Culture

The culture of the Dominican Republic has many elements that originate in Spain but also the culture is blended with African and indigenous American cultural elements. Castilian Spanish is the national language, but other languages such as English, French, Haitian Creole, German and Italian are also spoken to varying degrees. African cultural elements are most prominent in musical expressions and the carnival vibe of life, testimony to the rich African heritage that existed before and after slavery. Taino cultural elements exist mostly in foods such as casabe (a type of tortilla, but made using casava instead of corn), and language. There are also more recent Antillean and Anglo-American influences. Near the border between Haiti and Dominican Republic, some people practice Santería.

Sport

Baseball is by far the most popular sport in the Dominican Republic, and there are many Dominican stars currently competing in Major League Baseball in the United States, including Albert Pujols, Sammy Sosa, Pedro Martínez, David Ortiz, Jose Reyes, Rafael Furcal, Vladimir Guerrero, Miguel Tejada, and Manny Ramirez. The Dominican Republic also has its own baseball league which runs from October to January, including six teams: Tigres del licey, Aguilas cibaeñas, Gigantes del Cibao, Toros Azucareros del Este, Estrellas Orientales, and Leones del Escogido. Many MLB players and minor leaguers play in this six-team league during the off-season. As such, the Dominican winter league serves as an important 'training ground' for the MLB.

Religion

Eighty-nine percent of Dominicans are baptised in the Roman Catholic Church. Other substantial religious groups are Evangelical Christians and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Around one percent of the nation's inhabitants practice pure spiritism.

Every year, tens of thousands of Catholics make the pilgrimage to Higuey to celebrate the Virgin de la Altagracia in late January. The main historical element in Higuey is the cathedral, home of the 'Virgin de la Altagracia,' a painting brought by the Spaniards in the late fifteenth century.

Music

Dominican culture is heavily based on music.

The Dominican Republic is known for merengue music, a type of lively, joyful music and dance which has been popular since the mid- to late-1900s. Its syncopated beats use Latin percussion, brass instruments, bass and piano or keyboard. This style of music was created by Ñico Lora in the 1920s; however, it was promoted by General Rafael Trujillo, the republic's military dictator from the 1930s until 1960, and became the country's national music and dance style. World-famous merengue singers include Miriam Cruz & Las Chicas Del Can, Juan Luis Guerra, Wilfrido Vargas, Sergio Vargas, Johnny Ventura, Pochy y su Cocoband, Fernando Villalona, Cuco Valoy, The Freddie Kenton Orquestra, and Conjunto Quisqueya. Other artists popular in the Dominican Republic as of 2006 include Julian, Toño Rosario, Aguakate and Amarfis.

Until recently, a form of folk music called bachata (a slow, romantic, emotion-driven genre often mistaken for the blues by foreigners) was unpopular with Dominican youth, but that is changing. Younger groups from NYC's large Dominican population, such as Aventura and Xtreme, have emerged to bring bachata's new mainstream era.