The Dominican Republic (Spanish: República Dominicana) is a nation on the island of Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are occupied by two countries, Saint Martin being the other. Both by area and population, the Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean nation (after Cuba), with 48,442 km² and an estimated 10 million people.
Inhabited by Taínos since the seventh century, what is now the Dominican Republic was reached by Christopher Columbus in 1492 and became the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas, namely Santo Domingo, the country's capital and Spain's first capital in the New World. In Santo Domingo stand, among other firsts in the Americas, the first university, cathedral, and castle, the latter two in the Ciudad Colonial area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
After three centuries of Spanish rule, with French and Haitian interludes, the country became independent in 1821 but was quickly taken over by Haiti. It attained independence in 1844, but mostly suffered political turmoil and tyranny, and as well a brief return to Spanish rule, over the next 72 years. United States occupation 1916-24 and a subsequent, calm six–year period were followed by the military dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina to 1961. The last civil war, in 1965, ended with U.S. intervention, followed by the authoritarian rule of Joaquin Balaguer, to 1978. Since 1978, the Dominican Republic has moved toward representative democracy.
The Dominican Republic has also adopted a liberal economic model, which has made it perhaps the largest economy in the region. Though long known for sugar production, the economy is now dominated by services. The country's economic progress is exemplified by its advanced telecommunication system. Nevertheless, unemployment, government corruption, income maldistribution, and inconsistent electric service remain major Dominican problems.
Migration is a major issue affecting the country, as it both receives and sends large flows of migrants. Haitian immigration and the integration of Dominicans of Haitian descent are major issues in the Dominican Republic. The total population of Haitian origin is estimated to be 800,000. A large Dominican diaspora exists, most of it in the United States, where it comprises 1.1 million. They contribute to the development of the Dominican Republic, as they send billions of dollars to family members in the country, amounting to one-tenth of its GDP.
The Dominican Republic has become the Caribbean's second largest tourist destination after Puerto Rico; the country's year–round golf courses are among the top attractions. In this mountainous country is located the Caribbean's highest mountain, Pico Duarte, as is Lake Enriquillo, the Caribbean's largest lake. Quisqueya, as Dominicans often call their country, has a mild average temperature (26 °C) and is outstanding for its great biological diversity.
Music and sport are of the highest importance in Dominican culture, with merengue music and baseball preferred.
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