Dominican Culture Essays

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is comprised of the Island of Hispaniola, and the Republic of Hati. This country is riddled with a turbulent past that has been passed down into the 21st Century cultures. In 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on Hispaniola. Spanish incursions were resisted by the Taino who were established occupants of the island. It didn’t take long for disease to spread and forced labor to diminish their numbers.

Permanent Settlement

In this New World, the first European settlement was Santo Domingo from Spain in 1496. It would later be known as the Dominican Republic’s capital. Slaves were imported as plantations and mines were established. The French took over the island’s western third in 1697. At first they called it Saint Domingue. This colony saw prosperity well into the 18th Century as sugar plantations that were worked by slaves flourished. Their Spaniard neighbors suffered loss early on due to European attention. Spain ceded that portion of the island that would become Hati. In 1804 they became independent. The turmoil became constant as the Dominican Republic gained their independence.

A Unity in Dance

Spanish-speaking Domincans immediately worked to eliminate the Haitians many cultural influences after gaining their independence. Many of the elite clung to their Spanish heritage, but much of the populous was a mixed or African descent. Early dance performed by the Dominicans known as the long drum dance or baile de palo, was a couple dance that was derived from Africa. It was based on the rituals of death where the deceased spirit was said to enter into an heir and dance through their body.

For as much as their past is wrought with fighting and turmoil, both of the Haiti and the Dominican Republic claim the same national dance. In Haiti it is referred to as the mereng and in the Dominican Republic it is referred to as the merengue. During the Haitian occupation from 1822 to 1844 the dance began to arise. After Haiti broke away the musicians of Dominican descent began to distance themselves from their Haitian roots. The tempo was increased and the major music mode was used instead of the minor. This dance was considered to be obscene by the government and anyone caught doing the dance was severely punished. In the early 20th Century, the dance had been structured. There are three distinctive sections – the opening paseo consisting of 8 measures, the next 16 measures are the merengue proper, and the last section is the jaleo. It allows for stronger rhythms and improvisation.

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Culture of the Dominican Republic

The People

Dominicans’ ethnicity consists of Taino, Spanish and African. The native people on the island were the Taino. The Taino were hunter and gatherers who lived off the land. Led by Christopher Columbus, the Spanish conquered the island in 1492. The Spanish overtook the Taino forcing them to be their slaves while killing many in the process. The Africans were then later brought to the island as slaves. Certain traits of these ethnic groups are still present in the Dominican culture, such as the food, language, religion and personality of the people (Goodwin, 116).

A true Taino is hard to come by in the Dominican Republic, yet most Dominicans consider themselves part Taino. During…show more content…

Therefore, the ethnic makeup of the Dominican Republic is 73% mixed, 16% white and only 11% black (Goodwin, 116; Foner, 44-46).

Haitian Relations

Throughout the Dominican history, the country has always had problems with Haiti. The turbulent history of Hispaniola and the constant change of control on the island are two of the main reasons for this bad relationship between the countries. From 1822 to 1844 Haiti had complete control of the entire island. Trujillo used this twenty year period as a point of reference to blame Dominican problems on the Haitians. He often said that before the Haitian control of the Dominican Republic, the Dominicans were blond hair and blue eyed. Although Trujillo is no longer in office the feeling of “black as bad” is still present in the Dominican culture. This feeling is emphasized anytime Haiti is having problems. When Haiti is going through political and economical issues, the Dominican economy suffers. Tourism is one of the main sources of income and this often depletes during times of turmoil in Haiti. These problems only increase the racism of Haitians and black people in the Dominican Republic (Foner, 43) (Goodwin, 117).


The Dominican culture has a strong emphasis on music. The national rhythm of the Dominican Republic is called the merengue. This type of music is often related to the Spanish heritage but other theories say the merengue was African. The drum beat of

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