The Dominican Republic
Past and Present..
The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are occupied by two countries. Both by area and population, the Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean nation (after Cuba), with 48,442 square kilometers (18,704 sq mi) and an estimated 10 million people. The sights and sounds of the Dominican Republic are rich in beauty, culture and excitement!
Inhabited by Tainos since the seventh century, the territory of the Dominican Republic was reached by Christopher Columbus in 1492 and became the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas, namely Santo Domingo, the country's capital and Spain's first capital in the New World.
After three centuries of Spanish rule, with French and Haitian interludes, the country became independent in 1821 but was quickly taken over by Haiti. Victorious in the Dominican War of Independence in 1844, Dominicans experienced mostly political turmoil and a brief return to Spanish rule over the next 72 years.
The United States occupation of 1916–1924, and a subsequent, calm and prosperous six-year period under Horacio Vasquez Lajara, were followed by the military dictatorship of Rafaeil Leonidas Trujillo Molina until 1961. The last civil war was ended by the 1965 United States occupation of the Dominican Republic, and was followed by the authoritarian rule of Joaquin Balaguer, 1966 – 1978. Since then, the Dominican Republic has moved toward representative democracy, and has been led by Leonel Fernandez for most of the time after 1996.
The Dominican Republic is 95.2% Christian, including 88.6% Roman Catholic and 4.2% Protestant. Recent immigration, as well as proselytizing, has brought other religions, with the following shares of the population: Spiritist: 2.2%, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: 1.1%, Buddhist: 0.10%, Baha: 0.1%, Islam: 0.02%, Judaism: 0.01%, Chinese Folk Religion: 0.1%, and Dominican Vudu (no census). The nation has two patroness saints: Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia (Our Lady Of High Grace) is the patroness of the Dominican people, and Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes (Our Lady Of Mercy) is the patroness of the Dominican Republic.
The Catholic Church began to lose popularity in the late 1800s. This was due to a lack of funding, of priests, and of support programs. During the same time, the Protestant evangelical movement began to gain support. Religious tension between Catholics and Protestants in the country has been rare.
There has always been religious freedom throughout the entire country. Not until the 1950s were restrictions placed upon churches by Trujillo. Letters of protest were sent against the mass arrests of government adversaries. Trujillo began a campaign against the church and planned to arrest priests and bishops who preached against the government. This campaign ended before it was even put into place, with his assassination.
Judaism appeared in the Dominican Republic in the late 1930s. During World War II, a group of Jews escaping Nazi Germany fled to the Dominican Republic and founded the city of Sosua. It has remained the center of the Jewish population since.
More information about Dominican churches can be found on our site.