The Spanish and the French then occupied it. The Taino Indians (Arawaks) and a small settlement of Caribs around the Bahia de Samana were the island's indigenous inhabitants. There were around 1 million Indians when the Europeans first made contact with them. They were almost decimated by disease, warfare, and the effects of forced labor by the 1550s.
In 1503, African slaves stated arriving to this island. The population was around 150,000 by the 19th century, and there were about 40,000 African slaves around. Another 40,000 were of Spanish descent. The remaining were mulattoes (mixed white and black) or freed blacks. By the 1980s 11% population was black, 16% white and the remaining were mulattoes.
Food, Language, Religion, and Sports
The country has a rich art heritage, like the Museo de Arte Moderno in Santo Domingo. The language that is dominantly spoken here is Spanish due to the Spanish colonialism. English is also becoming prevalent because of the continued emigration to the United States.
About 1% of the nation's inhabitants practice pure spiritism. The Taino culture has influenced many foods and medicines in this country. The Tainos generally cook their meat and fish over barbacoas, which are outdoor charcoal-fueled grills. The African slave trade also had a significant influence on the culture of Dominican Republic.
The national sport is baseball, played with much passion. United States marines introduced the sport here. It slowly gained popularity until the 1960s, when Juan Marichal, the Alou Brothers (Felipe, Mateo, and Jesus), and other Dominicans became major league players. People here speak Spanish, but some living near the Haiti border also speak Creole English.
Arts and Literature
During the 19th-century Haitian occupation, a nationalist spirit began to develop in Dominican literature, expressed in the poetry of Félix Maria del Monte. Manuel de Jesus Galván continued the trend with his fictional epic Enriquillo: leyenda histórica dominicana (The Cross and the Sword), which depicted Spanish settlers' brutality towards Taino Indians.
In the early 20th century, writers such as Américo Lugo and Gastón Fernando Deligne were more influenced by modernism. Nationalist expressions arose again in 1916 - 1924, during the American (USA) occupation of the country.
In the late 20th century, social protest became a major theme, notably in the short stories of the leftist politician Juan Bosch, who wrote largely from exile. Contemporary writers have focused on daily life in the Dominican Republic.
Dominican people are amicable and warm-hearted. It is common for them to invite you into their home to share in a meal. They like to smile and laugh, and generally have a jovial spirit. You will often see groups having a lighthearted chat, slapping each other on the back, and generally enjoying life.
You will frequently be greeted with a friendly 'Como Estas?', which translates to 'How are you?' One thing you will notice when you first arrive is the characteristic 'manana' attitude. 'Manana' means 'tomorrow' in Spanish, but is commonly used by people who don't want to put a specific time and date on it.
People here have a very relaxed attitude. The thing to keep in mind is not to get annoyed too quickly. Openly showing your displeasure to a waiter or anyone else in the service industry is likely to get you a less-than-satisfactory service. You'll get a much better treatment if you smile, keep friendly, and use as much Spanish as you can.