The eastern part of the island of Hispaniola, which today
constitutes the Dominican Republic, has probably been
populated since around the year 5,000 before our time.
As in the other major islands of the Caribbean, the
siboney people probably immigrated from South America and
lived by hunting and retreat. Agriculture was later run by
the Taino people and was further developed by the Arab
guards. These populations had divided the island into chief
judges and made up about 100,000 inhabitants when the
Spaniards arrived on the island in 1496. The same year, the
city of Santo Domingo was founded.
The entire island of Hispaniola was Spanish possession
until 1697, when France acquired the western part of Haiti.
The eastern part was then named Santo Domingo. In the late
1700s, France gained dominion over the entire island, but
bloody slave rebellion in 1791 led to Haiti becoming
independent in 1804. Spain regained control of Santo Domingo
until 1821, after which the island was ruled entirely from
Haiti before Santo Domingo became its own. Republic of 1844.
Unlike all other former Spanish colonies in America, the
Dominican Republic celebrates its Independence Day as a mark
of the detachment from neighboring Haiti, and not the one
they achieved from former colonial power Spain. See
abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Dominican Republic.
However, political stability did not reach the country in
the 19th century.
Because of its sugar plantations, Santo Domingo was of
considerable economic interest to the United States. During
the First World War, the United States felt its interests
threatened by both internal turmoil and significant German
influence in Haiti. The United States intervened in 1916 and
secured full control of the country until 1924.
A National Guard was equipped to maintain military
control as the United States withdrew. One of the officers,
Lieutenant Rafael Trujillo, took power in 1930 by electoral
fraud, and for 31 years the Dominicans were to live under
his ruthless dictatorship. All opposition was banned and
foreign investment was to provide economic growth.
Liquidations were common during this period, not only by
Dominicans, but in 1937 his methods also affected about
Trujillo's family gained much of the country's production
life, and family members were given the most influential
positions, including his brother Héctor president from
1952–60. Trujillo regarded himself as Latin America's
greatest anti-Communist, securing him the desirable support
of the United States. But his greedy desire for economic
power also came at the expense of American real estate, and
the United States punished this with a halt to sugar
By the time the US broke with Cuba in 1961, patience with
Trujillo had obviously come to a break. In May 1961 he was
murdered and the family had to leave the country a few
After Trujillo's death, the United States feared an
upheaval of Cuban patterns in the power vacuum that ensued.
The United States therefore pushed for a democratization.
Juan Bosch returned after 25 years of exile and won the
December 1962 election with his newly created Dominican
Revolutionary Party (PRD). Bosch had done little more than
introduce a democratic constitution before he was deposed by
a military coup in 1963. But the few months of democracy
that the Dominicans had experienced for the first time in
history were not so easily forgotten.
On April 24, 1965, a fraction of the army initiated a
rebellion that quickly gained wide support with demands for
the reintroduction of the Constitution and the restoration
of power to Bosch. This 'constitutional revolution' caused a
stir in the United States, and when Dominican General Elías
Wessin y Wessin failed to gain control of the situation,
President Lyndon B. Johnson was asked to intervene.
With the Organization of American States (OAS), the
United States sent 23,000 soldiers to the island to put an
end to the unrest. It took the Americans several months to
gain control of the situation, and the campaign raised
serious doubts about the US's assessment of military
interference in other countries. Military control of the
Dominican Republic was partly left to forces by other OAS
member states in September 1965.
Under American supervision, elections were prepared in
1966. The right-wing candidate was Trujillo's last facade
president, Joaquín Balaguer, who was also supported by the
Americans. The election of Balaguer as president led to the
withdrawal of foreign forces. Bosch was subjected to
persecution and cases of murder of party traps in the
election campaign. Balaguer remained in power until 1978,
and during this period the country experienced a certain
economic upswing. American companies gained more influence,
and foreign workers from Haiti were roughly exploited as
cheap labor on sugar plantations.
Under Balaguer most of the country's radical opposition
was also liquidated. In the 1978 election, Balaguer got a
counter candidate from the PRD, the rich cattle farmer
Antonio Guzmán. Bosch had left the PRD because he claimed it
had become too moderate and created his radical party PLD.
As the voting count went on and Guzmán was leading the army,
the army entered and stopped the count. Balaguer received a
sharp warning, including from President Jimmy Carter, and
when the counting resumed, Guzmán won. The new president
immediately replaced the entire military top layer and later
nationalized some US companies.
Within PRD, the difference between three wings became
increasingly clear. Guzmán represented the most moderate and
Jorge Blanco a more radical wing, although both had good
relations with European social democrats. Santo Domingo's
mayor, José Francisco Peña Gómez, represented the socialist
wing of the party, inspired by Cuba and Nicaragua.
Blanco won the 1982 election narrowly ahead of Balaguer.
The new government was constantly challenged by the left and
the trade union movement, especially due to the harsh
conditions imposed by the IMF's International Monetary Fund
to repay foreign debt. In 1983 and 1984, the economic crisis
and rising food prices triggered spontaneous uprisings in
the capital. The US responded by coming to the rescue with a
crisis of fear that the riots would develop into a serious
Blanco's reign was a difficult balance between satisfying
the IMF and the dissatisfied population. In April 1985, a
temporary solution was reached with the IMF. The PRD was
significantly divided ahead of the 1986 election following
the corruption allegations against Jorge Blanco. Veteran
Joaquín Balaguer managed for the fifth time to be elected
president, this time as a candidate for his newly formed
Christian Democratic Party PRSC. During this period,
Balaguer promoted a new policy to support landless peasants.
The 1990 election was another veteran settlement between
84-year-old Balaguer and 82-year-old Juan Bosch, a
settlement that Balaguer once again won. When Balaguer
triumphed again in 1994, protests were made with allegations
of electoral fraud by José Francisco Peña Gómez of the PRD,
who suffered a very scarce defeat. The compromise solution
was that it was decided to hold a new presidential election
in the summer of 1996, this time without any of the
candidates in Dominican politics as candidates.
The election was won by Leonel Fernández Reyna of the
Dominican Freedom Party (Partido de la Liberación Dominicana,
PLD). His government introduced economic reforms and the
country's economy entered a good, but short-lived, period
with an annual growth rate of 7 percent.
The 2000 election brought the PRD back to power, with
Rafael Hipólito Mejía as president. A few years later, there
was again a galloping inflation and rising unemployment; a
banking scandal caused the problems to accelerate. Both
these conditions and the frequent failure of the power
supply were the subject of vigorous demonstrations, with
several lives lost in clashes with police forces. It was
said to be the dream of the near past that led Fernández
back into the presidential seat in the 2004 election.
Fernandez's program entailed cuts of up to 20 percent in
public spending to get the economy back on track and restore
confidence among foreign investors. Fernández was re-elected
in 2008. The country had then signed a free trade agreement
with the United States and the Central American states, as a
key strategy to strengthen the economy.
The Dominican Republic is still among the poorest
countries in the Caribbean, with a growing gap between poor
and rich. Natural disasters also aggravate the problems in
the economy. Hurricane George caused damage to more than NOK
10 billion in 1998, and over 2,000 lives were lost in a
flood in 2004. However, the country has become one of the
Caribbean's most popular tourist destinations, and tourism
is a key area of government after sugar exports and other
agricultural production lost. much of its importance.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti share a limited area,
and the struggle for the conservation and utilization of
natural resources has been central in recent times. Both
countries are very vulnerable to natural disasters and the
risk is increasing. The two are in eighth and third place
respectively on the Global Climate Risk Index's list of the
most vulnerable countries due to climate change on earth.
Since both countries, according to CEPAL, also have
projected population growth that will be stable until 2050,
before it is assumed to flatten out and then decline,
population density in both the Dominican Republic and
neighboring countries will increase significantly over the
next 35 years. By the same source's calculations, by 2060
there will be about thirty countries on Earth with a higher
population density than the island overall, compared to
around 50 today.
Therefore, there is reason to believe that the struggle
for - and the distribution of - resources and land will be
important issues in the future.
Throughout the 2000s, various forms of environmental
engagement have emerged. Among other things, there was a
wide popular mobilization in the fight against a cement
factory in northeast Los Haitises, and a great commitment to
put down mining operations in Cotuí. Most recently in 2014,
there was a multifaceted association of organizations and
social classes that fought to preserve the Loma Miranda
mountain range and turned it into a national park. Here, the
environmental struggle was tainted with a conflict of
interest between the nation-state and the international
company holding the mining license.