Comparing the Dominican Republic to Various Countries in GSV


GSV stands for Google Street View. Given the random nature of the application and that it has no biases, it shows each place as close to reality as possible. This is a great tool to make comparisons between countries regarding infrastructure, nature, and the people among other things. Due to that reason, we will compare the people that appear in the streets in four urban areas in the Dominican Republic, one urban area in Senegal, one in Ghana, and one in Spain.

As good of a tool as it is for this comparison, it does have some limitations. Namely, in the case of the Dominican Republic there is an understatement of the visibility at street level of the upper and upper middle classes. This is despite most are present in many of the streets, but are hidden behind the often tinted windows in cars, SUVs, etc. As a consequence, an area can be filled with mostly people from these classes, but they become sort of invinsible because despite they are in plain sight, they are hidden at the same time. There is something else that a photo will not be able to tell anyone and that is who is a native and an immigrant, and among the latter who are the legals and the illegal ones. Never the less, aside from actually being there, this is the best visible tool for this comparison.

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

First we start in the National District, also known as the city of Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic.

The Dominican Republic has a population between 10 and 11 million, the vast majority highly mixed and with skin colors ranging from the darkest to the lightest, most being light brown. The reason for this are three: 1) the most common mixture is European (mostly Spanish) with African (mostly from Northwestern Africa), and Native American (mostly Taino) with the first two comprising the majority of an average Dominican; 2) due that the country is in the tropics and that there is around 40% African ancestry in the average Dominican, the intensity of the tropical sun rays often darkens the natural skin color of those whose lifestyles requires them to be exposed to the sun on a daily basis, but only the exposed skin will darken; and 3) for many people their natural color is what is shown and they can expose themselves to the tropical sun and will not darken.

The Dominican Republic is a small country, yet it’s the world’s largest and most populous country where most people are of mostly European and African ancestry. Its one of only a handful of countries where this mixture is present in most of the population. The usual mixed country has a mixture of mostly European and Native American. In fact, countries that have a significant European ancestry are found in Europe and in North and South America (including the Spanish Caribbean of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic but excluding most of the rest of the Caribbean.) Countries where African is the vast majority or the entirety of the population’s ancestry are found mainly in Africa and in the non-Spanish Caribbean. Countries where there is Native American ancestry are exclusively found in North America and in South America. All of this can be confirmed via several DNA ancestry studies.

The Dominican Republic is now upwards of 80% urban and this city accounts for over 1 million residents. The daily incursion of most of the residents of the metropolitan area to attend jobs, educational facilities, shopping; medical appointments, public events, etc increases the population during the day. It’s estimated that the city proper population swells greatly with these people that don’t live in the city proper, but do much of their day-to-day living within her borders. Santo Domingo is the center of not just its metropolitan area, but of the entire Dominican Republic.

Dakar, Senegal

Unlike the Dominican Republic which is a mixed country, Senegal is a black country. Dakar is its capital city and the political, economic, and cultural center. This country is in an area from where the first Africans were taken to the Americas in the XVI century.

Santo Domingo was their first port of call in the New World and for most Dominicans, the ancestry of many Senegalese runs through their veins as a small part of their ancestry. Among mulattoes and blacks of the New World through DNA ancestry tests it becomes evident if they have two pulses of African ancestry, as is the case with most Dominicans and almost exclusively of mulattoes and blacks from Spanish America, or just one pulse. The reason for this is that the importation of Africans in the XVI century was done exclusively by the Spanish and Portuguese and directed to their territorries in North and South America. During the XVII century the flow of Africans was reduced considerably. Other peoples such as the English, the French, the Dutch; etc began to import to their American territories large quantities of Africans in the XVIII century. The Spanish Monarchy had prohibited that any new African be subjected to slavery, but if someone was already born into slavery they could be taken to a Spanish territory and maintained as slaves. Once the slave became free, it was impossible to make them a slave again. This meant that in Spanish and Portuguese territories in the Americas many of these Africans born into slavery were allowed to be brought from other American colonies only, but not directly from Africa. In addition, any runaway slave was granted their liberty upon stepping on the soil of a Spanish territory. All of this contributed to what is currently seen with the two pulses in Dominican DNA ancestry tests, while people from places like Saint Lucia, Jamaica, Haiti, etc often show one African pulse. Among Dominicans the first pulse corresponds to the area around Senegal.

Santo Domingo Este, Dominican Republic

Santo Domingo Este is the provincial capital of the province of Santo Domingo (not to be confused with the National District, in that case the city of Santo Domingo is its capital and that is the only national territory that is completely urban and comprised by one city.) It’s the largest city in the province of Santo Domingo and the largest in Greater Santo Domingo (the metropolitan area of the capital.)

This is a perfect example of a quite common occurrence in the Dominican Republic due to the heavy mixture between European and African ancestry in a single person. It’s evident on his upper arms and part of his chest that his natural skin color is very light, but his lifestyle and/or job requires him to be exposed to the tropical sun for long periods of time. This has darken the exposed areas. If it wasn’t for his shirt rising to levels not usually exposed, anyone could think that his natural color is a dark one or even black. People from other countries, particularly the United States and Canada, probably would make fun of him if they refer to him as having a natural dark color and he responds that his actual color is very light, but the sun darken certain parts of his body. They would laugh at him and often will not believe it, yet in that case he would be telling the truth. This is also the type of person that would take a DNA ancestry test and the results show a much higher European ancestry than those that know him superficially would assume at first. These are situations thst only a mixed person goes through.
Another case of someone with two skin colors. Guess which one is his natural one and the other as a result of exposure to the tropical sun? Usually, Dominican men don’t wear shorts except to be in the house or if they have to get something from the car. Some Dominican-American men do wear shorts while going out in the Dominican Republic, but usually their American influence is noticeable in other mannerisms and the way they carry themselves.

Accra, Ghana

A country where most of the people are black, unlike the Dominican Republic where most are mixed, Gahana is located in a part of Northwestern Africa where much of the second African migration pulse to North and South America originated. Ghana is in the Bay of Bight, previously known as the Slave Coast. This is one of the places of origin of the African ancestry of most mulattoes and blacks in the New World. Those from non-Hispanic countries often show one pulse corresponding for the most part to the one from this area and taking place mostly in the XVIII century. Among mulattoes and blacks from Hispanic America, places like Ghana are part of their origin and corresponds mostly to the second pulse.

Accra is the capital city of Ghana. As a black country, there isn’t much of extreme darkening due to exposure to the tropical sun. As expected, Ghanains that have done DNA ancestry tests get results that are overwhelmingly (over 80%) or all of African descent.

Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic

Santiago de los Caballeros, or more commonly called simply Santiago, is the capital of Santiago province and the largest city in the north of the country. Its metropolitan area is the second largest and second most populous in the Dominican Republic. Santiago acts as the capital city of the second dense area of the country (the Cibao Valley.) This region received the most immigration from the Canary Islands (Spain) in the XVII and XVIII centuries. This is still evident not just by the presence of a larger white and light skin mixed race population than in the Greater Santo Domingo area, but also in DNA ancestry results. Among Cibaeños the European ancestry tends to be higher.

Since the XVII century there is a rivalry between this Santiago and Santo Domingo. The origin of this rivalry is that until the Trujillo dictatorship (1930-1961) Santo Domingo’s national influence was limited to politics as the capital of the country. In everything else from economics to the arts, culture, etc Santiago was king. During the Trujillo dictatorship, the government controlled things with such an intensity that Santo Domingo became the center of Dominican life in every aspect and Santiago was relegated to second place. Despite this, the rivalry continues to this day. This rivalry manifest itself in many ways, baseball being one of them. The city’s team is the Águilas Cibaeñas. Any competition with the two teams of Santo Domingo, Leones de Escogido and Tigres de Licey, is bound to be a big thing and losing to any of those teams, especially at Santiago’s Estadio Cibao, is not looked with good eyes.

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is the provincial capital of Canarias province in Spain. Spain is a country in Europe. A significant part of the ancestry of Dominicans is Spaniard, particularly from the southern region of Andalusia and the Canary Islands. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria itself was a major player in producing people that immigrated to the Dominican Republic. This migration took place during the entire colonial period and even during a time as an established country, but the bulk arrived during the XVII and XVIII centuries.

Some Canarians settled in the Santo Domingo area. In fact, the now neighborhood of San Carlos was actually founded as a separate town by Canarian families from the island of Tenerife. They named the new town San Carlos de Tenerife and the patron virgin is still the original one of Our Lady of Candle, the same patron virgin of the Canary Islands. Another area for Canarian settling was the interior of the east, particularly around El Seibo and Higüey. Nearby rural areas and some towns on the coast also received Canarians. Sabana de la Mar is a town founded by Canarian immigrants.

Most Canarians settled in the Cibao Valley and in the South region. Certain areas of the South region such as Baní (town founded by Canarians) and its vicinity, Azua and its vicinity, San José de Ocoa and other areas had a sizable Canarian presence. Along the Cibao Valley and the northern part in general also received large amounts of Canarians. Both Puerto Plata and Montecristi, on the north coast, were refounded by families from the Canaries. Santiago and La Vega increased their populations with the arrival of the Canarians. Other cities and towns in the Cibao Valley were founded by Canarians such as San Francisco de Macorís and Dajabón. Rural areas throughout the Cibao Valley such as Gurabo and Juan López were established by Canarians. Afterwards, descendants of the Canarians settled mountainous areas and founded many towns such as Jarabacoa, Jánico, San José de las Matas, etc.

The influence of the Canarians is so great in the Dominicans, that its present even in the language. Dominican Spanish has more affinities with the Spanish spoken in the Canary Islands than anywhere else in Spain and in the world. Other places that Dominican Spanish has similarities to are Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Venezuela. Those places also happen to be major destinations for Canarian migrants too.

Santo Domingo Norte, Dominican Republic

Santo Domingo Norte is another city in the Greater Santo Domingo, popularly known for its secfion of Villa Mella. The UNESCO declared the Congos of Villa Mella as an Immaterial Cultural Heritage. It’s a brotherhood of the Holy Spirit founded in the XVI century by mixed and African people. This is one more international recognition of the culture of the Dominican Republic and the first international recognition of black Dominicans. Villa Mella is also known for its famous “chicharrones” (cracklings), considered the most tasteful in the entire country.

In terms of population, Santo Domingo Norte amounts to about 8% of Greater Santo Domingo and 3% of the Dominican Republic. It’s the darkest and blackest city of Greater Santo Domingo and darker and blacker thsn usual in the Dominican Republic in general. It’s as well Greater Santo Domingo’s poorest city. Never the less, during the last decade or so it has seen an enormous growth of its middle class, in part due to the creation of new residential communities attracting middle class families from elsewhere in Greater Santo Domingo and in the growth of its own local middle class as poor families move up the socioeconomic ladder. Catering to this middle class is a growth of middle class oriented consumer businesses along its major avenues, particularly the Jacobo Majluta Avenue. The area is also a major destination for Haitian immigrants, attracted by the cheaper rents and daily expenses.

The wind produced by riding the motorcycle causes the sleeves to rise up. Unlike blacks and natural dark color mixed people, it’s noticeable that the driver’s natural color is very light and in fact he’s mixed. Constantly riding that motorcycle probably explains the exposure to the tropical sun which has darken parts of his arms, hands, and face. This is such a common sight in the Dominican Republic that almost everybody thinks it’s normal to see this a lot. Only when Dominicans move to another country, whether it’s mostly white, black or mixed that they realize that this is not common at all in much of the rest of world or even in much of the rest of the Caribbean.
Another ocurrence that doesn’t raises eyebrows in the Dominican Republic, but it does in other countries, is to see people, in this case the kid in the right, with natural straight or slightly wavy hair despite having other aspects that reminds of Africa. That’s the beauty of being mixed.

The Dominican Republic on GSV

There is more to the Dominican Republic, but for now the official GSV images are only of the Greater Santo Domingo and Greater Santiago areas. When other cities such as Puerto Plata, San Cristóbal, San Francisco de Macorís and others appear; along with tourist areas such as Punta Cana, Las Terrenas or Cabarete; some of them will be added too. Never the less, the areas shown so far of the Dominican Republic are the centers of Dominican life, the two most populous and most dense areas of the country. They are, to put it simply, the most representative areas of the Dominicans.

Distribution and Density of the Population in the Dominican Republic

The areas shown in this article tend to be the least visited parts of the Dominican Republic with the the Punta Cana area receiving over 70% of international tourists. Few of those tourists are aware that the Punta Cana area has a population of about 70,000 to 80,000, around 0.7% of the national population. Las Terrenas, on the Samaná Peninsula, is another hot zone for international tourism. The entire Samaná Peninsula has a population of over 100,000 which is more or less 1% of the population of the Dominican Republic. In fact, combining the population of tourist areas in the country amounts to about 5% of the country’s population. The following map and its approximation shows the distribution and density of the population of the Dominican Republic. The map is from 2004, but while the population and the density has grown, the geographic distribution hasn’t changed much.

Holistic view of the population distribution and density of the Dominican Republic. Notice the Dominican population concentrates in the Greater Santo Domingo and in the Cibao Valley areas.
Greater Santo Domingo.
The second most dense and populous area is the fertile Cibao Valley. The quality of the soil is second to none, highly prized by farmers. In much of the valley the climate is delightful with a noticeable moderation of the humidity and cooler evening, night, and morning temperatures compared to areas on the coast. In the valleys of the Central Mountains you will need a sweater or jacket to stay warm during the cooler months, water freezes during the night, and the vegatation is mostly pine with very few to no signs of palms. This area is unlike what people in North America and/or Europe think of the Caribbean.
The most visited region by international tourists is The East, yet it’s a sparsely populated area. In fact, with a population around 1.5 million, it’s the least populated region of the Dominican Republic (about 14%) and about the size of neighboring Puerto Rico or the US state of Connecticut. The Punta Cana area is on the extreme eastern point. This is also the least mountainous area of the country with the largest plains in the Caribbean outside Cuba. Due to the sugar industry which developed mostly in this region, today this is one of the blackest regions of the Dominican Republic, particularly along the Caribbean coast. La Romana has a majority African ancestry (around 60% to 70%) in the average person, one of the highest in the country. Its population accounts for approximately 23% of the population of The East region and 3% for the Dominican Republic as a whole.
The Samana Peninsula is another popular destination for international tourists. It’s also a sparsely populated area. The Samaná Peninsula is the wettest area of the country, often with rain falling up to 4 or 5 times in one day. What doesn’t happen too much is remaining cloudy and/or raining the entire day. The sun comes out multiple times a day, everyday. The most noticeable feature of this peninsula is the immense concentration of coconut palms, probably the largest in the world.
The northwestern part of the Cibao Valley is popularly known as “La Línea” or “El Despoblado.” As one of its name suggest, it’s a mostly sparsely populated area. This area is characterized by a drier climate. Low lying plants and cactuses are a feature of the landscape in many areas.
The South region is home to about 2 million. It’s the poorest and least developed region. Though with a variety of climates and vegetation, many areas have a drier climate with the corresponding predominance of low lying plants and cactuses.