Dominican Republic (DR)
Location: The Dominican Republic is located in the Caribbean, on the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of Haiti.
Area: Total: 48,730 sq km; Land: 48,380 sq km; Water: 350 sq km.
Climate: The climate is considered tropical maritime, meaning it has little seasonal temperature variation and seasonal variation in rainfall.
Natural resources: Nickel, bauxite, gold, and silver.
Land use: Arable land: 21.08%; permanent crops: 9.92%; Other: 69%.
8,721,594 (2002 estimate).
Age structure: 0-14 years: 33.7% (male 1,503,344; female 1,439,157); 15-64 years: 61.3% (male 2,720,308; female 2,621,539); 65 years and over: 5% (male 206,556; female 230,690).
Ethnic groups: White 16%, black 11%, mixed 73%.
Religion: Roman Catholic: 95%.
Literacy (meaning age 15 and over can read and write): Total population: 82.1%;
male: 82%; female: 82.2%.
Gross Domestic product (GDP): $50 billion.
GDP per capita: $5,800.
GDP – composition by sector: Agriculture: 11%; industry: 34%; services: 55%.
Gross National Product: $14 billion.
GNP per capita: $1,750.
External Debt: $5.4 billion.
Economic aid received: $239.6 million.
Labor force: 2.3 million – 2.6 million.
Unemployment rate: 15%.
Industries: Tourism, sugar processing, ferronickel and gold mining, textiles, cement, tobacco.
Unique Cultural Features of Society in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic’s (DR) modern society features cultural elements that are mainly Spanish in origin (Connelly, Doggett, 2002). Taino influence is limited to certain areas and vocabulary words, while the African influence has been minimized.
There is a preference in DR society for light skin and Caucasian racial features. Dominicans perceive themselves as descendants of the island’s Indians and the Spanish, rather than accepting their African heritage. While most Dominicans are a mix of black and white, or black and Spanish, the African part if largely neglected.
Still, the African background of the DR is apparent in its music and art. The drum beats of the Meringue and the Tipico are distinctly African.
Another unique aspect of the DR’s culture is its architecture, which includes the meticulously preserved colonial Spanish buildings of Santo Domingo, the first European city of the Americas, and the brightly colored farmhouses of the country. The DR is full of color and style, which makes it a great place for sightseeing.
Major Economic and Political developments
The Dominican Republic was once ruled by Spain. However, in 1697, Spain recognized French dominion over the western third of the island, which subsequently became Haiti. The remainder of the island, which is known as Santo Domingo, tried to gain independence in 1821, but was conquered and ruled by the Haitians for two decades. In 1844, this potion of the land acquired independence as the Dominican Republic in 1844.
For more than a century, the Dominican Republic was largely unsettled and unrepresentative. However, in 1966, when Joaquin Balaguer became president, the rule of the country changed. Balaguer was in power for three decades until international reaction to flawed elections ended his reign. Since then, regular competitive elections have been held to elect the president. As a result of this improved political structure, the DR economy has had one of the fastest growth rates in the area.
In the past, the Dominican Republic has been mainly dependent on the export of sugar and other agricultural products. However, in recent years, the country has transformed into the most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean. Tourism is now one of the country’s most important sources of foreign exchange.
These social, economic and political changes have had a tremendous impact in shaping the DR’s modern society. While most of the DR’s residents are people of mixed European and African origins, Western influence is strong force in the area and is evident the colonial buildings of the capital, Santo Domingo, as well as in the country’s art and literature. The African heritage dominates the music.
While the DR remains one of the most economically challenged countries in the Caribbean, there is a tremendous gap between the rich and the poor. The richest people are the white descendants of Spanish settlers, owning the majority of the land, while the poorest are the people of African descent. In between, the mixed race majority dominates most of the DR’s commerce.
Major Change in the DR’s Society
As a result of tourism, remittances, construction, telecommunications, and the free-zone assembly plants, the DR is becoming largely influenced by globalization, leading to incredible economic growth rates.
The DR’s capital, once a sleepy rural town, is now a booming metropolis with middle-class suburbs (McMillan, 2002). The Caribbean’s largest shopping mall is being developed in the working-class neighborhoods, east of the Ozama River. Several major new construction projects are bringing new apartments, office complexes, and manufacturing plants to the DR. And tourism is booming.
These changes are consequently changing the lives of Dominicans throughout the country. Rather than sewing articles of clothes, which is costly and time consuming, the village seamstresses are buying clothes at the Haitian border to resell at a higher profit. Peasant farms are being sold to wealthy horse-farmers or to large corporations for larger-scale farming. Small farms are unable to compete with these mass-production farms that use machinery. Many small farmers have given up on farming and gone to work in the factories. Others have opened businesses in the cities and villages.
In addition, many restaurants have been put out of business because of the growth of fast food. The traditional siesta hour is no longer a necessity because it is easier and more efficient to grab some fast food rather than taking the lengthy siesta break for lunch and a quick nap.
On the positive side, Dominicans now have access to technology and greater amounts of information. Telephone lines have extended across the DR, expanding communication. Computers with Internet access are now seen in many private houses, schools and public libraries.
More and more people can afford cars, and the quality of highways and driving conditions has vastly improved. Entertainment now includes more movie theaters, movie rentals, bowling alleys, and concerts.
Globalization has transformed the Dr. And is continuing to do so every day. The rest of the world is influencing the culture and the new economy is building a name for the DR in the global environment.
Connolly, Joyce, Doggett, Scott. Lonely Planet Dominican Republic and Haiti (Dominican Republic and Haiti, 2nd Ed). Lonely Planet, 2002.
McMillan, Carol. Globalization and the Dominican Republic: Transformations in Everyday Life. Coyote Magazine, May 22, 2002.
World Factbook 2002. Dominican Republic. Retrieved online on 3/18/03 at http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/dr.html.
Source: World Factbook 2002. Dominican Republic. Retrieved online on 3/18/03 at http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/dr.html.
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