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Dominican Republic

People

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Most of the population of the Dominican Republic is of mixed Spanish and black-African descent. Dominican society has long been characterized by class distinctions based on skin color. The elite, primarily light-skinned and of European descent, have traditionally dominated the professions and included most of the large landholders. Dark-skinned people of African descent generally make up the urban and rural poor. In the middle are people of mixed descent, with skin colors ranging from light to dark, who work in trade, government, or agriculture. Urban dwellers make up 60 percent of the population.

The population of the Dominican Republic (2008 estimate) is 9,507,133, giving the country an overall population density of 197 persons per sq km (509 per sq mi). Many of the people are poor and have little opportunity of improving their lot.

Principal Cities

Santo Domingo, the capital and the leading port, had an estimated population of 2,302,759 in 2006. Santiago, known in full as Santiago de los Caballeros, is a center of trade, industry, and transportation in the north. It is the country’s second largest city, with a population of; 908,250) in (2006. Other important cities include San Pedro de Macoris (2002; 217,141), a seaport on the Caribbean coast; La Vega (2001 estimate; 241,917), a commercial center for the agricultural north; and San Francisco de Macoris (2002; 156,267), a commercial center for the eastern Cibao Valley and northeastern lowlands.

Language and Religion

Spanish is the official language of the Dominican Republic. English is also spoken, and a French dialect is heard along the Haitian frontier. Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion. There is a small Protestant community, and a small percentage of the people follow African animist religious beliefs.

Baseball

Baseball is the national sport of the Dominican Republic. Every town, even the poorest, has a baseball park. The first Dominican to play major league baseball in the United States was pitcher Ozzie Virgil, who joined the Detroit Tigers in 1958. Dominican pitcher Juan Marichal, who played for the San Francisco Giants, earned the nickname “Dandy Dominican” for his high leg kick. Famous Dominican players of the early 2000s included outfielders Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, and Sammy Sosa, and pitcher Pedro Martinez. Although born in the United States, infielder Alex Rodriguez grew up in the Dominican Republic, where his father was a professional baseball player. Sosa was born in San Pedro de Macoris, which calls itself “The City Which Has Given the Most Major Leaguers to the World.”

 
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