The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. Spanish-speaking, it seeks closer ties to the anglophone West Indies.
Geography: Highlands and rain-forested mountains – including the highest peak in the Caribbean, Pico Duarte – interspersed with fertile valleys. Extensive coastal plain in the east.
Climate: Hot and humid close to sea level, cooler at altitude. Heavy rainfall, especially in the northeast.
People and Society: White landowners – especially those descended from the original Spanish settlers – form the wealthy elite. Mixed-race majority controls commerce and forms the bulk of the professional middle classes. White and mixed-race women are entering the professions. Great disparities of wealth exist; the black and Haitian-immigrant populations occupy the bottom of the social ladder.
The Economy: Mining (nickel and gold), sugar, and textiles. Tourism, remittances, and exports all rely heavily on US market. Hidden economy based on trans-shipment of narcotics to the US.
Insight: Santo Domingo is the oldest city in the Americas. It was founded in 1496 by the brother of Christopher Columbus
Official Name: Dominican Republic
Date of Formation: 1865
Capital: Santo Domingo
Population: 10.1 million
Total Area: 18,679 sq. miles (48,380 sq. km)
Density: 540 people per sq. mile
Languages: Spanish*, French Creole
Religions: Roman Catholic 92%, other and nonreligious 8%
Ethnic Mix: Mixed race 75%, White 15%, Black 10%
Government: Presidential system
Currency: Dominican Republic peso = 100 centavos