Take one small island in the heart of the Caribbean and divide it in two. On the larger part, remove all organic Taíno (set aside, you’ll need it later as a garnish), then immediately add Spanish with a twist of French, English, and a huge dose of African, then add a dash of American and the constant press of Haitian influence, and season with culture, food, people, race relations, music, literature, poetry, politics, war, various occupations, genocide, and the slave trade. Steep inside of a pressure cooker, adding at least one devastating natural event each year. After 500 years you will have the rich multicultural soup that is the Dominican Republic . It is in this way that the Dominican Republic has become the proverbial carnaval of culture that we know today.
Despite the fact that this nation has such a memory of tyranny and fear as the genocide of the Taínos on their historical welcome mat, it is often said that the Dominican people are some of the friendliest and most hospitable in the world. In fact, most discussions about Dominicans begin this way because it is so true. They are fierce believers in making a visitor feel welcome and included in the Dominican experience. The Dominican experience is to walk lightly through life with a smile for everyone to see and a polite demeanor. Whether you are purchasing something from a stranger or talking with someone you know, polite behavior is to chitchat for a bit first and be complimentary. In other words, don’t be in too much of a hurry to have people flit in and out of your life; everyone is important enough to have an interaction with, even if just for the duration of buying a bottle of water.
The Dominican psyche is to always have a song in your head and to sing it out loud no matter who is around. It is to have a sense of humor about their own world and the world outside of the Dominican Republic . Laughing is a big part of life. At the same time, there is a very strong sense of pride in their culture and nationality. This is evident in Dominican expats in other countries. When they find each other amid the sea of other Latinos, they are instant friends.
Family is a thick bond that goes beyond blood. Loyalty to those they care about is a more accurate statement. It is perhaps the most welcoming sensation to be invited into a Dominican home and made to feel included with such honest warmth. Families stick together in times of sickness and financial stress, and the closeness is not a class issue. This trust crosses all levels of socio-economic strata. The trust of a family member is something that Dominicans do not take lightly.
But it would be overly romantic to say that there aren’t some fissures of discontent or discord running through the cultural fabric. Race relations are just one sore spot and by far the worst. There is a great deal of emphasis put on color and how one fits on that spectrum, and it is strongly tied to class. This is especially obvious when it comes to Haitian/Dominican relations.
While Dominicans are hospitable and loving people, they are for the most part quite conservative. The day-to-day male chauvinism and homophobia can be quite unsettling to an outsider but is incredibly normal there.