Dominican Republic

Map of the Dominican Republic

Race Studies in the Dominican Republic

Despite large political, social, and economic inequalities between those of lighter skin and those of darker skin, Dominicans, domestically, have failed to collectively mobilize on the basis of their race to challenge these inequalities. (Sidanius 2001; Torres-Saillant 1998).  High rates miscegenation between those of African and European descent (at a greater rate than that of Brazil) and a culture that prides itself in its indigenous ancestry and colonial heritage, have generated within Dominicans  a “rubric of mestizaje that claims, despite discourses around whitening, that all [colors] are an equal part of the makeup of the Dominican Republic.” (Sidanius 2001).

Race politics is much more salient between Dominicans and Haitians.  After successfully fighting for independence against an oppressive Haitian occupation between 1844 & 1856  (Sagas 1994), the overall theme of Dominican race politics has been how to maintain the status quo and keep the neighboring Haitian nation away from Dominican society and its resources.

Demographic Overview

The current racial demographic of the Dominican Republic continues to a reflection of the countries deep seated anti-Haitian culture, known as “antihaitianismo” (Sagas 1993).  Though the CIA, lists the nations demographics as 73% Mixed, 16% White, and 11% Black, more descriptive breakdowns have Mulattos or Mixed peoples at 65% of the population, with blacks and whites representing 15% respectively and the remaining 5% being of various ethnic groups including Chinese and Lebanese groups that have migrated to the Dominican Republic in the 19th and 20th Centuries. ( Howard 2001)

Ambiguities in Demographics

Dominicans have adopted the label "Indio"( in reference to the Island native population) to mean "mixed" or "mulatto". The adoption of this label completely erases the African ancestry of Dominican identity as "black" is rarely used.

Part of the “antihaitianismo” culture in the Dominican Republic is the association of being “black” to mean being “Haitian”. As such, few Dominicans self-identify as “black”. (Tavernier) While Dominicans are not blind to the darker skin of a large segment of its population they use terms such as color descriptive terms to describe their skin color, but categorize themselves mainly as “indio” (meaning native indian), a term that completely divorces Dominican identity from African heritage. (Sagas 2003). As such, when analyzing demographic data, a skew towards the mixed group from the black group is to be expected. 
Real “Indios” and Indias” ?

Very few people, however, are actually descendants, even indirectly, of the indigenous Taino population that lived in the island of Hispañola prior to the conquest by the Spanish  (Brittanica).  This is because shortly after contact with European colonizers disease, forced labor, and warfare devastated the population (Britannica). Less than 10% of the Dominican population have Taino female ancestry and approximately only 1% are descendants of Taino males. (Gates Jr. 2004).

Other Groups

Along with descendants from the original Spanish colonizers and African slaves whose exact nation of origin  is largely unknown, the mixed and white populations also consist of descents of  Japanese, Chinese,  Sephardic Jews, Arabs as well as other Europeans including French, British, Italian and German immigrants who arrived in Hispañola in the 19th and 20th century. Though intermarriage has blurred some of the ethnic lines in the Dominican Republic, some ethnic identities still remain salient.  (Brittanica).


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