Geography Now! Dominican Republic

Hey everybody! If you've never heard a Dominican talking, and if you understand and speak English,

this is roughly kinda what it's like to be a Spanish speaker listening to a Dominican. Welcome to the DR!

♫ It's time to learn geography! ♫ NOW!

Hey everybody, I'm your host Barby — if you're going to know anything about the Caribbean,

you're gonna have to know about the DR.

This is where so much began and revolutionized the entire Western world.

That's a tall order. Now let's start sailing this ship!

Christopher Columbus may have arrived in the Bahamas first, but the DR is the place where everything

with European colonialism in the Western hemisphere began.

First of all; the country is located in the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region,

taking up two thirds of the island of Hispaniola, that it shares with Haiti to the west.

Located just southeast of Cuba and east of Jamaica, right across the Mona Passage from Puerto Rico,

the country is divided into thirty-one provinces, and the capital, Santo Domingo, lies on the south side of the

island and acts as a national district.

The island owns and operates minor islands and islets off the coast,

the largest ones being the Islas Beata, Catalina, and Saona,

which has a lot of starfish all on the south side of the country.

Both by area and population, the DR is the second-largest country in the Caribbean,

and is the most frequently visited of all the Caribbean countries.

Yeah, sorry, step up your game, guys!

Calypso and carnival aren't enough now.

Now, before Columbus came, the island was inhabited primarily by Taino peoples,

that were divided into five chiefdoms, or "cacicazgos".

They were: Marién, Maguá, Maguana, Jaragua, and Higúey.

To this day, the DR occupies land that historically belonged to

all the chiefdoms, while Haiti only inhabits parts of Marién and Jaragua.

Now, let's rewind a little bit and go back to Santo Domingo, shall we?

Santo Domingo in itself is paramount to the

identity of the DR, let alone the western world.

This is the site where so many things started.

Founded by Christopher Columbus's brother, Bartholomew, Santo Domingo was the very first

permanent European settlement in the Americas.

Yeah. Nice try, Vinland! A for effort!

The very first hospital, cathedral, monastery,

university, sewer system, fortress, and even castle, were all constructed here.

Santo Domingo also "claims" to be the final resting place of Christopher Columbus's body,

however, the Spanish kinda disagree. It kinda goes like this:

"Okay, Dominican Republic! Christopher Columbus died, and he said he wanted to be buried in Santo Domingo!

So we're sending the body over to you!"


"Oh… Actually, as it turns out, you don't have the body anymore."

What!? Yes I do — it's right here!

"Yeah — actually, after the whole thing with France happened, we moved it to Cuba,

but then the whole Spanish-American war thing happened, so we just brought it back to Seville."

Uh, yeah, we're pretty sure we gave you the wrong body — the one we have even has severe arthritis, just like

Columbus had before he died.

"Yeah, but we did a DNA test of the corpse, and the results were close to his brothers'."


Now; there's a reason why this is the most-visited country in the Caribbean, and part of the reason

has to do with all the natural treasures that the land has to offer. Transition!

The Dominican Republic knows how to make you feel like you got the full Caribbean experience

when it comes to land makeup.

First of all — the country is dominated by four main mountain chains:

the two Cordiera ranges, the Septentrional and the Central; and the two Sierras, the Sierra de Neiba

and the Sierra de Bahoruco in the south.

The Cordiera Central is the tallest of all the chains, and at over three thousand metres high,

contains the tallest peak in the entire Caribbean; Pico Duarte.

Funny enough, the DR also has the lowest point in the Caribbean as well; lake Enriquillo —

a hypersaline lake located between the two Sierras, and it's actually a semi-arid zone where cacti can be found.

Between the two Cordiera ranges, you can find the Cibao valley; the most fertile area in the DR, where most

of the farms and crop fields can be found.

Head a little east and you reach the Costanza, the coldest area

in the DR, where sometimes, it can even snow in the winter.

Otherwise, there are too many amazing nature spots to go over in depth, so I'm just gonna briefly

list some of the ones that you guys, Dominican Geograpeeps, suggested to us:

the Los Tres Ojos caves;

Dunas de Bani;

the Bahia de las Aguillas beaches;

Los Haitises national park;

the Damajaqua Cascades;

the Jarabacoa and Punta Cana beaches, because, logic;

the Cueva de las Maravillas;

…and, that's about it!

"You forgot about the Samana area, where you can see whales and stuff!"

Oh, yeah, and the Samana area, where you can find whales, and… stuff.

Food is easily grown here, as eighty percent of the land is suitable for agriculture — which alone employs

about seventy percent of the workforce.

However, exports are higher in textiles and plastic goods; manufacturing and mining

has actually taken a huge boost in the past few decades.

In general, the DR may be bustling and hustling, but they still generally keep things green.

I mean, if you look at the border with Haiti, you can see the stark contrast in who maintains their side better.

Ah, DR — you guys have come so far. Let's talk more about who you are!

Now, this is the part of the video where things are going to get a little touchy.

The reason being because when it comes to their population, the DR kind of plays by their own rules,

and we just kinda have to understand it.

First of all — the country is made up of about ten million people and was the first place to import

Africans as slaves to the New World.

Now, this is where we have to kinda address the ever slightly tense subject of identity.

Due to so many prominent Dominican figures that take the spotlight, the stereotype for the DR

is that everyone is black — and yes, it is true that the majority of the population has

some kind of African ancestry in their heritage; however, it's not that simple.

In the US and many parts of the Western world, we tend to live by the one drop rule,

in which, if you've got even a little bit of black in you — girl, boy, brother, sister, you black!

But in the DR, if you have a little bit of black in you, hermanos, ustedes son indios (you are Indio, brothers).

Kinda like how we mentioned in the Brazil video, so many people in the DR are mixed,

that they kinda created a whole new race for themselves called Indio,

which categorises a whole spectrum of skin colour gradations.

That being said; the country is about seventy-three percent mixed,

sixteen percent white, and the rest identify as as straight-up black, with a small community of

Asians and indigenous inhabitants.

Many Dominicans are shocked when they come to the US, and are labeled as "black",

since they aren't called such a title in their country.

Nonetheless, they embrace their mixed heritage, and prefer not to be labeled fully under just one side.

Culture-wise, Dominicans are known by many other Latinos to be some of the

fastest talkers in the latin world, almost on par with Chile.

Also, they have an entire resevoir of distinct Dominican slang and idioms — such as:

Then you have, like, real descriptive words and phrases, like:

And like Venezuela, they also use the word "vaina", which could literally mean anything;

you can use it in a sentence as a filler.

Otherwise, the typical cultural traits that everybody knows about are kind of engraved in society,

such as merengue and bachata being the national dances.

Even if you're paraplegic in the DR, you will know merengue and bachata; it's in their blood.

Baseball is, of course, the most popular sport, and it's said that it was brought over in the

nineteenth century from American merchant marines,

and has since then become just as much of a national pastime.

Dominican baseball players are highly sought after when it comes to drafting season in the US MLB.

Of course, as I say this, Puerto Rico is just kinda standing there rolling his eyes — let's explain why.

The DR is, without a doubt, one of the top dogs in the Caribbean.

Therefore, they've got a lot on their plate when it comes to diplomacy.

Now, when it comes to CARICOM, the DR is kind of like Gandalf sitting amongst a hobbit townhall meeting.

Even though you think it would be, the DR is actually not a full member of CARICOM,

but rather an observer state.

Nonetheless, the DR enjoys sitting on the side, watching and encouraging his little cousins as

they dispute fiscal policies and exchange commissions.

He's like: "Good job, little guys! Keep up the good work." Then, we get to Haiti.

Basically, in the quickest way I can put this —

after gaining independence from Spain, the DR wanted to join Gran Colombia,

but then Haiti was like: "Nope!" and then took over the whole island.

Things got really messed up for twenty-two years, and then the DR fought back; then Trujillo came along, and…

Yeah. I don't wanna say he was like the Hitler of the Caribbean, but… eh, you be the judge.

Anyway — since then, there's always been a slight civil discourse when it comes to the two countries.

Today, many Haitians cross the border illegally to try to find work,

and the DR is becoming slightly wary of the process dealing with this issue.

Nonetheless, they still do great business and trade with each other,

it's just — you know, they kinda have to work together, because they kinda share that whole island.

The US and Spain have always been close, close friends.

The US is the largest export and import partner,

as well as encourager of economic development.

Over a hundred thousand Americans live in the DR,

many with dual citizenship, and over one million Dominicans can be found in the US,

most heavily concentrated in the northeast states, like New York and New Jersey, and in Florida.

Spain is, once again, kinda seen as, like, the motherland, and to this day, they still hold close ties.

Spain has signed numerous treaties and agreements with them, and each side

absolutely loves it when the other side visits their country.

When it comes to their very best friends, however, just like we mentioned in the Cuba episode,

it would have to be Cuba, and the US unincorporated territory island of Puerto Rico,

which, with all intents and purposes, kinda acts like its own country.

These three are the Latin trifecta of the Caribbean, the three musketeers.

Even when one of them was going through a crazy time,

they still held onto each other and pulled through as best friends.

Although, don't get started on the whole merengue and mofongo thing with Puerto Ricans;

friend or no friend — they will go all off ham on the DR if they claim they are better.

In conclusion, the DR is where so much of the New World,

and, for that matter, the entire western hemisphere, started to get radically revolutionised.

They really are like the godfather of the Caribbean.

And once you visit, you'll find a lot of offers you can't refuse.

Stay tuned! Ec— uh, actually East Timor, remember, we're going by the English names.

East Timor, ooh, is coming up next.

[Transcribed by Wolf Lambert]