Earlier I told you a few fascinating tidbits I learned about Christopher Columbus and the Dominican Republic. Our historian Miguel divulged a few other interesting facts during our tour that completely astounded me. For instance, that the U.S. Military had occupied his country not once, but twice, during the 1900’s.
It all began back in 1911 when a group of rebels attacked President Caceres of the Dominican Republic and killed him.
Several years of instability followed, and in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson told the Dominicans to install a president or we would impose one. They elected a president, who resigned within two years, and we were all back at square one.
Wilson then ordered the Marines to take control of the Dominican Republic. They landed in May 1916 and had complete control of the island within two months. U.S. Rear Admiral Harry Knapp set up a government, revived the Dominican economy, reduced the national debt, built a network of roads that we used just last week, and created a National Guard.
The U.S. left the Dominican Republic in 1922 and within 8 years the dictator Rafael Trujillo had seized control. Trujillo was a true dictator in every sense of the word, and even renamed Santo Domingo after himself.
In 1961 Trujillo was shot and killed in his blue 1957 Chevy Bel Air and the country fell under the rule of a military junta until 1963. Elections were organized with the help of you know who (the United States of America) and President Gavino was elected.
On April 24, 1965 a rebellion led by the Dominican Revolutionary Party resulted in the necessary evacuation of over 3500 U.S. citizens. On April 28 a group of armed civilians attached the Villa Consuelo police station and executed every officer found inside.
President Lyndon Johnson took matters into his own hands and authorized a military intervention. On April 30, the 82nd Airborne landed and initiated contact. That day the U.S. Military had signed a cease fire with the loyalists and the rebels. By September 1966 a new government was installed and the final peacekeepers withdrew from the island.
Our guide and historian Miguel had nothing but good things to say about the U.S. interventions in his country. In fact he told us that in recent years, as the Dominican economy has struggled and Dominicans have died in droves trying to make it to Puerto Rico, the obvious affection for the United States has become even stronger and more blatantly evident.
The Dominican Republic, like so many other Caribbean nations, has suffered under corrupt politicians and policies for centuries. The general populace carries a heavy burden of inadequate education, debilitating poverty and of course lack of opportunity.
Tourism is one of the brightest lights in the Dominican Republic. Tourism brings job opportunity to even the most uneducated, unskilled worker. In fact tourism accounts for over 188,000 jobs in the coastal areas alone.
Last year the Dominican Republic welcomed over 5 million tourists. That number has more than doubled since the last time I was in the country, nine years ago.
The progress the country has made through the tourism tax of $10 per person upon entry is astounding. The roadways are now excellent, the upkeep along the highways is substantially improved. Excursion opportunities have been expanded exponentially. I saw very little of the Dominican Republic I met back in 2007.
I encourage you to meet the new and improved Dominican Republic. It’s gorgeous, the people are friendly and accommodating, and the resort areas are second to none.
Joy Gawf-Crutchfield owns and operates The Joy of Travel. Contact Joy at 918-339-4805