DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
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Physical geography

The Dominican Republic is part of the island Hispaniola which it shares with Haiti and is situated between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. Spanning the latitudes of 17 degrees to 20 degrees North and the longitudes of 72 degrees to 68 degrees West (1) it constitutes two-thirds of the island making it 48 442 square kilometres (2).

This location is also within the Hurricane Belt which gives the Dominican Republic constant threats of hurricanes and major storms. It hosts a tropical maritime climate with minimal variation in temperature between seasons giving it an average of 25 degrees Celsius (3).

This relatively small country has many geographical features that cause a beautiful diversity. “It is also a country of expansive fertile valleys, mountain ranges, natural parks, and a sanctuary to unique flora and fauna.” (4). The geography of the Dominican Republic has made it a popular tourist and vacation area.

Demographics

Paralleled by the Dominican Republic’s land size is also its population size. In a 2005 estimate, the population stood at approximately 8 950 000 (5). As the map “Population” courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries shows, the thickest populations are centred around the major cities of Santiago, La Vega and the capital Santo Domingo; therefore, contributing to a more urban distribution.

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Of this population, seventy-five percent have mixed European-African origins; ten percent are Afro-Caribbean; and fifteen percent are of other origins (6).

Health, development and education

Education is divided into three sectors, Primary, Secondary and Higher education. The completion of Primary and Secondary is cost free and mandatory between the ages of 5 and 14. Upon completing Primary typically 90% of students complete a six year liceo and receive a bachillerato certificate which is used towards University admission. The remaining 10% enter into teacher training, vocational schools or polytechnics.

The Dominican Republic has an average birth rate of 22.91 per 1000 and a death rate of 5.32 per 1000. Most recent surveys show that the age structure between 0-14 years of age consists of 32.9% of the population. 15-64 years of age consists of 61.7% and that 5.5% of the population is 65 years of age and older. Dengue has been a national epidemic and is along side malaria on a list of 7 health issues that would be meet with a “zero tolerance strategy” as identified by the millennium summit. Others include maternal mortality, infant mortality, HIV/AIDS, rabies, tuberculoses and other vaccine preventable diseases. As of 2003 the Dominican Republic faced an HIV/Aids rate of 1.7% with approximately 88,000 Dominicans being HIV positive.



Environmental issues

In September of 2009, the Dominican Republic joined forces with Haiti to combat environmental issues, such as soil erosion, deforestation, and water supply. Overflowing water, which creates extensive problems for the already impoverished nation, for example, damages roads and negatively affects lakeside communities. Lake Enriquillo in the Dominican Republic and Lake Azuei in Haiti, its neighbouring country, will continue to rise due to erosion. Both countries are working with the UN and its development and environment programs to help with these pressing issues (12).
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Lake Enriquillo, Dominican Republic. Source: http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/sseop/EFS/photoinfo.pl?PHOTO=STS051-72-85

Another significant cause for environmental alarm would be the pollution created by the numerous factories that set up shop in the town of Bajos de Hainas, 20 km from Santo Domingo. With smog up in the sky, Paraíso de Dios (God's Paradise), a neighbourhood of Bajos de Hainas, is littered with smokestacks from many manufacturing plants (13). The reason why Bajos de Hainas is considered to be one of the most polluted places in the world is not only because of the abundant manufacturing industries that line the Carribean coast, but also because companies established themselves in the area when environmental laws were fairly weak (13).


Economy

The Dominican Republics economy is largely based in the tertiary sector. They manufacture a large variety of goods ranging from apparel, electronics, footwear, leather goods, jewelry and medicinal products. The Dominican Republic is home to many international companies such as Kohler, Power One, Johnson and Johnson, Shell and IBM. They offer “Free Zones” to these companies which provides them with 100% tax and duty exemption on raw materials and equipment. It also leaves profit repatriation to their complete discretion. Due to it’s geographical location and climate it has become a very popular tourist location and along with its manufacturing sector tourism is rapidly growing as an export. Its largest trading partner is the United States accounting for 75% of all export revenues. Other trading partners include Canada, Japan and Western Europe. In terms of agriculture 30% of the land is fertile and 17% of the workforce is based in agriculture. It is the worlds second biggest producer of sugarcane, its most valuable crop. However there has been a steady decline in production in recent years and a movement towards production of various food crops and coffee.

Rural Sector

Despite the Dominican Republic’s agricultural growth (a 5% increase) from 2005 to 2007, it suffered greatly from the effectual remnants of the international economic crisis in 2008 (16). Nevertheless, rural areas and agriculture are very important in contributing to the GNP, which accounted for 11.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2005 (17). The main agricultural crop in the country is sugar cane with 5.5 million metric tones produced in 2004, followed by rice and banana crops (16).

Rural areas of the Dominican Republic are hit hardest during the current economic crisis, whereby women and youth, for example, are adversely affected because of wage inequalities (17). Since manual labour in agriculture is seasonal and does not require specific training, the sector tends to attract a large amount of child labour from the subregions and rural areas (16).


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Throughout the twentieth century the population of the Dominican Republic underwent a major shift, as with the migration of 60% of its people, the country went from a dominantly agrarian society to a society that generally dwelled in urban centers. The capital, Santo Domingo, is the largest city in the Dominican Republic, and with a population of nearly 2.1 million it has a very diverse urban environment, emulated throughout the country. Its layout, influenced heavily by colonizing Spain, is a typical grid system with many plazas. These plazas are the center of activity as host the meeting place of residents, tourists, guides, vendors and much more (9).

Politics
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President, Leonel Fernández Reyna

Dominican Republic is a representative democracy, divided into three branches. The Executive is composed by the president (chief of state and head of government), the vice president and the cabinet (designed by the president to handle certain affairs). The Legislative represented by a bicameral Congress, composed by the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Supreme Court of Justice constitutes the Judicial branch. The country is divided in 31 provinces and the National District of Santo Domingo.
The Dominican Republic has a multi party political system, elections are held every two years, alternating between the Presidential and the Congressional elections. The current president is Leonel Fernández Reyna, who won with the 53% of the vote in the last presidential election held on 2008. (7)



Type of government:Representative democracy.
Independence: February 27, 1844. Restoration of independence,
August 16, 1863.
Constitution: November 28, 1966; amended July 25, 2002.
Branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial.

Subdivisions: 31 provinces and the National District of Santo Domingo.
Political parties: Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), Dominican Revolutionary
Party (PRD), Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC), and several others.
Suffrage: Universal and compulsory, over 18 or married. (8)




Culture

Literature. Works and style have a European influence, particularly Spanish and French. Gaston Fernando Deligne led the movement into modernism. Don Pedro Mir is known as the National Poet. More recent Dominican authors, such as Julia Alvarez, are leaving the Spanish influences behind and creating a unique Dominican style.
Music. Dominicans love music and dancing. Merengue, with its African tom-tom beat and Spanish salsa spirit, is the most popular. Other influences are the sound of reggae from Jamaica and the Spanish guitar. Music can be heard on every street corner and there are large outdoor festivals. There is also the National Conservatory for Music and Speech. (9)
Carnival. In February starts one of the most popular traditions of the country, the carnival. Both children and adults participate wearing masks and customs, some of them handmade, with different meanings.
Cockfighting. Despite the different points of views, this is one of the most widespread hobbies. People assist to the events held in centers allowed by the government and they bet on the fights. (10)


Unique features

dominican_beach.jpg The Dominican Republic, with over 1287.5 km of beach, boasts one of the largest coastlines in all of the Caribbean. Along with its beaches the expanding Cap Cana Harbour and Marina is set to host over 500 yachts at once, being the largest mega-marina in the Caribbean. At present, the marinas within the Dominican Republic can dock yachts up to 150 ft, but with new marinas opening up all the time it is estimated the ability to hold up to 250 ft. However, regardless of size, no matter where you decide to settle, a backdrop of mountains with a forefront of lush turquoise water await anyone with the love of travel. The beaches of the Dominican Republic, definitely unique (15).



Resources


(1) Mapsofworld.com (2009). Dominican Republic Latitiude and Longitude. Retrieved 23 January 2010 from the world wide web:
http://www.mapsofworld.com/lat_long/dominican-republic-lat-long.html
(2) Brown, Isabel Z. (1999). Culture and Customs of the Dominican Republic. London: Greenwood Press.
(3) Globe Media, Inc. (2010). Dominican Republic Climate and Weather. Retrieved 23 January from the world wide web:
http://www.wordtravels.com/Travelguide/Countries/Dominican+Republic/Climate/
(4) Brown, Isabel Z. (1999). Culture and Customs of the Dominican Republic. London: Greenwood Press. p. 1.
(5) High Beam Research, Inc. (2008). Dominican Republic. The Columbia Encyclopedia (6th ed.). Retrieved 23 January 2010 from the world wide web:
http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Dominican_Republic.aspx
(6) Ferguson, James. (1992). Dominican Republic: Beyond the Lighthouse. London: Latin America Bureau.
(7) Presidency of the Dominican Republic; http://www.presidencia.gob.do/app/frontpage.aspx
(8) Background note: Dominican Republic; U.S. Department of State; http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/35639.htm
(9) Countries and their culture; Dominican Republic; http://www.everyculture.com/Cr-Ga/Dominican-Republic.html#ixzz0e7bfJWTR
(10) Dominican Dream; Traditions in Dominican Republic; http://www.dominicandream.com/Version%20ESPANOL/Guia%20al%20viaje/Tradiciones/Tadiciones.htm
(11) The Economy; DR Industry; http://dominicanrepublic.com//index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=25&Itemid=28
(12) Haiti and Dominican Republic Partner to Save Border Lakes with UN's Help; http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=32079&Cr=haiti&Cr1=
(13) Dominican Republic: Thick Smog on the Caribbean Coast; http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=36404
(14) CIA World Factbook, 28 July 2005
(15) The Republic of Colors: Marinas; http://www.godominicanrepublic.com/goDREnglish/docs/Marinas.pdf
(16) The Labour Market of Central America and the Dominican Republic: Rural Areas and Agriculture in the Crisis; http://white.oit.org.pe/estad/laclispub/english/ndestacados/RALM.pdf
(17) West, J. (Ed.). (2006). South america, central america and the caribbean 2007 (15th ed.). London: Routledge.