The Dominican Republic is not only a Caribbean paradise, with white sand beaches and turquoise sea – there’s much more in its rich history, vivid culture, natural wonders and charming residents.
Christopher Columbus landed on the island on December 5, 1492, which the Taíno people had inhabited since the 7th century. It became the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas. Named Santo Domingo, it is the oldest continuously inhabited city and the first seat of the Spanish colonial rule in the New World.
Santo Domingo is North and South America’s first capital city, the site of the first catholic cathedral, first university and hospital. Some of the original buildings have been restored and can be visited in Santo Domingo’s Colonial City (Zona Colonial).
The oldest Cathedral in the world is situated in Santo Domingo. The first stone for the Cathedral was laid in 1514 by Diego Columbus, Christopher Columbus’ son.
The Dominican flag is the only one to have a Bible in it. Adopted on November 6, 1844, this is one of the oldest flags in the world. It has its roots in the Haitian flag of the 19th century.
Spanish is the official language of the Dominican Republic, although in touristic areas English, Italian, German, and French are also spoken.
The national sport of the Dominican Republic is baseball. Some of the world’s best baseball players are Dominicans.
The Dominican Republic is credited with creating and developing the merengue style of music, which is a fast-paced, rhythmic dance music. Bachata, a form of music and dance that originated in the countryside and rural marginal neighborhoods of the Dominican Republic, has become quite popular in recent years.
The Dominican Republic is known as the bread basket of the Caribbean because it grows, farms and catches almost everything that’s served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Some of the typical dishes you should try: sancocho (a hearty stew, with up to 7 types of meat and veggies), mangú (a typical breakfast), mofongo (made with fried plantains, garlic and pork rinds).
The Dominican Republic is situated on the eastern part of the island Hispaniola, the second largest island in the Greater Antilles and it’s the second largest country in the Antilles, after Cuba. It shares the island roughly at a 2:1 ratio with Haiti. Pico Duarte is the highest peak in the Dominican Republic, and all the Caribbean islands, and it is 3,098 meters or 10,164 feet high.
The Amber Museum in Puerto Plata houses the famous amber stone with a prehistoric mosquito preserved inside, which can be seen in the box office hit, Jurassic Park. Amber is a fossil tree resin found in only a few places in the world.
The gemstone Larimar, also called “Stefilia’s Stone”, is a rare blue variety of the silicate mineral pectolite found only in the Dominican Republic. Its coloration varies from white, light-blue, green-blue to deep blue.
Dominican Oscar de la Renta is one of the best-known fashion designers of the 21st century. Born in Santo Domingo, his clothes are worn by celebrities such as Jacqueline Kennedy, Nancy Reagan, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Anna Wintour, Oprah Winfrey, Sandra Bullock, Emma Watson, Victoria Beckham, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Lawrence, Rihanna, and many more.
Director Francis Ford Coppola filmed scenes of the The Godfather Part II in the Dominican Republic’s capital city, Santo Domingo.
The national flower is the Bayahibe Rose (la Rosa de Bayahibe) and the national tree is the West Indian Mahogany (la caoba). The national bird is the Cigua Palmera or Palmchat (“Dulus dominicus”).
The location of the purported Colombo’s tomb is in the Columbus Lighthouse (Faro de Colombo) in Santo Domingo. It is not a working lighthouse used for ships navigation, but at night it projects light beams in a cruciform shape that are so powerful that they can be seen as far away as Puerto Rico, some 200 miles distant. A cathedral in Seville, Spain, also claims to have Columbus’ remains, and DNA testing has failed to conclusively resolve the question of where Columbus ended up. It’s also thought possible that at some point his remains were split up, so that some of his bones wound up in each of the two cities (Santo Domingo and Seville).
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