A Brief History of the Domincan Republic
The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island in the Caribbean Sea that is located between Cuba and Puerto Rico. The island was named “Hispaniola” by Spanish explorers who arrived here with Christopher Columbus more than 500 years ago. Hispaniola quickly became an important base from which Spain expanded its empire into the rest of the Western Hemisphere.
The city of Santo Domingo, the current capital of the Dominican Republic, was founded over two years, from 1496 to 1498. Santo Domingo is the site of the first cathedral, hospital and university in the Americas.
In 1697, Spain transferred the western one-third of the island (which is now known as Haiti) to France. About 100 years later, France assumed control over the entire island as a result of the Treaty of Basle.
France’s dominion was limited, however. The western part of the island became independent in 1804 and the eastern two-thirds again became a Spanish colony in 1809.
In 1821, the Dominicans proclaimed their independence from Spain under the leadership of José Nœ–ez de C‡ceres. Haiti took control of the island the following year and governed it until 1844, when the Dominican Republic gained its independence. The country’s “founding fathers” were Juan Pablo Duarte, Ram—n Mat’as Mella and Francisco del Rosario S‡nchez.
Rafael L. Trujillo became dictator of the country in 1930. Trujillo was assassinated in 1961 and Juan Bosch was elected president the following year, but there was a military coup nine months later. In 1965, following a civil revolt, the United States military came to the Dominican Republic. (The United States has often been involved in the history of the Dominican Republic. For instance, during the 1860s, attempts were made to have the U.S. take control of the Dominican Republic. In 1905, the American government assumed control of the Dominican Republic’s finances. In 1916, American armed forces invaded the country and maintained a presence in the Dominican Republic until 1924.)
For the past 30 years, the country has been a stable democracy with universal suffrage, separation of powers and a constitution that bears a remarkable resemblance to the constitution of the United States. In 1996, the country elected Leonel Fernandez as its president for a four-year term.