I love planning things. At just twelve years old, Sargis Vardanyan (pictured above, right) has already lived through plenty of traumatic events, so it’s no…
Did you know?
Welcome to the Caribbean! This tropical region situated to the southeast of North America, north of South America, and east of Central America consists of thirteen countries and many smaller island territories. The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola. Here are ten things you might not know about this Caribbean country.
1. Birthplace of the merengue. Not to be confused with the dessert called “meringue”, this Latin dance was developed in the Caribbean during the 1800s. As opposed to the lively tempo of salsa, merengue is usually a slightly slower dance with a unique gait. There are two popular stories regarding the history of the dance. In one story, slaves would dance as they worked in the sugar cane fields but were forced to drag their chained leg behind them. This resulted in a limping gait. In another story, a wounded hero was welcomed back to his hometown in the Dominican Republic during the revolutions. During the celebration of his return, the villagers took sympathy on his inability to dance properly, so they all danced with a limp and dragged one foot.
2. It has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The Dominican Republic has more Blue Flag beaches than any other country in the Caribbean, meaning these beaches meet some pretty strict international standards for cleanliness, safety, and quality. And since the annual temperature in the Dominican Republic ranges between 68 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, there’s really no bad time to come for a visit. You just might want to avoid hurricane season.
3. Founded in 1492, Santo Domingo is the site of the oldest colonial settlement in the Americas. This makes Santo Domingo the oldest city in the Western Hemisphere! Santo Domingo is the capital city of the Dominican Republic and currently home to over three million people. In 1990, Santo Domingo was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. In 2010, it was selected as the “cultural capital of the Americas.”
4. The Dominican Republic is the only country in the world with a Bible on the flag. In fact, religious symbolism is all over the Dominican flag, even down to the white cross that separates the flag into four equal sections—the blue symbolizing liberty, the red for the blood of heroes, and the white for salvation. In the center of the cross is the coat of arms, which features a shield, six spears, a bay laurel branch, a palm frond branch, a golden cross, and a Bible opened to John 8:32. Above the coat of arms is a ribbon with the motto “Dios, Patria, Libertad”, which means “God, Homeland, Liberty”.
5. There’s a lot of sugar in the Dominican Republic! The sugar industry is one of the main industries in the country. Sugar was first introduced to the Dominican Republic by Christopher Columbus in 1492 when he brought it with him from Spain. It grew very well in the tropical environment of the Caribbean and has been thriving ever since.
6. The Dominican Republic is home to two creatures that cannot be found anywhere else. The rhinoceros iguana is a large lizard that can vary from two to almost five feet long. It gets its name from the horn-like growth that stems from the top of its snout. The Dominican Republic is also home to the Hispaniolan solenodon, a small, furry mammal closely resembling a shrew. Like the rest of its solenodon cousins, it is venomous. In fact, the Hispaniolan solenodon ranks in as the third most venomous mammal in the world. But don’t worry; due to its small size, it doesn’t typically produce enough venom to threaten a human. You would still probably want to avoid getting bitten, just the same.
7. Honk your horn! When driving in the Dominican Republic, it’s normal to use your horn. Sometimes, it’s used to let people know that the traffic light has changed. Other times, it’s just to let someone know you are passing them. Horns are especially common in busier cities like Santo Domingo.
8. Discover the ancient treasures of amber and larimar. If you’re familiar with the Jurassic Park movies, then you’ve probably heard of amber, which is formed from fossilized tree resin. (By the way, did we mention that parts of the first Jurassic Park movie were filmed in the Dominican Republic?) The Dominican Republic has some of the world’s richest deposits of amber. What makes it so unique is the fact that Dominican amber is nearly always transparent. In comparison, larimar is an extremely precious stone that typically comes in shades of blue, green, and white. The Dominican Republic is the only place in the world where larimar can be found.
9. The pirates of the Caribbean aren’t just in the movies! The beautiful islands and secluded bays provided the perfect location for even the most famous real-life pirates to rest and restock their ships. One of the most famous pirates of all time, Blackbeard, was especially fond of the Dominican Republic, and spent a lot of time there.
10. Children’s Hunger Fund launched a Mercy Network of churches the Dominican Republic in 2010. Primarily located near Santo Domingo and in the southern part of the country, this Mercy Network currently includes 36 churches who are serving families in need in their communities. In 2023, a second Mercy Network was launched in Santiago in the northern part of the Dominican Republic. These additional 16 churches have already begun distributing Food Paks to families in their community, building relationships, and sharing the hope of the gospel.