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Dominican Republic.

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Uploaded on May 27, 2010

Introducing Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic (DR) is a land of contrasts -- the physical kind, like the highest peak and the lowest point in the Caribbean, and the more metaphorical kind, like that between the urban street life of Santo Domingo and the rural villages only a short drive away. Santo Domingo, or 'La Capital' as it's typically called, is to Dominicans what New York is to Americans, a collage of cultures; or what Havana is to Cubans, a vibrant beating heart that fuels the entire country. It's also a living museum, offering the sight of New World firsts scattered around the charming cobblestone streets of the Zona Colonial.
The DR is also famous for the large all-inclusive resorts that dominate much of the country's prime beachfront real estate. However, the result is less like the high-rise congestion of Cancun or Miami and more like low-slung retirement communities, albeit ones populated by families, couples and singles of all ages looking for a hassle-free holiday. Beyond the gated luxury enclaves, the roads lead inland past vast sugar plantations and through small villages. To get away from the get-away, travelers head to the Península de Samaná, where the European vibe is as strong as an espresso, and where escape is the operative word. Cabarete on the North Coast has winds which draw adrenaline junkies from around the world. And for the anti-Caribbean experience head to the popular mountain retreats of Jarabacoa and Constanza -- places where bathing suits are out and sweaters are in.Two colonies grew on Hispaniola, one Spanish and the other French. Both brought thousands of African slaves to work the land. In 1804, after a 70-year struggle, the French colony gained independence. Haiti, the Taíno name for the island, was the first majority-black republic in the New World.
In 1821 colonists in Santo Domingo declared their independence from Spain. Haiti, which had long aspired to unify the island, promptly invaded its neighbor and occupied it for more than two decades. But Dominicans never accepted Haitian rule and on February 27, 1844, Juan Pablo Duarte -- considered the father of the country -- led a bloodless coup and reclaimed Dominican autonomy. Fearing an invasion and still feeling threatened by Haiti in 1861, the Dominican Republic once again submitted to Spanish rule. But ordinary Dominicans did not support the move and, after four years of armed resistance, succeeded in expelling Spanish troops in what is known as the War of Restoration . (Restauración is a common street name throughout the DR, and there are a number of monuments to the war, including a prominent one in Santiago.) On March 3, 1865, the Queen of Spain signed a decree annulling the annexation and withdrew her soldiers from the island.
The young country endured one disreputable caudillo (military leader) after the other. In 1916 US President Woodrow Wilson sent the marines to the Dominican Republic, ostensibly to quell a coup attempt, but they ended up occupying the country for eight years. Though imperialistic, this occupation succeeded in stabilizing the DR.

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