Ocean-looking stones, Christopher Columbus, and Baseball. What do all of those things have in common?
They’re all part of Dominican culture and history. The interesting facts about the Dominican Republic are endless, but we’ve picked a few favorites.
Want to learn more about your next (or dream) destination? Read more below.
1. Baseball isn’t Just an American Past-time
There’s a good reason you see so many Dominican MLB players on the field. It’s because the Dominican Republic is about as obsessed with Baseball as the US is.
Maybe even more, if you consider that they’re not distracted by NFL or College American Football. There are even charity programs that help students learn baseball and give them the support they need to stay in school at the same time.
But there are some negatives about this Baseball obsession – that the above charity program tries to address. Like we see in poor racial areas of the States with basketball, many young boys drop out of school to pursue baseball.
They see it as their only path out of poverty, and unfortunately, there are people that take advantage of that. But for those that have the guidance, there’s actually a pretty high success rate.
About 40% of paid baseball players from the states are Dominican. Who knew?
2. It’s Historically Religious
Like many Latin or Central American countries, the Dominican Republic is mostly Catholic. And that goes back for at least 500 years, which is how old their Catedral de Santa Maria La Menor is.
Rumor says that Christopher Columbus’ son laid the first stone of this church. And somehow, though the DR is a victim to hurricanes and earthquakes, the building has survived.
You could call it an act of god (as they’re calling the fact that the gold cross survived the Notre Dame fire) or just a marvel of engineering.
If you want to see this church, you’ll have to travel to Santo Domingo, but it’s worth it. The church is the oldest still standing cathedral in both North, South, and Central America!
3. They Invented the Merengue
If you’ve ever taken a Zumba class, you’ve done Merengue. At least, you’ve done the most basic steps of it.
The Latin-dance themed exercise routine bases most routines off of this, the chacha, the samba, and the salsa.
Anyways, like many classic dance moves that came from indigenous groups, there’s a legend behind the creation of this one.
It’s said that the creation of the Merengue goes back to save time in the Republic. Slaves would be chained together in the field, cutting sugar cane.
Apparently, they’d have to drag one leg when they went to move to the next sugar cane stalk. This is where the “foot drag” comes from.
But like there’s another version too. Some people believe that the dance came from a hero when he came home from war. He’d been injured in battle, and now had a limp.
Everyone in the village who welcomed him back felt bad for him and danced with a limp too.
No matter how the dance started, it’s the national dance of the Dominican Republic, and of its neighbor Haiti. Want to see an example of this dance? Watch this couple do an advanced version, then break it down for you.
4. It’s Where Christopher Columbus Landed First
We hear all sorts of things about Christopher Columbus, and all of us remember the elementary rhyme “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue”.
Students are still taught that he “discovered” the Americas, though we know there were indigenous people living on the continent then and for hundreds of years before.
And if you recall, from your history lessons, Columbus didn’t set out to find a “new” continent. He was trying to get to the West Indies, famous for their spices, which were high-value at the time.
But he didn’t know there was something in between Spain and the Indian/Asian continents and ran into the Carribean.
He landed a few places before he set foot in what we consider the United States. The first of those places was the Dominican Republic.
If you were reading carefully, you’ll remember that Christopher Columbus’ son was the one who (allegedly) laid the first stone in that famous cathedral. So it’s safe to assume old Christopher spent some quality time on our island.
It also hosted the first-ever “New World” city, which they named Zona Colonial.
5. It’s Mountainous
If you’ve never been to the Dominican Republic, you probably imagine beaches, not mountains. But unlike Haiti or Cuba, the country isn’t flat.
The mountains in the Dominican Republic, while not impressive in height, help divert bad weather and hurricanes. Like tornados, hurricanes do not like hilly terrain. It’s harder for them to maintain their power over hills and valleys.
This is why we haven’t seen hardcore damage from hurricanes in the DR in the past years.
The mountains don’t make it impossible, but they reduce the chance of damage and lower the hurricane severity.
The mountains also divert rainy weather, at least, away from the beaches. That leads to the fact that the DR has 300 days of sunshine a year. That’s more than the Sunshine State (Florida) and on par with Colorado – which is a surprising leader in sunny days.
To understand how mountains divert weather further, throw it back to elementary school geography.
6. The National Color is Amber
No – it’s not really. We’re just using that to say that the Dominican Republic produces some of the most unique and beautiful amber stones in the world.
There are caves on the northern coastline where they mine the honey-colored semi-precious stone. You can find amber so pure here, that sometimes you find an entire fossil or a 1000-year-old bug perfectly preserved in the stone itself.
Along with Amber, you can also find (or buy) Larimar on the island. It’s a blue stone that looks impressively like the clear Caribbean waters. It even has sort of a translucent texture, which adds to its aquatic effect.
It’s almost like if you took traditional turquoise and make it about 3x a lighter blue. You can buy jewelry made with this crystal/stone, or take chunks of it home as decor.
It isn’t as expensive as other higher-value stones, but it’s not super cheap. It’s only found certain coastal locations, and the DR houses all of them.
7. The Flag is Unique
The flag of a country holds much symbolism. Some of it’s subtle and some of it’s not so much.
On the subtle side, we have France. The colors blue and red used to be the colors of the city of Paris. White was the color of royalty and the political elite.
As legend has it, the current French flag represents the people of Paris crushing the royals and the elite. Hence why white is in the middle, between the red and the blue.
Then you have the DR’s flag, which is not subtle in the least. When we said it’s a majorly catholic or Christian country, we weren’t joking, there’s even a bible on their flag.
In fact, they’re the only country in the entire world that has a bible on their flag. Even the Vatican’s flag doesn’t have such obvious religious symbolism.
Also seen on the flag are two kinds of local foliage, and the words Dios, Patria, Libertad. Those translate to “God, Patriotic-ness, and liberty.
Interesting Facts About the Dominican Republic
What did you think about the facts? Did you have any idea that the island was so steeped in Christopher Columbus-related history?
Or that you should put Lamilus stone on your shopping list for souvenirs?
We could have given you more interesting facts about the Dominican Republic, but we don’t want to give away too much of its magic.