Culture of the Dominican Republic

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Parque Colón in the Colonial city.

The Dominican people and their customs have origins consisting of mainly European and African roots, with some Taino influences. The Dominican Republic was the site of the first European settlement in the New World, namely Santo Domingo, founded in 1493. Shortly after the arrival of Europeans, the Taino Indian population on the island declined due to inter-mixing and diseases that were inadvertently brought by the Spaniards, and had previously been unknown to the native inhabitants. The colonizers thus began importing African slaves to replace the natives. The fusion of European, African and Taino traditions and customs contributed to the development of present day Dominican culture.

There are differences in class and education that separate different groups. The metropolitan culture available to the upper class and diminishing middle class—due to the economic turbulence, as of late—is often comparable to the life of city dwellers in the rich countries of Western Europe and the United States. But this metropolitan culture doesn't generally reach the poorest people, who may not always have the most basic necessities.

Music[edit]

Dominican singer/songwriter Juan Luis Guerra in concert, 2005

Musically, the Dominican Republic is known for the creation of the musical style called merengue, a type of lively, fast-paced rhythm and dance music consisting of a tempo of about 120 to 160 beats per minute (though it varies) based on musical elements like African drums, brass, piano, chorded instruments, and traditionally the accordion, as well as some elements unique to the Dominican Republic, such as the tambora and güira. Its syncopated beats use Latin percussion, brass instruments, bass, and piano or keyboard. Between 1937 and 1950 merengue music was promoted internationally by Dominican groups like Chapuseaux and Damiron "Los Reyes del Merengue", Joseito Mateo, and others. Radio, television, and international media popularized it further. Some well-known merengue performers include Johnny Ventura, singer/songwriter Juan Luis Guerra, Fernando Villalona, Eddy Herrera, Sergio Vargas, Toño Rosario, Milly Quezada, and Chichí Peralta. Merengue became popular in the United States, mostly on the East Coast, during the 1980s and 1990s,[1]:375 when many Dominican artists, among them Victor Roque y La Gran Manzana, Henry Hierro, Zacarias Ferreira, Aventura, and Milly Jocelyn Y Los Vecinos, residing in the U.S. (particularly New York) started performing in the Latin club scene and gained radio airplay. The emergence of bachata, along with an increase in the number of Dominicans living among other Latino groups in New York, New Jersey, and Florida have contributed to Dominican music's overall growth in popularity.[1]:378

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. Its subjects are often romantic; especially prevalent are tales of heartbreak and sadness. In fact, the original name for the genre was amargue ("bitterness", or "bitter music", or blues music), until the rather ambiguous (and mood-neutral) term bachata became popular. Bachata grew out of, and is still closely related to, the pan-Latin American romantic style called bolero. Over time, it has been influenced by merengue and by a variety of Latin American guitar styles.

Salsa music has had a great deal of popularity in the country. During the late 1960s Dominican musicians like Johnny Pacheco, creator of the Fania All Stars, played a significant role in the development and popularization of the genre.

Dominican rock is also popular among younger and not so younger crowds of the Dominican Republic. Dominican rock is influenced by British and American rock, but also has its own sense of unique style. The rock scene in the Dominican Republic has been very vibrant in recent years, spanning genres of rock such as pop rock, reggae/rock, and punk. There are also several underground Metal concerts occurring occasionally mainly in the cities of Santo Domingo and Santiago, where teenagers and young adults usually not satisfied with the other genres express themselves.

Particularly among the young, hip-hop/rap has been growing in popularity in recent years. Also known as Rap del Patio ("backyard rap"), Dominican rap is created by Dominican crews and solo artists. Originating in the early 2000s with crews such as Charles Family, successful rappers such as Lapiz Conciente, Vakero, Toxic Crow, and R-1 emerged. The youth have embraced the music, sometimes over merengue, merengue típico, bachata, as well as salsa, and, most recently, reggaeton. Dominican rap differs from reggaeton in the fact that Dominican rap does not use the traditional Dem Bow rhythm frequently used in reggaeton, instead using more hip hop-influenced beats.[citation needed]

Cuisine[edit]

Tostones, fried plantain dish.

Dominican cuisine is predominantly Spanish, Taíno, and African. The typical cuisine is quite similar to what can be found in other Latin American countries, but many of the names of dishes are different. One breakfast dish consists of eggs and mangú (mashed, boiled plantain), a dish that the Dominican Republic shares with Cuba and Puerto Rico. For heartier versions, mangú is accompanied by deep-fried meat (Dominican salami, typically) and/or cheese. Similarly to Spain, lunch is generally the largest and most important meal of the day. Lunch usually consists of rice, meat (such as chicken, beef, pork, or fish), beans, and a side portion of salad. "La Bandera" (literally "The Flag") is the most popular lunch dish; it consists of meat and red beans on white rice. Sancocho is a stew often made with seven varieties of meat.

Meals tend to favor meats and starches over dairy products and vegetables. Many dishes are made with sofrito, which is a mix of local herbs used as a wet rub for meats and sautéed to bring out all of a dish's flavors. Throughout the south-central coast, bulgur, or whole wheat, is a main ingredient in quipes or tipili (bulgur salad). Other favorite Dominican foods are chicharrón, yuca, casabe, pastelitos (empanadas), batata, yam, pasteles en hoja, chimichurris, tostones. Some treats Dominicans enjoy are arroz con leche (or arroz con dulce), bizcocho dominicano (lit. Dominican cake), habichuelas con dulce, flan, frío frío (snow cones), dulce de leche, and caña (sugarcane). The beverages Dominicans enjoy include Morir Soñando, rum, beer, Mama Juana, batida (smoothie), jugos naturales (freshly squeezed fruit juices), mabí, coffee, and chaca (also called maiz caqueao/casqueado, maiz con dulce and maiz con leche), the last item being only found in the southern provinces of the country such as San Juan.

Sports[edit]

Dominican native and Major League Baseball player Albert Pujols

Baseball is by far the most popular sport in the Dominican Republic. The country has a baseball league of six teams. The Milwaukee Brewers have a summer league here called the baseball academy.[2] The baseball season usually begins during October and ends in January. After the United States, the Dominican Republic has the second-highest number of Major League Baseball (MLB) players. Ozzie Virgil, Sr. became the first Dominican-born player in the MLB on September 23, 1956. Juan Marichal is the first Dominican-born player in the Baseball Hall of Fame.[3] The three highest paid baseball players of all time Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, and Robinson Cano are of Dominican descent. Other notable baseball players from the Dominican Republic are: Julian Javier, Pedro Martínez, Francisco Liriano, Manny Ramírez, Jose Bautista, Hanley Ramírez, David Ortiz, Ubaldo Jiménez, José Reyes, Alcides Escobar, Plácido Polanco and Sammy Sosa. Felipe Alou has also enjoyed success as a manager,[4] and Omar Minaya as a general manager. In 2013, the Dominican team went undefeated en route to winning the World Baseball Classic.

NBA player Al Horford

In boxing, the Dominican Republic has produced scores of world-class fighters and several world champions.[5] Basketball also enjoys a relatively high level of popularity. Al Horford, Felipe Lopez, and Francisco Garcia are among the Dominican-born players currently or formerly in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Olympic gold medalist and world champion hurdler Félix Sánchez hails from the Dominican Republic, as does NFL defensive end Luis Castillo.[6]

Other important sports include, Volleyball, which was introduced in 1916 by US Marines, is controlled by the Dominican Volleyball Federation. Other sports include taekwondo, in which Gabriel Mercedes is an Olympic silver medalist, and judo.[7]

Art[edit]

Dominican art is perhaps most commonly associated with the bright, vibrant colors and images that are sold in every tourist gift shop across the country. However, the country has a long history of fine art that goes back to the middle of the 1800s when the country became independent and the beginnings of a national art scene emerged.

Campesino cibaeño, 1941 (Museo de Arte Moderno, Santo Domingo)

Historically, the painting of this time were centered around images connected to national independence, historical scenes, portraits but also landscapes and images of still life. Styles of painting ranged between neoclassicism and romanticism. Between 1920 and 1940 the art scene was influenced by styles of realism and impressionism. Dominican artists were focused on breaking from previous, academic styles in order to develop more independent and individual styles. The artists of the times were Celeste Woss y Gil (1890-1985), Jaime Colson (1901-1975), Yoryi O. Morel (1906-1979) and Darío Suro (1917-1997).

The 1940s represent an important period in Dominican art. President Rafael Leónidas Trujillo provided asylum for Spanish Civil War refugees and a group of Europeans (including famous artists) subsequently arrived to the DR. They became an inspiration to young Dominican artists who were given a more international perspective on art. The art school Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes was founded as the first official center for teaching art. The country went through a renaissance heavily inspired by the trends happening in Europe.

Between 1950 and 1970 the students who had been taught by European masters began to excel and their art expressed the social and political conditions of the time. A need for a renewal of the image language emerged and as a result paintings were created in non-figurative, abstract, geometric and cubistic styles. The most noticeable artists included Paul Giudicelli (1921-1965), Clara Ledesma (1924-1999), Gilberto H. Ortega (1924-1979), Gaspar Mario Cruz (1925-2006), Luichy M. Richiez (1928-2000), Eligio Pichardo (1929-1984), Domingo Liz (1931-), Silvano Lora (1934-2003), Cándido Bidó (1936-) and José Ramírez Conde (1940-1987). During the 1970s and 1980s artists were experimenting again with new styles, forms, concepts and themes. Artists such as Ada Balcácer (1930-), Fernando Peña Defilló (1928-) and Ramón Oviedo (1927-) count as the most influential of the decade.

Language[edit]

Main article: Dominican Spanish

Spanish is the predominant language in the Dominican Republic; the local dialect is called Dominican Spanish. It closely resembles Canarian Spanish, and also has influences from African languages and borrowed vocabularies from the Arawak language. Some common words derived from the Taino natives include: barbecue, canoe, caribbean, hammock, hurricane, iguana, manatee, mangrove, savannah, and tobacco among others.

Schools in the Dominican Republic are based on a Spanish educational model. English is taught as a secondary language in many private schools, it is also being taught in some public schools in recent times. Haitian Creole is spoken by the population of Haitian descent. There is a community of about 8,000 speakers of Samaná English in the Samaná Peninsula. They are the descendants of formerly enslaved Africans who arrived in the nineteenth century. Tourism, American pop culture, the influence of Dominican Americans, and the country's economic ties with the United States motivate other Dominicans to learn English.

Fashion[edit]

Dominican native, fashion designer and perfume maker Oscar de la Renta

In only seven years, the Dominican Republic's fashion week has become the most important event of its kind in all of the Caribbean and one of the fastest growing fashion events in the entire Latin American fashion world. The country boasts one of the ten most important design schools in the region, La Escuela de Diseño de Altos de Chavón, which is making the country a key player in the world of fashion and design.

World famous fashion designer Oscar de la Renta was born in the Dominican Republic in 1932, and became a US citizen in 1971. He studied under the leading Spaniard designer Cristóbal Balenciaga and then worked with the house of Lanvin in Paris. Then by 1963, de la Renta had designs carrying his own label. After establishing himself in the US, de la Renta opened boutiques across the country. His work blends French and Spaniard fashion with American styles.[8][9] Although he settled in New York, de la Renta also marketed his work in Latin America, where it became very popular, and remained active in his native Dominican Republic, where his charitable activities and personal achievements earned him the Juan Pablo Duarte Order of Merit and the Order of Cristóbal Colón.[9]

Festivals[edit]

Carnival celebrations are held in the Dominican Republic each February with parades, street dancing, food festivals, and music. Festivities also take place in the week leading up to Easter Sunday. Parades, beauty pageants, and different festivals in each town throughout the country fill the week. In June the country celebrates Espíritu Santo to honor the island's African heritage with nationwide festivals featuring African music. Concerts, dance troupes, arts and crafts booths, and chefs also celebrate Dominican heritage with an annual cultural festival in Puerto Plata[disambiguation needed] each June. Fiesta Patria de la Restauración, or Restoration Day, celebrates the Dominican Republic's day of independence from Spain, which occurred in 1863. Nationwide events include parades, music festivals, street festivals, and food festivals.

Three days each June are set aside for the Latin Music Festival in Santo Domingo. Both local and international Latin musicians and bands take the stage. During the last week of July and first week of August Santo Domingo hosts some of the world's top merengue bands at the Festival del Merengue. Other events during the two week long party include and food festival and an arts and crafts festival. October's Puerto Plata Festival brings musicians from around the country together to perform live music in a variety of genres. Blues, jazz, folk, salsa, and merengue are the most common. Another musical event takes place in October during Columbus Day Weekend: the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival. Concerts are held in Puerto Plata, Sosua, and Cabarete, and feature some of the country's top jazz musicians and bands.

Other festivals include the Festivales del Santo Cristo de Bayaguana on New Years Day. Events leading up to Mass include a parade, music, and dance. Each January the Dominican Republic honors Juan Pablo Duarte with gun salutes in Santo Domingo and numerous carnivals throughout the country. Duarte is celebrated as the man who gained independence from Haiti for the Dominican Republic. The premier culinary event in all of the Caribbean is Taste SD, which takes place in October of each year. During the event, hundreds of restaurants, food vendors, chefs, and others on the culinary scene host a series of presentations, tastings, and more. The event stretches out over several days and venues and is known to attract several thousand guests. The main event, unveiled in 2012, is the Culinary Cup of the Americas in which chefs participate in several cooking and baking events hoping to win the top prize. Another event is the Dominican Republic International Film Festival. During four days each December, independent films, shorts, and documentaries are screened.

Architecture[edit]

National palace in Santo Domingo
San Pedro de Macorís square

The architecture in the Dominican Republic represents a complex blend of diverse cultures. The deep influence of the European colonists is the most evident throughout the country. Characterized by ornate designs and baroque structures, the style can best be seen in the capital city of Santo Domingo, which is home to the first cathedral, castle, monastery, and fortress in all of the Americas, located in the city's Colonial Zone, an area declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.[10][11] The designs carry over into the villas and buildings throughout the country. It can also be observed on buildings that contain stucco exteriors, arched doors and windows, and red tiled roofs.

The indigenous peoples of the Dominican Republic have also had a significant influence on the architecture of the country. The Taino people relied heavily on the mahogany and guano (dried palm tree leaf) to put together crafts, artwork, furniture, and houses. Utilizing mud, thatched roofs, and mahogany trees give buildings and the furniture inside a natural look, seamlessly blending in with the island’s surroundings.

Lately, with the rise in tourism and increasing popularity as a Caribbean vacation destination, architects in the Dominican Republic have now began to incorporate cutting-edge designs that emphasized luxury. In many ways an architectural playground, villas and hotels implemented new styles, while still offering new takes on the old. This new style, though diverse, is characterized by simplified, angular corners, and large windows that blend outdoor and indoor spaces. As with the culture as a whole, contemporary architects embrace the Dominican Republic’s rich history and various cultures to create something new. Surveying modern villas, one can find any combination of the three major styles: a villa may contain angular, modernist building construction, Spanish Colonial-style arched windows, and a traditional Taino hammock in the bedroom balcony.

Religion[edit]

Cathedral of Santa María la Menor, Santo Domingo, the first cathedral in America, built 1512–1540

The Dominican Republic is 68.9% Roman Catholic, 18.2% Evangelical, 10.6% with no religion, and 2.3% other.[12] However, other sources place the irreligious ratio at 7% and nearly 10%.[13] Recent immigration, as well as proselytizing, has brought other religions, with the following shares of the population: Spiritist: 2.2%,[14] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: 1.1%,[15] Buddhist: 0.1%, Bahá'í: 0.1%,[14] Chinese Folk Religion: 0.1%,[14] Islam: 0.02%, Judaism: 0.01%. The nation has two patroness saints: Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia (Our Lady Of High Grace) and Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes (Our Lady Of Mercy).

The Catholic Church began to lose popularity in the late 19th century. This was due to a lack of funding, of priests, and of support programs. During the same time, the Protestant evangelical movement began to gain support. Religious tension between Catholics and Protestants in the country has been rare.

There has always been religious freedom throughout the entire country. Not until the 1950s were restrictions placed upon churches by Trujillo. Letters of protest were sent against the mass arrests of government adversaries. Trujillo began a campaign against the church and planned to arrest priests and bishops who preached against the government. This campaign ended before it was even put into place, with his assassination.

During World War II, a group of Jews escaping Nazi Germany fled to the Dominican Republic and founded the city of Sosúa. It has remained the center of the Jewish population since.[16]

Holidays[edit]

Date Name
January 1 New Year's Day Non-working day.
January 6 Catholic day of the Epiphany Movable.
January 21 Día de la Altagracia Non-working day. Patroness Day (Catholic).
January 26 Duarte's Day Movable. Founding Father.
February 27 Independence Day Non-working day. National Day.
(Variable date) Holy Week Working days, except Good Friday.
A Catholic holiday.
May 1 International Workers' Day Movable.
Last Sunday of May Mother's Day
(Variable date) Catholic Corpus Christi Non-working day. A Thursday in May or June
(60 days after Easter Sunday).
August 16 Restoration Day Non-working day.
September 24 Virgen de las Mercedes Non-working day. A Patroness Day (Catholic)
November 6 Constitution Day Movable.
December 25 Christmas Day Non-working day.

Notes:

  • Non-working holidays are not moved to another day.
  • If a movable holiday falls on Saturday, Sunday or Monday then it is not moved to another day. If it falls on Tuesday or Wednesday, the holiday is moved to the previous Monday. If it falls on Thursday or Friday, the holiday is moved to the next Monday.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Harvey, Sean (2006). The Rough Guide to The Dominican Republic. Rough Guides. ISBN 1-84353-497-5. 
  2. ^ "Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana" (in Spanish). Retrieved January 20, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Marichal, Juan". Baseball Hall of Fame. Retrieved July 29, 2010. 
  4. ^ Puesan, Antonio (March 2, 2009). "Dominicana busca corona en el clásico mundial". Sobre el Diamante. Retrieved October 22, 2012. 
  5. ^ Fleischer, Nat; Sam Andre; Don Rafael (2002). An Illustrated History of Boxing. Citadel Press. pp. 324, 362, 428. ISBN 0-8065-2201-1. 
  6. ^ Shanahan, Tom (March 24, 2007). "San Diego Hall of Champions – Sports at Lunch, Luis Castillo and Felix Sanchez". San Diego Hall of Champions. Archived from the original on May 5, 2007. Retrieved May 29, 2007. 
  7. ^ "Fedujudo comparte con dirigentes provinciales". Federación Dominicana de Judo. Retrieved September 15, 2010. 
  8. ^ Fashion: Oscar de la Renta (Dominican Republic) WCAX.com – Retrieved October 31, 2012.
  9. ^ a b Oscar de la Renta. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved October 31, 2012.
  10. ^ http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/526
  11. ^ http://www.unesco.org/nac/geoportal.php?country=DO&language=S
  12. ^ "2010 Report on International Religious Freedom – Dominican Republic". Retrieved March 30, 2011. 
  13. ^ Zuckerman, Phil (2007). "Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns". The Cambridge Companion to Atheism. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 1-139-82739-1. Retrieved January 20, 2011. 
  14. ^ a b c "Religious Freedom Page". religiousfreedom.lib.virginia.edu. Retrieved February 27, 2009. 
  15. ^ "Country Profiles > Dominican Republic". newsroom.lds.org. 2010. Retrieved January 9, 2010. 
  16. ^ Haggerty, Richard (1989). "Dominican Republic – Religion". Dominican Republic: A Country Study. U.S. Library of Congress. Retrieved May 21, 2006. 

External links[edit]