Dominican Republic Guide

In the heart of the Caribbean, washed by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean to the north and the impetuous Caribbean Sea in the south, nestles a placid and beautiful country officially called The Dominican Republic.

It is located between latitude 17o 40' and 19o 56' North and longitude 68o 20' and 72o 01' west of the Greenwich meridian (GMT-4).

Christopher Columbus discovered the island on December 5, 1492, during his first voyage to the New World. It occupies 18,704 sq. mi/48,442 sq. km of the 76,192 sq. km it shares with the neighboring Republic of Haiti. Its natural beauty and rich history fascinate as well excite those who get to know it.

By a 1508 royal edict, King Ferdinand of Spain named it the Island of Santo Domingo. Its aboriginal name, Quisqueya, means "mother of all lands" in the Taino language. At the time of its "Discovery" by Christopher Columbus, our island was populated by aborigines that called themselves "Tainos", a word which translates as "the good".

The Taino were a part of the Arawak peoples of the tropical regions of the South American continent, from where it is believed they migrated by canoe through the Lesser Antilles to the Greater Antilles. They were physically well-built; they had a rather tawny complexion and dark eyes. Even though they were generally peaceful and were practically subjugated by an internal regime under the dominion of a "cacique" or chieftain, historical records do show instances in which they bravely defended their families, their land and their freedom from the Conquistadors that enslave them. Unfortunately, a population estimated at around 600,000 was practically exterminated in less than thirteen years.

Taíno sociopolitical structure was organized under five polities or cacicazgos: Marién, governed by Guacanagarix; Maguá was dominated by the cacique Guarionex; Caonabo ruled in Maguána; in Higüey, Cayacoa; and Jaragua fell under the might of Bohechío. After Bohechio's death, his sister Anacaona, who was also the widow of Caonabo, emerged as his successor. She was reputedly the cleverest, most beautiful and talented woman in the island. Nevertheless, she had to witness the merciless slaughter of her people at the sword of Nicolas de Ovando, the Spanish governor, in 1503. This first act of cruelty has gone down in historical records as the Jaragua Massacre. Made a prisoner, the Taino Queen responded to the heinous act with these words:

"It is not honorable to kill; nor can honor propitiate the tragedy. Let us open a bridge of love, so that across it even our enemies may walk and leave for posterity their footprints".

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