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History of the Dominican Republic

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. CMA-Map-zoomHe 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. 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. juan-bosch-drThis allowed a provisional government to organize the first free elections in 1962. In this election, prominent writer Juan Bosch was elected to the presidency. He was overthrown seven months later, resulting in a civil war led by Francisco Alberto Caamaño. This led to Joaquín Balaguer being elected in 1966. He 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 (PRD). The country was on its way to becoming a democracy. In 1982, the PRD won again under the leadership of Salvador Jorge Blanco, only to lose to Balaguer in 1986. 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.