There are four predominant stages in the Dominican history: the European discovery, the Haitian occupation, the first occupation by the United States, and the dictatorship of Trujillo.
The Arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Caribbean in 1492 marks the beginning of the cultural evolution of “Taino Indians,” the native inhabitants of the second largest island of the Greater Antilles, then known as “Quisqueya.” Renamed Hispaniola by the Spaniards, it became the cradle of the New World. It was the first colony settled by Spain and is home to the first European buildings.
By 1508 the Taino population had begun an irrevocable demise, resulting from the hard work which the natives were forced to perform. Eventually, the importation of African slaves was necessary to replace the native labor force. The African culture completes the ethnic amalgam that reigns today among the Dominicans.
The excellent geographical location of the island, in the heart of the “Americas,” contributed to the establishment, in the western-third of the territory, of the French pirates called “buccaneers.” This resulted in the division of Quisqueya into two colonies: to the west, the French corsairs; to the east, the Spanish colonists. The division was legitimized in 1697 when Spain ceded the western third of the island, which became Haiti, to France under the Treaty of Ryswick.
Nearly a century later, in 1795 under the Treaty of Basilea, Spain ceded to France the remaining two thirds of the island. However, the Treaty failed in 1809, when a rebellion headed by Juan Sánchez Ramírez succeeded in restoring the government in Santo Domingo.
Haitian President Jean-Pierre Boyer had spent two years developing a strategy that would allow his armed forces to invade the eastern side and control the entire island. His efforts were rewarded on February 9th, 1822, largely due to the lack of an army in Santo Domingo which could resist the invasion.
The Haitians immediately confiscated the holdings of the émigrés, the church, and the government, redistributed them to Haitian officials, and took drastic measures against the clergy. The religious and cultural life suffered greatly under the occupation. The doors of the first University of the New World were closed and young Dominicans 16 to 25 years old were recruited into the Haitian army.
Twenty-two years later, on February 27th 1844, a clandestine organization known as the “Trinitarios,” headed by young patriot Juan Pablo Duarte proclaimed independence, after a series of battles held simultaneously in several strategic provinces, and created a free nation. This is how the new Dominican Republic was achieved.
First occupation by the United States
The first North American occupation covered the years of 1916 to 1924. It began as a result of a series of hostilities between two revolutionary groups: the «horacistas» commanded by Horacio Vásquez, and a group headed by Desiderio Arias; the latter had the military and diplomatic support of the United States.
The interaction between American soldiers and the civilian populace brought about the Dominicans’ appreciation of baseball a sport that is still practiced nationwide.
Era of Trujillo (Dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujllo)
Although Trujillo was not the first dictator who ruled the Dominican Republic (he was preceded by Ulises Heureaux, Lilís, 1887-1899), his dictatorship left a bitter memory that remains vivid in peoples’ minds even today.
The “Era” was characterized by the climate of despotism that hung over the population, and by a series of bloodthirsty measures imposed by the caudillos to ensure the continuance of the tyranny. The regime extended 31 years from its official proclamation in 1930 to 1961.