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The Americas

Caribbean Islands

 

Modern Dominican Republic (Greater Antilles)
AD 1844 - Present Day
Incorporating Heads of State (1844-2022), First Republic (1844-1861), Second Republic (1865-1916), Third Republic (1924-1965), & Fourth Republic (1966-On)

Lying to the south-east of Cuba, the former Caribbean colony island of Hispaniola was divided when it was seized by the rebel leader, Toussaint-l'Overture. Resistance by republican France meant that only the western third of the island remained free, but this is what became the nation state of Haiti in 1804. The other two-thirds of the island eventually became independent as Dominican Republic. It is neighboured to the north by Turks and Caicos Islands, to the east by Puerto Rico, to the south by Aruba, Curacao, Venezuela, and Colombia, and to the west by Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

The name 'Haiti' was originally used by the Taino natives who occupied the island prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus (the word 'ayti' meaning 'mountain land', referring to the entire island of Hispaniola). On his second voyage in 1493, Columbus landed in eastern Hispaniola to find abandoned the Spanish colony of La Navidad, its European population massacred. Not at all dissuaded by this, he founded the first permanent colony of the Spanish Colonies in the form of La Isabela, and became the island's first colonial governor.

Following initial friendliness from the Xaragua chiefdom, the Taino revolted against the newcomers. They put up some of the stiffest native resistance of all of this region of the Americas, but their attempts were put down one by one. Within about two decades they had largely been exterminated. After three hundred years of colonial occupation and a switch of ownership and name to the French-owned Saint-Dominigue, it was an African-descended slave army under Toussaint-l'Overture which led the fight for independence.

This was achieved in 1804, but Dominican freedom took a further forty years to achieve. It was occupied by Haitians as an attempt to create a full-blown island state, but Haiti endured a troubled existence. Dominican Republic was formed from part of its territory on 27 February 1844 following a successful revolt. While independence brought initial optimism and a constitution which was modelled on that of the USA, peace was not long-lasting. Instead the country's people suffered under frequently-tyrannical governments until very recently.

Dominican Republic, one of the very few modern states to contain the word 'republic' within its actual name, occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola as part of the Greater Antilles chain. The republic boasts the very first permanently-settled European capital city in the Americas. The island had formed the springboard for Spanish conquests on the American mainland, but it slowly became less important as a result of those conquests.

Since achieving independence, Dominican Republic has had thirty-eight constitutions, more than any other country in the world. Currently, under the constitution which was adopted in 2010, Dominican Republic has enjoyed a presidential-style democratic government and a booming economy which is benefiting most people. The president is the both head of state and the head of government. Legislative power is exercised by a national congress which consists of a senate and a chamber of deputies.

Most of the state's population bears Taino ancestry in mixed form, and they speak primarily Spanish. English is becoming more common as the large diaspora of Dominicans to the United States has produced visits back and forth. Haitian immigrants tend to speak French Creole.

Most of the population is Roman Catholic, with a little Protestant evangelicalism expanding somewhat. Sugar cane is the primary agricultural product, although coffee, cacao, and tobacco are also produced. The government has increased privatisation of the economy, allowing maquiladoras or foreign-owned factories to be established in special tax-free zones. While controversial, this has produced one of the world's highest rates of economic growth in recent years.


Caribbean Islands

(Information by John De Cleene, Peter Kessler, and the John De Cleene Archive, with additional information from from Manuel Jimenez, Independence Leader, Jimenes José Antonio Hernández, 2001, ABC News (American Broadcasting Company, first screened 10 October 1994), from American Uprising: The Untold Story of America's Largest Slave Revolt, Daniel Rasmussen (Harper Perennial, 2011), from Dominican Republic (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Ed, Cambridge University Press, 1910), from Oxford Atlas of World History, Patrick K O'Brien (Gen Ed, Oxford University Press, 1999), from The Times Atlas of World History, Geoffrey Barraclough (Ed, Hammond Inc, 1979), from Washington Post (various entries 1994-2021), and from External Links: Familia Figuero, and the Gallery of Presidents of the Dominican Republic (dead link), and La Romana (Encyclopaedia Britannica), and BBC Country Profiles, and Dominican Republic (Zárate's Political Collections), and Explosion death toll rises to 10 (The Guardian).)

1844 - 1848

Pedro Santana

First elected president after detaching from Haiti.

1844 - 1848

Having separated itself from Haiti, between March and November 1844 the country is governed by a central government board which is headed by a president and eleven other members. Then Pedro Santana, a wealthy cattle-rancher, is elected as the country's first true president, of the 'First Republic', and the future for Dominican Republic looks bright.

Jean-Pierre Boyer of Haiti
The long-serving Jean-Pierre Boyer (1776-1850) reunited the north and south of Haiti in 1820 and also annexed newly-independent Spanish Haiti (Santo Domingo), which brought all of Hispaniola under one Haitian government by 1822

1848

Santana relinquishes his position as president and is replaced by his former minister of war and marine matters, Manuel José Jimenes González. In the same year, the forces of soon-to-be Emperor Faustin of Haiti invade, and President Jimenes is forced to appeal to Santana for military assistance. The Haitians are thrown back across the border and Santana overthrows Jimenes.

1848

Manuel José Jimenes González

President (former minister). Overthrown by Santana.

1848 - 1849

Pedro Santana

Seized the presidency. Supreme chief in 1849.

1849 - 1853

New elections see Buenaventura Báez become the president of the republic. His first term of office sees him attempt several times to have the republic annexed to a larger country, notably France and the USA. He is deposed, inevitably, by Pedro Santana during a coup.

1849 - 1853

Buenaventura Báez

President. Deposed by Santana.

1853 - 1856

Pedro Santana

Seized the presidency for a second time. Stood down.

1856

Manuel de Regla Mota

Unelected president. Forced to stand down.

1856 - 1858

Buenaventura Báez is the elected president for the second time from 1856. The Haitians under Emperor Faustin are again defeated during the Dominican War of Independence in 1857, notably at the Battle of Las Carreras.

Battle of 19th March 1844
The Dominican War of Independence saw the country's 1844 declaration of independence underlined by victory against Haiti at the 'Battle of 19 March', otherwise known as the Battle of Azua, in 1844, but the war spluttered on until 1856

1856 - 1858

Buenaventura Báez

President for a second time. Deposed in a coup.

1858

The presidency of Buenaventura Báez is ended by a coup very soon after he leads the country to victory in war against Haiti. His office is filled in the same year by another elected president, José Desiderio Valverde Pérez. Just a year later he in turn is replaced (or succeeded) by Pedro Santana.

1858

José Desiderio Valverde Pérez

President. Replaced by Santana.

1858 - 1861

Pedro Santana

President for a third time. Became first captain-general.

1861 - 1863

The republic becomes the only ex-colonial country in South America or Central America to voluntarily revert to being a colony. The country's leader, Pedro Santana signs a pact with Spain to hand back the territory, ending the 'First Republic'. Authority is placed into the hands of appointed captains-general (shown in green).

1861 - 1862

Pedro Santana

Captain-general under Spanish rule. Died 1864.

1862 - 1863

Felipe Ribero

Captain-general under Spanish rule.

1863 - 1864

Carlos de Vargas

Captain-general under Spanish rule.

1864 - 1865

José de la Gándara

Captain-general under Spanish rule.

1863 - 1865

Opponents to the return of Spanish rule launch the Restoration War, aided in part by Haiti. After two years of fighting, Spain abandons the island. During the war, in 1864, the last account is made of the existence of Taino natives in their original form when a Spanish soldier records them firing at him.

Provisional Government of the Glorious Revolution 1868
The provisional government of Spain's Glorious Revolution of 1868 consisted of (from left to right) Figuerola, Ruiz Zorilla, Sagasta, Prim, Serrano, Topete, Lopez Ayala, Romero Ortiz, and Lorenzana

Internal strife follows in the country, with rule by warlords and military revolts being common. Pedro Antonio Pimentel becomes the first president of a newly re-independent Dominican Republic, the 'Second Republic', but his term of office is brief, being limited entirely to four and-a-half months in 1865.

1865

José María Cabral

General and supreme chief of the republic.

1865

Pedro Guillermo

President of the provisional government junta.

1865 - 1866

Pedro Antonio Pimentel

President. Office suspended in favour of a triumvirate.

1866 - 1868

A brief return to an elected president in late 1865 is halted on 29 May 1866. The triumvirate is formed of Pedro Antonio Pimentel (briefly president in 1865) and two others, and it oversees new elections and two subsequent presidents between 1866 and 1868.

1866 - 1868

José María Cabral

President (and formerly supreme chief).

1868

Manuel Altagracia Cáceres

President. Overthrown.

1868

The presidency is terminated yet again, on 13 February, and a junta of generals oversees the country's governance. New elections are held and, on 2 May 1868, Buenaventura Báez, the former rival and fellow revolutionary of Pedro Santana, returns to office for the first time since 1857. His term as president is unusually long-lasting.

La Romana, Dominican Republic
The city and port of La Romana in the south-eastern Dominican Republic was founded near the end of the nineteenth century, but it grew rapidly after the establishment of a large sugar mill there in 1911

1868 - 1874

Buenaventura Báez

President for the third time. Ousted.

1869

President Buenaventura Baez makes one of many bids to join his country to another. With the support of the US president, he plans to have the republic annexed to the USA, but the bid is derailed by the American senate, by just one vote.

1874

Ignacio María González ends a period of fairly stable presidency on 2 January 1874. He becomes supreme chief of the republic and is joined by fellow general-in-chief Manuel Altagracia Cáceres on 22 January. This lasts until 6 April, when Ignacio María González assumes the office of president in a term of office which lasts until 1876.

1874 - 1876

Ignacio María González

Seized presidency. Supreme chief (Jan). General-in-chief.

1876

Again the presidential office is replaced by imposed rule, this time from the council of secretaries of state, which is formed of six people. Ulises Francisco Espaillat succeeds this as president for all of five months or so (29 April to 5 October 1876) before being replaced by a superior governing junta. This is formed of seven members and itself is replaced by Ignacio María González as supreme chief.

1876

Ignacio María González

Supreme chief (Nov-Dec).

1876

Ulises Francisco Espaillat

President (29 Apr-5 Oct). Ousted by a coup.

1876

Ignacio María González

President. Appointed and resigned 28 days later.

1876

Marcos Antonio Cabral

President of the provisional government junta (Dec).

1876 - 1878

The presidential office resumes again, now with Buenaventura Báez returned to the post. He manages to last for two entire years this time around, before being deposed in another coup and this time he is exiled to the Spanish colony of Puerto Rico.

US Marines land on Cuba in 1898
The first US naval attack on Puerto Rico as part of the Spanish-American War took place on 6-10 June 1898, during which US Marines also took Guantanamo Bay on Cuba

1876 - 1878

Buenaventura Báez

President for the fourth time. Ousted by coup.

1878 - 1879

A council of secretaries of state in 1878 returns not one but two very short-lived presidencies in the same year, followed by another authoritarian body called the people's military chiefs and then Jacinto de Castro as acting president.

1878

Ignacio María González

President of the provisional government.

1878

Cesáreo Guillermo

Interim president (5 Mar-6 Jul).

1878

Ignacio María González

President (6 Jul-2 Sep). Ousted by coup.

1878

Jacinto de Castro

Acting president. Replaced by council of secretaries of state.

1878 - 1879

Jacinto de Castro is replaced by another council of secretaries of state which survives into 1879 before giving way to a seemingly more stable presidency which remains uninterrupted for several years, albeit with the position frequently changing hands.

1879

Cesáreo Guillermo

President (27 Feb-6 Dec). Ousted by coup.

1879 - 1880

Gregorio Luperón

President (6 Oct-1 Sep).

1880 - 1882

Fernando Arturo de Meriño

President (1 Sep-1 Sep).

1882 - 1884

Ulíses Heureaux

President (1 Sep-1 Sep). Power behind the 'throne'.

1882

Ulíses Heureaux ends all political agitation while becoming dictator. He rules through a succession of fraudulently elected figurehead presidents, sometime taking office for himself. He improves Dominican Republic's economy, building roads and canals, encouraging foreign investment, increasing agricultural production, and inviting sugar-cane producers, especially from Cuba, into the country.

Ulíses Heureaux, president and dictator of Dominican Republic
Ulíses Heureaux, Dominican president and dictator, and eventually to be assassinated, is illustrated here in Harper's Weekly, 5 August 1899

1884 - 1885

Francisco Gregorio Billini

President (1 Sep-16 May). Resigned.

1885 - 1887

Alejandro Woss y Gil

President (16 May-6 Jan).

1887 - 1899

Ulíses Heureaux

President and dictator. Assassinated.

1899

Having ruled through terror thanks to a powerful secret police force, Ulíses Heureaux also has control of the press. In 1899, however, he is assassinated by Ramón Cáceres, a rival politician.

1899

Wenceslao Figuereo

President (26 Jul-30 Aug). Former VP. Ousted by coup.

1899

A five-man council of secretaries of state is formed on 30 August 1899. It lasts for a day before being replaced by the four-man people's revolutionary governing junta. On 4 September 1899 a president of the provisional junta is selected, and on 15 November fresh elections see Juan Isidro Jimenes Pereyra become president.

1899

Horacio Vásquez

Interim president (4 Sep-15 Nov).

1899 - 1902

Juan Isidro Jimenes Pereyra

President. Ousted by coup.

1902 - 1903

Following a period of relative peace and even some prosperity over the previous twenty years, instability returns to the country with many short-lived governments taking control. A provisional junta rules under General Horatio Vásquez and then General Alejandro Woss y Gil in 1902-1903, followed by two short-lived presidential terms.

Early baseball players in Dominican Republic
Baseball was brought to Dominican Republic by Cubans who were fleeing the ten-year war, with this early photo being of a Cuban team owner and his players in the 1800s before the game made it to the island

1902 - 1903

Horacio Vásquez

President of the provisional junta. Ousted by coup.

1903

Alejandro Woss y Gil

Interim president of the provisional junta. Ousted by coup.

1903 - 1906

Carlos Felipe Morales

President. Abandoned his post and left the country.

1906

As part of action to keep the European powers out of the area, the USA enters into a fifty year treaty which transfers the country's customs administration out of the hands of Dominican Republic itself. The proceeds from this help to pay off some of the country's massive debt.

In the same year, though, President Carlos Felipe Morales leaves the country without resigning, so a seven-member council of secretaries of state governs in his place to appoint a new president, Ramón Cáceres (the assassin in 1899 of President Ulíses Heureaux). He is himself assassinated in 1911.

1906 - 1911

Ramón Cáceres

President. Assassinated.

1911 - 1912

Another seven-member council of secretaries of state after a couple months chooses a new president, Eladio Victoria. The real power behind this throne is his nephew, General Alfred M Victoria. A series of revolutionary outbreaks prompts President William Howard Taft of the United States to stabilise the situation. He appoints a commission which induces Victoria to resign in 1912.

Spanish-American War 1898
Shortly before becoming president of the USA, Theodore Roosevelt was photographed in 1898, in command of the Rough Riders on San Juan Hill, Cuba, during the Spanish-American War

1911 - 1912

Eladio Victoria

President. Induced to resign.

1912 - 1913

Archbishop Adolfo Nuel

President. Resigned and left for Europe.

1912 - 1913

Archbishop Adolfo Nuel has been elected to replace Victoria, but the new president doesn't last long either. In 1913 he leaves for Europe and resigns, so the congress elects General José Bordas Valdés as provisional president.

1913 - 1914

José Bordas Valdés

Provisional president and army general.

1914 - 1916

Two more presidents follow. In April 1916, General Desiderio Arias leads a revolution and seizes military control of the capital, Santo Domingo. Arias assumes executive power, maintaining a figurehead president.

1914

Ramón Báez

Interim president (28 Aug-5 Dec).

1914 - 1916

Juan Isidro Jimenes Pereyra

President for second time. Resigned when country occupied.

1916

The USA has already occupied Haiti in an attempt to stabilise it and impose a lasting government. It also threatens an equally unstable Santo Domingo. US Marines land on 19 May 1916 and within three months they secure effective control of the country. In November the USA proclaims a military government which serves to terminate the 'Second Republic'.

1916

Francisco Henríquez y Carvajal

Interim president (31 Jul-29 Nov). Removed by USA.

1916 - 1921

With Francisco Henríquez y Carvajal having refused to enter into a treaty with the USA, and proposing to run for a full term of office as president, he is forced out of his interim post and leaves the country.

The office of president remains vacant while the country is administered by the USA (with governors shown in green). Between 1917-1921 the marines have to fight a determined guerrilla action in the east of the country, led by Vicente Evangelista. Eventually the guerrillas yield.

US Marines in Dominican Republic for the first invasion
Thanks to its proximity to the Panama Canal, which was completed in 1914, Dominican Republic became an important source of concern to US interests

1916 - 1918

Harry Shepard Knapp

US military governor.

1918 - 1919

Ben Hebard Fuller

US military governor.

1919 - 1921

Thomas Snowden

US military governor.

1921 - 1922

Samuel S Robinson

US military governor.

1921 - 1924

In 1921-1922, the 'Harding Plan' effects a gradual withdrawal of US forces and a return to local control. The 1924 elections see Dominicans fully in control once again of a country which is stable and prosperous, heralding the start of the 'Third Republic'.

1924 - 1930

Horacio Vásquez

President (formerly in various interim posts). Overthrown.

1930

Violence returns to the republic during new elections. The corrupt and ineffective President Horacio Vásquez is overthrown, and Rafael Trujillo's regime of tight control and profiteering takes over. There is still economic growth, however.

1930 - 1961

Rafael Trujillo

Dictator of one of the bloodiest regimes of the century. Killed.

1937

Trujillo has the army massacre all Haitians living in the republic, between 17,000-35,000 of them (figures vary). As a result, Haiti has to be paid compensation to avoid the threat of armed conflict between the two nations.

Rafael Trujillo
Rafael Trujillo, a particularly blood-soaked dictator of the Dominican republic during one of the world's bloodiest centuries, who met an appropriate end at the hands of an assassin

1961 - 1963

After a career spent eliminating his political opponents and murdering border Haitians, Trujillo is assassinated on 30 May 1961. Two years later a democratically-elected government takes charge. This government antagonises both the country's traditional oligarchy and American commercial interests before being overthrown in a military coup.

1963

Juan Bosch

President. Overthrown by coup.

1963

Víctor Elby Viñas Román

Chairman of the provisional junta.

1963 - 1966

Víctor Elby Viñas gives way to a ruling triumvirate against which Juan Casasnovas Garrido almost immediately leads an unsuccessful rebellion. In 1965, Colonel Francisco Alberto Caamaño Deñó leads another rebellion which aims to restore Juan Bosch, creating a revolutionary committee on 25 April 1965. This serves to terminate the country's 'Third Republic'.

It takes a landing by US marines and then occupation by them and other states from the Americas to bring about a free and fair election in 1966, having avoided the spectre of a Cuba-style revolutionary government. Thanks to the 'Dominican Intervention', the country finally gains a degree of stability, along with its 'Fourth Republic'.

Striking students in 1964
Students at the Salome Ureña all-girls school walked out in solidarity with the student strike of 1964

1966 - 1978

Joaquín Balaguer

Democratically-elected president.

1978 - 2000

This period is one of generally improving civil rights and stable governments. Elections are generally fair (except in 1994 when national and international opinion forces a re-election in 1996).

1978 - 1982

Antonio Guzmán Fernández

President. Committed suicide.

1979

Two hurricanes leave more than 200,0000 people homeless and cause damage worth a billion dollars as the economy continues to deteriorate due to high fuel prices and low sugar prices.

1982 - 1986

Salvador Jorge Blanco

President.

1985

International Monetary Fund-prescribed austerity measures, including price rises for basic foods and petrol, lead to widespread riots across the country.

1986 - 1996

Joaquín Balaguer

President for a second time. Resigned.

1994 - 1996

Opposition accusations of fraudulent elections induce Balaguer to acquiesce to resigning after only two years of his full term of office, in 1996.

1996 - 2000

Leonel Fernández

The country's 100th president.

2000 - 2004

Hipólito Mejía

President.

2003 - 2004

In November 2003, deadly clashes between police and protesters take place during demonstrations against high prices and power cuts. Two months later, demonstrations about economic policies leave at least five dead. In 2004, severe floods in the south-west, and in parts of neighbouring Haiti, leave more than two thousand dead or missing.

Haitian immigrants in Dominican Republic in 2021
Undocumented Haitians, detained by immigration officials, step out of a bus in Dajabon, Dominican Republic, on Friday 19 November 2021 to be deported back to Haiti

2004 - 2012

Leonel Fernández

President for a second and third time.

2010

A new constitution prohibits the president from serving two terms, reverting to the standard which had been in place prior to Balaguer's most recent presidency. Abortion is banned. Citizenship is denied to children who have been born to illegal immigrants with the borders of Dominican Republic.

2012 - 2020

Danilo Medina

President (two terms). Desired a third but relented.

2014 - 2015

With both houses of congress in the hands of his party, Medina enacts educational and labour reform, anticorruption measures, and economic improvement. The constitutional provision which prohibts citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants is revised due to enormous international criticism.

Such children are made eligible for naturalisation under certain circumstances. The new laws remain intensely criticised, however. The economy booms and, in 2015, Medina is allowed to run for a second term of office. He declines a later proposal to allow him to run for a third time.

Danilo Medin, president of Dominican Republic
Popular mobilisation and the danger of splitting his own party forced President Medina to abandon his desire for constitutional reform which would allow a third term of office

2020

The global Covid-19 pandemic strikes Dominican Republic quite severely, and Medina is criticised for his inability to limit its damage. The pandemic even causes the postponement of national elections. The eventual winner of those elections, Luis Abinader, contract the virus himself and is forced to suspend his campaigning, although he does successfully take office.

2020 - On

Luis Abinader

President.

2023

At least ten people are killed and more than fifty injured in an explosion at a bustling commercial centre in the city of San Cristóbal on Monday 14 August 2023. A further eleven people remain missing. The explosion occurs at a bakery in the city centre, a bustling area known as the Old Marketplace, where people buy goods which range from vegetables to clothes. The fire then spreads to a hardware shop next door and a nearby furniture shop.

 
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