img_3816img_3811img_3813 img_3814February 27, 1844 marks the Dominican Republic Independence Day celebrated annually during Carnival. The Dominican Republic’s Carnival is celebrated every year during the entire month of February, culminating with the largest celebration on Independence Day

The first major slave revolt in the Americas occurred in Santo Domingo during 1522, when slaves led an uprising in the sugar plantation of admiral Don Diego Colón, son of Christopher Columbus. Many of these insurgents managed to escape to the mountains where they formed New Afrikan independent maroon communities.

While sugar cane dramatically increased Spain’s earnings on the island, large numbers of the newly imported slaves fled into the nearly impassable mountain ranges in the island’s interior, joining the growing communities of cimarrónes—literally, ‘wild animals’. By the 1530s, cimarrón bands had become so numerous that in rural areas the Spaniards could only safely travel outside their plantations in large armed groups. Beginning in the 1520s, the Caribbean Sea was raided by increasingly numerous French pirates. In 1541 Spain authorized the construction of Santo Domingo’s fortified wall, and in 1560 decided to restrict sea travel to enormous, well-armed convoys. In another move, which would destroy Hispaniola’s sugar industry, in 1561 Havana, more strategically located in relation to the Gulf Stream, was selected as the designated stopping point for the merchant flotas, which had a royal monopoly on commerce with the Americas. In 1564, the island’s main inland cities Santiago de los Caballeros and Concepción de la Vega were destroyed by an earthquake. In the 1560s English pirates joined the French in regularly raiding Spanish shipping in the Americas.

With the conquest of the American mainland, Hispaniola quickly declined. Most Spanish colonists left for the silver-mines of Mexico and Peru, while new immigrants from Spain bypassed the island. Agriculture dwindled, new imports of slaves ceased, and white colonists, free blacks, and slaves alike lived in poverty, weakening the racial hierarchy and aiding intermixing, resulting in a population of predominantly mixed Spaniard, African, and Taíno descent. Except for the city of Santo Domingo, which managed to maintain some legal exports, Dominican ports were forced to rely on contraband trade, which, along with livestock, became the sole source of livelihood for the island dwellers. In 1586, Sir Francis Drake captured the city of Santo Domingo, collecting a ransom for its return to Spanish rule.

In 1595 the Spanish, frustrated by the twenty-year rebellion of their Dutch subjects, closed their home ports to rebel shipping from the Netherlands cutting them off from the critical salt supplies necessary for their herring industry. The Dutch responded by sourcing new salt supplies from Spanish America where colonists were more than happy to trade. So large numbers of Dutch traders/pirates joined their English and French brethren on the Spanish main.

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