10 Things You Might Not Know About the Dominican Republic

07/07/14

The Dominican Republic is known for its blue ocean waters, white-sand beaches, beautiful resorts, and the poverty that lurks on the outskirts of these tourist hot spots. Here’s a behind-the-scenes peek at the history and culture of this beautiful yet conflicted country that your sponsored child calls home.

 

1. Dominicans love baseball

 
I Love Baseball players
 
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. Children of the Nations' I Love Baseball program is designed to help these vulnerable young men stay in school while still pursuing baseball.
 

2. They eat patriotic food

 
A Dominican boy enjoys rice and beans
 
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!

 
COTN Children in traditional dancing clothes with COTN founders
Some of the Dominican children in our program show off their traditional dancing clothes with our founders, Chris and Debbie Clark.
 
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, US Flag, Haiti Flag, and Malawian flag
The Dominican flag, American flag, and flags from three other countries Children of the Nations serves: Haiti, Malawi, and Sierra Leone.
 
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. Children of the Nations does all sorts of outreach to the Dominican communities we serve, from giving children and students age-appropriate Spanish Bibles, to showing The JESUS Filmto helping lay pastors and community leaders learn how to teach the Bible to others. If you want to get involved in sharing the Word of God with people in the Dominican, click here.
 

6. They make bananas taste great!

 
Dominican women prepare plantains
                                     Dominican women preparing plantains.
 
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

 
The Caribbean Sea is famously blue
            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

 

Dominican children hoist their flag             A group of COTN children hoist the Dominican flag outside of their school.
 
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. 
 
Children of the Nations also cares for children in Haiti, ever since the devastating earthquake in 2010. Our program in Haiti actually began because our staff in the Dominican Republic wanted to help their neighbors recover from the earthquake! That’s pretty incredible for two countries who used to be at war. 
 
Want to be a part of the amazing things God is doing in the Dominican Republic? You can sponsor a Dominican child, or even go on a Venture trip!