This Caribbean country is renowned for its beautiful beaches, luxury resorts, and pristine golf courses. The Dominican Republic’s geography is comprised of highlands, rainforest, and savannah. It is also home to Pico Duarte, the Caribbean’s tallest mountain.

dominican republic coast and buildings

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The capital city, Santo Domingo (officially Santo Domingo de Guzmán) is one of the Caribbean’s oldest cities. It is also the largest metropolitan region in the Caribbean. Santo Domingo is now located on the west bank of the Ozama River. It is also home to the first fortress, castle, university, cathedral, and monastery in the New World.

As well as being a major historical region, Santo Domingo is also the Dominican Republic’s commercial, political, industrial, and financial hub. The city is home to the country’s most important industries, which include the manufacturing of refrigerators, cement, textiles, food, and metallurgy.

Dominican Republic Economy

Though the country was long seen as a sugar, tobacco, and coffee exporter, more recently, the agricultural sector has been taken over by the service industry, which is now the Dominican Republic’s number one employer. This is largely due to the growth of tourism, communications, and free trade zones. The Dominican Republic’s economy is dependent on the U.S. which is the destination for more than 60 percent of the nation’s exports.

When it comes to the economy, the country suffers from significant income inequality. The people on the lower end of the socio-economic scale receive less than 20 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, while the higher end receives almost 40 percent. A combination of high unemployment and high underemployment is a serious challenge to balancing this disparity.

dominican republic old church

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Culture in the Dominican Republic

The nation is a melting pot of diverse influences from around the world. Local customs are heavily influenced by European cultures as well as African influences. Spanish is the predominantly spoken language, and Catholicism is the primary religion.

Music is an important part of Dominican life. Traditionally, merengue, bachata, and salsa are favorites. Younger people also enjoy reggae and hip-hop. Wherever you go in the Dominican Republic, whether you’re visiting friends, riding the bus, or shopping, you’re sure to hear music.

Family is very important to Dominicans. It’s quite common to see grandparents living at home and taking an active part in family life. Children tend to stay at home until they are married, and sometimes even then they will remain in the family home.

Cuisine in the Dominican Republic is largely a combination of African, Spanish and indigenous Taino influences. Popular dishes include:

  • Sancocho: a rich stew made with seven varieties of meat.
  • Mangú: mashed plantains, usually served with fried cheese and eggs.
  • Habichuelas guisadas: bean stew, usually served with white rice.
  • Pollo guisado: braised chicken with spicy sauce.
  • Habichuelas con dulce: sweet cream of beans.
  • Dominican Festivals

Guloya Festival

This festival takes place in January in San Pedro de Macoris. The town was founded in the 19th century by Cuban immigrants fleeing their county’s war and today is still steeped in Cuban culture. The festival is a display of drummers who dress lavishly and perform small dance dramas and have a vivid and colorful parade through the town.

Carnival

Each February, Santo Domingo hosts the Dominican Republic’s largest celebration. A street party is held every Sunday during February. These celebrations culminate in a day and night-long party and parade along the seafront.

Festival de Merengue

This festival celebrates the Dominican Republic’s national dance. It is held around the Malecón each July. International bands perform on the promenade. There are music and dancing throughout the night, as well as food tents serving traditional Dominican dishes.

Fun Facts About Santo Domingo
  • What’s in a name: Before the Dominican Republic and Haiti became separated, the island was jointly named Hispaniola.
  • Showing its age: The Catedral de Santa Maria La Menor is thought to b the oldest cathedral in the Americas. It is located in Santo Domingo and dates back to 1540.
  • Sweet tooth: Sugar processing is one of the Dominican Republic’s major industries.
  • Marital bliss: The Dominican Republic is one of the world’s most popular destinations for weddings and honeymoons.
  • On the menu: The country’s national dish is the “Dominican Flag.” It is prepared with beans, rice, and chicken.
  • Gaining independence: In 1804, the western third of the island separated and became Haiti.
  • Unique stones: The Dominican Republic is the world’s only country to produce a rare and beautiful pale blue variety of the mineral known as pectolite, which as a gemstone is known as Larimar.
  • Tourist attractions: Around 5 million people visit the Dominican Republic each year. It is currently the America’s 6th most popular tourist destination. Most of the tourists come from the U.S. and Canada.
  • Home runs: The Dominican Republic has a large number of Major League Baseball players. Second only to the United States.