The Dominican Republic is known for both its historical significance and its tourism industry. In today's world, it is also known for its involvement in the drug trade and human trafficking. Drug traffickers use the Dominican Republic as a transhipment point for drugs such as ecstasy, which originate in the Netherlands and Belgium, or narcotics from Colombia on their way to the United States and Canada.
Christopher Columbus discovered the island of Hispaniola on his first voyage in 1492 and Spanish has remained the primary language since then. Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic, is the oldest city in the New World. Spain recognized French control over the western portion of the island in 1697 until, with a slave revolt in 1804, this area became known as the country of Haiti. Haitians gained control of the rest of the island, then known as Santo Domingo, until 1844, when the Dominican Republic gained its independence as a country. Since then, the country has surrendered to the Spanish Empire, regained independence, followed the rule of a dictator and converted to a democratic government.
The Dominican Republic occupies around two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, the second largest island in the Caribbean after Cuba. The island is located to the north of the Caribbean Sea and to the south of the Atlantic Ocean. According to National Geographic, this country is the most visited destination in the Caribbean, due to the warm and tropical climate it experiences year-round, the ocean views and the lush inland forests, filled with waterfalls.
Notable People and Places
Fashion designer Oscar de la Renta was born in the Dominican Republic. Additionally, another person with ties to the country is Felix Sanchez, an athlete who won the gold medal in the 400m hurdles at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. While Sanchez was born in New York City, both his parents came from the Dominican Republic.
The Project for Public Spaces named Parque Colon, also known as Colon Park, one of its great spaces. The park consists of Santo Domingo Cathedral and the Consistorial Palace. The cathedral has stood since the sixteenth century, the oldest in the New World.
Religion and Death
Most of the inhabitants of the Dominican Republic are Roman Catholic as a result of the influence of Spanish explorers. The practices surrounding death and burial in the Dominican Republic are unique to the country and do not necessarily reflect Roman Catholic traditions. When a person has died, people remove the body to prepare it for the funeral and burial. Before burial, they return it to the home of the family so that loved ones may pay their respects to the deceased and the surviving family members. In addition to this, Dominicans do not embalm bodies before burial.
The Dominican Republic has a unique divorce law that allows a couple to legally dissolve their marriage without requiring either party to be present. Furthermore, the process can be completed in as little as one hour. Because the law is so unique, other municipalities may not recognize the divorce as legal.
Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina ruled the country as president and then military strongman from 1930 until his assassination in 1961. During the personality cult that developed around him, the highest peak in the Caribbean was renamed Pico Trujillo. After his death, the peak was named Pico Duarte, in honor of Juan Pablo Duarte, one of the Dominican Republic's founding fathers.