peasantry. Social protest permeates the poems of H. Inchaustegui Cabral (born 1912), Pedro Miro (born 1913), and the most important Dominican poet, M. del Cabral (born 1907). Cabral is the author of the book of poems Unlucky Tropic (1941) and the lyrical epic poem Good Old Mon (1943), in which he develops folk traditions, making use of Negro folklore.


Architecture and art. Indian art developed on the territory of the Dominican Republic before the 16th century and included painted and figured ceramics, wooden articles, and wooden and stone idols. In the late 15th and early 16th century the Spanish conquerors founded the first cities, including Santo Domingo, where during the first half of the 16th century stone fortress-like structures were built in the late Spanish Gothic and early Renaissance styles (for example, the palace of D. Columbus, the cathedral, and the arsenal). The Spanish colonists also built two-story residences with interior courtyards. Individual examples of painting, sculpture, and carving have been preserved from the colonial period. After a long period of stagnation, the construction of new buildings was undertaken in the 20th century. Districts planned on the basis of US architectural models were also built (for example, the fairgrounds [La Feria] in Santo Domingo, mid-20th century).

At the beginning of the 20th century A. R. Urdanata, L. Desangles, and H. Garcia Godoy painted historical pictures, portraits, and landscapes. Contemporary painting in the Dominican Republic has been influenced by European and American modernist trends, including cubism, expressionism, and abstract art. These influences are found in the works of D. Suro, J. Colson, and G. Hernandez Ortega. Realistic national images have been created in works by S. Vos y Hill, A. Bonilla, J. O. Morell, and D. Suro.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Dominican Republic

Official name: Dominican Republic

Capital city: Santo Domingo

Internet country code: .do

Flag description: A centered white cross that extends to the edges divides the flag into four rectangles - the top ones are blue (hoist side) and red, and the bottom ones are red (hoist side) and blue; a small coat of arms featuring a shield supported by an olive branch (left) and a palm branch (right) is at the center of the cross; above the shield a blue ribbon displays the motto, Dios, Patria, Liber­tad (God, Fatherland, Liberty), and below the shield, Republica Dominicana appears on a red ribbon

National bird: “Cigua Palmera”

National flower: Flor de la Caoba

Geographical description: Caribbean, eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of Haiti

Total area: 18,704 sq. mi. (48,442 sq. km.)

Climate: Tropical maritime; little seasonal temperature variation; seasonal variation in rainfall

Nationality: noun: Dominican(s); adjective: Dominican

Population: 9,365,818 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Mixed African and European 73%, Euro­pean 16%, African 11%

Languages spoken: Spanish

Religions: Roman Catholic 95%, other 5%

Legal Holidays:

Birthday of Juan Pablo DuarteJan 26
Christmas DayDec 25
Constitution DayNov 6
Day of the Virgin of AltagraciaJan 21
Day of the Virgin of MercedesSep 24
EpiphanyJan 6
Good FridayApr 22, 2011; Apr 6, 2012; Mar 29, 2013; Apr 18, 2014; Apr 3, 2015; Mar 25, 2016; Apr 14, 2017; Mar 30, 2018; Apr 19, 2019; Apr 10, 2020; Apr 2, 2021; Apr 15, 2022; Apr 7, 2023
Independence DayFeb 27
Independence Restoration DayAug 16
Labor DayMay 1
New Year's DayJan 1
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.

Dominican Republic

a republic in the Caribbean, occupying the eastern half of the island of Hispaniola: colonized by the Spanish after its discovery by Columbus in 1492; gained independence from Spain in 1821. It is generally mountainous, dominated by the Cordillera Central, which rises over 3000 m (10 000 ft.), with fertile lowlands. Language: Spanish. Religion: Roman Catholic majority. Currency: peso. Capital: Santo Domingo. Pop.: 8 873 000 (2004 est.). Area: 48 441 sq. km (18 703 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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