Dominican Republic

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Buffet Style Learning

Does the menu look overwhelming? Looking for a formula to use as a skeleton for your studies in the Dominican Republic?


  • Two books
  • Two films
  • Three articles
  • One Problem & Solution or Project Option
  • One Cultural Assignment

Table of Contents

Book Recommendations


dominicanThe Dominican Republic: A National History

by Frank Moya Pons

This updated and expanded edition extends the narrative from 1990 to the first decade of the present century, beginning with the collapse of the Dominican economy. In addition to the electoral fraud and constitutional reforms of 1994 and the return administration of Leonel Fernandez, the updated chapters focus on financial crises, the economic reforms of the 1990s, the free trade agreement with the United States, and party politics.

They also take account of the recent Dominican electoral processes, the colossal and fraudulent banking crisis of 2002-2004, and the perpetuation of corruption as part of Dominican political culture.

dominican-readerThe Dominican Republic Reader: History, Culture, Politics

by Eric Paul Roorda (Editor), Lauren H. Derby (Editor), Raymundo Gonzalez (Editor)

Despite its significance in the history of Spanish colonialism, the Dominican Republic is familiar to most outsiders through only a few elements of its past and culture. Non-Dominicans may be aware that the country shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti and that it is where Christopher Columbus chose to build a colony.

Some may know that the country produces talented baseball players and musicians; others that it is a prime destination for beach vacations. Little else about the Dominican Republic is common knowledge outside its borders. This Reader seeks to change that. It provides an introduction to the history, politics, and culture of the country, from precolonial times into the early twenty-first century.

dominicanmulattoThe Mulatto Republic: Class, Race, and Dominican National Identity

by April J. Mayes

The Dominican Republic was once celebrated as a mulatto racial paradise. Now the island nation is idealized as a white, Hispanic nation, having abandoned its many Haitian and black influences. The possible causes of this shift in ideologies between popular expressions of Dominican identity and official nationalism has long been debated by historians, political scientists, and journalists.

In The Mulatto Republic, April Mayes looks at the many ways Dominicans define themselves through race, skin color, and culture. She explores significant historical factors and events that have led the nation, for much of the twentieth century, to favor privileged European ancestry and Hispanic cultural norms such as the Spanish language and Catholicism.

Mayes seeks to discern whether contemporary Dominican identity is a product of the Trujillo regime—and, therefore, only a legacy of authoritarian rule—or is representative of a nationalism unique to an island divided into two countries long engaged with each other in ways that are sometimes cooperative and at other times conflicted. Her answers enrich and enliven an ongoing debate.

dominicanvoodooSex and Voodoo & Other Oddities: Stories from the Dominican Republic

by Mark S Wellbee MD

The Dominican Republic is one of the most fascinating island nations in the Caribbean. My intention in writing this book is to share with you some of my experiences there, from hilarious to touching, including how I became an expat there. I was especially fascinated by the openness with which both islanders and expats treat sexuality and spirituality. Here are some of those unusual expat stories, about sex, voodoo and other oddities, from the islanders of La Republica Dominicana.

“This book provides a unique glimpse of life in the Caribbean that the usual tourist would not see. For all whose vacation south has been limited to the all inclusive hotel experience or for those who have ever fantasized about life in ‘paradise,’ Sex and Voodoo is especially for you. Mark S Wellbee does a wonderful job in introducing us into the intimate lives of different characters, from whom we learn, often with some humor, more about the reality of life in the exotic tropics in particular, and the human condition in general.”

dominican-butterfliesIn The Time Of The Butterflies

by Julia Alvarez

From the author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents comes this tale of courage and sisterhood set in the Dominican Republic during the rise of the Trujillo dictatorship. A skillful blend of fact and fiction, In the Time of the Butterflies is inspired by the true story of the three Mirabal sisters who, in 1960, were murdered for their part in an underground plot to overthrow the government. Alvarez breathes life into these historical figures–known as “las mariposas,” or “the butterflies,” in the underground–as she imagines their teenage years, their gradual involvement with the revolution, and their terror as their dissentience is uncovered.

Alvarez’s controlled writing perfectly captures the mounting tension as “the butterflies” near their horrific end. The novel begins with the recollections of Dede, the fourth and surviving sister, who fears abandoning her routines and her husband to join the movement. Alvarez also offers the perspectives of the other sisters: brave and outspoken Minerva, the family’s political ringleader; pious Patria, who forsakes her faith to join her sisters after witnessing the atrocities of the tyranny; and the baby sister, sensitive Maria Teresa, who, in a series of diaries, chronicles her allegiance to Minerva and the physical and spiritual anguish of prison life.

In the Time of the Butterflies is an American Library Association Notable Book and a 1995 National Book Critics Circle Award nominee.

Spanish Edition

dominican-devilThe Devil behind the Mirror: Globalization and Politics in the Dominican Republic

by Steven Gregory

In The Devil behind the Mirror, Steven Gregory provides a compelling and intimate account of the impact that transnational processes associated with globalization are having on the lives and livelihoods of people in the Dominican Republic. Grounded in ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the adjacent towns of Boca Chica and Andrés, Gregory’s study deftly demonstrates how transnational flows of capital, culture, and people are mediated by contextually specific power relations, politics, and history.

He explores such topics as the informal economy, the making of a telenova, sex tourism, and racism and discrimination against Haitians, who occupy the lowest rung on the Dominican economic ladder. Innovative, beautifully written, and now updated with a new preface, The Devil behind the Mirror masterfully situates the analysis of global economic change in everyday lives.

dominican-dictatorThe Dictator Next Door: The Good Neighbor Policy and the Trujillo Regime in the Dominican Republic, 1930-1945

by Eric Paul Roorda

The question of how U.S. foreign policy should manage relations with autocratic governments, particularly in the Caribbean and Latin America, has always been difficult and complex. In The Dictator Next Door Eric Paul Roorda focuses on the relations between the U.S. and the Dominican Republic following Rafael Trujillo’s seizure of power in 1930. Examining the transition from the noninterventionist policies of the Hoover administration to Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor policy, Roorda blends diplomatic history with analyses of domestic politics in both countries not only to explore the political limits of American hegemony but to provide an in-depth view of a crucial period in U.S. foreign relations.

Although Trujillo’s dictatorship was enabled by prior U.S. occupation of the Dominican Republic, the brutality of his regime and the reliance on violence and vanity to sustain his rule was an untenable offense to many in the U.S. diplomatic community, as well as to certain legislators, journalists, and bankers. Many U.S. military officers and congressmen, however—impressed by the civil order and extensive infrastructure the dictator established—comprised an increasingly powerful Dominican lobby. What emerges is a picture of Trujillo at the center of a crowded stage of international actors and a U.S. government that, despite events such as Trujillo’s 1937 massacre of 12,000 Haitians, was determined to foster alliances with any government that would oppose its enemies as the world moved toward war.

Using previously untapped records, privately held papers, and unpublished photographs, Roorda demonstrates how caution, confusion, and conflicting goals marked U.S. relations with Trujillo and set the tone for the ambivalent Cold War relations that prevailed until Trujillo’s assassination in 1961. The Dictator Next Door will interest Latin Americanists, historians, political scientists, and specialists in international relations and diplomacy.

dominican-loveWhat’s Love Got to Do with It?: Transnational Desires and Sex Tourism in the Dominican Republic

by Denise Brennan

In locations around the world, sex tourism is a booming business. What’s Love Got to Do with It? is an in-depth examination of the motivations of workers, clients, and others connected to the sex tourism business in Sosúa, a town on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. Denise Brennan considers why Dominican and Haitian women move to Sosúa to pursue sex work and describes how sex tourists, primarily Europeans, come to Sosúa to buy sex cheaply and live out racialized fantasies. For the sex workers, Brennan explains, the sex trade is more than a means of survival—it is an advancement strategy that hinges on their successful “performance” of love. Many of these women seek to turn a commercialized sexual transaction into a long-term relationship that could lead to marriage, migration, and a way out of poverty.

Illuminating the complex world of Sosúa’s sex business in rich detail, Brennan draws on extensive interviews not only with sex workers and clients, but also with others who facilitate and benefit from the sex trade. She weaves these voices into an analysis of Dominican economic and migration histories to consider the opportunities—or lack thereof—available to poor Dominican women. She shows how these women, local actors caught in a web of global economic relations, try to take advantage of the foreign men who are in Sosúa to take advantage of them. Through her detailed study of the lives and working conditions of the women in Sosúa’s sex trade, Brennan raises important questions about women’s power, control, and opportunities in a globalized economy.

dominicancocksWhy the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola

by Michele Wucker

Like two roosters in a fighting arena, Haiti and the Dominican Republic are encircled by barriers of geography and poverty. They co-inhabit the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, but their histories are as deeply divided as their cultures: one French-speaking and black, one Spanish-speaking and mulatto. Yet, despite their antagonism, the two countries share a national symbol in the rooster–and a fundamental activity and favorite sport in the cockfight. In this book, Michele Wucker asks: “If the symbols that dominate a culture accurately express a nation’s character, what kind of a country draws so heavily on images of cockfighting and roosters, birds bred to be aggressive? What does it mean when not one but two countries that are neighbors choose these symbols? Why do the cocks fight, and why do humans watch and glorify them?”

Wucker studies the cockfight ritual in considerable detail, focusing as much on the customs and histories of these two nations as on their contemporary lifestyles and politics. Her well-cited and comprehensive volume also explores the relations of each nation toward the United States, which twice invaded both Haiti (in 1915 and 1994) and the Dominican Republic (in 1916 and 1965) during the twentieth century. Just as the owners of gamecocks contrive battles between their birds as a way of playing out human conflicts, Wucker argues, Haitian and Dominican leaders often stir up nationalist disputes and exaggerate their cultural and racial differences as a way of deflecting other kinds of turmoil. Thus Why the Cocks Fight highlights the factors in Caribbean history that still affect Hispaniola today, including the often contradictory policies of the U.S.

dominican-macheteFrom Machete Fights to Paradise, The Machete Fighters of the Dominican Republic

by Daniel Dimarzio

When I first heard of sword fights in the Dominican I was very skeptical. I thought maybe I was hearing about a freak occurrence or a story that was blown out of proportion. But, then I heard another story…and another. All of them about machete fights. Not just one person with a machete attacking some unarmed person either, these were stories of two people wielding machetes. Two people dueling with real, live swords.

Then, I actually went there and met people who had been in machete fights and had the scars to prove it. When I heard of these stories, I immediately thought of the ancient Samurai of Japan who often dueled to the death.

At the heart of the martial arts was real life-and-death combat. In the case of swords and dueling, this information is very old because nobody has been in sword fights for ages. At least that’s what many people thought.

Sword fights do happen in the modern world. They happen in the Caribbean…in Latin America…specifically in a place called the Dominican Republic. This isn’t the same Dominican Republic that tourists often see. These fights happen in the neighborhoods and countryside rarely ever seen by the non-local. The following are accounts of modern-day sword fights, fights involving the Machete Fighters of the Dominican Republic.

This is the only book ever written about this obscure, rare and unspoken topic.

dominican-cookinMamá Pura’s recipes: English Black & White Edition

by Arturo Féliz-Camilo

“Mamá Pura’s Recipes” is the English Edition to the first volume in the “’s” collection of traditional Dominican Cooking recipes. Arturo Féliz-Camilo is a traditional Dominican cook specialized in original Dominican and Caribbean recipes. In this book he shares some of the best and most popular traditional Dominican recipes.

dominican-wrecksHistoric Shipwrecks Of The Dominican Republic And Haiti, Second Edition: Their Locations And Provenance

by Dr. Lubos Kordac

This Second Edition of this very popular book is a compendium of historic shipwrecks surrounding Hispaniola, with a summary of locations and current/previous notable salvage operations including maps, photos and drawings. This edition contains substantial new material regarding numerous wrecks throughout Hispaniola. Several hundred wrecks are listed and the index contains approximatly 1100 page citations. Bibliography included. 200 pages of content in 22 chapters. Compiled by Dr. Lubos Kordac, an able diver who resides in the Dominican Republic and consults as a marine archaeologist.

Local history for each focus area provides valuable information regarding the circumstances for the listed wrecks. 28 maps and more than 50 photos. The Second Edition adds approximately 100 new vessel/fleet disasters to the areas of Samana, Santo Domingo, Azua, Tortuga and Cap-Haitien. New information includes the mystery of the “Opale” and the disappearing island, an expanded overview of the Bobadilla fleet, and more information regarding the “Imperial” and “Diomede”.

domincan-ballDominican Baseball: New Pride, Old Prejudice

by Alan Klein

Pedro Martínez. Sammy Sosa. Manny Ramírez. By 2000, Dominican baseball players were in every Major League clubhouse, and regularly winning every baseball award. In 2002, Omar Minaya became the first Dominican general manager of a Major League team. But how did this codependent relationship between MLB and Dominican talent arise and thrive?

dominican-piratePirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship

by Robert Kurson

Finding and identifying a pirate ship is the hardest thing to do under the sea. But two men—John Chatterton and John Mattera—are willing to risk everything to find the Golden Fleece, the ship of the infamous pirate Joseph Bannister. At large during the Golden Age of Piracy in the seventeenth century, Bannister should have been immortalized in the lore of the sea—his exploits more notorious than Blackbeard’s, more daring than Kidd’s. But his story, and his ship, have been lost to time. If Chatterton and Mattera succeed, they will make history—it will be just the second time ever that a pirate ship has been discovered and positively identified. Soon, however, they realize that cutting-edge technology and a willingness to lose everything aren’t enough to track down Bannister’s ship. They must travel the globe in search of historic documents and accounts of the great pirate’s exploits, face down dangerous rivals, battle the tides of nations and governments and experts. But it’s only when they learn to think and act like pirates—like Bannister—that they become able to go where no pirate hunters have gone before.

Fast-paced and filled with suspense, fascinating characters, history, and adventure, Pirate Hunters is an unputdownable story that goes deep to discover truths and souls long believed lost.

dominican-farmingThe Farming of Bones

by Edwidge Danticat

It is 1937 and Amabelle Désir, a young Haitian woman living in the Dominican Republic, has built herself a life as the servant and companion of the wife of a wealthy colonel. She and Sebastien, a cane worker, are deeply in love and plan to marry. But Amabelle’s world collapses when a wave of genocidal violence, driven by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, leads to the slaughter of Haitian workers. Amabelle and Sebastien are separated, and she desperately flees the tide of violence for a Haiti she barely remembers.

Already acknowledged as a classic, this harrowing story of love and survival—from one of the most important voices of her generation—is an unforgettable memorial to the victims of the Parsley Massacre and a testimony to the power of human memory.

dominican-redRed Heat: Conspiracy, Murder, and the Cold War in the Caribbean

by Alex Von Tunzelmann

During the presidencies of Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson, the Caribbean was in crisis. While the United States and the Soviet Union acted out the world’s tensions on Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, the powerbrokers of these three critical island nations—the Castro brothers, Che Guevara, Rafael Trujillo, and François “Papa Doc” Duvalier—had ambitions of their own. Steeped in new material and eyewitness reports, Red Heat is an authoritative account of a wildly dramatic and dangerous era of international politics that has unmistakable resonance today.

dominican-bachataBachata A Social History of a Dominican Popular Music

by Deborah Pacini Hernandez

Like rap in the United States, bachata began as a music of the poor and dispossessed. Originating in the shantytowns of the Dominican Republic, it reflects the social and economic dislocation of the poorest Dominicans.

dominican-daringDaring to Write: Contemporary Narratives by Dominican Women

by Erika Martínez (Editor)

This new Latino literary collection brings together twenty-four engaging narratives written by Dominican women and women of Dominican descent living in the United States. The first volume of its kind, Daring to Write’s insightful works offer readers a wide array of topics.

dominican-merengueMerengue : Dominican Music and Dominican Identity

by Paul Austerlitz

Merengue is a quintessential Dominican dance music. This work aims to unravel the African and Iberian roots of merengue. It examines the historical and contemporary contexts in which merengue is performed and danced, its symbolic significance, its social functions, and its musical and choreographic structures.

dominican-diazThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

by Junot Diaz

Oscar is a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd who—from the New Jersey home he shares with his old world mother and rebellious sister—dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, finding love. But Oscar may never get what he wants. Blame the fukú—a curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations, following them on their epic journey from Santo Domingo to the USA.

Encapsulating Dominican-American history, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao opens our eyes to an astonishing vision of the contemporary American experience and explores the endless human capacity to persevere—and risk it all—in the name of love.

Kids Book Recommendations


domincan-tiaHow Tia Lola Came to (Visit) Stay

by Julia Alvarez

Moving to Vermont after his parents split, Miguel has plenty to worry about! Tía Lola, his quirky, carismática, and maybe magical aunt makes his life even more unpredictable when she arrives from the Dominican Republic to help out his Mami. Like her stories for adults, Julia Alvarez’s first middle-grade book sparkles with magic as it illuminates a child’s experiences living in two cultures.

domincan-freeBefore We Were Free

by Julia Alvarez (for tweens & teens)

Anita de la Torre never questioned her freedom living in the Dominican Republic. But by her 12th birthday in 1960, most of her relatives have emigrated to the United States, her Tío Toni has disappeared without a trace, and the government’s secret police terrorize her remaining family because of their suspected opposition of el Trujillo’s dictatorship.

Using the strength and courage of her family, Anita must overcome her fears and fly to freedom, leaving all that she once knew behind.

From renowned author Julia Alvarez comes an unforgettable story about adolescence, perseverance, and one girl’s struggle to be free.

Spanish Edition

dominican-kidsDominican Republic (True Books: Countries)

by Elaine Landau

Ideal for today’s young investigative reader, each A True Book includes lively sidebars, a glossary and index, plus a comprehensive “To Find Out More” section listing books, organizations, and Internet sites. A staple of library collections since the 1950s, the new A True Book series is the definitive nonfiction series for elementary school readers.

dominican-pedroGrowing Up Pedro: How the Martinez Brothers Made It from the Dominican Republic All the Way to the Major Leagues

by Matt Tavares

The love between brothers is key to Matt Tavares’s tale of Dominican pitcher Pedro Martínez, from his days of throwing rocks at mangoes to his years as a major-league star.

Before Pedro Martínez pitched the Red Sox to a World Series championship, before he was named to the All-Star team eight times, before he won the Cy Young three times, he was a kid from a place called Manoguayabo in the Dominican Republic. Pedro loved baseball more than anything, and his older brother Ramon was the best pitcher he’d ever seen. He’d dream of the day he and his brother could play together in the major leagues—and here, Matt Tavares tells the story of how that dream came true. In a fitting homage to a modern day baseball star, the acclaimed author-illustrator examines both Pedro Martínez’s improbable rise to the top of his game and the power that comes from the deep bond between brothers.

dominican-secretThe Secret Footprints

by Julia Alvarez

The Dominican legend of the ciguapas, creatures who lived in underwater caves and whose feet were on backward so that humans couldn’t follow their footprints, is reinvented by renowned author Julia Alvarez. Although the ciguapas fear humans, Guapa, a bold and brave ciguapa, can’t help but be curious–especially about a boy she sees on the nights when she goes on the land to hunt for food.

When she gets too close to his family and is discovered, she learns that some humans are kind. Even though she escapes unharmed and promises never to get too close to a human again, Guapa still sneaks over to the boy’s house some evenings, where she finds a warm pastelito in the pocket of his jacket on the clothesline.

Spanish Edition

dominican-ortizDavid Ortiz

by Jeff Savage

David Ortiz is always ready when the Boston Red Sox need their biggest slugger. Big Papi, as he is known to fans and teammates, has led his team to three World Series championships with his powerful hitting. David is one of baseball’s greatest superstars, winning game after game with his bat. But the big man from the Dominican Republic is also a fine leader and one of the most beloved sports stars in New England. Learn more about Big Papi’s journey to the top.

dominican-colorThe Color of My Words

by Lynn Joseph

Twelve-year-old Ana Rosa is a blossoming writer growing up in the Dominican Republic, a country where words are feared. Yet there is so much inspiration all around her — watching her brother search for a future, learning to dance and to love, and finding out what it means to be part of a community — that Ana Rosa must write it all down. As she struggles to find her own voice and a way to make it heard, Ana Rosa realizes the power of her words to transform the world around her — and to transcend the most unthinkable of tragedies.

Spanish Edition

Film Recommendations


America’s Backyard: The Dominican Republic

The United States has always had a close relationship with the Dominican Republic. During the 19th century, it treated the Caribbean island as “subsidiary” and never hesitated to invade the sovereign nation if its political situation didn’t suit their needs. Meanwhile, it provided ample backing to any Dominican regime that was willing to push the US’ agenda, even if this meant supporting the cruelest dictator in the history of Latin America.

In this revealing and analytic program, we will visit the Dominican Republic’s Free Trade Zones, where sweatshop workers will tell us about the slave-like working conditions they had to endure while manufacturing garments for US brands and, many times, even working for US clothes manufacturing companies based at the zone. Besides the Free Trade Zones, we will witness how the mining exploitation of Canada’s Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold mining company, is responsible for the extreme devastation taking place in Pueblo Viejo located in the Dominican Republic, approximately 100 kilometers northwest of the capital city of Santo Domingo.

Dominicans in baseball – Dominican Republic culture sports life documentary


Lesson Unplanned: Teenage Pregnancy and a Lack of Education in the Dominican Republic

Teenage pregnancy rates in the Dominican Republic are booming, and for many of the girls who live there it’s about learning to become young mothers.

Gender, migration, remittances and development in Vicente Noble, Dominican Republic

This documentary presents the results of the case study “Gender, Remittances and Development: the Case of Women Migrants from Vicente Noble, Dominican Republic”, published by UN Women (former UN-INSTRAW) in 2006. The impacts of female migration on the community of Vicente Noble is shown as women describe their reasons for migrating to Spain, the difficulties they faced, and their achievements.

Puro Dominicano (Whiteness Dominican Blackness)

Pure Dominican explores the complicated and controversial subject of race and identity in the Dominican Republic.

Music of the Liborista movement in the Dominican Republic – Olivorio Mateo

Documentary film about the music of Liborista, a social-religious movement in the Dominican Republic. Comarca is indeed part of a disappearing oral folkloric tradition of the Dominican Republic that unites the sacred to the profane, and while Palo drums are played exclusively for the Saints and the possessing spirits, Comarca appears to relax the borderline between the orthodoxy of a Vudu ceremony and a simple night of musical fun and dance.

Bananas Don’t Grow on Trees: Making money in a Dominican banana matey

This short film presents a portrait of small banana-growing communities in the Dominican Republic known as bateyes. Near the Dominican-Haitian border, the banana bateyes are shared by Dominicans and undocumented Haitian migrants who rely on each other for economic gain. Dominican farmers and shopkeepers depend on the labor and residence of Haitian migrant workers who are seeking a way to support themselves and their families.

In the film Dominican and Haitian residents talk about their work on the surrounding banana farms and discuss everyday life in their batey. In doing so, they shed light on the economic forces that bring Haitians to the Dominican Republic for a job that brings bananas to European supermarkets. The film prompts viewers to reflect on the complexity of Dominican-Haitian relations and the politics of Fair Trade banana production in the Dominican Republic.

Made in the banana bateyes of the northwestern Dominican Republic, this film was filmed and edited during a year of ethnographic fieldwork. The movie is an accompaniment to a PhD thesis currently being written by Kimberly Marie Wynne of the University of Oslo on the same communities.

Trafficking of Haitian children: A border where childhood is lost

The smuggling problem has worsened along the Haiti-Dominican Republic border, with money passed to officers and traffickers willing to sell children.

Trafficking of Haitian children rises since earthquake

A joint investigation by El Nuevo Herald and The Miami Herald exposes how the trafficking of Haitian children has risen since the January earthquake. The series shows how boys and girls end up in prostitution, shoe-shining, street-begging, window-washing — with the proceeds often going to adults who give them housing and food.

Lost History: Rediscovering the Taíno People

The history of the people who met Columbus.

Columbus & the Taíno Genocide

Columbus and the Beginning of Genocide in the “New World” It has been contended by those who would celebrate Columbus that accusations concerning his perpetration of genocide are distortive “revisions” of history. Whatever the process unleashed by his “discovery” of the “New World,” it is said, the discoverer himself cannot be blamed. Whatever his defects and offenses, they are surpassed by the luster of his achievements; however “tragic” or “unfortunate” certain dimensions of his legacy may be, they are more than offset by the benefits even for the victims of the resulting blossoming of a “superior civilization” in the Americas.

The 1492 “voyage of discovery” is, however, hardly all that is at issue. In 1493 Columbus returned with an invasion force of seventeen ships, appointed at his own request by the Spanish Crown to install himself as “viceroy and governor of [the Caribbean islands] and the mainland” of America, a position he held until 1500. Setting up shop on the large island he called Hispaniola (today Haiti and the Dominican Republic), he promptly instituted policies of slavery (encomiendo) and systematic extermination against the native Taino population. Columbus’s programs reduced Taino numbers from as many as eight million at the outset of his regime to about three million in 1496. Perhaps 100,000 were left by the time of the governor’s departure. His policies, however, remained, with the result that by 1514 the Spanish census of the island showed barely 22,000 Indians remaining alive. In 1542, only two hundred were recorded. Thereafter, they were considered extinct, as were Indians throughout the Caribbean Basin, an aggregate population which totaled more than fifteen million at the point of first contact with the Admiral of the Ocean Sea, as Columbus was known….

Climate Crisis in the Dominican Republic: The Lake That Burned Down A Forest (Part 1)

VICE News travels to the Dominican Republic, site of a looming environmental and economic crisis many experts believe is the result of climate change. Lake Enriquillo is the largest lake in the Caribbean — and for the past 10 years, it’s been getting larger. Having already doubled in area, the lake is destroying everything in its path and displacing local residents who are being forced to take extreme measures to survive.

Escaping the Underwater Town: The Lake That Burned Down A Forest (Part 2)

After seeing the devastation Lake Enriquillo’s massive growth has inflicted on the region, VICE News meets residents who have lost everything and finds out what they’re now doing in order to survive.

Price Of Sugar Documentary


Interview with General Rafael Trujillo

National Archives – Interview with General Rafael Trujillo (son of the dictator) – National Security Council. Central Intelligence Agency. (09/18/1947 – 12/04/1981). – This film covers an interview with General Rafael Trujillo of the

Merengue dancing in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Stopped at a random cafe during the day playing Merengue and Bachata, everyone there loves to dance!

Sugar (2008) official trailer

Dominican baseball star Miguel “Sugar” Santos is recruited to play in the U.S. minor-leagues.

In The Time Of Butterflies Trailer

Trailer de In the Time of Butterflies (En el tiempo de las Mariposas). Marc Anthony. Salma Hayek

Article Recommendations

US Rabbis Speak Out Against Dominican Republic’s Citizenship Law – Al Jazeera

Stripped of Citizenship, Dominicans of Haitian Descent Face Life in Limbo – Al Jazeera

Blood, Sweat and sugar: Trade Deal Fails Haitian Workers on DR Plantation – Al Jazeera

Travelers to Dominican Republic Lead New York City in Positive Zika Tests – NY Times

The Republic of Baseball – NY Times

In Exile – NY Times

Dominican Republic: Court Blocks an Abortion Law – NY Times

The Bloody Origins of the Dominican Republic’s Ethnic ‘Cleansing’ of Haitians – The Washington Post

Labor Dept. Finds Bitterness in Sugar Workers’ Lives – USA Today

Busting Sex Tourists in the Dominican Republic – Newsweek

Machismo, Femicide, and Sex Tourism: An Overview of Women’s Rights in the Dominican Republic – Council on Hemispheric Affairs

The Extraordinary Case of the Guevedoces – BBC

“I Shot the Cruelest Dictator in the Americas” – BBC

Antonio Imbert Barrera, Who Helped Assassinate Dominican Dictator Trujillo, Dies at 95 – NY Times

Project Options:



Since the time of the Taino, before the arrival of Columbus, the island of of Hispanola has a long and storied history. One of the points of first contact upon the arrival of the Europeans, it also bore the brunt of the first wave of colonial efforts from the continent. Choose an aspect of Dominican history that interests you and study further:

  • The arrival of the Taino people
  • The arrival of Columbus
  • Colonial rule of Hispaniola
  • Dominican independence
  • Dominican War of Independence
  • Dominican War of Restoration
  • US occupation of the Dominican Republic
  • Dominican Civil War & US Military occupation
  • The transition towards democracy

Slavery in the Dominican Republic

Slavery has a deeply rooted history in the Dominican Republic, from the subjugation of the native population, to the importation of Amerindians from the North American continent, to war captives and eventually African people, imported for the purpose. Study the history of slavery in the Dominican and the slave revolts that began the eventual path towards freedom and the abolition of slavery on the island.

Slavery still exists in the Dominican, although it’s taken on a more insidious form. Much of the plantation work is done by what is, essentially, captive slave labor in the form of Haitian immigrants who are severely underpaid and are kept under armed guard on the plantations. Sex slavery is also a big problem in the Dominican. How is it that these conditions still exist, generations after the official abolition of slavery? What contributes to the modern slavery problem and makes it an economically viable and (apparently) sustainable model? What are the economic and societal impacts? What are the lives of modern slaves like? What kind of work are they doing?

Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina

Trujillo was one of the most brutal dictators that western hemisphere has ever seen. During his reign, from 1930-1961 he was responsible for more than 50,000 deaths in the Dominican Republic. Study this brutal era of Dominican history. Examine his early life and rise to power. How did he manage to consolidate and retain power and his position at the head of the government, even when he was not the elected president during the middle of his reign? What was the Parsley Massacre? How did the personality cult emerge?


Baseball is a passion in the Dominican and the country has produced numerous major league players who have gone on to have successful careers playing professional ball in the USA. Learn more about baseball in the Dominican and the lives of some of the stars:

  • Vargas
  • Mota
  • Perez
  • Robles
  • Brito
  • Cabrera
  • Nunez
  • And others


Both Merengue music and merengue dance originate in the Dominican Republic. It’s the national music and dance of the country and you’ll be hard pressed not to experience it while you are in the country. Read about the history of Merengue. Listen to it played live, as well as recordings of the greats. Take some dance lessons and learn to swivel those hips!


Dominican vudu is a blended religious practice that draws on the spirits of the Americas, Europe and Africa but represents them through the Catholic saints. There is a lot of mythology surrounding vudu, but the actual practice is something different. Learn what you can about this unique religion while you are in the Dominican. Read what you can. Ask questions if you meet people who are practitioners and willing to share. What truths do you discover? What surprises you? What do you think about the origins and evolutions of belief? What preconceived notions or judgements were confirmed or dispelled as you learned more?

In the Time of the Butterflies

You will notice, above that both a book and movie by this name are recommended. These are based on the true story of three sisters who made a commitment to overthrow the Trujillo regime. The Mirabel sisters are heralded as heroines for their resistance, even though it eventually resulted in the deaths of all but the oldest. Uncover the true story of the Butterflies and explore what life was like for the resistance under Trujillo’s regime.

Profiles of …..

Conduct a series of at least five interviews within the Dominican Republic. The point of the exercise would be to get a well rounded view of what it is like to live in the Dominican from a variety of ages, incomes, employments and experiences. This could be conducted as video, or as text. Do an in depth analysis of the experience/information.

People you might profile:

  • Farmers
  • Teachers
  • Restaurant owners/workers
  • Religious leaders
  • Government officials
  • Doctors or nurses
  • Cafe owners
  • Street vendors
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Drivers
  • Artists or musicians
  • Laborers
  • Cab drivers
  • Long term expats
  • Shop owners or workers

Sugar Cane, Bananas & Chocolate

Sugar cane, bananas, and chocolate are three of the main cash crops of the Dominican Republic and major exports for the country. What are others? Examine the production process for both of these products (or others if you prefer) and scrutinize the policies of the companies where employment, wages, treatment of workers and profit margins are concerned. Who are these products being consumed by? What are the major problems within these agricultural sectors? In what areas are there improvements in recent years. Don’t just tell the hard stories, look for the success stories as well. Are there any companies that stand out as doing it “right”?

Problems & Solutions


Sex Trafficking

As alluded to earlier, sex tourism is a serious problem in the Dominican Republic. Many of the girls are minors and many are impoverished Haitian immigrants who are undocumented and unprotected. Learn what you can about the prevalence of sex tourism in the Dominican. Who are the major players? How do the girls end up in this position? Who is benefitting? Who is working to ameliorate the situation? Can you find any success stories? Make recommendations based on what you know for other travelers visiting the Dominican who want to improve the situation for these girls.


Drugs trafficking and the associated crime is a significant issue in the Dominican Republic. Much of the drugs coming out of Colombia destined for Europe or North America passes through this island nation. In spite of ongoing and increased efforts on the part of the government to stem the flow, it is still significant. As an average traveler, what was your experience with drugs in the Dominican? Did you encounter them at all? Study the problem from both the perspective of the Dominican government who is trying to stop the flow of drugs through the country (what’s working?) and the perspective of the local population (how do the drug cartels affect life in the Dominican, if at all?). Which drugs move through the country? Where are they going? Who is moving them? Why through the Dominican? What are the secondary and tertiary consequences (or benefits) to the country as a result of the drug trade?


It’s no secret that Haitian immigration is a huge problem within the Dominican Republic. There is barely veiled hatred for the illegal Haitian community, even though much of the infrastructure of Dominican life and industry is predicated upon it. Examine the illegal immigration issue in the Dominican through conversation and interviews. Find Haitian immigrants and ask them about their lives in the Dominican Republic, their motivations for coming, and staying. Speak to Dominican citizens and listen to the anti-Haitian sentiment and try to understand why and how these beliefs and emotions have developed.

See if you can find a government official, or an NGO partner that is willing to talk about the ways in which the problem of illegal immigration is being faced the Dominican. Talk to people about the forced deportation of Haitian people and Dominicans of Haitian descent who recently had their citizenships revoked. What impact is this having on individuals, families, the communities and the country at large? What has been the international response?

Climate Change

Climate change is a significant problem for the Dominican Republic, which is listed as one of the ten most vulnerable countries in the world to the effects of climate change. Flooding, soil erosion, water shortages, deforestation, and drought are growing threats. Do some reading on why the Dominican is on the short list for climate change affected nations. What is already happening now that is observable and measurable? Are there anecdotal stories that you can collect from long time residents? What sorts of initiatives are being put into action by the government or private groups to try to combat the growing threat?

Cultural Assignment Options

The purpose of the Cultural Assignment Options is to help you connect more deeply with the people and culture of the Dominican Republic. By digging in on a personal level, we make meaningful connections to a place that are carried over into other parts of life


The Dominican Republic has a fascinating food history that has grown out of the diverse backgrounds of the people who came to the island over the centuries. Try things. Experiment with flavors. Watch how foods are cooked. Ask if new friends, or folks running food carts will teach you how to cook some basic foods. Document as many new (to you) foods as you can in the Dominican. Perhaps you want to compile a notebook of recipes as you go.

Definitely try:

  • Sancocho (7-Meat Stew)
  • Habichuelas con Dulce (Sweet Cream of Beans)
  • Pollo Guisado (Braised Chicken)
  • Arroz Blanco (White Rice)
  • Habichuelas Guisadas (Stewed Beans)
  • Mangú (Plantain Mash)
  • Tostones (Twice-Fried Plantains)

Meaningful Connections

What is a meaningful interaction? You get to decide that. In general, it should be an interaction in which cultural exchange took place and you learned something. Often this will be with a local person; sometimes it will be with another traveler.

Sometimes these interactions look like very little on the outside but are totally life changing on the inside. Other times, they are rock your world amazing from every angle. It could be a meal shared, an afternoon’s excursion, a discussion that opens your eyes in some way, a self revelation that happened without any words exchanged at all.

Spend a day with a local individual or family. Document your experience in photos, interviews and the written word. The best way to interact with locals is to just start chatting with them at markets, on tours or on the street. You can also ask other travelers if they have met anyone who has offered some insight into life in the country. If you are a family who have children attending a local school then have a party, invite a parent to coffee, basically just open up your home to new relationships.

Take a Class

There are many options! Don’t be limited by this list:

  • Cooking (definitely consider taking a cooking class in France!)
  • Language
  • Art or Crafts
  • Literature
  • Yoga
  • Dance (Merengue?)
  • Music (Merengue or drumming?)

Museum Visits

The Dominican’s museums are clustered primarily in Santo Domingo with a few scattered elsewhere around the country. They are worth a visit if you are interested in delving more deeply into the history of this little country and not just hitting the beaches.

Five of the most interesting include:

  • Museum of the Royal Houses- The colonial era history of the Dominican
  • Amber Museum- Amber mining in the Dominican
  • Museo Infantil Trampolin- A children’s museum
  • Altos de Chavon Regional Museum of Archaeology
  • Taino Park- Taino history

Save your ticket stubs!


Volunteering is a great way to get to know a local community and give back a bit to the places that you choose to travel. There are lots of ways to do this, both organized and arranged privately, as well as impromptu opportunities that will pop up.

Vet your volunteer options carefully. Often it is better to find a local organization on the ground than it is to access “volunteer” projects through third party vendors. Consider you skill set and volunteer appropriately through organizations that are legitimate and responsible charities. It’s best to do some serious research first, and be sure that the work you are doing is locally driven and truly necessary.

Live local

Get out of the hostel, rent a place in a local village, or do a homestay. Through websites like Airbnb it’s easy to find places to live locally.

Photo essay or a blog description of why living local was different than living in a hostel. How did this experience change the economics of your stay? What did you learn about the way locals live? What challenged you? What would you do differently next time?

Public Transportation Project

Take as many types of public transportation as possible.

Challenge yourself to take every type of public transportation available while you are in the Dominican. Create a photo essay or videologue of your adventures. What did you learn?

Attend a Religious Observance

Most Dominicans self identify as Christian in their religion, with the vast majority of those subscribing to Catholicism. This is unsurprising since the Spanish arrival from Europe would have introduced the islanders to Catholicism very early on. However, there are other religious minorities on the island, including Protestant Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, and practitioners of Vudu and Santeria. Sometimes there is a blending of the traditional spiritualist traditions with Catholicism.

Explore the religious culture of the Dominican. Attend some religious events if you can. Ask questions and explore the belief systems you find.
Think about the ways in which religion helps people deal with and recover from crisis. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. How does the religious climate in Cambodia compare with what you grew up with?


Food festivals, arts festivals, cultural festivals, music festivals, and more happen both at the local and national level in the Dominican and are a fascinating blend of the cultural traditions that make up island life.. Check out the festivals happening while you are in the Dominican and make sure to hit at least one, if you can. This site, while messy, has a month by month breakdown of Dominican Festivals. Take pictures, participate in the events, try the foods, and party like a local!


How to Create Your Own Course Work



Learn to ask for what you want. If you meet someone interesting, ask them to teach you. Ask them for an interview. Ask to shadow them for a day or a week. You’ll be surprised at how eager people are to share what they know and teach when someone shows actual interest. Learn to ask questions. Learn to take social risks by putting yourself out there as a learner.


You have an idea or an interest. Something surprises you on your journey and all of a sudden you have a burning desire to know more. Plan your attack:

  • Narrow your field of study to a particular question or topic.
  • Compile resources: Look for teachers. Who knows what you need to know? Or who can you interview to learn more? Are there books or videos on the topic you’re interested in?
  • Quantify it. How will you demonstrate what you have learned? A research paper, a video project, a photo essay, through art or music, a blog post, a published piece, an interview series, a mini documentary or do you have some other idea?


Produce a quality piece of academic work that reflects your experiential learning. The whole key to quantifying outside the box learning is to translate it into something that reflects the value of what you learned and how it contributed to your overall educational process.

Perhaps this will be as simple as a traditional research paper, depending on the depth and length of your study this could be as short as three pages or as long as a dissertation. Maybe you’ll produce a video for YouTube, or something grander, like a mini-documentary. Perhaps you’ll do something concrete instead, an art, or community action project and you’ll tell the story through a photo essay, or a series of blog posts. The possibilities are limited only by the resources you have at hand. Get creative. Think outside the bo, x and truly experience your education.


Do You Have Anything to Add to This Resource Page?

We’re actively seeking to grow these resources in an open-source spirit. Please email jenn(at)bootsnall(dot)com with your edits or submissions of new information or materials.

Thank you!

Photo Credit: Daniel-Alvarez /, Evgeny Drablenkov /