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Dominican Republic Facts for Kids

The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries. Both by area and population, the Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean nation (after Cuba), with 18,704 sq mi and an estimated 10 million people.

  • Christopher Columbus landed on it in 1492, and it became the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas, namely Santo Domingo, the country’s capital and Spain’s first capital in the New World.
  • Santo Domingo can boast of many firsts in the Americas, including the first cathedral, and castle, both in the Ciudad Colonial area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • After three centuries of Spanish rule, with French and Haitian interludes, the country became independent in 1821 under the rule of a former colonial judge who maintained the system of slavery and limited rights for the mostly mulatto and black population.
  • Victorious in the Dominican War of Independence in 1844, Dominicans experienced mostly internal strife, and also a brief return to Spanish rule, over the next 72 years.
  • The United States occupation of 1916–1924, and a subsequent calm and prosperous six-year period under Horacio Vásquez Lajara, were followed by the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina until 1961.
  • The Dominican Republic has the ninth largest economy in Latin America and the second largest economy in the Caribbean and Central American region.
  • Nevertheless, unemployment, government corruption, and inconsistent electric service remain major Dominican problems.
  • In this mountainous land is located the Caribbean’s highest mountain, Pico Duarte, as is Lake Enriquillo, the Caribbean’s largest lake and lowest elevation.
  • However, Toussaint Louverture’s lieutenants, and yellow fever, succeeded in expelling the French again from Saint-Domingue, which in 1804 the rebels made independent as the Republic of Haiti.
  • Many whites fled Santo Domingo for Puerto Rico and Cuba (both still under Spanish rule), Venezuela, and elsewhere.
  • U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant desired a naval base at Samaná and also a place for resettling newly freed Blacks.
  • The sugar industry was modernized, and the country attracted foreign workers and immigrants, both from the Old World and the New.
  • U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt sought to prevent European intervention, largely to protect the routes to the future Panama Canal, as the canal was already under construction.
  • He made a small military intervention to ward off the European powers, proclaimed his famous Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, and in 1905 obtained Dominican agreement for U.S. administration of Dominican customs, then the chief source of income for the Dominican government.
  • A provisional president was chosen, and later the same year relatively free elections put former president (1899–1902) Juan Isidro Jimenes Pereyra back in power.
  • Much of the land in the Enriquillo Basin is below sea level, with a hot, arid, desert-like environment.
  • The first of three, late-20th century emigration waves began in 1961, after the assassination of dictator Trujillo, due to fear of retaliation by Trujillo’s allies, and political uncertainty in general.
  • The typical cuisine is quite similar to what can be found in other Latin American countries, but many of the names of dishes are different.