Useful Notes: Dominican Republic
The other half of the island of Hispaniola and one of the few countries with ‘Republic’ on its colloquial name. Since Christopher Columbus arrived on the island on 1492, the island has been constantly changing hands between all kinds of power. It started as a Spanish colony until the end of the 18th century, when it became a French colony. During Napoleon’s invasion of Spain, the country enjoyed a brief period of independence before being invaded by Haiti. In 1844 it became independent again, but in a curious turn of events, less than twenty years later they asked Spain to be taken as a colony again. A series of events after that ended with an invasion of the United States in 1916 that lasted until 1922. If you thought the situation was bad, you can believe things went worse. Rafael Trujillo, generally considered as one of the worst dictators of Latin America, assumed power in 1930, indulging in a cult of personality worthy of Stalin or Saddam Hussein. He stole almost all the money from international aid, ordered the killings of all kinds of opponents and the Haitians living on the Dominican side of the frontier and also waged other bizarre, crazy acts, like an assassination attempt on the Venezuelan president. He maintained himself and his loyal puppets in power and ensured the country would be ruled with an iron fist. His detractors started to compare him with a rabid dog until the U.S., initially their supporters, got alienated enough to order a CIA plot to kill him in 1961. This was followed by a US invasion and occupation in from 1965 to 1966. After the Trujillo era, the country still had its time of military government, but now it’s a democracy. However, the constant turmoil of its history has left its marks in the form of corruption, unemployment and problems with the electric distribution network. Also, the relations with Haiti keep being lukewarm at best (the continuing immigration of Haitians doesn’t help either). The country is well-known for its telecommunication system, however.
The Dominican Republic in fiction:
- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
- The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa is set during the late parts of the infamous dictatorship era under Rafael Trujillo's government.
- The book In the Time of the Butterflies is based on the assassination of the Mirabal sisters by Trujillo’s government.
- Carla from Scrubs is Dominican.
- The Serpent and the Rainbow supposedly takes place in Haiti, but the filming was moved to the Dominican Republic.
The flag shows red and blue quarters divided by a white cross, designed by the La Trinitaria, the country's anti-Haitian La Résistance led by three men. Red, blue and white symbolize sacrifice, liberty and salvation, respectively. At the center is the coat-of-arms, depicting a shield in the national colors, before which are six flags flanking The Bible, supposedly opened at John 8:32, which reads "And the truth shall make you free". Supporting the arms are laurel and palm leaves. Above the shield is a scroll with La Trinitaria's keyword "Dios, Patria, Libertad" ("God, Country, Freedom"), and below is the country's name in Spanish.