The Dominican Republic is located on the Eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. When Christopher Columbus discovered it in December of 1492, on his first voyage to the 'new world', it was inhabited by the Taino Indians. They were a peaceful people who were soon enslaved by the Spaniards and virtually wiped out within twenty-five years.
Boasting some of the oldest buildings in the western world, the capital city of Santo Domingo was founded in 1496 by Columbus' brother and rapidly became a seat of power and influence with the Spanish royal court. The Spaniards soon imported African slaves to work their gold mines and plantations. During this time, as the gold began to play out, the Spanish focus moved to Mexico. The few thousand settlers who stayed behind depended on agriculture and piracy.
In 1697, the western third of island, what is now Haiti, became a French possession. Using hundreds of thousands of African slaves to work their sugar plantations, the French built the richest colony in the world. A slave uprising in 1791 led to the abolition of slavery in Haiti. The resulting peace in their own province allowed the French to concentrate on taking over the Spanish side of the island where they ruled until 1809. After the Spanish settlers declared independence in 1821, the Haitians again invaded and took control for the next 22 years.
Juan Pablo Duarte, a Spanish aristocrat, formed an underground resistance group called "La Trinitaria" which finally won independence for the eastern side of the island on February 27, 1844. The Dominican Republic was still torn by conflicts with Haiti, civil war, and general political unrest until the 1916 military intervention by the United States established a democratically elected government. Unfortunately, the military leader supported by the U.S., Raphael Leonidas Trujilo, took control and ruled as a repressive dictator until his assassination in 1961. Turmoil reigned once again until Lyndon Johnson sent the U.S. marines back in to restore order in 1965. Since that time, the Dominican Republic has had an orderly progression of elected rulers.
From the 870 miles of white sand beaches to the 10,000 foot high mountain peaks, the Dominican Republic has something for everyone. The country is divided into six regions and 29 provinces spread over nine ecological zones. This diversity makes it one of the most exciting tourist areas in the Caribbean. From bird-watching to wind surfing, the Dominican Republic can provide entertainment on every level.
As the oldest city in the western hemisphere, Santo Domingo offers a wealth of historical sites and native street vendors alongside modern hotels and restaurants. Tours to the interior are readily available and the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the Dominican peso is extremely favorable to tourists. Whether you're interest focuses on Carnival or sunbathing, golf or baseball, architecture or mountain vistas, you will find it in Santo Domingo.
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