With a glance at the Dominican calendar, one sees month after month awash with holidays patriotic in nature. While some believe this stems from the Dominican people's love of a good fiesta, it's actually the country's long and storied history that is responsible. Holidays such as Juan Pablo Duarte's birthday and Restoration Day all point to the turbulent past of this now tranquil tropical getaway.
The Dominican Republic was discovered on December 5, 1492, by Christopher Columbus during his first voyage to the New World. At that time the island of Hispaniola (as Columbus named it) was called "Quisqueya" by the Taino Indians who occupied the land. With a population estimated around 600,000, the Tainos (meaning "the good") were peaceful and hospitable to Columbus and his crew of Spaniards. Columbus himself grew a particular fondness for Hispaniola, describing it in his journal as "a beautiful island paradise with high forested mountains and large river valleys."
Columbus' admiration for Hispaniola coupled with his crew's discovery of gold deposits in the island's rivers led to the establishment of European settlements, the first of which was founded in 1493 in La Isabela. With the presence of new settlements, the Taino Indians were put into slavery and over the next 25 year, were eventually wiped out. Simultaneously, the settlers began bringing African slaves to the island to ensure adequate labor for their plantations.
Columbus' brother, Bartholomew, was appoi...
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