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The Dominican Republic has an incredibly rich history. The walls and the cobblestoned streets of its Colonial City bear witness to its past as the first city founded in the Americas.
It was more than 500 years ago that the Dominican Republic began to write its history. The peaceful Taino Indians, who spent their days hunting, fishing and farming, first inhabited the island. Then on December 5, 1492, Admiral Christopher Columbus arrived on the island. He named it Hispaniola, setting into motion the meeting of two cultures that would later make Santo Domingo the first city in the Americas.
For years, Hispaniola went through several changes of power.
Toward the end of the 17th century, the French colonized the western part of the island. In 1795, Spain relinquished power of the eastern part of the island to France, leaving the entire island under French power. The colony temporarily returned to Spanish hands, until December 1821 when a group of men led by José Núñez de Cáceres declared temporary Independence.
That rule didn’t last long either.
In 1822 the Haitians took over the eastern part of the island by taking advantage of its military and economic weaknesses. This lasted for 22 years. Then on February 27, 1844, Juan Pablo Duarte began the fight for independence. The new Dominican Republic was born.
Despite the cry for independence, on March 18, 1861 the republic was once again annexed by Spain until after the Restoration War. The resulting political unrest culminated in economic chaos. The Dominican government then received loans with the United States and Europe and gave control of its customs to the US in 1907. Nine years later, the first North American invasion of the country took place.
Various unstable governments followed until the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo was established in 1930. He remained in power for 30 years until he was executed in 1961. This allowed a provisional government to organize the first free elections in 1962. In this election, prominent writer Juan Bosh was elected to the presidency. He was overthrown seven months later, resulting in a civil war led by Francisco Alberto Caamaño. This would lead to the second North American invasion in 1965.
In 1966, Joaquín Balaguer was elected, an led the country through a 12-year period of political repression. In 1978, the country returned to the polls. Balaguer lost overwhelmingly to Antonio Guzmán of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (the PRD). The country was on its way to becoming a democracy. In 1982, the PRD won again under the leadership of Salvador Jorge Blanco. However, in 1986, Balaguer became president again after winning a majority vote. He remained in office until 1996.
After Balaguer’s reign was over, Doctor Leonel Fernández of the Party for Dominican Liberation (PLD) became president in 1996. In 2000, the PRD candidate Hipólito Mejía became president, followed by the PLD candidate Leonel Fernández in 2004. He was reelected again in 2008.
Significant events in Dominican history:
1492 Arrival of Christopher Columbus to the island.
1494 Construction of La Isabela, the first European settlement in the New World.
1498 Bartolomé Columbus, brother of Christopher Columbus, founds the city of Santo Domingo, on the eastern shores of the Ozama River.
1511 Fray Antón de Montesinos denounces the mistreatment of the indigenous population in his Advent Sunday sermon. Subsequently, slaves from Africa are brought over.
1605-1606 Sugar refineries and cattle stock were destroyed in order to prevent smuggling.
1697 Spain gives the west of the island (Haití) to France via the Ryswick Treaty. At the time, it is called Saint Domingue.
1777 The Treaty of Aranjuez is signed, which fixed the boundaries between the Spanish and French colonies.
1795 Spain hands over all of La Hispaniola to France via the Treaty of Basilea. In exchange, France agrees to return all the occupied territory of the Iberian Peninsula to Spain.
1809 Spanish power is restored after the conquest led by Creole Juan Sánchez Ramírez. This begins the time known as the “Era of Foolish Spain.”
1821 José Núñez de Cáceres leads the 5 week “Ephemeral Independence.”
1822 Haitian troops annex the Spanish part to Haití under the leadership of Jean Pierre Boyer.
1838 The secret La Trinitaria movement is founded, led by Juan Pablo Duarte. They want to overthrow Boyer and create an independent nation.
1844 Juan Pablo Duarte leads a group of patriots from Santo Domingo to declare the birth of the Dominican Republic. It is now independent from Haití.
1844 On November 6, The Constituent Assembly is organized to draft the first Constitution of the Republic. On November 14, Pedro Santana is elected the first Constitutional President of the country.
1861-65 Santana annexes the country to Spain. In 1863, the War for the Restoration of Independence begins with Gregorio Luperón as its leader.
1883-1899 Government and dictatorship of Ulises Heureaux. The sugar industry is developed, which also brings about the establishment of small manufacturing companies.
1916-24 Financial weakening leads to a military intervention in the country by the United States, in order to recover the international debt.
1930 Rafael Leonidas Trujillo assumes the presidency and becomes a dictator.
1960 Three sisters, Patria, Minerva and María Teresa Mirabal are assassinated because of their opposition to the Trujillo regime.
1961 Trujillo is executed.
1962 Juan Bosch wins the first free elections in the country and takes charge on February 27, 1963.
1963 Juan Bosch’s government is overthrown.
1965 The beginning of the Civil Revolution to restore the government. United States troops arrive for the second time.
1966-1978 Joaquín Balaguer of The Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC) is in power.
1978-1986 Antonio Guzmán and Salvador Jorge Blanco of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) are in power.
1986-1996 Governments of Joaquín Balaguer (PRSC).
1996-2000 Government of Leonel Fernández from the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD).
2000-2004 Government of Hipólito Mejía (PRD).
2004-2012 Governments of Leonel Fernández, re-elected on May 16, 2008.
Symbols of the Dominican Republic:
The Flag was designed by Juan Pablo Duarte and created by Concepción Bona and María Trinidad Sánchez. Raised for the first time on February 27, 1944, it is what identifies the Dominican Republic as a free and sovereign country.
The Meaning of The Flag:
Red represents the blood spilled by the liberators.
Blue expresses the ideals of progress, liberty, and God’s protection
The Cross is the symbol of the fight of the liberators.
The shield was created during the era of the proclamation of national independence, and has the Bible in the center. Since its inception, the shield has gone through more than 14 changes. However, the current shield has been in place since 1913.
The design of the Dominican flag is actually directly spelled out in their Constitution. Article 96 dictates that the shield have the same colors as the national flag, with a Bible opened to John 8:32 to read “The truth will set you free.” Surrounding the Bible are two spears pointed in the air and 4 Dominican flags without shields. All of this is then crowned by a laurel branch, palm leaf, and banners which read “God, Country and Liberty;” and the words ” Dominican Republic.”
The National Anthem is another important symbol of Dominican History. Although it was written in 1897, it did not become the official anthem until 1934. The words were written by Emilio Prud’Homme and the music was composed by José Reyes.
Brave men of Quisqueya
Let us sing with strong feeling,
And let us show the world
Our invincible, glorious banner.
Hail! the people who, strong and intrepid,
Launched into war to their death,
Under a warlike menace of death,
You broke your chains of slavery.
No country deserves to be free
If it is an indolent and servile slave;
If the call does not grow within,
Tempered by a virile heroism.
But the brave and indomitable Quisqueya
Will always hold its head up high;
For if it were a thousand times enslaved
It would a thousand times regain freedom.
If it were to be exposed to ruse and deceit
To the contempt of a true imposer,
The fields of Carreras, Beller are
where traces of glory are found.
Where on the summit of the heroic bastion,
The word of the free became flesh,
Where the genius of Sánchez and Duarte
Taught to be free or to die.
And if an unattended leader
the splendor, of these glorious events could ignore,
of the war that was seen in Capotillo,
Wave the flag of fire.
And the fire that lets the proud lion
Of Castilla become stupefied,
Removes him from the glorious beaches
Where the crossed banner waves.
Compatriots, let us proudly
Show our face, from today prouder than ever;
That Quisqueya may be destroyed
but a slave again, never.
It is a sanctuary of love that every heart
in the fatherland feels alive;
And it is its invincible shield, the right;
And it is its motto: be free or die.
Freedom that still arises serenely
Victory in her triumphal chariot.
And the clarion of war still echoes
Proclaiming its immortal glory.
Freedom! That the echoes should shake
Whilst filled with noble anxiety
Our fields of glory repeat
Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!
Dominicans still remember their liberators who fought for the country’s independence in 1844. Known as the “Fathers of the Fatherland,” this includes Juan Pablo Duarte, Francisco del Rosario Sánchez and Ramón Matías Mella.
The Constitution is also an important symbol of Dominican patriotism. Although it has undergone many changes since November 6, 1844 it is still revered as the highest law of the land.