The Dominican Republic is the second largest country in the Caribbean with a size of 48,442 square km. of land. The country, situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, occupies the eastern two-thirds of Santo Domingo in the Greater Antilles. Jamaica is in the southwest, Puerto Rico is in the east beyond the 70-mile Mona Passage, whereas Florida is 685 miles away.
Fact 1. The Dominican Republic has the distinction of being the first permanent European colony in the Western Hemisphere. The city of Santo Domingo was founded by Christopher Columbus in 1496.
Fact 2. Â Amongst the population of the country, the African heritage is dominate in the country’s folk culture most notably in the music. The combination of the African-Spanish culture can be seen in the national song and dance called meringue.
Fact 3. Â One of the Dominican Republic’s famous writers and a national poet is Salome Urena Henriquez who lived in the 1800s. She was also responsible for setting up higher educational institutes for women. Other literary figures include Gaston Fernando Deligne a poet, and Fabio Fiallo an author who wrote delicate lyrics. Manuel de Jesus Galvan was another historical novelist who wrote about the country’s impoverished blacks.
Fact 4. Â Similar to most Caribbean countries, the Dominican Republic is characterized by socio-economic inequality with a wide gap between the rich and the poor. The Dominican Republic is ranked 88th by the Human Development Index out of a total of 177 countries.
Fact 5. Â The adverse economic conditions in the country coupled with the high HIV rate has resulted in more than one million children living in poverty with half a million children under the age of 15 living without parental care. An estimated 20 percent of such children are considered to be orphans. The various reasons for the dismal care are due to childhood pregnancies, HIV, mental disabilities, and imprisonment.
Fact 6. The educational system has a high school enrolment of 61 percent with a primary school drop-out rate of 14 percent. Amongst the low-income population, only 12 percent will complete high school.
Fact 7. The country has traditionally been an exporter of sugar, coffee, and tobacco. In recent years there has been a shift in the money-earning sectors from agriculture to tourism as the economy’s largest employer due to the growth in tourism and free-trade zones.
Fact 8. The country is the main command center for drug trafficking in the Caribbean region, with an increase of 800 percent traffic for cocaine to the United States and Europe.
Fact 9. The Dominican Republic is highly dependent on the U.S. as more than half of its exports go to the U.S. Remittances from the U.S. account for one-tenth Â of the GDP equivalent to half of all exports and three-quarters of the tourism receipts. The economy rebounded in 2010-2012 due the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) which became effective in March, 2007, resulting in the country becoming one of the fastest growing in the region.