8 Things to Know About the History of Dominican Republic

Happy Dominican Independence Day! Today marks the 171st anniversary of the Dominican Republic's independence from Haiti. This unique and amazing country is more than just picturesque beaches, insanely delicious food and the home bachata. It’s also has a rich history!

So before you go out and celebrate today, check out some of the highlights from the Dominican Republic’s history:

RELATED: 5 Awesome Ways to Celebrate Dominican Independence Day

1. Christopher Columbus

When Christopher Columbus first got to what we now know as the Dominican Republic in 1492… he named it Hispaniola

2. Spaniards on ships

Unfortunately, not too long after the country was colonized, Spaniards started bringing African slaves to the island in 1503. Which explains why more than 90 percent of Dominicans possess some degree of African descent. But, alas, the very first rebellion of black slaves occurred here in 1522. 

3. Hispaniola

The western part of the island becomes the Republic of Haiti in 1804. But 4 years later, a revolt by Spanish Creoles is successful, returning Santo Domingo to Spain. 

4. The Cathedral of Santa María la Menor

Did you know that the oldest cathedral in the Americas is in Santo Domingo? The Cathedral of Santa María la Menor is dedicated to St. Mary of the Incarnation. Construction began in 1512 and was finally completed in 1540.

5. Oldest monastery

La Iglesia y Monasterio de Santo Domingo (or Monastery of Santo Domingo) is one of the oldest monasteries in the world. And, there’s a South American connection… as it is home to the tombs of two Peruvian saints (Rose of Lima and Martin de Porres).

To top it off, it was also the original location of the University of San Marcos (also in Peru), the oldest university in South America. 

6. Dominican Republic

Before the Dominican Republic was the country it is today, they were conquered and reclaimed by Haiti in 1822. Yup, a 22 year-occupation. But in 1844, another revolt overthrew the Haitian president and Santo Domingo gained independence, becoming the Dominican Republic.

There was even a minor independence like setback in 1861 where the Dominican Republic was returned to the Spanish Empire but Spain withdrew after a revolt in 1864

7. Juan Pablo Duarte

You can’t mention February 27th without bringing up Juan Pablo Duarte -- known as the father of Dominican Independence -- who organized a secret society (La Trinitaria) to fight the Haitians.

Duarte was sent to Europe to get his education but this determined Dominicano was set on returning to the island to free the eastern part of Hispaniola from Haitian domination. The second time was a charm for Duarte when his first attempt in 1843 fell thru and he fled the country. But with the help of his followers -- particularly one military dictator Pedro Santana -- they ultimately succeeded. Duarte, along with others, were then forced into exile. 

8. Flags of Dominican Republic

As Dominicanos all over the world proudly wave their flags today, you might want to take a minute to thank Juan Pablo Duarte who designed the flag and Concepción Bona and activist María Trinidad Sánchez who made the first Dominican flag.

The red represents the blood spilled by the liberators. Blue expresses the ideals of progress, liberty, and God's protection. And, the cross is the symbol of the fight of the liberators.

And, if you’ve seen past flags you will notice that the shield is different and that’s because it’s gone through more than 14 changes but the current one has been in place since 1913.