Dominican Republic: Location, History, Size, Population, & Government

About the location, history, size, population, and government in the country of Dominican Republic.



Location--The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern 2/3 of Hispaniola, a Caribbean island lying between Cuba and Puerto Rico. (Haiti occupies the western end of the island.) Florida is 600 mi. to the northwest; Colombia and Venezuela lie 310 mi. to the south.

How Created--Columbus discovered the island in 1492, naming it "La Isla Espanola," later corrupted to Hispaniola. Although important in the settling of Spanish America, Santo Domingo (as the colony was called at that time) went into a steady decline after the mid 16th century, as many settlers soon emigrated to the continent. Santo Domingo proclaimed its independence November 30, 1821, but Haitian troops almost immediately invaded the colony. Santo Domingo was under a harsh and humiliating Haitian rule from 1822 until February 27, 1844, when Dominican patriots Juan Pablo Duarte, Ramon Mella and Francisco del Rosario Sanchez led the fight for independence. Although Dominicans celebrate February 27 as their Independence Day, over a century of foreign intervention, occupation, and attempted annexation have followed.

Size--18,816 sq. mi.(48,733 sq. km.).

Population--4.6 million: mulatto, 73%; white, 16%; black, 11%. 95% Roman Catholic, 2% Protestant, 3% Jewish and others.

Who Rules--In theory, a republic with a 1966 constitution providing for a President and bicameral legislature to be elected every 4 years. In fact, since independence, the Dominican Republic has been ruled by a succession of dictators. Latest is President Joaquin Balaguer, reelected to his 3rd term in May, 1974, in an election boycotted by half the electorate, protesting election fraud.

Who REALLY Rules--The U.S., both historically and through its present investment interests, has played a dominant role in Dominican affairs. Twice, from 1916-1924 and 1965-1966, the U.S. Marines have occupied the Republic. The Trujillo regime, while initially favored by the U.S., soon lost its popularity when the dictator began to compete with U.S. business interests through his own vast empire. (The Trujillo family is estimated to have controlled over 2/3 of the entire Dominican economy.) After Trujillo's assassination in 1961, a struggle for power began between those whom Trujillo had raised to prominence and the traditional elite. A 3rd group, composed of workers and peasants, managed to elect left-progressive Juan Bosch to the Presidency in 1962. The military deposed him in 1963, but in 1965 other, younger military officers attempted to reinstate him. The U.S. Marines landed, aiding the forces opposed to Bosch. New elections were engineered, resulting in the Presidency of Balaguer, who has managed to continue in office with massive U.S. aid and approval. (For a time after 1965, the U.S. paid the salaries of those on Dominican government payrolls.)

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