Diversity that Captivates
There, on two thirds of the Island of Hispaniola, the second largest in the Greater Antilles, east of Cuba and Jamaica, west of Puerto Rico, you will directly feel the miraculous power of music and dance. From that union of Europe, the Caribbean and Africa, one can take off, heal from loneliness, overcome the fear of death. This small country, with great economic growth, is the most geographically diverse in the Caribbean. It has long beaches, turquoise sea, tropical vegetation, rivers, mountain waterfalls, large lakes, caves, sand dunes... From that lump in the ocean, history has raised the motto: ”God, Homeland, Freedom”

By: Ivana Ašković
Photo: Ivana Ašković and Tamara Stojić

At the time when most countries worldwide have closed their borders in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, the Dominican Republic remained open to tourism. One of the first information we received from the local guide, when we landed in this tropical paradise from the cold February of Belgrade, was that there are few cases of virus infection, because it is warm and sunny all year round, and the virus does not like the sun. Eager for travel, adventure and sunshine, and most of all freedom of movement, the warm smiles of the locals and that cheerful statement, which is by the way confirmed by statistics, made us immediately feel at home.
The Dominican Republic is the second largest country in the Caribbean, geographically and ethnically very diverse, known for its tropical beaches, caves, warm and hospitable people, one of the most attractive destinations in the Greater Antilles archipelago, the cradle of Bachata – one of the most sensual Latino dances, a country with beautiful nature, turbulent history and rich culture. It is located on the eastern two thirds of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with the Republic of Haiti.
Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean in the north and the Caribbean Sea in the south, the Dominican Republic is a luxurious tropical destination with almost 1,609 kilometers of coastline, 402 kilometers of the world's most beautiful beaches, magnificent resorts and hotels, and various opportunities for sports, recreation and entertainment. Here you can dance to a passionate embrace with your significant other or a complete stranger, let the Merengue music mixed with the waves awaking all your senses, relax in luxury hotels, explore ancient relics, enjoy delicious Dominican gastronomy or ecotourism adventures in national parks on mountain ranges, rivers and beaches.


The Dominican Republic has a turbulent history that is reflected in all aspects of the21st century life of this country. Its recorded history begins when Christopher Columbus reached the island of Hispaniola on his first voyage to the New World, in December 1492. Only a few years later, Santo Domingo, the capital of colonial rule, was built. The first cathedral in the New World was built there, and for several decades Santo Domingo was the administrative heart of the expanding empire.
After more than three hundred years of Spanish rule, the Dominican people declared independence in November 1821. As early as February 1822, Haiti forcibly annexed the new Dominican territory, and the Dominican gained full independence twenty-two years later, after winning the Dominican War of Independence in 1844, when it was proclaimed a republic. In the following period, the Dominican Republic went through internal conflicts, several failed invasions of neighboring Haiti and a brief return to Spanish colonial status, before permanently overthrowing the Spaniards during the Dominican Restoration War. Apart from the brief Spanish occupation in the middle of the 19th century and the occupation of the USA from 1916 to 1924, the Dominican Republic has maintained its independence and economic prosperity to this day.
The island’s indigenous Taino people were known for their beautiful works of art, natural medicine, innovative sports activities, complex textiles, jewelry and ceramics, and advanced agriculture. The Spanish conquerors were greeted peacefully and hospitably. The Spaniards, however, conquered the local tribes, and decimated the population through wars and enslavement. The men were forced to work on colonial plantations and in gold mines. A large number also succumbed to infectious diseases that had long been endemic to Europeans from the Old World but caused the death of millions of people in the New World, as the local population did not have immunity. In a period of about thirty years, 98 percent of the local population was killed or displaced. Those who remained were assimilated through mixed marriages with Spaniards or slaves brought by Spaniards from Africa. It is believed that the Taino became extinct as a people at the end of the 16th century. The smaller numbers that survived on other Caribbean islands were also more assimilated through marriages with the descendants of white conquerors or African slaves.
While people of predominantly Hispanic and those of predominantly African descent can be differentiated among the locals at first glance, the population of the Dominican Republic today is mostly declared to be of mixed ethnic origin. After independence from Haiti, Spanish-speaking Dominicans immediately endeavored to eliminate Haitian (and therefore African) cultural influence. Although the elite managed to keep Spanish as the official language, in fact a large part of the population was and remained of African or mixed origin.


The Dominican Republic is the most geographically diverse Caribbean country. In addition to warm beaches and turquoise sea, it offers nature lovers mountains with lush tropical vegetation and waterfalls, large lakes and sand dunes, which allows you to enjoy a variety of natural attractions in one small country.
Saona Island is one of those idyllic postcard images that look like paradise on Earth to us. White sandy beaches, calm, transparent, turquoise sea and coconut palms. And you somewhere in there. And nothing else. That is why Saona is certainly the first destination you want to visit, regardless of all the luxury and amenities offered by Punta Cana resorts.
Saona lies on the southeastern tip of the country and is part of the Eastern National Park, known for its mangroves and coral reefs and palm-fringed beaches, such as Palmilla Beach, while the shallow waters of the island are home to starfish. Mano Juan is an idyllic fishing village near the Flamingo Lagoon, with picturesque huts and a turtle sanctuary. To the west, you can see the Cotubanama Cave, known for its drawings from the pre-Columbian period.
Santo Domingo is the capital of the country. It is located in the southeastern part of the island, at the mouth of the Ozama River. The city was founded in 1496 by Bartholomew Columbus, brother of Christopher Columbus, naming it La Isabella (after Queen Isabella I of Spain), as the capital of the first Spanish colony in the New World, and is the oldest city founded by Europeans in the Western Hemisphere. The university was founded in 1558. It is an economic center, with metallurgy, textile, chemical, wood and food industries.


On the historic buildings of the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo (under the protection of UNESCO) you can observe more than five hundred years of history. Alcazar de Colon was a palace built by order of Diego Columbus, son of Christopher Columbus. Today, it houses a museum that holding the most important Caribbean collection of works of art from the Middle Ages and the late Renaissance. The 16th-century Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor is the oldest cathedral on the American continent, and it still performs religious services. Many other buildings in the Colonial Zone have been restored and well maintained, while others show earthquake and storm damage over the years. The city is a great challenge for anyone who loves history or photography, but also for those who enjoy sitting in the gardens of local restaurants and watching the world pass by.
Whale watching is an adventure not to be missed. The best time to observe whales is between mid-December and the end of March each year, when thousands of magnificent humpback whales gather in the warm waters of Samana, in the northeastern part of the country, to mate, give birth and nurse their young. It is one of the most spectacular annual events in nature.
Whale watching in Samana is unique because the waters are almost forbidden for all ships, except for whale watching boats, so the whales are protected and without fear of people. During the season, you can see not only adult whales, but also newborn cubs swimming under the watchful eye of their mothers. You may also see a male humpback whales fighting for the attention of their potential mates with amazing stunts, such as jumping out of the water into the air and thunderously clapping their tails on the waves.
Altos de Chavon is a beautiful reconstruction of a European village in the Mediterranean style from the 16th century, located on the top of the Chavon River in La Romana. It is one of the most popular attractions in the city and includes a cultural center, an archeological museum and an amphitheater. Since it was closed for group visits due to the epidemiological situation, the few of us who came by our own transport sailed through the silence of the cobbled streets and enjoyed the stories narrated from the facades from past centuries, as well as the magnificent view of the river and valley. The white stone amphitheater, built in the Roman style, with five thousand seats and perfect acoustics, had been for years the stage for important musical events. And as all public events in this country of music and dance fell silent before the wave of the pandemic, on the stage that day only one lone trumpet player in front of five thousand empty seats reminded us, two bystanders and a local guide, of the divine power of music and the loneliness of artists before the universal fear of death.


Bachata is a genre of music, and later a style of social dance, which originated in the Dominican Republic in the first half of the 20th century with primarily Spanish influences, but also with elements of indigenous and African musical traditions, as a blend that best reflects the cultural diversity of the Dominican Republic. The eponymous dance that developed from this type of music is certainly the most sensual of all Latin American dances. It is danced in open or closed embrace with a partner, with relatively simple steps and with characteristic hip movements. They say that the dance originated as a kind of ”invitation to a mating game” to express the longing one feels for a particular other person. Most believe that the more fluidly and sensually you move your hips, the more passion you feel towards your partner. If someone invites you to the dance floor, it can mean that you have been chosen as a partner, and two dances with the same person on the same evening is almost a promise that the flame of embrace will later be transferred somewhere else outside the dance floor.
Meringue is considered part of the national identity and national dance of the Dominican community. Music and dance are a blend of European and African culture and, just like Bachata, reflect the history of this country. The meringue plays an active role in various aspects of people's daily lives – from education to social gatherings and celebrations, even political campaigns. The traditional practice was recognized by a presidential decree in 2005, and November 26 was declared National Meringue Day. Merengue festivals are held every year in Dominican Republic cities such as Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata.


They say that travel is one of the few things you spend money on that makes you richer. To that extent, to us for whom traveling and discovering new destinations and new cultures is a passion, the Covid-19 pandemic is a special challenge. Although tourism is an important industry in this country, the Dominican Republic has a strong economy and enough other resources to withstand the pressure of the pandemic, and yet it has remained open to us adventurers and collectors of unforgettable encounters with other cultures. Grateful for that, full of impressions and eager to discover other magical places of this beautiful country, we promised to return.


The Dominican Republic has close to ten million inhabitants, on almost fifty thousand square kilometers. The official language is Spanish, the currency is Dominican Pesos. The capital Santo Domingo, in the southeast of the island, at the mouth of the Ozama River, has a population of about three million.


Strong Economic Growth
The Dominican Republic has the strongest economy in the Caribbean and Central America, and is the eighth largest economy in Latin America. Over the last 25 years, it has had the fastest growing economy in the Western Hemisphere – with an average real GDP growth rate of 7.3 percent in 2014 and 2015. In the first half of 2016, the local economy grew by 7.4 percent, continuing its trend of rapid economic growth. Recent growth has been driven by construction, manufacturing, tourism and mining. The country is home to Pueblo Viejo, the world's second largest gold mine. Private consumption is high as a result of low inflation, job creation and high remittance levels.


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