The Dominican Republic history is very interesting and fascinating. It all started thousands of years ago when the “Indians” arrived to the Hispaniola island. There is a theory that indicates that these natives came from the Amazonia and the Central America area. These are the ancestors of the people that Christopher Columbus found when he first came to the new continent. The Indians living at the Hispaniola when the Spaniards appeared were the Tainos. The word Taino means noble.
Columbus arrived at the Hispaniola in the year 1492 with 3
vessels (la Nina, la Pinta and the Santa Maria). It is said that before
the arrival of Columbus there were approximately 1 million Tainos in
the Hispaniola. That number quickly declined once the Spaniards turned
the natives into slaves.
When Columbus saw the island for the first time he acknowledged it was full of natural resources. This was a critical point in the Dominican Republic history. Plenty of rivers, mountains, trees and valleys were the indication of a lot economical potential. He also noticed the peacefulness and generosity of the Tainos which could be used to conquer them with ease.
Another detail that the
enticing was the amount of gold that the Tainos used for
jewelry. A lot gold
was synonym for potential vast riches just waiting to be
the very same year near Christmas; Columbus left 39 men on the island
to obtain gold while he returned and made a settlement called “El
fortin de Navidad”. These men abused the Taino population in such a way
that when Columbus came back they were already killed by the angry
natives lead by the kacike Caonabo.
The Tainos extinction in the Dominican Republic History
Later another settlement was created called “Isabella”. This new settlement was located at the north coast of the island and was the base of operations from where the Spaniards launched their conquest. This new base of operations was very close to what is known today as the city of Puerto Plata. In this part of the Dominican Republic history the Spanish people came fully equipped when they started exploring the interior of the island. They managed to find many areas with plenty of gold deposits; at the same time they exterminated and enslaved any Tainos they found in their way. As a result of these expeditions Caonabo was finally taken prisoner and his followers were killed.
The Tainos had no chance against such a powerful adversary which included the illnesses the Spaniards brought with them; while this was happening, the Spaniard empire sent Bartholomew (Columbus brother) as the new Governor of the island. One of his most significant achievements was the founding of the capital city of Santo Domingo in the year 1496. The Columbus brothers were having a lot of problems trying to handle the new colonies.
They had to distribute land and Indians as slaves using a system called “encomienda” in order to calm the colonists which were on the verge of rebellion. Many Spaniards were apprehensive of the Columbus brothers so they blamed them for all the poor management of the colonies. Because of this they got arrested and sent to Spain. It was determined that all accusations were not true and they finally got released. Nicolas Ovando was sent as the new Governor to replace Bartholomew. He made sure that no Taino was going to oppose the imperial regime. He tricked Anacaona (widow of Caonabo) to meet with the other Kacikes of the island in her palace. Once they were all reunited an army of Spaniards set the place on fire. Anacaona was taken alive and hanged later after a fake trial. This method of execution was frequently used by the Spaniards in other colonies in the Dominican Republic history.
In just some decades the
Taino population was drastically reduced from 1 million or more before
the Spaniards arrived to a couple of hundreds in just 50 years. The
main reason for this was the harsh treatments they suffered at the hand
of the colonists, famine, their killing by the soldiers and the new
diseases brought by the Spaniards. The few that survived did it by
escaping to the mountains and to other islands. The extinction of the
Tainos was a very regrettable event in the Dominican Republic history.
The African slaves were then brought around 1502 to the Hispaniola to compensate for the decaying Taino population. Around 1515 the gold in the island started to decrease and the empire decided to focus on the new territories such as Mexico and later South America.
Around the year 1586 a corsair named Francis Drake attacked the city of Santo Domingo and burned it to the ground. In 1668 as the interest of the Spaniards in the Hispaniola continued to decrease; the French took the chance to take over the western part of the island which is known today as Haiti. A couple of decades later around the year 1697 the French had already established a very successful colony called Saint Domingue. This colony consisted mainly of African slaves working in sugar cane plantations.
The Haitian Rebellion in the Dominican Republic History
In the year 1791 a man
named Toussaint L’ouverture lead a rebellion and took over the whole
western area of the Hispaniola creating the Republic of Haiti. Later
they took advantage of the fact that Spain had ceded Santo Domingo to
the French in 1795 (Treaty of Basle) which resulted in the conquest of
the whole island. The French weren’t very pleased and they launch an
attack to recover their colony. They managed to take L’ouverture as
prisoner in 1802 but his successor Jean-Jacques Dessalines took over
French colony once more and declared its independence in 1804. The
eastern area of the island still in the control of the French was
returned to the Spaniards in 1809.
Later the Spaniards tried to recover Santo Domingo from the control of the slaves but the Haitian president Jean Pierre Boyer would not allow that happen and launched an attack to the eastern territory of the island. He managed to conquer the whole island once more. The Haitian ruled the whole island for around 22 years but a resistance group headed by Juan Pablo Duarte expelled the Haitians from the majority of the territory.
In February 27, 1844 the Dominican Republic was born. A lot of political unrest followed for several years. General Pedro Santana fought against General Buenaventura Baez several times in order to take control of the country.
Both armies continued the fighting for several years until in 1861 Santana resorted to pledge allegiance to the Spaniards. The Spaniard rule lasted very little and the following years were known for many attempts of the General Buenaventura to get annexed to the French and the Americans.