History

The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola. Successive waves of Arawak migrants, moving northward from the Orinoco delta, settled the islands of the Caribbean. Around 600 AD, the Taínos, a late Stone Age culture, arrived on the island, displacing the previous inhabitants. They were organised into cacicazgos, which where led by a 'cacique'. The final Arawak migrants, the Caribs, began moving up the Lesser Antilles in the 1100s, and were raiding Taíno villages on the island's eastern coast by the time the Spanish arrived.

European Discovery and Colonisation

Christopher Columbus reached the island on his first voyage, on December 5, 1492, naming it La Española. Believing that the Europeans were in someway supernatural, the Taínos welcomed them with all the honours available. One of the things that piqued their curiosity was the amount of clothing worn by the Europeans, and they came to call them 'guamikena' (the covered ones). Guacanagarix, the chief who hosted Christopher Columbus and his men, treated them kindly and provided him with everything they desired. Yet the Taínos' allegedly 'egalitarian' system clashed with the Europeans' feudalist system, with more rigid class structures. This led the Europeans to believe the Taínos to be weak, and they began to treat the tribes with more violence.

Columbus had cemented a firm alliance with Guacanagarix, who was a powerful chief on the island. After the shipwrecking of the Santa María, he decided to establish a small fort with a garrison of men that could help him lay claim to this possession. The fort was called La Navidad, since the events of the shipwrecking and the founding of the fort occurred on Christmas day. The garrison, in spite of all the wealth and beauty on the island, was wracked by divisions within and the men took sides that evolved into conflict. The more rapacious ones began to terrorize the Taíno, Ciguayo and Macorix tribesmen. Viewed as weak by the Spaniards and even some of his own people, Guacanagarix tried to come to an accommodation with the Spaniards, who then treated him with contempt. The powerful cacique of the maguana, Caonabo, could brook no further affronts and attacked the Europeans, destroying La Navidad. Guacanagarix was dismayed by this turn of events but did not try too hard to aid these guamikena, probably hoping that the troublesome outsiders would never return.

In 1493, Christopher Columbus came back to the island on his second voyage and founded the first Spanish colony in the New World, the city of Isabella. In 1496, his brother Bartholomew Columbus established the settlement of Santo Domingo de Guzmán on the southern coast, which became the new capital. An estimated 400,000 Tainos living on the island were soon enslaved to work in gold mines. As a consequence of oppression, forced labour, hunger, disease and mass killings, it is estimated that by 1508 that number had been reduced to around 60,000. By 1535, only a few dozen were still alive.

During this period, the Spanish leadership changed hands several times. When Columbus departed on another exploration, Francisco de Bobadilla became governor. In 1502, Nicolás de Ovando replaced de Bobadilla as governor, with an ambitious plan to expand Spanish influence in the region. It was he who dealt most brutally with the Taínos.

Although Caonabo had previously been captured, his queen, Anacaona, had carried on his rule. Because of her highly respected position among the Taíno chiefs, de Ovando requested that she welcome him as the new governor by hosting a feast. She agreed, and invited eighty other chieftains to the celebration. Instead of attending, de Ovando ordered his soldiers to burn down her palace with everyone inside. Most of them perished. Although a few managed to escape, they were captured and tortured. Anacoana was given a mock trial, then hanged. De Ovando's ploy to eliminate Taíno chiefs was so successful, he used similar methods on the other side of the island. Stripping the Taínos of their leaders made rebellion far more difficult.

One rebel, however, successfully fought back. Enriquillo, leading a group of those who had fled to the mountains, attacked the Spanish repeatedly for fourteen years. Finally, the Spanish offered him a peace treaty. In addition, they gave Enriquillo and his followers their own city in 1534. The city did not last long, however; several years after its establishment, a slave rebellion burned it to the ground, killing anyone who stayed behind.

African Enslavement

In 1501, the Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand I and Isabella, first granted permission to the colonists of the Caribbean to import African slaves, which began arriving to the island in 1503. These African importees arrived with a rich and ancient culture that has had considerable influence on the racial, political and cultural character of the modern Dominican Republic. In 1510, the first sizable shipment, consisting of 250 Black Ladinos, arrived in Hispaniola from Spain. Eight years later African-born slaves arrived in the West Indies. Sugar cane was introduced to Hispaniola from the Canary Islands, and the first sugar mill in the New World was established in 1516. The need for a labour force to meet the growing demands of sugar cane cultivation led to an exponential increase in the importation of slaves over the following two decades. The sugar mill owners soon formed a new colonial elite, and convinced the Spanish king to allow them to elect the members of the Real Audiencia from their ranks. Poorer colonists subsisted by hunting the herds of wild cattle that roamed throughout the island and selling their hides.

The first major slave revolt in the Americas occurred in Santo Domingo during 1522, when enslaved Muslims of the Wolof nation led an uprising in the sugar plantation of admiral Don Diego Colon, son of Christopher Columbus. Many of these insurgents managed to escape to the mountains where they formed independent maroon communities.

1540 to 1844

While sugar cane dramatically increased Spain's earnings on the island, large numbers of the newly imported slaves fled into the nearly impassable mountain ranges in the island's interior, joining the growing communities of cimarrónes - literally, 'wild animals'. By the 1530s, cimarron bands had become so numerous that in rural areas the Spaniards could only safely travel outside their plantations in large armed groups. By the 1540s, the Caribbean Sea had become overrun with English, French and Dutch pirates. In 1541 Spain authorised the construction of Santo Domingo's fortified wall, and decided to restrict sea travel to enormous, well-armed caravans. In another move, which would destroy Hispaniola's sugar industry, Havana, more strategically located in relation to the Gulf Stream, was selected as the designated stopping point for the merchant flotas, which had a royal monopoly on commerce with the Americas. In 1564, the island's main inland cities Santiago de los Caballeros and Concepción de la Vega were destroyed by an earthquake.

Colonial Decline

With the conquest of the American mainland, Hispaniola quickly declined. Most Spanish colonists left for the silver-mines of Mexico and Peru, while new immigrants from Spain bypassed the island. Agriculture dwindled, new imports of slaves ceased, and white colonists, free blacks and slaves alike lived in poverty, weakening the racial hierarchy and aiding mulatización, resulting in a population of predominantly mixed Spanish and African descent. Except for the city of Santo Domingo, which managed to maintain some legal exports, Dominican ports were forced to rely on contraband trade, which, along with livestock, became the sole source of livelihood for the island dwellers. In 1586, Sir Francis Drake captured the city of Santo Domingo, collecting a ransom for its return to Spanish rule.

French Encroachment

In 1605, Spain, unhappy that Santo Domingo was facilitating trade between its other colonies and other European powers, attacked vast parts of the colony's northern and western regions, forcibly resettled their inhabitants closer to the city of Santo Domingo. This action, known as the devastaciones, proved disastrous; more than half of the resettled colonists died of starvation or disease. French and English buccaneers took advantage of Spain's retreat into a corner of Hispaniola to settle the island of Tortuga in 1629, which France established direct control over in 1640, reorganising it into an official colony and expanding to the north coast of Hispaniola itself. Spain ceded the western end of the island to France in 1697, under the Treaty of Ryswick. In 1655, Oliver Cromwell dispatched a fleet, commanded by Admiral Sir William Penn, to conquer Santo Domingo. After meeting heavy resistance, the English retreated, taking the island of Jamaica instead.

The Bourbon dynasty replaced the Habsburgs in Spain in 1700 and introduced economic reforms that gradually began to revive trade in Santo Domingo. The crown progressively relaxed the rigid controls and restrictions on commerce between Spain and the colonies and among the colonies. The last flotas sailed in 1737; the monopoly port system was abolished shortly thereafter. By the middle of the century, the population was bolstered by emigration from the Canary Islands, resettling the northern part of the colony and planting tobacco in the Cibao Valley, and importation of slaves was renewed. The population of Santo Domingo grew from about 6,000 in 1737 to approximately 125,000 in 1790. Of this number, about 40,000 were white landowners, about 25,000 were black or mulatto freedmen, and some 60,000 were slaves. However, it remained a poor and neglected, particularly in contrast with neighbouring French Saint-Domingue, which became the wealthiest colony in the New World. As restrictions on colonial trade were relaxed, the colonial elites of St. Domingue offered the principle market for Santo Domingo's exports of beef, hides and tobacco.

Haitian Revolution

With the outbreak of the Haitian Revolution in 1791, the rich urban families linked to the colonial bureaucracy fled the island, while most of the rural hateros (cattle ranchers) remained, even though they lost their principle market. Spain saw in the unrest an opportunity to seize all, or part, of the western third of the island in an alliance of convenience with the British and the rebellious slaves. They were defeated by the forces of the black Jacobin General Toussaint L'Ouverture, and in 1795, France gained control of the whole island under the Treaties of Basel. In 1801, L'Ouverture arrived in Santo Domingo, proclaiming the abolition of slavery on behalf of the French Republic. Shortly afterwards, Napoleon dispatched an army to subdue the island. Even after their defeat by the Haitians, a small French garrison remained in the former Spanish colony. Slavery was re-established and many of the émigré Spanish colonists returned. In 1805, after crowning himself Emperor, Jean-Jacques Dessalines invaded, reaching Santo Domingo before retreating in the face of a French naval squadron. In their retreat through the Cibao, the Haitians sacked the towns of Santiago de los Caballeros and Moca, slaughtering most of their residents and helping to lay the foundation for two centuries of animosity between the two countries.

The French held on in the eastern part of the island, until defeated by the Spanish inhabitants at the Battle of Palo Hincado on November 7, 1808 and the final capitulation of the besieged Santo Domingo on July 9, 1809, with help from the Royal Navy. The Spanish authorities showed little interest in their restored colony, and the following period is recalled as La España Boba - 'The Era of Foolish Spain'. The great ranching families such as the Santanas came to be the leaders in the south east, the law of the 'machete' ruled for a time. Spanish lieutenant governor José Núñez de Cáceres declared the colony's independence as the state of Spanish Haiti (Haiti Español) on November 30, 1821, requesting admission to the Republic of Gran Colombia, but Haitian forces, led by Jean-Pierre Boyer, occupied the whole island just nine weeks later.

Haitian Occupation

The twenty-two-year Haitian occupation that followed is recalled by Dominicans as a period of brutal military rule, though the reality is more complex. It led to large-scale land expropriations and failed efforts to force production of export crops, impose military services, restrict the use of the Spanish language and eliminate traditional customs such as cockfighting. It reinforced Dominican's perceptions of themselves as different from Haitians in 'language, race, religion and domestic customs.' Yet, this was also a period that definitively ended slavery as an institution in the eastern part of the island.

Haiti's constitution forbade whites from owning land, and the major landowning families were forcibly deprived of their properties. Most emigrated to Cuba, Puerto Rico or Gran Colombia, usually with the encouragement of Haitian officials, who acquired their lands. The Haitians, who associated the Roman Catholic Church with the French slave-masters who had exploited them before independence, confiscated all church property, deported all foreign clergy and severed the ties of the remaining clergy to the Vatican. Santo Domingo's university, the oldest in the Western Hemisphere, lacking both students and teachers, closed down. In order to receive diplomatic recognition from France, Haiti was forced to pay an indemnity of 150 million francs to the former French colonists, which was subsequently lowered to 60 million francs, and Haiti imposed heavy taxes on the eastern part of the island. Since Haiti was unable to adequately provision its army, the occupying forces largely survived by commandeering or confiscating food and supplies at gunpoint. Attempts to redistribute land conflicted with the system of communal land tenure (terrenos comuneros), which had arisen with the ranching economy, and newly emancipated slaves resented being forced to grow cash crops under Boyer's Code Rural. In rural areas, the Haitian administration was usually too inefficient to enforce its own laws. It was in the city of Santo Domingo that the effects of the occupation were most acutely felt, and it was there that the movement for independence originated.

In 1838 Juan Pablo Duarte, Ramón Matías Mella and Francisco del Rosario Sanchez founded a secret society called La Trinitaria to win independence from Haiti. In 1843 they allied with a Haitian movement in overthrowing Boyer. By revealing themselves as revolutionaries working for Dominican independence, the new Haitian president, Charles Riviere-Hérard, exiled or imprisoned the leading Trinitarios. At the same time, Buenaventura Báez, an Azua mahogany exporter and deputy in the Haitian National Assembly, was negotiating with the French Consul-General for the establishment of a French protectorate.

1844 to 1929

Independence from Haiti

In an uprising timed to pre-empt Báez, on February 27, 1844, the Trinitarios declared independence from Haiti, backed by Pedro Santana, a wealthy cattle-rancher from El Seibo who commanded a private army of peons who worked on his estates.

The Dominican Republic's first constitution was adopted on November 6, 1844. It adopted a presidential form of government with many liberal tendencies, but it was marred by Article 210, imposed by Pedro Santana on the constitutional assembly by force, giving him the privileges of a dictatorship until the war of independence was over. These privileges not only served him to win the war, but also allowed him to persecute, execute and drive into exile his political opponents, among which Duarte was the most important. During the first decade of independence, Haïti mounted five invasions to re-conquer the eastern part of the island: in 1844, 1845, 1849, 1853 and 1855-56. Although each was repulsed, Santana used the ever-present threat of Haitian invasion as a justification for consolidating dictatorial powers. For the Dominican elite-mostly landowners, merchants and priests-the threat of re-conquest by more populous Haïti was sufficient to seek annexation by an outside power. Offering the deepwater harbour of Samaná bay as bait, over the next two decades, negotiations were made with Britain, France, the United States and Spain to declare a protectorate over the country.

Without adequate roads, the regions of the Dominican Republic developed in isolation from one another. In the south, the economy was dominated by cattle-ranching (particularly in the south-eastern savannah) and cutting mahogany and other hard woods for export. This region retained a semi-feudal character-with little commercial agriculture, the hacienda as the dominant social unit and the majority of the population living at a subsistence level. In the Cibao Valley, the nation's richest farmland, peasants supplemented their subsistence crops by growing tobacco for export, mainly to Germany. Tobacco required less land than cattle ranching and was mainly grown by small holders, who relied on itinerant traders to transport their crops to Puerto Plata and Monte Cristi.

Santana antagonised the Cibao farmers, enriching himself and his supporters at their expense by resorting to multiple peso printings that allowed him to buy their crops for a fraction of their value. In 1848, he was forced to resign, and was succeeded by his vice-president, Manuel Jimenes. After returning to lead Dominican forces against a new Haitian invasion in 1849, Santana marched on Santo Domingo, deposing Jimenes. At his behest, Congress elected Buenaventura Báez as President, but Báez was unwilling to serve as Santana's puppet, challenging his role as the country's acknowledged military leader. In 1853 Santana was elected president for his second term, forcing Báez into exile. Three years later, after repulsing the last Haitian invasion, he negotiated a treaty leasing a portion of Samaná Peninsula to a US company; popular opposition forced him to abdicate, enabling Báez to return and seize power. With the treasury depleted, Báez printed eighteen million uninsured pesos, purchasing the 1857 tobacco crop with this currency and exporting it for hard cash at immense profit to himself and his followers. The Cibaeño tobacco planters, who were ruined when inflation ensued, revolted, recalling Santana from exile to lead their rebellion. After a year of civil war, Santana seized Santo Domingo and installed himself as President.

Annexation by Spain

Santana inherited a country on the brink of economic collapse, and shortly after he returned to power the American Civil War began, rendering the United States incapable of enforcing the Monroe Doctrine. In Spain, Prime Minister Leopoldo O'Donnell was advocating renewed imperial expansion. In March 1861, Santana restored the Dominican Republic to Spain. This move was widely rejected and on August 16, 1863, a national war of 'restoration' began in Santiago, where the rebels established a provisional government. Spanish troops reoccupied the town, but the rebels fled to the mountains along the ill-defined Haitian border, staging guerrilla raids. Fearing that the Spanish intended to restore slavery, Haitian President Fabre Geffrard provided the Dominican rebels with sanctuary and arms, sending a detachment of his presidential guards (the Tirailleurs) to fight alongside them. Santana initially was named Capitan-General of the new Spanish province, but it soon became obvious that Spanish authorities planned to deprive him of his power, leading him to resign in 1862. Condemned to death by the provisional government, Santana died under mysterious circumstances in 1864, and is widely believed to have committed suicide.

Heavy-handed religious reforms promulgated by the Spanish Archbishop, discrimination against the mulatto majority, fears of the reimposition of slavery, and restrictions on trade all fed resentment of Spanish rule. Largely confined to the major towns, the Spanish army was unable to defeat the guerrillas or contain the insurrection, and lost even greater numbers of troops to Yellow Fever. However, the rebels themselves remained in political disarray. The first president of the provisional government, Pepillo Salcedo (who favoured the return of Báez) was deposed by General Gaspar Polanco in September 1864, who in turn was deposed by General Antonio Pimentel three months later. The rebels formalised their provisional rule by holding a national convention in February 1865, which enacted a new constitution, but the new government could exert little authority over the various regional guerrilla caudillos, who acted largely independent of one another. Unable to extract concessions from the disorganized rebels, with the American Civil War ending, in March 1865, Queen Isabel II annulled the annexation and independence was restored, with the last Spanish troops departing by July.

Second Republic

By the time the Spanish departed, most of the main towns lay in ruins and the island was divided among several dozen caudillos. José María Cabral controlled most of Barahona and the southwest with the support of Buenaventura Báez's mahogany-exporting partners, cattle rancher Cesáreo Guillermo assembled a coalition of former Santanista generals in the southeast, and Gregorio Luperón controlled the north coast. From the Spanish withdrawal in 1865 to 1879, there were twenty-one changes of government and at least fifty military uprisings. In the course of these conflicts, two parties emerged. The Partido Rojo represented the southern cattle ranching latifundia and mahogany-exporting interests, as well as the artisans and labourers of Santo Domingo, and was dominated by Buenaventura Báez, who continued to seek annexation by a foreign power. The Partido Azul represented the tobacco planters and merchants of the Cibao and Puerto Plata and was nationalist and liberal in orientation. The national army was far outnumbered by militias organised and maintained by local caudillos who set themselves up as provincial governors, filled out by poor farmers or landless plantation workers who were impressed into service and usually took up banditry when not fighting in revolutions.

Within a month of the nationalist victory, Cabral, whose troops were the first to enter Santo Domingo, ousted Pimental, but a few weeks later General Cesáreo Guillermo led a rebellion in support of Báez, forcing Cabral to resign and allowing Báez to retake the presidency in October. Báez was overthrown by the Cibao farmers under Gregorio Luperón, leader of the Partido Azul, the following spring, but Luperón's allies turned on each other and Cabral reinstalled himself as President in a coup in 1867. After bringing several Azules into his cabinet the Rojos revolted, returning Báez to power. In 1869, Báez signed a treaty with President Ulysses S. Grant, selling the country to the United States for $150,000. Supported by Secretary of State William Seward, who hoped to establish a Navy base at Samana, in 1871 it was defeated in the US Senate through the efforts of Senator Charles Sumner. In 1874, the Rojo governor of Puerto Plata staged a coup in support of an Azul rebellion, but was deposed two years later. In February 1876, Ulises Espaillat, backed by Luperón, was named the new President, but ten months later troops loyal to Báez returned him to power. After one year a new rebellion allowed González to seize power, only to be deposed by Cesáreo Guillermo in September 1878, who was in turn deposed by Gregorio Luperón in December 1879. Ruling the country from his hometown of Puerto Plata, enjoying an economic boom due to increased tobacco exports to Germany, Luperón enacted a new constitution setting a two-year presidential term limit and providing for direct elections, suspended the semi-formal system of bribes and initiated construction on the nation's first railroad, linking the town of La Vega with the port of Sánchez on Samaná Bay.

The Ten Years' War in Cuba brought Cuban sugar planters to the country in search of new lands and security from the insurrection that freed their slaves and destroyed their property. Most settled in the south-eastern coastal plain, and, with assistance from Luperón's government, built the nation's first mechanised sugar mills. They were later joined by Italians, Germans, Puerto Ricans and Americans in forming the nucleus of the Dominican sugar bourgeoisie, marrying into prominent families to solidify their social position. Disruptions in global production caused by the Ten Years' War, the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War allowed the Dominican Republic to become a major sugar exporter. Over the following two decades, sugar surpassed tobacco as the leading export, with the former fishing hamlets of San Pedro de Macorís and La Romana transformed into thriving ports. To meet their need for better transportation, over 300 miles of private rail-lines had been built by and serving the sugar plantations by 1897. An 1884 slump in prices led to a wage freeze, and a subsequent labour shortage was filled by migrant workers from the Leeward Islands-the Virgin Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla and Antigua (referred to by Dominicans as cocolos). These English-speaking blacks were often victims of racism, but many remained in the country, finding work as stevedores and in railroad construction and sugar refineries.

General Ulises Heureaux

Allying with the emerging sugar interests, the dictatorship of General Ulises Heureaux, popularly known as Lilís, brought unprecedented stability to the island through iron-fisted rule that lasted almost two decades. The son of a Haitian father and a mother from St. Thomas, Lilís was distinguished by his blackness from most Dominican political leaders, with the exception of Luperón. A lieutenant of Luperón who acted as his representative in Santo Domingo, he served as President from 1882-1883, 1887 and 1889-1899, welding power through a series of puppet presidents when not occupying the office. Incorporating both Rojos and Azules into his government while modernising the armed forces and developing an extensive network of spies and informants to crush all potential opposition, he destroyed the Dominican Republic's incipient party system through a combination of cooptation and terror. At the same time, his government undertook a number of major infrastructural projects, including the electrification of Santo Domingo, the beginning of telephone and telegraph service, the construction of a bridge over the Ozama River, and the completion of a single-track railroad linking Santiago and Puerto Plata, financed by Dutch capital.

Lilís borrowed heavily from European and American banks-to enrich himself, stabilise the existing debt, strengthen the bribe system, pay for the army, finance infrastructural development and help set up sugar mills. However, sugar prices underwent a steep decline in the last two decades of the 19th century. When his principle European creditor, the Amsterdam-based Westendorp Co., went bankrupt in 1893, he was forced to mortgage the nation's customs fees, the main source of government revenues, to a New York financial firm called the San Domingo Improvement Co. (SDIC), which bought out Westendorp, taking over its railroad contracts and the claims of its European bondholders, in exchange for two loans, one of $1.2 million and the other of £2 million. As the growing public debt made it impossible to maintain his political machine, Heureaux relied on secret loans from the SDIC, sugar planters and local merchants. In 1897, with his government virtually bankrupt, Lilís printed five million uninsured pesos, known as papelitas de Lilís, ruining most Dominican merchants and inspiring a conspiracy that ended in his death. In 1899, when Lilís was assassinated by the Cibao tobacco merchants he had been begging for a loan from, the national debt was over $34 million, fifteen times the annual budget.

US Dominance

The six years after Lilís death witnessed four revolutions and five different presidents. The Cibao politicians who had conspired against Heureaux - Juan Isidro Jiménes, the nation's wealthiest tobacco planter, and General Horacio Vásquez-after being named President and Vice-President, quickly fell out over the division of spoils among their supporters, the Jimenistas and Horacistas. Troops loyal to Vásquez overthrew Jimenes in 1903, but he was deposed by Jimenista General Alejandro Woss y Gil, who seized power for himself. The Jimenistas toppled his government, but their leader, Carlos Morales, refused to return power to Jimenes, allying with the Horacistas, and he soon faced a new revolt by his betrayed Jimenista allies.

With the nation on the brink of defaulting, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands sent warships to Santo Domingo to press the claims of their nationals. In order to pre-empt military intervention, Theodore Roosevelt introduced the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, declaring that the United States would assume responsibility for ensuring that the nations of Latin America met their financial obligations. In January 1905, under this corollary, the United States assumed administration of the Dominican Republic's customs. Under the terms of this agreement, a Receiver-General, appointed by the US President, kept 55% of total revenues to pay off foreign claimants, while remitting 45% to the Dominican government. After two years, the nation's external debt was reduced from $40 million to $17 million. In 1907, this agreement was converted into a treaty, transferring control over customs receivership to the US Bureau of Insular Affairs and providing a loan of $20 million from a New York bank as payment for outstanding claims, making the United States the Dominican Republic's only foreign creditor.

In 1906, Morales resigned, and Horacista vice-president Ramon Cáceres became President. After suppressing a rebellion in the northwest by Jiemnista caudillo General Desiderio Arias, his government brought political stability and renewed economic growth, aided by new American investment in sugar industry. However, his assassination in 1911, for which Morales and Arías were at least indirectly responsible, once again plunged the republic into chaos. For two months, executive power was held by a civilian junta dominated by the chief of the army, General Alfredo Victoria. The surplus of more than 4 million pesos left by Cáceres was quickly spent to suppress a series of insurrections. He forced Congress to elect his uncle, Eladio Victoria, as President, but he was soon replaced by the neutral Archbishop Adolfo Nouel. After four months, Nouel resigned, and was succeeded by Horacista Congressman José Bordas Valdez, who aligned with Arías and the Jimenistas to maintain power. In 1913, Vásquez returned from exile in Puerto Rico to lead a new rebellion. In June 1914 US President Woodrow Wilson issued an ultimatum for the two sides to end hostilities and agree on a new president, or have the United States impose one. Jimenes was elected in October, and soon faced new demands, including the appointment of an American director of public works and financial advisor and the creation of a new military force commanded by US officers. The Dominican Congress rejected these demands and began impeachment proceedings against Jimenes. The United States occupied Haiti in July 1915, with the implicit threat that the Dominican Republic might be next. Jimenes's Minister of War Desiderio Arias staged a coup d'etat in April 1916, providing a pretext for the United States to occupy the Dominican Republic.

United States Occupation

United States Marines landed in Santo Domingo on May 15, 1916. Prior to their landing, Jimenes resigned, refusing the exercise an office "regained with foreign bullets". On June 1, Marines occupied Monte Cristi and Puerto Plata, and, after a brief campaign, took Arias's stronghold Santiago by the beginning of July. The Dominican Congress elected Dr. Francisco Henríquez Carvajal as President, but in November, after he refused to meet the American demands, Woodrow Wilson announced the imposition of a US military government, with Rear Admiral Harry Shepard Knapp as Military Governor. The American military government implemented many of the institutional reforms carried out in the United States during the Progressive Era, including reorganization of the tax system, accounting and administration, expansion of primary education, the creation of a nation-wide police force to unify the country, and the construction of a national system of roads, including a highway linking Santiago to Santo Domingo.

Despite the reforms, virtually all Dominicans resented the loss of their sovereignty to foreigners, few of whom spoke Spanish or displayed much real concern for the nation's welfare, and the military government, unable to win the backing of any prominent Dominican political leaders, imposed strict censorship laws and imprisoned critics of the occupation. In 1920, US authorities enacted a Land Registration Act, which broke up the terrenos comuneros and dispossessed thousands of peasants who lacked formal titles to the lands they occupied while legalising false titles held by the sugar companies. In the southeast, dispossessed peasants formed armed bands, called gavilleros, waging a guerrilla war that lasted the duration of the occupation, with most of the fighting in Hato Mayor and El Seibo. At any given time, the Marines faced eight to twelve caudillos, each of whom commanded several hundred followers. The guerrillas benefited from a superior knowledge of the terrain and the support of the local population, forcing the Marines to rely on increasingly brutal counterinsurgency methods. However, rivalries between various caudillos often led them to fight against one another, and even cooperate with occupation authorities. In addition, cultural schisms between the campesinos and city dwellers prevented the guerrillas from cooperating with the urban, middle-class nationalist movement. In the San Juan valley, near the border with Haïti, followers of a Vodu faith healer named Liborio resisted the occupation and aided the Haitian cacos in their war against the Americans, until his death in 1922. The principle legacy of the occupation was the creation of a National Police Force, used by the Marines to help fight against the various guerrillas, and later the main vehicle for the rise of Rafael Trujillo.

In what was referred to as la danza de los milliones, with the destruction of European sugar-beet farms during World War I sugar prices rose to their highest level in history, from $5.50 in 1914 to $22.50 per pound in 1920. Dominican sugar exports increased from 122,642 tons in 1916 to 158,803 tons in 1920, earning a record $45.3 million. However, European beet sugar production quickly recovered, which, coupled with the growth of global sugar cane production, glutted the world market, causing prices to plummet to only $2.00 by the end of 1921. This crisis drove many of the local sugar planters into bankruptcy, allowing large American conglomerates to dominate the sugar industry. By 1926, only twenty-one major estates remained, occupying an estimated 520,000 acres. Of these, twelve US-owned companies owned more than 81% of total acreage. While the foreign planters who had built the sugar industry integrated into Dominican society, these corporations expatriated their profits to the United States. As prices declined, sugar estates increasingly relied on Haitian labourers. This was facilitated by the military government's introduction of regulated contract labour, the growth of sugar production in the southwest, near the Haitian border, and a series of strikes by cocolo cane cutters organised by the Universal Negro Improvement Association.

In the 1920, United States presidential election Republican candidate Warren Harding criticised the occupation and promised eventual US withdrawal. While Jimenes and Vásquez sought concessions from the United States, the collapse of sugar prices discredited the military government and gave rise to a new nationalist political organisation, the Dominican National Union, led by Dr. Henríquez from exile in Santiago de Cuba, which demanded unconditional withdrawal. They formed alliances with frustrated nationalists in Puerto Rico and Cuba, as well as critics of the occupation in the United States itself, most notably The Nation and the Haiti-San Domingo Independence Society. In May 1922, a Dominican lawyer, Francisco Peynado, went to Washington and negotiated what became known as the Hughes-Peynado Plan. It stipulated immediate establishment of a provisional government pending elections, approval of all laws enacted by the US military government, and the continuation of the 1907 treaty until all the Dominican Republic's foreign debts had been settled. On October 1, Juan Bautista Vicini, the son of a wealthy Italian immigrant sugar planter, was named provisional president, and the process of US withdrawal began.

The occupation ended in 1924, with a democratically elected Dominican government under president Horacio Vasquez. In an effort to preserve power for his supporters, in 1927 Vásquez extended his term from four to six years. There was some debatable legal basis for the move, which was approved by the Congress, but its enactment effectively invalidated the constitution of 1924 that Vásquez had previously sworn to uphold.

1930 to 1999

With the Great Depression, sugar prices dropped to less than $1 per pound; although elections were scheduled for May 1930, Vásquez's extension of power cast doubts about their fairness. In February, a revolution was proclaimed in Santiago by a lawyer named Rafael Estrella Ureña. When the commander of the Guardia Nacional Dominicana (the new designation of the armed force created under the occupation), Rafael Trujillo, ordered his troops to remain in their barracks, the sick and aging Vásquez was forced into exile and Estrella proclaimed provisional president. In May, Trujillo was elected with 95% of the vote, using the army to harass and intimidate electoral personnel and potential opponents. After his inauguration in August, at his request, the Dominican Congress proclaimed the beginning of the 'Era of Trujillo'.

The Era of Trujillo

Rafael Leonidas Trujillo established absolute political control, while promoting economic development--from which mainly he and his supporters benefited - and severe repression of domestic human rights. Trujillo treated his political party, the Partido Dominicano, as a rubber-stamp for his decisions. The true source of his power was the Guardia Nacional - larger, better armed and more centrally controlled than any military force in the nation's history. By disbanding the regional militias, the Marines eliminated the main source of potential opposition, giving it 'a virtual monopoly on power.' Trujillo's regime oversaw the expansion of the Guardia Nacional into one of the largest military forces in Latin America; by 1940, military spending was 21% of the national budget. At the same time, he developed an elaborate system of espionage agencies. By the late 1950s, there were at least seven categories of intelligence agencies, spying on each other as well as the public. All citizens were required to carry identification cards and good-conduct passes from the secret police. Obsessed with adulation, Trujillo promoted an extravagant cult of personality. When a hurricane struck Santo Domingo in 1930, killing over 3,000 people, he rebuilt the city and renamed it Ciudad Trujillo; he also renamed the countries highest mountain, Pico Duarte, Pico Trujillo. Over 1800 statues of Trujillo were built, and all public works projects were required to have a plaque with the inscription "Era of Trujillo, Benefactor of the Fatherland".

As sugar estates turned to Haiti for seasonal migrant labour, increasing numbers settled in the Dominican Republic permanently. The census of 1920, conducted by the military government, gave a total of 28,258 Haitians living in the country, by 1935 there were 52,657. In 1937, Trujillo ordered the massacre of 20,000-25,000 Haitians, citing Haiti's support for Dominican exiles plotting to overthrow his regime. The massacre of tens of thousands of unarmed Haitians living on the border of Haiti and Dominican Republic was met with international criticism . This was the result of a new policy which Trujillo called the 'Dominicanisation of the frontier'. Place names along the border were changed from Kreyol and French to Spanish, the practice of Vodou was outlawed, quotas were imposed on the percentage of foreign workers companies could hire, and a law was passed preventing Haitian workers from remaining after the sugar harvest.

Although Trujillo sought to emulate Generalissimo Francisco Franco, he welcomed Republican refugees following the Spanish Civil War. During the European Holocaust in the Second World War, the Dominican Republic took in many Jews fleeing Hitler who had been refused entry by other countries. This decision arose from a policy of blanquismo, closely connected with anti-Haitian xenophobia, which sought to whiten the Dominican population by promoting immigration from Europe. As part of the Good Neighbour Policy, in 1940, the State Department signed a treaty with Trujillo relinquishing control over the nation's customs. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor Trujillo followed the United States in declaring war on the Axis powers, even though he had openly professed admiration for Hitler and Mussolini. During the Cold War, he maintained close ties to the United States, declaring himself the world's 'Number One Anticommunist' and becoming the first Latin American President to sign a Mutual Defence Assistance Agreement with the United States.

Trujillo and his family established a near-monopoly over the national economy. By the time of his death, he had accumulated a fortune of around $800 million; he and his family owned 50-60 percent of the arable land (some 700,000 acres), and Trujillo-owned businesses accounted for 80% commercial activity in the capital. He exploited nationalist sentiment to purchase most of the nation's sugar plantations and refineries from US corporations; operated monopolies on salt, rice, milk, cement, tobacco, coffee, and insurance; owned two large banks, several hotels, port facilities, an airline and shipping line; and deducted 10% of all public employees' salaries (ostensibly for his party).

World War II brought increased demand for Dominican exports, and the 1940s and early 1950s witnessed economic growth and considerable expansion of the national infrastructure. During this period, the newly-renamed Ciudad Trujillo was transformed from merely an administrative centre to the national centre of shipping and industry, although it was hardly coincidental that new roads often led to Trujillo's plantations and factories, and new harbours benefited Trujillo's shipping and export enterprises.

Mismanagement and corruption resulted in major economic problems. By the end of the 1950s, the economy was deteriorating due to a combination of overspending on a festival to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the regime, overspending to purchase privately owned sugar mills and electricity plants, and a decision to make a major investment in state sugar production that proved economically unsuccessful.

In 1956, Trujillo's agents in New York murdered Jesús María de Galíndez, a Basque exile who had worked for Trujillo and later denounced his regime, causing public opinion in the United States to turn against him. In August 1960, the Organization of American States (OAS) imposed diplomatic sanctions against the Dominican Republic as a result of Trujillo's complicity in an attempt to assassinate President Rómulo Betancourt of Venezuela. Fearing that Trujillo might unite the country against him and bring another communist revolution, the CIA helped a group of Dominican dissidents who assassinated Trujillo in a car chase on the way to his country villa near San Cristóbal on May 30, 1961. The sanctions remained in force after Trujillo's assassination. His son, Ramfis Trujillo, assumed de facto control, but was deposed by his two uncles after a dispute over potential liberalisation of the regime. In November 1961, the Trujillo family was forced into exile, fleeing to France, and vice-president Joaquín Balaguer assumed power.

The Post-Trujillo Era

At the insistence of the United States, Joaquín Balaguer was forced to share power with a seven-member Council of State, established on January 1, 1962, and including moderate members of the opposition. OAS sanctions were lifted January 4, and, after an attempted coup, Balaguer resigned and went into exile on January 16. The reorganised Council of State, under President Rafael Filiberto Bonnelly headed the Dominican government until elections could be held. These elections, in December 1962, were won by Juan Bosch, a scholar and poet who had founded the opposition Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (Dominican Revolutionary Party, or PRD) in exile. His leftist policies, including land redistribution, nationalisation of certain foreign holdings, and attempts to bring the military under civilian control, antagonised the military officer corps, the Catholic hierarchy and the upper-class, who feared "another Cuba". Bosch was overthrown by a right-wing military coup in September 1963, fleeing into exile in Puerto Rico.

Afterwards a supposedly civilian triumvirate established a de facto dictatorship until April 24, 1965, when reformist officers and civilian combatants loyal to Bosch, calling themselves the Constitutionalists, staged a coup, seizing the national palace. Immediately, conservative military forces, led by Air Force Colonel Elías Wessín y Wessín and calling themselves Loyalists, struck back with tank assaults and aerial bombings against Santo Domingo. On April 28, after being requested by the anti-Bosch army elements, US military forces landed, officially to protect US citizens and to evacuate US and other foreign nationals in what was known as Operation Power Pack. Ultimately, 23,000 US troops were ordered to the Dominican Republic.

In June 1966, Joaquín Balaguer, leader of the Reformist Party (now called the Social Christian Reformist Party - PRSC), was elected and then re-elected to office in May 1970 and May 1974, both times after the major opposition parties withdrew late in the campaign because of the high degree of violence by pro-government groups. On November 28 1966, a constitution was created, signed and put into use. The constitution stated that a president was elected to a four year term. If there was a close election there would be a second round of voting to decide the winner. People were allowed to vote at age eighteen unless married, in which case they could vote at the age they were married.

Balaguer led the Domincan Republic through a thorough economic restructuring, based on opening the country to foreign investment while protecting state-owned industries and certain private interests. For most of Balaguer's nine years in office the country experienced high growth rates (e.g., an average GDP growth rate of 9.4 percent between 1970 and 1975), to the extent that people talked about the "Dominican miracle". Foreign (mostly US) investment, as well as foreign aid, flowed into the country, sugar (then the country's main export product) enjoyed good prices in the international market and tourism grew tremendously. However, this excellent macroeconomic performance was not accompanied by an equitable distribution of wealth. While a group of new millionaires flourished during Balaguer's administrations, the poor simply became poorer. Morever, the poor were commonly the target of state repression, and their socioeconomic claims were labelled 'communist' and dealt with accordingly by the state security apparatus.

In the May 1978 election, Balaguer was defeated in his bid for a fourth successive term by Antonio Guzmán Fernández of the PRD. Subsequently, he ordered troops to storm the election centre and destroy ballot boxes, declaring himself the victor. US President Jimmy Carter refused to recognise the election, and, faced with the loss of foreign aid, Balaguer stood down. Guzmán's inauguration on August 16 marked the country's first peaceful transfer of power from one freely elected president to another. By the late 1970s, economic expansion slowed considerably as sugar prices declined and oil prices rose. Rising inflation and unemployment diminished support for the government and helped trigger a wave of mass emigration from the Dominican Republic to New York, coming on the heels of the similar migration of Puerto Ricans in the preceding decades.

Elections were again held in 1982. Salvador Jorge Blanco of the Dominican Revolutionary Party defeated Bosch and a resurgent Balaguer. Balaguer completed his return to power in 1986 when he won the Presidency again and remained in office for the next ten years. Elections in 1990 were marked by violence and suspected electoral fraud. The 1994 election too saw widespread pre-election violence, often aimed at intimidating members of the opposition. Balaguer won in 1994 but most observers felt the election had been stolen. Under pressure from the United States, Balaguer agreed to hold new elections in 1996. He himself would not run.

In 1996, US-raised Leonel Fernández Reyna of the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (Dominican Liberaiton Party) secured more than 51% of the vote through an alliance with Balaguer. The first item on the president's agenda was the partial sale of some state-owned enterprises. Fernández was praised for ending decades of isolationism and improving ties with other Caribbean countries, but he was criticized for not fighting corruption or alleviating the poverty that affects 60% of the population.

The Dominican Republic in the 21st Century

In August 2000 the centre-left Hipólito Mejía of the PRD was elected president amid popular discontent over power outages in the recently privatised electric industry. His presidency saw major inflation and instability of the peso. During his time as president, the relatively stable unit of currency fell from 16 DOP (Dominican Pesos) to 1 USD (United States Dollar) to 60 DOP to 1 USD, and was in the 50s to a dollar when he left office. In the May 2004 presidential elections he was defeated by former president Leonel Fernández. Fernández instituted austerity measures to deflate the peso and rescue the country from its economic crisis, and in the first half of 2006, the economy grew 11.7%.

Over the last three decades, remittances (remesas) from Dominicans living abroad, mainly in the United States, have become increasingly important to the economy. From 1990 to 2000, the Dominican population of the US doubled in size, from 520,121 in 1990 to 1,041,910, two-thirds of whom were born in the Dominican Republic itself. More than half of all Dominican Americans live in New York City, with the largest concentration in the neighbourhood of Washington Heights in northern Manhattan. Over the past decade, the Dominican Republic has become the largest source of immigration to New York City, and today the metropolitan area of New York has a larger Dominican population than any city except Santo Domingo. Dominican communities have also developed in New Jersey (particularly Paterson), Miami, Boston, Philadelphia, Providence, Rhode Island and Lawrence, Massachusetts. In addition, thousands of Dominicans illegally cross the Mona Passage to Puerto Rico, many travelling on to the mainland US. Dominicans living abroad send an estimated $3 billion per year in remittances to relatives at home. In 1997, a new law took effect, allowing Dominicans living abroad to retain their citizenship and vote in Presidential elections.

The Dominican Republic was involved in the US led coalition in Iraq, as part of the Spain-led Latin-American Plus Ultra Brigade, but in 2004, the nation pulled its 300 or so troops out of Iraq.

 Next