Surprising Facts about the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is known for it’s stunning beaches and sprawling resorts but what few know is that it’s rich in history stretching back thousands of years. So to celebrate that history here are some things you may not have known about the Dominican Republic!

AN ISLAND OF FIRSTS

After colonization the Dominican Republic was the cradle of the western hemisphere from which sprang so much culture, language, architecture and more.

The island is home to the first university and church in the “New World”. In fact, years before New York City was laid out in it’s famous grid formation, Santo Domingo had the street grid on lock! Speaking of New York: the US’ first immigrant, Juan Rodriguez was also born in the Dominican Republic before immigrating to New York in 1613.

But really, the contributions actually started before all this. Contact with the indigenous people of the island even left it’s mark on English through words like iguana, hammock, and cay, all of which have roots in the Taíno language.

A PLACE OF FEMINIST ICONS

When you think Dominican Republic, you probably don’t think of it as a feminist place. Machismo and feminicide are huge problems but out of these struggles have arisen feminist icons known the world over like The Mirabal Sisters.
The reality is Dominican women have been fighting for their rights for a long time and that has led to such victories as: having our first woman vice president, and suffrage in 1940 (decades before the United States granted it to all women regardless of race).

The Dominican Republic is often seen as a backwards place without real honest conversations on how colonization, the Church and various military interventions have created a lot of it. But this narrow view also fails to recognize the ways that women have shaped Dominican history, culture, art and more.

A HOT SPOT OF BLACK POWER

The Dominican Republic has rightfully gained a lot of backlash and scrutiny due to it’s treatment of Dominico-Haitians and Haitian migrants. The history between these two nations is a lot more complicated than most will admit, instead as a country in the Global South the history is flattened and nuance removed to suit differing agendas. But before all of this the Dominican Republic was home to the “New World”’s first massive slave revolt. Later, during the unification of the island under Haiti, the Dominican Republic became a safe haven for Black people from all over. In fact, the Dominican Republic has seen two massive migrations of Black immigrants from the United States and other neighbouring islands (my great grandmother came over during one of those waves).

The Dominican Republic still has much to do in order to grapple with its colourism and racism, but it also is a nation built by Black people and the culture, language and history reflects that.

Learning about a country’s history and culture is just as important as learning the language. That’s why UVB encourages visitors to engage with everything the Dominican Republic has to offer through Spanish lessons that also focus on sustainable and ethical travel as well as sharing our history and culture. Join us and find out how you can make your vacation fun and educational.

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