Dominican Republic


If we have a look at the Calendar of the Dominican Republic month by month, we can find a lot of national holidays inside. We may think that Dominican people are keen on holidays, but we can later realise that this country has its irregular past. Celebrations, such as Juan Pablo Duarte’s birthday, the day of „Restoration” refers to the stormy past where now only resigned, calm trope exists. The Dominican Republic was discovered by Christopher Columbus on 5th December 1492 during his first voyage towards the „New World”. At that time „La Espenada” (as it was called by Columbus) was called “Quisqueya” because of Taino Indians.

The number of inhabitants at that time was about 600000, the Tainos (meaning ’good people’) behaved in a calm and friendly way to Columbus and his crew. Columbus himself also behaved in the same way towards the island and its inhabitants and he wrote the following into his diary: „It is a wonderful island, like a Paradise with high mountains, woody valleys and rivers.” Christopher Columbus’s admiration for „La Espanola” coincided with his crew that is the rivers of the island are valuable gold sources and because of this the first European-founded colonies or settlements were established. The first one was La Isabella, founded in 1493. Due to the first settlers’ appearance the Taino Indians soon started to become slaves and in the meantime the European settlers started to settle in African slaves to achieve their goals. Bartalomé, Christopher Columbus’s brother became the governor of „La Espanola” island and in 1496 he established a city called Santa Domingo. The capital soon became the symbol of the Spanish royal crown and it turned into an influential and powerful city. Despite this fact in 1515 the Spanish settlers realised that the source of gold were running out. As the news said, Herman Cortes discovered some silver quarries in Mexico. On hearing the news, the majority of the Spanish settlers who lived in Santo Domingo departed to Mexico leaving just few settlers behind on the island. Because of the primary influence originated from Columbus and the Spanish ships navigating among the richest Spanish settlements of the American continent, the settlers were able to become self-supporting, they had their own food, leather and anything necessary for their lives.

The pirates of the Caribbean also wrote their history at that time. “La Espanola” island was under the influence of Spain until 1697 when the French gained the influence of the northern part of the island. (In 1804 the Haiti Republic was established from the northern part of the island) This part of the island was called “Saint Dominique” by the French, making an even richer settlement due to its sugar cane cultivation. They forced slaves settled down from Africa to work on their plantations.

In 1791 a slave revolt took place in Saint Dominique. After losing some territory and slaves and years full of worries, in 1794 the French abolished slavery. Saint Dominique became a calm place and the French could concentrate their forces on weakening the Spanish power on the eastern part of the island, as they had lost their power over the island. In 1809 on the eastern part of the island Spanish power started playing an important role again. The Spanish inhabitants declared their independence in 1821 but some weeks later after the action of the Haiti army they took Santo Domingo under their control. During the next 22 years the whole island got under the influence and power of Haiti. In spite of this, some of the Spanish who had been influential earlier but lost their control, formed a resistant group under the leadership of Juan Pablo Duarte, also known as “La Trinitania” (patriot).

Later, due to their attacks, the Haiti army was forced to leave. On 27th February 1844 the eastern part of the island declared its independence using the name of the “Dominican Republic”. During the next 70 years there were some civil wars because of dissatisfaction led by the strongest Dominican revolt groups.

The resistant were searching for the support of Haiti, although even for just little time power got back to the Spanish. ( Celebration of the “Day of Restoration” (Dia del Restauracion)is on the same day as the date of the beginning of the civil war for restoration which gave back independence to the Dominican Republic in 1865).

Years of errors and mistakes caused northern American occupation in 1900.The US army occupied the country in 1916 and took it under their control until they elected the first independent and democratic Dominican government in 1924. Despite all this, during the American occupation, the leader of the Dominican army, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo used his position and leading power to prevent the government’s restoration intentions and get the power in a dictatorial form. His rule lasted until 1961 when Truillo’s car was attacked on his way home and he died in a duel. (30th May 1961, it is a public holiday even today and this part of the motorway way named „Avendia 30 de Mayo”.

Later, after Trujjio’s death, the political agonization went on. Inside the Dominican Republic a type of political fight started with well-known people and as a consequence, in 1965 Lyndon B. Johnson ordered the part of the US Navy to occupy the country. In 1966, the election which was not free from cheating gave the opportunity to Dr. Joaquim Balaguer to get the gain the prime minister’s position representing PRSC, that is the Partido Reformista Social Cristiano. This government was in power until 1978 when Antonio Guzmán was elected in the name of PRD (Partido Revolucionário Dominicano) Guzmán died in 1982 and the Dominican chose a new leader from the same party. Balaguer was elected again in 1986 during an election which was now free from cheating and he played this role until 1996 when Dr. Leonel Fernandez Reyna, the representative of PLD, Partido Liberacion Dominicana took the power over. His governance lasted until 2000 and then Hipolito Mejila took over his place.