Dominican Republic’s Culture: Caribbean, Colonial and Captivating

by on Sunday, 26 May 2013

The DR’s colonial Spanish architecture allows you to step back in time © used with permission by Narelle Webber, ISV International Program Director

One of the biggest surprises in visiting this tropical island paradise is the exciting cultural stimulation you’ll receive once you step foot in the Dominican Republic.  Look beyond the post-card perfect swaying palm trees and incredible beaches, and you’ll discover a people with a diverse history and a captivating culture.

History: First, to really experience the DR’s culture the visitor needs to venture beyond the all-inclusive resort and into the community and countryside.  The cities of Santo Domingo (visited on ISV’s Adventure Tour) and Santiago (home of our Spanish Language Program) provide an enthralling opportunity to step back in time and learn about the Spanish-colonial influence on the DR.  The DR’s history is the result of an unlikely mixture of influences of European, African, and native Taíno Indian cultures. These distinct cultures still drive the social identity of the people today. Every aspect of their food, music, art, sports and religion provides a unique insight into the development of their country. In a single day you can experience both ancient and modern cultures from around the globe. Dominicans share the island of Hispaniola with neighbouring Haiti, and the mixture of these peoples and their cultures provides a massive influence on contemporary Dominican life.

Beautiful jewellery and art work fill DR markets and shops © google images

Religion:The majority of the people of the Dominican Republic claim to be Christian, with a large proportion claiming Roman Catholicism as their religion. Dominican Catholicism is an eclectic mix of Roman Catholic traditions and African-rooted religions/ceremonies, or Santeria, and is widespread in the Dominican Republic. There are some small Protestant, Seventh Day Adventist, Baptist, Mormon, Islamic, Buddhist and Jewish communities throughout the DR as well.

Bits and pieces: As a former Spanish Colony, many of its dishes carry a familiar Latin American feel.  In addition to their rich culinary history, Dominicans also demonstrate their unmistakable heritage through art. The island is filled with many different types of bright and colourful artwork. Jewellery made out of larimar, amber, bone, horn and coconut husk can be found at local markets and shops, where the native Taíno influence can still be seen. In addition to jewellery, Dominican artists also use clay, porcelain, hemp, and guano to make both decorative and religious figurines.

Baseball is at the centre of cultural life in the DR. Sporting legend, Albert Pujols is pictured here © google images

Baseball: Although food and art are important parts of Dominican culture, the true life of the culture is baseball. Much more than a national pastime, baseball is a major source of national pride and identity. In fact, almost 40 percent of players in the U.S. Major League Baseball and minor leagues come from Latin America- with most of those coming from the Dominican Republic. Some of their most famous Dominican players include Pedro Martinez, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Sammy Sosa.

In terms of a captivating cultural experience, the Dominican Republic promises not to disappoint.

To learn more about ISV’s program in the Dominican Republic visit our website: www.isvolunteers.org

For more pre-departure blog information please use the following link: http://www.isvolunteers.org/blog/category/pre-departure-info/ 

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