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..................Dominican Republic...............Republica Dominicana
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Dominican Republic History & Culture
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The history of the Dominican Republic is an interesting one.   Incredibly enough Christopher Columbus, or Colon in Spanish, did not discover the present day North America - but instead discovered the Dominican Republic.   In fact, the city of Santo Domingo was in fact the first real European settlement in the Americas, having been founded more than 500 years ago - long before the English founded the Massachusets Bay Colony in the present day United States.
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Both France and Spain have actually controlled the island at different points in time, and the United States actually held a presence in the country for a brief period as well.
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Spain was the first European nation to set foot on the island in 1492, lead of course by Christopher Columbus.  It is this group of Spanish explorers that actually coined the name, Hispaniola for the island.  The original inhabitants of the island encountered by Columbus were a group of Arauaco Indians, also called Tainoindians.  It is often reported that the entire population of Indians was wiped out by either diseases brought over from Europe (influenza was not a common ailment and the Indians had no immunity to it) or from direct slaughter by the Spanish.   While it is true that that the original Taino Indian population was greatly decimated by both causes, some modern day Dominicans claim to trace their ancestral roots back to the native Indians.  Many historians believe that inter-relations between the European, Taino Indian and eventual slave population brought over from Africa is what has given the country its ethnic diversity.
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The capital city of Santo Domingo was founded or built over a period of two years, from 1496 to 1498.  It quickly became the representative seat of the Spanish royal court and thus was an important city of power and influence in the New world. Santo Domingo, as the truly first European city in the Americas and also a seat of regional government, hosted the first catholic cathedral, the first university and the very first hospital.  Some of these original buildings have been completely restored and can be enjoyed by visitors in Santo Domingo's Zona Colonial.  The Castle of Colon or Alcazar de Colon has also been restored to perfection and offers a glimpse of what the building looked like at the time when it was used as the official reception hall for visiting dignitaries and heads of state.
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The entire island remained under Spanish control for 200 years, until 1697 , when the western third (present day Haiti) was given to France under the Ryswick treaty.  In the year 1797, the entire island was transferred under French control in accordance with the treaty of Basle.  French control however, did not last for too long.  In 1804, a revolution started by the slave population and headed by Toussaint Louverture, gained independance for the western part of the island, or present day Haiti.  But the territory that is presently the Dominican Republic did not benefit from this revolution.  Even though Haiti was now free, the Dominican Republic continued to be ruled by France for another five years.
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In 1808, Juan Sanchez Ramirez won a decisive battle, returning control once again over to Spain in the year 1809.   Finally in 1821, a revolt in the Dominican Republic which was lead by Jose Nunez de Caceres, managed to gain independance from Spain.  While the Dominican Republic was freed from Spanish control, this did not grant the Dominican people true independance.  In 1822, the country fell under political control from Haiti, and this remained the case for another twenty years.  In 1844, a group lead by Juan Pablo Duarte, Ramon Matias Mella and Francisco del Rosario Sanchez were able to wrest control from Haiti and finally establish the Dominican Republic as a true and independant country.
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The period following was that of conflict and uncertainty.  Continuing disputes with Haiti, and those who thought the country should be returned to the control of Spain, left the country divided in the direction it should take.  The United States intervened in 1905 in order to ensure the collection of public debt.  In other words, the bank called in the mortgage. In 1916, the US sent troops into the country and formally wrested control by force. The troops remained until 1924. The country fell under the control of Rafael L. Trujillo in 1930 and remained under his government until his assassination in 1961.  While Trujillo's government was a dictatorship, it was the first period in many years that the country had a stable government and leadership for a consistent 30 year period.  Juan Bosch was democratically elected as the leader of the country in 1962, but a civil revolt shortly after ushered in another intervention by the US military.  The country has enjoyed a democtratic government since 1966, with democratic elections held since that time for various public offices (President, Congress or Chamber of Deputies, Senate, Etc.).
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In May of 2012 the most recent Presidential Elections were held, with Danilo Medina winning the election as the new President of the country (effective August 16, 2012).
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