Culture of the Dominican Republic

From Academic Kids

The island of Hispaniola, which includes the present-day Dominican Republic, was the first in the New World colonized by the Spaniards. These settlers brought with them diseases previously unknown to the native inhabitants, which combined with the exploitation by the colonists served to decimate the native population. To replace their workers, the colonists began importing slaves. The Dominican Republic's culture is said to have European, African and Native American roots. (Many Dominicans, however, prefer to think of themselves as European.)

While Dominicans may regard themselves as being one big Dominican family, there are vast differences in class and education that separate different groups. There are very rich people, and there are very humble, poor farmers and marginal urban barrio dwellers. The metropolitan culture available to the upper class and vanishing (due to economic turbulence as of late) middle class is often comparable to the life of city dwellers in the rich countries of Western Europe and the United States. But this metropolitan culture doesn't reach the poorest people, who may not have the most basic amenities—light, running water, sanitary facilities nor consumer electronics.

Some of the traits shared by all class groups are particularist interpersonal relations, folk Catholicism, and popular music.

Dominicans are known by outsiders to be gifted at the art of indirect communication. The phrases "no hay problema" and "es Ud. que sabe" are popular and heavily used manners of deflecting disagreement. In the small society which is "the Dominican Family," it is highly important that people not embarrass each other nor be seen to act with malice. Ideally, one wishes to develop "confianza" with as many people as possible. Who one knows is a much more important than any law or absolute standard of conduct.

As such, it is very important to be open, warm, and friendly. Foreigners can be surprised at the ease with which rural people will offer them food or coffee, as well as how social people are in public spaces. It is good to be willing to converse with anyone, and good form to inquire about the health of one's acquaintances' family, even if one does not know the family. In the rural poor areas, anyone can reasonably expect to walk in to a house and be offered coffee or a meal, though the large urban areas are quite a contrast to this form of life.

A typical casual rural conversation upon meeting someone else would be

Campesino #1: Ay! Digame, como 'ta la cosa?
Campesino #2: Bueno, Ud. lo ve como va. Y la famila suya, como 'tan?
Campesino #1: 'tan bien, graciaj a Dios.
Campesino #2 Y la mujer?
Campesino #1 Ay, esta un poco regular, pero mejor, gracias a Dios.
Campesino #2 Bueno, entonces nos vemos...
Campesino #1: Abul, abul!

Folk Catholicism is the religion of the country. Not so many people are observant communion-taking Catholics, but most everyone is nominally Catholic unless they convert to Evangelical Christianity. The Evangelical movement is strong in certain areas, particularly the East, the Capital, and Samana.

In addition to the conventional beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church, Dominican Catholics are involved in the cult of the saints, and the cult of the national virgins, Altagracia and Mercedes, the latter two being symbols of Dominican identity just as much as the flag.

The music style of merengue is unique to the republic, but also similar to the Cuban-Haitian son. Bachata is also a Dominican invention, one that has become increasingly popular worldwide.

The national beer is Presidente, the national drink is rum, and the national game is either dominos or baseball.

Dominicans speak a Spanish that they describe as "mocha'o", or cut off. There is the tendency to simplify certain consonant combinations, especially -ado, and to level c, z, and s such that cazar, casar and cacer might have similar /s/ sound similar. Unlike Mexican Spanish, for instance, Dominicans emphasize the vowel sounds. Dominicans truncate or aspirate their final s es such that "Vamos a las dos o a las tres" sounds like "vamo a las doh o a lah treh." Similar to their Puerto Rican and Cuban neighbors, the /r/ final may be flattened into an /l/. In fact the pronunciation of the final r is indicative of regionalism: people from the Cibao speak with the "i," the south with rolled /~r/, and the east with the flattened /l/.

The Cibao "i" is a uniquely identifying linguistic habit. Mujer sounds like mujei, and "algunos" would be pronounced "aigunos."

The Dominican Republic is a "tuteo" country, which is to say that the form of the familiar second person is "tú".

See also

pt:Cultura da República Dominicana


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