The Dominican Republic is one of the first discoveries of the “New World” by Christopher Columbus during his voyage in 1492. The island was named Hispaniola. Thereafter, the island of Hispaniola became one of the staging grounds for Spanish conquests of the Caribbean and the mainland of America.
In 1697, Spain recognized French domain over the western third of the Island, which became Haiti in 1804. At the time 1/3 of the island was Haiti and the other 2/3 were known as Santo Domingo. Santo Domingo tried to gain its independence from Spain in 1821, but was conquered by the Haitians. Haiti ruled Santo Domingo for 22 years, until the country gained its independence in 1844, as the Dominican Republic.
Since 1844, the country has maintained its name as “la Republica Dominicana” or the Dominican Republic.
In 1861 the Dominican Republic retuned to the Spanish Empire and Spanish rule, but that only lasted for a few years.
Over the next 65 years the country had mostly non-representative rule, which was ended by the dictatorship of Rafeal Leonidas Trujillo, who ruled from 1930-1961. Trujillo was a brutal dictator, who was eventually assassinated not far from down town Santo Domingo. Many movies and books tell various stories of harsh rule during Trujillo’s time. These stories tell of the dictator’s continual abuse of the people and the struggle from within to gain a democratic government. Some speculate that the United States was behind the assassination of Trujillo, but to date there has never been any admission by the US government.
In 1962, one year after the assassination of Trujillo, Juan Bosh was elected president but was only in office for a year, when he was deposed in a military coup.
In 1965, the United States led an intervention in the middle of a civil war, which started during an uprising to restore Bosch to office.
In 1966, Joaquin Balaguer defeated Bosch during the election. Balaguer became president and maintained control of the country for the next 30 years. Balaguer was forced to end his term in 1996 because of the international reaction to the country’s flawed elections.
Since 1996, the country has had regular competitive elections, where opposition candidates have won the presidency. President Leonel Fernandez is currently serving his second consecutive term as democratically elected president of the Dominican Republic.
Modern day Dominican Republic continues to see the effects of its past dictator and the country is struggling to break into the mainstream. It suffers from out dated infrastructure, a neglected power grid, and less than optimal water and sanitation systems. However, in spite of these struggles, the country has maintained a rapidly growing economy and is currently seeing a vast influx of foreign direct investment.
Many companies see the country as a great place to get low-cost labor, which is close to the North American mega market. These companies take advantage of tax savings, free trade zones, and other government incentives for doing business in the Dominican Republic.
The Expatriate community is also growing rapidly. The real estate market in most sectors of the Dominican Republic has seen significant development from American and European developers. Many retiring Canadians and Americans purchase homes or apartments in the Dominican Republic and live very well on their government retirement payments.