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Culture & People
 
 
 

General

The people and their customs have origins in a unique mix of African, Taino and Spaniard roots. The Dominican Republic was the first Spanish colony in the New World. Diseases inadvertently brought by the Spanish previously unknown to the native inhabitants wiped out the vast majority of the Taino indians on the island; the colonisers thus began importing massive numbers of African slaves to replace the natives. After the Haitian liberation of the entire island, slavery was abolished and free blacks (and those of mixed race) could be found all over the islands.

However, there are differences in class and education that separate different groups. The wealthy privileged status elite are mostly of Spaniard, and to a lesser extent, African descent, while the majority of the poor are Mulattoes of primarily African descent. The metropolitan culture available to the upper class and vanishing (due to economic turbulence as of late) middle class is often comparable to the life of city dwellers in the rich countries of Western Europe and the United States. But this metropolitan culture doesn't reach the poorest people, who may not have the most basic amenities, necessities, running water, electricity, sanitary facilities nor consumer electronics.

Music

Musically, the Dominican Republic is known for the creation of the musical style called merengue, a type of lively, fast-paced rhythm and dance music consisting of a tempo of about 120 to 160 beats per minute (though it varies) based on musical elements like drums, brass, chorded instruments, and accordion, as well as some elements unique to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, such as the tambora and güira. Its syncopated beats use Latin percussion, brass instruments, bass, and piano or keyboard. Between 1937 and 1950 merengue music was promoted internationally by Dominicans groups like Billo's Caracas Boys, Chapuseaux and Damiron "Los Reyes del Merengue", Joseito Mateo, and others. Radio, television, and international media popularised it further.

Some well-known merengue performers include Johnny Ventura, singer/songwriter Juan Luis Guerra, Fernando Villalona, Eddy Herrera, Sergio Vargas, Toño Rosario, Milly Quezada, and Chichí Peralta. Merengue became popular in the United States, mostly on the East Coast, during the 1980s and 90s, when many Dominican artists, among them Victor Roque y La Gran Manzana, Henry Hierro, Zacarias Ferreira, Aventura, Milly, and Jocelyn Y Los Vecinos, residing in the US (particularly New York) started performing in the Latin club scene and gained radio airplay. The emergence of bachata, along with an increase in the number of Dominicans living among other Latino groups in New York, New Jersey, and Florida have contributed to Dominican music's overall growth in popularity.

Bachata, a form of music and dance that originated in the countryside and rural marginal neighbourhoods of the Dominican Republic, has become quite popular in recent years. Its subjects are often romantic; especially prevalent are tales of heartbreak and sadness. In fact, the original name for the genre was amargue ("bitterness", or "bitter music", or blues music), until the rather ambiguous (and mood-neutral) term bachata became popular. Bachata grew out of, and is still closely related to, the pan-Latin American romantic style called bolero. Over time, it has been influenced by merengue and by a variety of Latin American guitar styles.

Particularly among the young, a genre that has been growing in popularity in recent years in the Dominican Republic is Dominican rap. Also known as Rap del Patio ("yard rap") it is rap music created by Dominican crews and solo artists. Originating in the early 2000s with crews such as Charles Family, successful rappers such as Lapiz Conciente, Vakero, Toxic Crow, and R-1 emerged. The youth have embraced the music, sometimes over merengue, merengue típico, bachata, as well as salsa, and, most recently, reggaeton. It must be noted that Dominican rap differs from reggaeton in the fact that Dominican rap does not use the traditional Dem Bow rhythm frequently used in reggaeton, instead using more hip hop-influenced beats. As well, Dominican rap focuses on urban themes such as money, women, and poverty, similarly to American rap.

Dominican rock is also popular among the youth. Many, if not the majority, of its performers are based in Santo Domingo.

Sports

Baseball is by far the most popular sport in the Dominican Republic. After the US, the Dominican Republic has the second-highest number of Major League Baseball (MLB) players. Some of these players have been regarded among the best in the game. Historically, the Dominican Republic has been linked to MLB since Ozzie Virgil, Sr. became the first Dominican to play in the league. Among the MLB players born in the Dominican are: Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Vladimir Guerrero, Pedro Martinez, Albert Pujols, José Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Tejada, Juan Marichal, Bartolo Colón, Rafael Furcal, Sammy Sosa, Miguel Olivo, and Robinson Canó.

Olympic gold medalist and world champion over 400 m hurdles Félix Sánchez hails from the Dominican Republic, as does current defensive end for the San Diego Chargers, Luis Castillo. Castillo was the cover athlete for the Spanish version of Madden NFL 08.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) also has had players from the Dominican Republic. NBA players from the Dominican Republic include Charlie Villanueva, Al Horford, and Francisco Garcia. Boxing is one of the more important sports after baseball, and the country has produced scores of world-class fighters and several world champions.

 

 
 

 



 


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