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Introduction
The Dominican Republic is home to the oldest of the Old World societies
planted in the New World. The blending of all things indigenous, Euro-
pean, and African, which is largely the history of the Americas, began with
this Caribbean nation. The early history of Santo Domingo, as it was called,
foreshadowed the way the Spanish Empire developed, and at the beginning
of that process, no place in the hemisphere was more important.
Despite its historical significance in the drama “Old World meets New
World,” the Dominican Republic is familiar to most non- Dominicans only
through a few elements of its history and culture. Many people are aware
that it shares an island called Hispaniola with Haiti and that it was the place
where Christopher Columbus chose to build a colony. Some people know
that the country produces top major league baseball players and popular
musicians. Other people have learned that it is a great option for an all-
inclusive beach vacation. But not much else about the place is common
knowledge outside its borders. People who visit the Dominican Republic
but limit their experience to a week at a seaside resort gain little under-
standing of the country beyond the tourist enclave.
The relative obscurity of the Dominican Republic results partly from the
fact that it has not received the academic attention in English that it de-
serves. It is more difficult to delve into the Dominican past and present than
it is for most other Latin American nations. This Reader seeks to change
that. It provides an introduction to the history, politics, and culture of the
Dominican Republic, from precolonial history to current trends, combin-
ing primary sources such as essays, songs, poems, legal documents, and oral
testimonies translated from Spanish, with excerpts from academic scholar-
ship, to present the dramatic story of Dominican life since the country’s
founding.
By many measures, the Dominican Republic is a land of extremes. It has
the highest mountain in the Caribbean archipelago, Pico Duarte in the Cen-
tral Range, at more than 10,000 feet above sea level, as well as the lowest
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