Dominican Republic: Where it all started!

Today, October 12, as we celebrate Columbus Day (also known in other countries as Día de la Raza, Día de las Américas, or Día de la Hispanidad) to commemorate the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the “New World,” the Americas, it is fitting to highlight the country where it all started: the Dominican Republic.  It is said that when Columbus first landed in America, he did so in what we know today as The Bahamas, yet the first European settlement was established in the Dominican Republic.

The Dominican Republic is the second-largest country in the Caribbean and houses the oldest colonial city in America, Santo Domingo, which was founded in 1496 and serves as its capital city. Santo Domingo is also the place where the first Catholic cathedral, the first university, and the first hospital in the Americas were built. The Colonial Zone has an impressive collection of 16th-century buildings, including palatial houses and majestic churches that reflect the architectural style of the era. Santo Domingo was chosen as the Cultural Capital of the Americas for 2010 and has been a World Heritage Site since 1990.

Today, the Dominican Republic is one of the top tourism destinations in the Caribbean thanks to its gorgeous sandy beaches, hospitality, and culture. Its tropical climate and more than 25 designer golf-courses also make it a premier golf destination, where lovers of the game can play year-round. Food and dancing add a joyful touch to the breathtaking views, where a blend of Taínos, European, and African cultures is noticeable. Merengue, a vibrant rhythm created back in the 1920s, can be heard throughout the island and is enjoyed around the world.

The blend of cultures can also be experienced in the country’s cuisine. Dominican food is often a combination of fresh produce and spices as colorful as the scenery. Most dishes will include a mix of rice, fish and other seafood, meats, beans, and vegetables. Culinary specialties of the country vary from region to region, but some very well-known dishes includes mangú (mashed boiled plantains), “La Bandera” (which translates to “the flag”) consisting of meat and red beans on white rice, and Sancocho, a stew often made with seven different types of meat.

Did you know…? Maria Montez, the first Latina actress to star in a Hollywood film is from the Dominican Republic. The country is home to one of the largest salt lakes in the world: Lago Enriquillo. The Dominican flag is the only one in the world with an image of the bible on it.

This is the twentieth in a series of articles spotlighting different countries in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. To see a complete list of previous entries, click here.