1. Dominicans love baseball
Baseball is a national pastime and a great source of pride. Boys often dedicate their childhoods to this sport, hoping to play in the big leagues in the US. Almost 40 percent of players in US leagues come from the Dominican Republic, including Pedro Martinez, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, and Sammy Sosa. In fact, thousands of Dominican boys believe that baseball is their only path out of poverty, leading them to drop out of school, follow manipulative scouts, and even resort to steroids.
2. They eat patriotic food
La Bandera, meaning “the flag,” is a traditional meal of stewed meat, red beans, and rice. It’s served regularly in Dominican households.
3. It is home to the oldest cathedral in the Americas
Catedral de Santa Maria La Menor celebrates its 500th anniversary this year. In 1514 Christopher Columbus’s son laid the first stone for this cathedral. Since then, it has survived everything from pirate attacks to earthquakes.
4. They have fast feet!
Merengue is a style of dance developed in the Dominican Republic. Its quick dance steps are matched by equally fast-paced music.
5. It has a rare flag
The Dominican flag is the only flag in the world that uses the image of a Bible. This coat of arms is at the center of the flag. But just because the flag has a Bible doesn’t mean everyone in the Domincian has access to one.
6. They make bananas taste great!
Tostones (tos-TOE-nays), which are small, fried plantain patties, are often a side dish at meals. Like most other fried foods, tostones are a tasty must-eat treat!
7. It’s named after a saint
Long before their independence, the country was called Santo Domingo, after Saint Dominic. The people were called Dominicans. After they won independence, the people called their country La República Dominicana (the Dominican Republic). Did you know Saint Dominic is the patron saint of astronomers?
8. Larimar is only found here
Larimar gets its name from the color of the sea, which is called mar in Spanish. The Dominican Republic is the only place in the world where the blue, semi-precious stone called larimar is found. It most closely resembles turquoise, and it is called “larimar” because it resembles the color of the Caribbean Sea (or mar).
9. It’s older than you think
The capital city, Santo Domingo, has a rich history. Founded in 1496, it’s the oldest European settlement in the Americas.
10. They won their independence from Haiti
That’s right. Haiti—which is now about half the size of the Dominican Republic and has long been the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere—used to rule its neighbor. In November 1821, Santo Domingo declared its independence from Spain. But two months later, Haiti invaded and took over. The Dominican Republic didn’t become independent until February 27, 1844.