There’s no place quite like the Dominican Republic. That’s because its history is the result of an unlikely mixture of influences; nowhere else will you find a blending of European, African, and native Taíno Indian cultures.
These distinct cultures still drive the social identity of the people today. Every aspect of their food, music, art, sports and religion provides a unique insight into the development of their country. In a single day you can experience both ancient and modern cultures from around the globe.
Nowhere is this more evident than in their food. As a former Spanish Colony, many of its dishes carry a familiar Latin American feel. Lots of rice, beans, meat and seafood can be found in their cuisine. However, strong influences from its heritage give the meals a unique twist. Traditional Taíno dishes are still made featuring yucca, plantains, and potatoes; as well as African recipes using similar native ingredients.
The most common traditional food on the Island is called La Bandera, or “The Flag.” It is made with meat, rice, and red beans. Making the dish distinctly Dominican, many will also serve it with friend plantains called “tostones.”
Art & Culture
In addition to their rich culinary history, Dominicans also demonstrate their unmistakable heritage through art. The island is filled with many different types of bright and colorful artwork. Jewelry made out of amber, bone, horn and coconut husk can be found at local markets and shops, where the native Taíno influence can still be seen. In addition to jewelry, Dominican artists also use clay, porcelain, hemp, and guano to make both decorative and religious figurines.
Many of these figurines point to the religious history of the island. Its inhabitants are mostly Catholic, followed by other denominations of Christianity.
Although food and art are important parts of Dominican culture, the true life of the culture is baseball. Much more than a national pastime, baseball is a major source of national pride and identity. In fact, almost 40 percent of players in the U.S. Major League Baseball and minor leagues come from Latin America- with most of those coming from the Dominican Republic. Some of their most famous Dominican players include Pedro Martinez, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Sammy Sosa.
Museums & Historic Sites
As the first city founded in the Americas, the Dominican Republic’s capital city of Santo Domingo boasts an incredible collection of museums, historic sites, art and music. The Colonial City, located inside Santo Domingo, is the first city of the America’s; it features the first street, hospital, university and cathedral in the Americas. It is believed that the body of Christopher Columbus still resides on this island that he landed on hundreds of years ago.
There are many historic museums and buildings that take a unique look into Dominican culture. Among them are the Alcázar de Colon (Fortress of Colon), the Reloj de Sol (the Sun Clock) and the monasterio de los Padres Dominicos (the Monastery of the Dominican Fathers).
Facts About the Country
The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with the Republic of Haiti. The country is the second-largest island in the Caribbean, with a surface area of 48,198 square kilometers. Located in the heart of the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and to the south by the Caribbean Sea.
The population of the Dominican Republic is more than 8.5 million people.
Local time is Caribbean Eastern Time (GMT -0400). In the winter it is an hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the United States. The Dominican Republic does not practice daylight savings time, as is customarily done in the United States.
The capital of the Dominican Republic is Santo Domingo, which is the oldest city in the new world. It has a population of almost 2.5 million people.
The Dominican Republic’s political structure is based on democratic principles. Every four years the country elects its president, vice president and legislators.
Spanish is the official language of the Dominican Republic. However, you’ll be surprised how many hotel and tourist destination employees speak English, French, German and Italian. If you decide to venture outside of the tourist areas, it is helpful to learn some basic phrases in Spanish.
The Dominican Peso (RD$) is the official currency of the Dominican Republic. You can find out the exchange rate at www.xe.com/ucc. Major credit cards and travelers’ checks are accepted at many of the country’s tourist locations; ATMs are located in almost all of the Dominican Republic’s cities, as well as at most resorts.
The Dominican Republic enjoys a tropical climate year-round. Depending on your location, a typical day could have full sun or a combination of sun and clouds. Its average annual temperatures ranges from 66° to 93° F (19° to 34° C). The coldest season is between November and April, and the hottest season is between May and October.