The History of Dominican Republic’s Independence Day
Every year, the Dominican Republic celebrates its Independence Day on February 27th. But do you know what’s behind that date? How did the Dominican people succeed in their long struggle for freedom?
Keep reading because I can assure you that this is one story you don’t want to miss. Understand the background of the fight for independence in 19th century Dominican Republic and its wars of independence against different powers. Also, you’ll learn about how Dominicans celebrate Independence Day, their national symbols, and useful Spanish vocabulary related to the topic.
History of Dominican Republic’s Independence Day
The history behind Dominican Republic’s struggle for independence is one of the most extraordinary and convoluted ones in the Americas.
For starters, Dominican Republic is one of the few countries in the world that have fought and won their independence twice. First from Spain in 1821 and then from Haiti in 1844. It’s the second one that Dominicans celebrate every February 27th, as that was the date in 1844 when a secret society known as La Trinitaria (The Trinity) started the Independence war against the Haitian regime.
However, that’s not all. The island that’s today divided into two countries, Dominican Republic and Haiti, had been called La Hispaniola by the Spaniards since the time of Christopher Columbus. It was the Spaniards’ first settlement in the Americas, and it grew in importance during the first century of Spanish rule.
Nevertheless, this situation changed when gold was discovered in Mexico and Peru. By 1697, the Spaniards lost the western side of the island (Haiti) to the French—and by 1795, the whole island.
By 1814, the Spaniards recaptured the eastern side of the island, only to lose it again due to the first successful independence of the Dominic Republican which was hoping to join the Republic of Gran Colombia. But this project never materialized, and in 1822, Haiti conquered the whole island. Haiti remained in power for 22 years, until February 27th, 1844, when Dominicans finally won their independence for good.
If you followed closely, you’ve noticed that over the last 500 years the Dominican Republic was under the rule of Spain, France, Spain again, and Haiti. No wonder Dominican people celebrate their independence for a whole month every year.
How Dominican People Celebrate Their Independence Day?
Although Dominican people celebrate their Independence Day on February 27th every year, the whole month of February is known as “Patriotism Month.” Celebrations start on January 26th, with the commemoration of the birth of national hero and founding father Juan Pablo Duarte.
Throughout the month, Dominicans celebrate their history, culture, and heritage. And here comes the cool twist: since Carnival takes place in the same month, they include it in their independence celebrations, which has to make it one of the most unique Independence Day celebrations in the world.
On February 27th, Dominicans pay tribute to their Founding Fathers at the Puerta del Conde in Santo Domingo, the president of the country gives a speech broadcasted to the whole nation, and people hang Dominican flags from their balconies and eat traditional dishes such as bacalao and mangu.
Finally, Dominicans celebrate “Carnival style” on the streets of every town in the country, but especially in La Vega, a city located 120 kilometers north of the capital city of Santo Domingo. Here, the festive mood and patriotic pride of Dominicans mix to produce a celebration of legendary proportions.
Dominican Republic’s National Symbols
The Dominican Republic’s national symbols include their flag, coat of arms, and national anthem. Let’s learn more about each one of them:
As with most Latin American countries, the national flag of the Dominican Republic was created during their war of independence. It makes sense, as that was the time when the idea of new nations swept the continent.
The flag was the idea of Dominican national hero Juan Pablo Duarte, and designed by two women: Concepción Bona and Maria Trinidad Sanchez. It was flown for the first time in 1844.
The design of the flag introduces a white cross in the center, just as in other Christian nations (Switzerland, Scotland, etc.), and four rectangles in dark blue and red. In the center of the cross appears the Dominican Coat of Arms.
The Coat of Arms
Designed by Dominican politician, Casemiro Nemesio de Moya, the official Coat of Arms of the Dominican Republic features a shield with the combination of colors of the flag (blue, red, and white), with six spears, a yellow cross, and a Bible opened to John 8:32: “Y la verdad os hará libres” (And the truth shall make you free).
A laurel branch and a palm frond are on either side of the shield. Below it, a red ribbon bears the name of the country in yellow, and above the shield, the national motto: Dios, Patria, Libertad (God, Fatherland, Liberty).
The National Anthem
The Dominican Republic’s national anthem was composed in 1882 by Emilio Prud’Homme (lyrics) and Jose Rufino Reyes y Siancas (music). However, due to political infighting it wasn’t officially adopted until 1934.
An interesting fact about the anthem is that there’s no use of the Spanish name of the country República Dominicana, nor of the Spanish demonym for Dominican people dominicanos. However, Quisqueya, the indigenous word for the island, and its demonym quisqueyanos are used several times. This reflects the anti-Spanish sentiment of the age, when most newly independent nations in Latin America saw Spain as a threat and their enemy.
Dominican Republic’s Independence Day: Vocabulary
Now that you know the history and the national symbols of the Dominican Republic, it’s time to learn some vocabulary related to their Independence Day.
Bandera – flag
Escudo – coat of arms
Himno nacional – national anthem
Guerra de Independencia – independence war
héroe nacional – national hero
lanza – spear
cruz – cross
Biblia – Bible
rama – branch
listón – ribbon
desfile – parade
tributo – tribute
discurso – speech
carnaval – carnival
Learn Latin American History in Spanish
The Dominican Republic is a fascinating country with a long and rich history. Its unique situation as an island divided between two countries, and constant invasions from different powers, have massively influenced its culture and development.
Remember that you can learn a lot about a language by studying the history and culture of the countries that speak it. To talk about history with your Spanish teacher, sign up for a free class and impress them with your knowledge of the Dominican Republic’s Independence Day.
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