10 Lesser-Known Facts about the Dominican Republic

Likely you know that the Dominican Republic is a great vacation destination with beautiful beaches, palm beaches, and warm weather. Tourist images aside, how many of these facts do you know?

1. The Dominican flag is the only country flag that has a bible on it. The flag was adopted in 1844 when the country gained independence.

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2. Think baseball is just a US national sport? The national sport of the DR is in fact baseball. Some of the world’s best players come from this country, including Sammy Sosa.

3. Situated in Santo Domingo, Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor is the oldest church in the Americas. Construction was finished in 1540, and the almost 500-year-old Mahogany doors are still opened by the same key as when it was first opened.

4. The island of Hispaniola, which the DR shares with Haiti, was discovered by Europe on Christopher Columbus’s very first voyage in 1492. He established Spain’s first colony in the Americas there.

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5. Remember the amber stone housing a preserved prehistoric mosquito that started Jurassic ParkIt replicates a real mosquito trapped in amber (a fossilized tree resin) that you can see at the Amber Museum in Puerto Plata. No evidence yet that it holds dinosaur DNA.

6. The scenes that take place in Cuba in Francis Ford Coppola’s film The Godfather Part II,  were actually filmed in the Dominican Republic.

7. The origins of the Merengue style of music and dance originated in the Dominican Republic. One story of where the dance comes from explains it by the movement enslaved laborers working in the sugar beet fields made as they were connected to one another by a chain strapped to their ankle. Another story is that it is the movement of a war hero that had a wooden leg, dragging it as he went.

8. Larimar, sometimes called “Stefilia’s Stone” is a blue mineral stone that can only be found in the Dominican Republic.

9. Mama Juana (mamajuana) is a drink made in the Dominican Republic by soaking herbs and tree bark in rum for several weeks and then adding red wine and honey. Some believe it to have medicinal benefits.

10. A UN report from 2012 reports that 70% of children in the DR living with a disability are not in school. International Child Care hosts Community Rehabilitation Programs and a School Inclusion Program to help families of children and adolescents with disabilities.