Dominican Republic, occupies the eastern two-thirds of
Hispaniola, has some spectacularly beautiful scenery. The
country is mountainous and has the highest peak in the
Caribbean, Pico Duarte (3,175 m). It has many more forests
than its neighbour, Haiti, and is green and fertile. Within
a system of widespread food production are large sugar and
fruit plantations and cattle ranches. The Republic has built
up its tourist trade, and has much to offer in the way of
natural beauty, old colonial architecture, attractive
beaches, adventure sports, modern resorts and native
friendliness. Public transport is good and it is easy and
rewarding to explore by bus or hired car. Its population is
mostly a mixture of black, white and mulatto, and is
Dominicans are a mixture of African black and white, with a
strong European strain. Although Dominicans often call
themselves Indians, the Taínos were in fact wiped out
within a few generations of the arrival of the Spanish.
These English terms should, however, be qualified:
'blanco' (white) refers to anybody who is white,
light-skinned mulatto, or substantially white with either or
both Indian (appearance) or African admixture; 'indio
claro' (tan) is anyone who is white/black mixed; 'indio
oscuro' (dark Indian) is anyone who is not 100% black (ie
with some white admixture); 'negro' is 100% African.
Negro is not a derogatory term. There is a certain
aspiration towards the Indian; this can be seen not only in
the use of the original name for the island, Quisqueya (and
Quisqueyanos), but in place names (San Pedro de Macorís,
from the Macorix tribe, the other Indian inhabitants being
the Taino and the Ciguayo) and in given family names (Guainorex,
Anacaona, etc). Unlike in Haiti, the Dominicans' culture
and language are hispanic and their religion Roman Catholic.
Economically, the country is much more developed, despite a
stormy political past and unsavoury periods of dictatorship,
particularly under Generalísimo Trujillo (1930-61).
Nevertheless, in a material sense the country prospered
during the Trujillo era and the standard of living is much
higher than it is in Haiti. Many people seek a better life
elsewhere, however, and Dominicans make up the largest group
of Hispanics in New York, while those left behind rely on
their relatives' remittances of dollars to make ends meet.