Historical Context

Pre-Columbian Culture and Peoples
When Christopher Columbus first arrived on Hispaniola, the former name for what is now Haiti and the Dominican Republic, there were an estimated 400,000 indigenous Taino Indians inhabiting the island. The word Taino means “men of the good,” for the Taino were a gentle race of people whose lives where inextricably linked with their natural surroundings. The Tainos were a seafaring people who lived on the verge of dense jungle, but they also developed sophisticated agricultural practices that produced cassava, corn, squash, and peanuts. They wandered about naked, their bodies decorated with colorful dyes made from earth, and they bathed in the rivers near their homes, which were constructed of thatch and Royal Palm. They greeted Columbus and his men with the kindness and generosity that were honored Taino values. However, the Taino population decreased rapidly as a result of exposure to disease brought by the Europeans and by forced labor. The encomienda system, which allotted the Tainos to colonizers operating mines and farms and instructed the laborers in the tenets of the Catholic faith, forced many Tainos to commit suicide or abort pregnancies rather than endure a life of slavery. Eighteen years after Columbus’ arrival on Hispaniola, the Taino population had dwindled to a mere 22,000.

Dictatorship in the Dominican Republic
For most of the twentieth century, the Dominican Republic, a Spanish-speaking country, experienced non-representative rule. The Dominican Republic has a history of changing...

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