Dominican americans

Follow founder on our Forum or

by Sean T. Buffington


The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with the nation of Haiti. Hispaniola defines the northern rim of the Caribbean Sea along with Cuba, which lies just to the west, and Puerto Rico, Hispaniola's eastern neighbor. The Dominican Republic occupies the western half of the island.

The Dominican Republic is a nation of approximately 5.5 million people. Its significant sources of revenue are the tourist industry, remittances sent home by Dominicans abroad, and the sugar industry. Dominicans speak Spanish as a first language although increasing numbers also speak English. The Dominican Republic has traditionally and predominantly been a Roman Catholic nation. However, there are notable and historic Protestant, Jewish, and Afro-Christian religious communities as well. While the Trujillo government and the Balaguer administration to a lesser degree have emphasized the Spanish ancestry of Dominicans, the population is diverse in its origins. African-descended slaves, Spanish colonizers, and Haitian invaders and later laborers, as well as other Europeans, Middle Eastern and Chinese merchants, and immigrants from neighboring Caribbean islands have all contributed to the diverse population and culture of the Dominican Republic.


The nation now called the Dominican Republic was originally colonized by the Spanish in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. The previous inhabitants, Taino indigenes, were destroyed by diseases, weapons, and enslavement brought by the Spanish. Like the other Spanish Caribbean colonies, Santo Domingo, as it was called then, was peopled sparsely by Spanish, Spanish creoles (people of Spanish descent born in the Americas), and relatively small numbers of African and African-descended slaves. Isolated from a distant Spanish monarch, underpopulated, and with little investment from the outside, Santo Domingo languished in comparison to her French and British West Indian neighbors. Barbados in the seventeenth century and Saint Dominque (now called Haiti) in the eighteenth century became centers of sugar production and generated great wealth for the British and French planters who worked those lands. It was not until the nineteenth century that Santo Domingo became a central presence in the Western Hemisphere.

In 1822, the newly founded nation of Haiti, which had won its independence from France at the turn of the century and become the first black sovereign nation in the Americas, invaded and occupied the Spanish half of Hispaniola. For the remainder of the century, Santo Domingo passed into and out of sovereignty, winning independence from Haiti in 1844 and then voluntarily resubmitting to Spanish colonial rule in 1861. After regaining independence after several years of colonial rule, the Dominican government discussed the possibilities of annexation with U.S. officials.

At the same time that the government was discussing new political directions, the economy began to move in new directions too. After centuries of slow progress, the Dominican economy experienced new growth: Cuban immigrants, along with others from North America and Europe, brought new capital into the country. They invested heavily in the sugar industry, which soon became the most important productive industry in the nation.

The Dominican Republic's claims to sovereignty, however, did not go unchallenged in the twentieth century. Twice, the United States invaded and occupied the Caribbean island, first from 1916 to 1924, and again in 1965. The second invasion played a more significant role in launching the most recent migration of Dominicans to the United States. The assassination of military ruler Rafael Trujillo in 1961 marked the start of a period of political uncertainty in the Dominican Republic that was ended when U.S. paratroops intervened by order of President Lyndon Johnson. The U.S. troops brought to a close a civil war between supporters of democratically elected President Juan Bosch and his right-wing opponents in the Dominican military and oversaw the election of former Trujillo aide Joaquin Balaguer to the presidency.

That civil war and subsequent intervention by the United States on the side of the conservative military led to an outflux of Bosch supporters and other like-minded political activists from the Dominican Republic in the 1960s (Luis E. Guarnizo, " Los Dominicanyorks : The Making of a Binational Society," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Volume 533, 1994, p. 71). Those emigrants, most of whom came to the United States, were the first of many Dominicans who have come in ever-increasing numbers in the past several decades.


In the 1980s, immigration to the United States from the Dominican Republic rose to unprecedented levels. The number of Dominicans legally entering the United States between 1981 and 1990 was far greater than the number of Cubans: indeed, more Dominicans entered the United States in the last decade than any other Western Hemisphere national group except migrants from Mexico (Ruben G. Rumbaut, "The Americans: Latin American and Caribbean Peoples in the United States" in Americas: New Interpretive Essays, p. 288).

Despite these numbers, however, Dominican immigrants have been relatively unstudied. Systematic research on the Dominican population in the United States is scarce, and newspaper and magazine coverage is sparse compared to the coverage received by other Caribbean immigrant groups (e.g., Cubans and Haitians). Those studies that do exist rely on data from the 1980 census or from studies conducted in the early or mid-1980s. Thus, upto-date, accurate, and complete information on Dominicans in the United States is difficult to find. As the raw data from the 1990 census is analyzed and studied, more work on this important immigrant group will result.

Most Dominicans in the United States arrived after 1960. Of the 169,147 Dominican-born persons resident in the United States at the time of the 1980 census, only 6.1 percent had come to the United States before 1960. More than a third came during the decade of political instability in the Dominican Republic—the 1960s—and the remaining 56 percent arrived in the 1970s. During the 1980s, however, Dominican immigration soared. In those ten years, more than 250,000 Dominicans were legally admitted to the United States. The number of new immigrants in that ten-year period was 50 percent greater than the entire Dominican-born population of the United States at the start of the decade. The 1990 U.S. Census reported that of the 506,000 persons of Dominican descent in the United States, the vast majority were Dominican-born. Thus the Dominican American community is primarily an immigrant community and, indeed, a community of recent immigrants.

According to the 1990 census, most Dominicans have settled in the Northeast (86.3 percent). Though the greatest number reside in New York and New Jersey (nearly 390,000), there are significant Dominican communities in Massachusetts (29,000) and Florida (36,000). These communities are predominantly urban: most Dominicans in New York and New Jersey live in New York City (the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan is one prominent location) and its New Jersey suburbs, while Florida and Massachusetts Dominicans tend to reside in Miami and Boston. By the late 1990s, in New York City, Dominicans were the second largest Hispanic group, after Puerto Ricans. They were also considered the biggest and fastest growing immigrant population in the city.

No reliable figures on the number of undocumented immigrants in this country exist; however, many who have studied Dominican immigration believe it to be quite high. One scholar writing in 1986 suggested that there were at that time some 300,000 undocumented Dominicans in the United States (John A. Garcia, "Caribbean Migration to the Mainland: A Review of Adaptive Experiences," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Volume 487, 1986, p. 119). Although that number seems high given the statistics collected by the Census Bureau in 1990, it does suggest the significance of undocumented migrants in the Dominican community in the United States.

A number of Dominican migrants also return to the Dominican Republic either to visit or to resettle permanently. Again, no recent or reliable statistics show exactly how many Dominicans have returned to the Caribbean or for how long. Other indicators, however, suggest that the return movement is significant. For example, the Tourism Secretariat in the Dominican Republic reported in 1985 that 20 percent of all visitors to the island from abroad were Dominicans who had previously emigrated. Moreover, businesses in the Caribbean nation that serve the returned migrant community, and schools, apartment buildings, and discos have been opened especially for returned migrants.

Many retornados , or returned migrants, as well as those living overseas have invested heavily in their country of origin, establishing real estate brokerages and grocery stores, among other businesses, on the island. Even those who do not start businesses contribute vitally to the economic life of the Dominican Republic. Remittances, monies sent back to family members still resident on the island, bring more foreign currency into the Dominican economy than any industry except tourism. It is clear from these examples that Dominicans in the United States maintain a strong interest in their country of origin.

The causes of the Dominican immigration are various and have changed over time. As suggested above, the first significant immigration from the Dominican Republic to the United States was in large part the product of political and social instability at home. Those who opposed or had reason to fear the new regime in 1965 and those who were fleeing violence throughout the 1960s came to the United States in notable numbers. As time went on, however, and the political situation stabilized, Dominicans continued to emigrate, because of limited employment opportunities and poor economic conditions. Studies have shown that those who emigrate are better educated than those they left on the island and were more likely to have been employed when they left the Dominican Republic. These urban, often professional migrants left the Caribbean to find better opportunities elsewhere (Sherri Grasmuck, "Immigration, Ethnic Stratification, and Native Working Class Discipline: Comparisons of Documented and Undocumented Dominicans," International Migration Review, Volume 18, No. 3, 1984, p. 695).

Puerto Rico is also a principal destination of Dominicans leaving the Dominican Republic. Many Dominicans find employment in this Caribbean territory of the United States, primarily in the service sector (Maria del Carmen Baerga and Lanny Thompson, "Migration in a Small Semiperiphery: The Movement of Puerto Ricans and Dominicans," International Migration Review, Volume 24, No. 4, 1990, pp. 671-677). Many others use Puerto Rico as a stepping stone to the mainland United States. Dominicans maintain a significant presence in Puerto Rico and should be considered a small but important stream in the movement of Dominicans to the United States.


The Dominican Republic has had a long and often contentious relationship with the United States, its culture, and its citizens. Because of extended periods of U.S. occupation and because of U.S. cultural and political hegemony in the Caribbean basin, Dominicans are familiar with the United States and American culture. U.S. movies and television programs are shown regularly in the Dominican Republic. Baseball is the most popular sport in the country. And American values are admired and emulated by many Dominicans. Thus, Dominicans coming to the United States already have more than a passing familiarity with the country to which they are immigrating. Moreover, those migrants who return home are disparaged for the degree to which they have adopted American cultural forms.

Nonetheless, the available evidence suggests that Dominican migrants do not have a simple and wholly positive relationship with Americans and American culture. Most Dominicans work in nonunionized workplaces for wages that most "established" Americans would refuse. Many Dominicans have encountered race prejudice in the United States also. The mixed Afro-Hispanic heritage of many Dominicans has led them to be categorized as black by white Americans; they have encountered the same racial prejudice that African Americans have experienced for centuries. Despite the accusations by their compatriots that they have been assimilated into American culture, Dominicans have tended to be seen by Americans as especially resistant to assimilation and committed to their country, culture, and language of origin.

Dominican Americans are one of the newer national-cultural communities in the United States. They are still in process of creating a unique place for themselves here. Their relationships to the United States and its culture and to the Dominican Republic and Dominican culture are still evolving. The space that Dominicans create for themselves here will surely look in some ways like the spaces other immigrant groups have carved out. However, the Dominican American community will find its own ways of living in the United States, and will make its own unique culture.

Acculturation and Assimilation

Dominicans in the United States have neither abandoned their country and culture of origin nor embraced wholly the culture of their adopted land. The accusations of non-migrant Dominicans that migrants are too "American" clearly indicate that migrants have adopted certain highly visible characteristics of American culture. On the other hand, the regular return of migrants to the Caribbean, the settling of migrants in mostly Dominican, localized areas, and the continued presence of Dominicans near the bottom of the U.S. economic ladder, suggest that Dominicans probably will sustain their "Dominicanness" and remain distinct from the American population as a whole into the twenty-first century. Dominicans still resident in the Caribbean who criticize Dominican migrants point to several aspects of Dominican American culture as "foreign" or "un-Dominican." According to Professor Luis E. Guarnizo, "[M]igrants' style of living, their tastes, and their manners, especially those of youngsters and the most prosperous ... are judged as tasteless and revolting especially by the upper classes." This may suggest that migrant children and the children of migrants are abandoning traditional children's roles and adopting American models of proper behavior and attitude for children. At least one young Dominican migrant has noted that American young people behave differently than Dominican youngsters, that they are "too 'liberal'—so preoccupied with boyfriends, clothes, and the latest fads" (David Gonzalez, "New Country Is Like Prison to Asenhat, 18," New York Times, 20 April 1993, p. A1). Studies have also shown that the Dominican migrant family as well as the occupational profile of migrants are much different from the island family and the occupational profile of islanders.

Many Americans hold several misconceptions about Dominican migrants. Like many other immigrant groups, Dominican migrants have been regarded as coming from the poorest, least educated segment of their country of origin. They have also been accused of placing a substantial burden on federal and state social services. Research conducted in the 1980s has shown both of these ideas to be false. Researchers have reported that the proportion of highly educated Dominicans is greater among the migrant community than among island Dominicans. In the group of Dominicans who entered the country between 1986 and 1991, there were 15,000 professionals. Dominican migrants have also been shown to have more schooling as a group than island Dominicans. Likewise, 99 percent of undocumented immigrants surveyed in 1981 and 85.9 percent of documented immigrants reported that they had never received welfare payments. A majority of both groups also reported that they had never received unemployment compensation or food stamps.

By the late 1990s, however, this trend had changed, with poverty among Dominican Americans on the rise. With the growth of single-parent households headed by women, up 8.6 percent between 1989 and 1997 in New York City, public assistance was more heavily relied on. In 1997, a survey conducted in New York City by City College and Columbia University showed that 50 percent of Dominican American households had a woman at their head, while the poverty rate was 45.7 percent. The trend towards poverty was not sudden. In 1990, only immigrants from the former Soviet Union received more public assistance than Dominicans in New York City.


Little specific information about the Dominican American diet is available. However, many Dominicans operate small independent grocery stores, or bodegas, in Dominican neighborhoods. Such grocery stores, in addition to selling toiletries and American food products, also sell Caribbean and Latin American products and ingredients commonly used in Dominican cooking. The presence of these stores indicates that Dominicans in the United States continue, at least with some frequency, to prepare traditional Dominican dishes (Allen R. Myerson, "Thriving Where Others Won't Go," New York Times, 7 January 1992, pp. D1, D5).


Though it was not an official Dominican American holiday, the growth of the Dominican population can be seen in the annual Dominican Day Parade in New York City. An annual August event since 1981, the parade grew from a small festival confined to one avenue in Washington Heights to a much larger affair. Traditional rituals were performed including the gaga ceremonies (a rite for the sugar cane harvest); merengue music was played; and Dominican delicacies like plantains are eaten. In 1996, the parade attracted 100,000 people.


No sources address the question of the state of Dominican Americans' health in a systematic and complete way. The 1991 report of the American Medical Association on Hispanic health in the United States does not distinguish Dominicans from the group "Central and South Americans" (Council on Scientific Affairs, "Hispanic Health in the United States," Journal of the American Medical Association [JAMA], Volume 265, No. 2, 1991, pp. 248-252); however, the findings for Puerto Ricans may be suggestive. Puerto Ricans are also an Hispanic Caribbean migrant group who have settled largely on the East Coast and especially in New York City. Like Dominicans, they are poorer and have less social power than most Americans. A greater proportion of Puerto Rican infants are born premature or with lower birth weights than white American infants. The homicide rate among Puerto Ricans is much higher than among whites, and the proportion of those not insured is also much greater (Fernando S. Mendoza, et al., "Selected

These Dominican American women are performing in New York City's Hispanic Day Parade.
These Dominican American women are performing in New York City's Hispanic Day Parade.
Measures of Health Status for Mexican-American, Mainland Puerto Rican, and Cuban American Children," in JAMA, Volume 265, No. 2, 1991, pp. 229-230). These few indicators suggest that the health status of Puerto Ricans in the United States is worse than that of white Americans. It is not unreasonable to extrapolate from the Puerto Rican community to the Dominican community and conclude that Dominicans share with Puerto Ricans a lower health status than white Americans.


Dominican migrants are Spanish speakers. The 1980 Census showed that 45 percent of foreign-born Dominicans reported that they could speak English well or very well. More than 52 percent said that they could not speak English well or at all. The large and rapid influx of migrants during the 1980s indicates that a somewhat higher proportion of migrants in the late 1990s might report poor English language capabilities.

Family and Community Dynamics

The Dominican family in America is a different institution than the family in the Dominican Republic. Although kin relationships have continued to be important to migrants in the United States, families have tended to become smaller and more nuclear as migrants remain in the United States longer. Dominican families in the Caribbean are more likely to be large and non-nuclear. A 1981 study showed that while only 1.1 percent of those surveyed resided in nuclear households before emigrating, 30.6 percent did so after more than six months in the United States. Likewise, 43.1 percent of respondents said that they had lived with family members but not with spouses or children before emigrating; after emigration, that proportion was reduced to 23.5 percent (Greta Gilbertson and Douglas T. Gurak, "Household Transitions in the Migrations of Dominicans and Colombians to New York," International Migration Review, Volume 26, No. 1, 1992, p. 27). These numbers suggest both that migrants have tended to marry after some period of residence in the United States and that, after marrying, they have tended not to live in extended or non-nuclear families. Other studies have shown that Dominican women in the United States tend to have fewer children than women in the Dominican Republic (Vivian Garrison and Carol I. Weiss, "Dominican Family Networks and United States Immigration Policy: A Case Study," in Caribbean Life in New York City: Sociocultural Dimensions, p. 229).

Gender roles within the family seem also to have been transformed in the migration. The Dominican family tends to be patriarchal. Male heads of household exercise control over household budgets and have final authority over family members. Women in households are responsible for domestic tasks and maintenance. Among Dominican migrants, however, this pattern seems to be changing. Dominican women in the United States have demanded greater control over budgets and have wrested some authority from their husbands. Their new role as co-breadwinners seems to have empowered them to challenge male authority in the household more effectively (Patricia R. Pessar, "The Linkage Between the Household and Workplace of Dominican Women in the U.S.," in Caribbean Life in New York: Sociocultural Dimensions, pp. 241-245).

These changes in the structure and organization of the Dominican family in the United States suggest that the process of courting and the institution of marriage have changed. While there are no authoritative or specific treatments of these topics, it seems reasonable to conclude from the above evidence about gender relations within marriages that gender relations among dating couples may well be changing also.

However, by the late 1990s in New York City, a trend towards single-parent households headed by women among Dominican Americans was identified. In a 1997 survey, nearly 50 percent of Dominican American households were helmed by a woman; nearly the same number lived in poverty. Some experts blamed the immigration process itself for long-term separations of families. Others point to economic pressures in the United States and the lack of formal marriages among many Dominicans. When men failed to fulfill their role as providers, they abandon their families, often leaving them destitute. Many of these women had no job skills and did not speak English, and were forced to scrape by, with the help of public assistance, to support themselves and their children. Seeing that their children get an education in the United States was often seen as their only hope.

Education seems to occupy a place of importance in the Dominican migrant world view. Certainly the migrants themselves are as a group better educated than Dominicans who remain at home. Dominicans in the United States have also fought some of their most significant political battles over education. In the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, Dominicans organized to gain a voice on the local school board. That board had been dominated by non-Dominicans even though Dominicans represented a majority of school age children in the district. Dominicans campaigned to put representatives of their own community on the board and were successful. The political mobilization around education marked one of the New York Dominican community's early forays into the realm of city politics, and at least one Dominican city leader began his political career on the Washington Heights board of education.

Statistics on the level of education of the native-born Dominican American community as a whole are difficult to find. The Census Bureau classified Dominicans as "Central/South Americans" for the 1990 census—along with many other South and Central American communities. These groups, of course, are not comparable: their forebears came from radically different cultures, and they inhabit very different socioeconomic "worlds" in the United States. The 1990 Census showed that 15.6 percent of Americans of Central/South American origin were college graduates. However, it is likely that the percentage of Americans of Dominican descent who had graduated college by 1990 is substantially smaller. The percentage of Dominican migrants that the 1980 Census reported as college graduates was 4.3 percent.

Apparently as important to the community as education is another institution that at first glance seems frivolous. Baseball, however, is far more than sport or recreation to Dominicans both in the Caribbean and in the United States. According to one writer, baseball is integral to Dominican identity: "In the Dominican Republic baseball has a place all out of proportion to the normal one of sport in society. There is nothing comparable to it in the United States.... Americans may love the game of baseball as much as Dominicans do, but they do not need it as much." (Milton Jamail, "Baseball and Latin America" [book review], Studies in Latin American Popular Culture, No. 11, 1992, p. 220.)

A story on baseball in Washington Heights, New York, suggests that Dominican migrants have retained their love for the game. Players use their earnings to pay for equipment, and mothers make sure that sons do not work on game days. The community gathers to watch the young people on the diamond (Sara Rimer, "Summer's Game and the Ties that Bind," New York Times, 6 May 1991, pp. B1, B6). Scholars of baseball in the Dominican Republic have noted that becoming a professional baseball player is the dream of many Dominicans. Baseball represents a way out of poverty for the largely poor population of the Caribbean nation. And, as the national pastime, baseball represents a way to demonstrate the pride Dominicans have in their nation.


Religion remains little commented upon in the literature on Dominicans in the United States. Dominicans in the Caribbean are overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, and it seems likely that a majority in the United States also profess that faith (Saskia Sassen-Koob, "Formal and Informal Associations: Dominicans and Colombians in New York," in Caribbean Life in New York: Sociocultural Dimensions, p. 262). Some Dominicans also participate in Afro-Catholic religious rituals and communities of the tradition known as Santeria . It is not known how many Dominicans in the United States practice santeria, which is primarily associated with Cuban Americans and Puerto Ricans. santeria combines certain aspects of Catholic belief with aspects of West African, chiefly Yoruba, belief and practice. Participating in santeria rites does not preclude belonging to a Catholic church and practicing that tradition (Stephen Gregory, "Afro-Caribbean Religions in New York City: The Case of Santeria ," in Caribbean Life in New York: Sociocultural Dimensions, pp. 287-302).

Employment and Economic Traditions

While significant numbers of those who immigrate from the Dominican Republic to the United States were professionals before they emigrated, the vast

Dominican American Ysaes Amaro performs a traditional dance for the Latin Festival of the Day of the Dead.
Dominican American Ysaes Amaro performs a traditional dance for the Latin Festival of the Day of the Dead.
number once they are in the United States are employed in low-wage, low-prestige jobs. The 1980 census showed that, among foreign-born Dominicans, only 6.9 percent occupied "upper white-collar" positions while 33.5 percent occupied "lower blue-collar" positions. Rates among the U.S. population as a whole were quite different: 22.7 percent upper white-collar and 18.3 percent lower blue-collar; and 22.1 percent of foreign-born Dominican families lived in poverty, compared with 9.6 percent of the total U.S. population. In 1997, in New York City, those number were considerably higher. Approximately 45.7 percent of Dominicans lived in poverty, compared to a city-wide rate of 23.8 percent.

A study conducted around the same time provides more detailed information about Dominican migrants. That study showed that the proportion of professionals among migrants decreased markedly as migrants moved from the Dominican Republic to the United States. At the same time, the proportion of laborers increased dramatically. That study also showed that among those employed as laborers, the majority worked in manufacturing, with a sizable number of men also working in restaurants and hotels. These laborers worked primarily for smaller firms; 40 percent earned less than $150 each week; and 45 percent worked in non-unionized workplaces. A much larger proportion, in other words, earned less and were less protected at their workplaces than most Americans. According to Guarnizo, more recent treatments of the topic have suggested that things have not changed for most Dominicans in the United States: "Toiling in dead-end, low-paid jobs in the secondary labor market remains the most common path of economic incorporation for Dominicans in the United States." The reasons for the economic position of Dominican Americans are easy to guess at: the language barrier, discrimination, the illegal status of many in the community, and the lower level of education of the Dominican American community as a whole relative to the average level of education of the U.S. population.

The garment industry employs the greatest number of Dominican women in the New York area. Many of these Dominican garment workers are employed in what is called the "informal sector" of the garment industry, in small firms that are not regulated or unionized. Women who work for these firms are paid much lower wages and enjoy little job security or protection while on the job. Other women clean houses and do other odd jobs outside the organized labor market.

Despite the fact that most in the U.S. Dominican community work in low-paid, low-status jobs, a significant number own businesses that often draw many of their customers from the immigrant and ethnic communities. The Ctown Group, a voluntary association of 167 small grocery stores in metropolitan New York, says that half of its stores are owned and operated by Dominicans. Other similar associations in New York report high levels of Dominican ownership as well. The Dominican involvement in the groceries trade goes even farther: many Dominicans own and operate bodegas in their neighborhoods that are not affiliated with any grocery association.

Politics and Government

The U.S. Dominican community has taken up several important political issues both in the United States and in the Dominican Republic. Education, the status of undocumented migrants in the United States, citizenship status, and police violence against Dominicans have been the most important. In the 1970s, a union of several Dominican associations called Concilio de Organizaciones Dominicanas (Council of Dominican Organizations) began to push for greater rights for undocumented Dominicans in the United States. In the same decade, a group called Asociacion Nacional de Dominicanos Ausentes (National Association of Absent Dominicans) lobbied the Dominican government for the right of migrants in the United States to vote in Dominican elections. More recently, Dominican migrants have pushed the Dominican Republic to permit Dominicans in the United States to retain their Dominican citizenship so that they will be considered citizens when they return home to visit or to live, as many do.

The most significant recent mobilization of Dominicans in the United States was in response to the 1992 police shooting of Dominican Jose Garcia in New York City. The Dominican community was outraged. Already established Dominican organizations joined the mobilization against police violence, and new organizations formed in response to it. Demonstrations were held in the Washington Heights neighborhood, and there were other, less peaceful expressions of anger as well. The Alianza Dominicana , a community organization, worked to channel communal anger into positive directions, and Dominican leaders worked with city and police officials. The mobilization attracted the attention of community leaders throughout the city (Maria Newman, "New Leadership Forms in a Crucible of Violence," New York Times, 11 July 1992, p. 23). Other groups, such as the Union of Young Dominicans, hoped to address the issues faced by Dominican immigrants. The Dominican Women's Development Center provided help towards self-sufficiency. Dominicans have not yet entered the arena of national politics, but they have made impressive strides at the local level. The 1990s have seen the election in New York City of the city's first Dominican city councilor, Guillermo Linares.

Individual and Group Contributions

Though Dominicans have been coming to the United States in very significant numbers only for 25 years, they have as a community already contributed immensely to U.S. culture, society, and politics.


Elsa Gomez serves as president of Kean College of New Jersey. Born in 1938 in New York City, she faced a controversy at Kean that catapulted her into the national spotlight; Jewish students were outraged when a Nation of Islam speaker made remarks that many regarded as anti-Semitic.


Oscar de la Renta (1932– ), born in the Dominican Republic, is a world-renowned fashion designer and creator of his own line of high-end women's clothing.


Agustin Rodriguez (1967– ), born in New York City, is frequently seen on network television and in the movies; he has had smaller roles in Final Analysis and Falling Down and has guest-starred on the television series "Street Justice" and "Sirens." He was a regular on the series "Moon over Miami."


Born in the United States and raised in part in the Dominican Republic, Julia Alvarez has already shown herself to be a talented and provocative writer and poet; Alvarez is the author of the much-lauded story collection, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents; her work has treated the experience of growing up in two cultures. Tony Marcano (1960– ) has served as a reporter for several nationally known newspapers during his career as a journalist; he was born in New York City and served as editor of the "City Times" section of the Los Angeles Times.


Guillermo Linares (1950– ), born in the Dominican Republic, is a former Washington Heights school board member and the first Dominican city councilor in New York City; he has had a distinguished career as local politician.


Mary Joe Fernandez (1971– ) was born in the Dominican Republic; she played in her first Grand Slam tennis tournament at the age of 14; she has played in the final of the Australian Open and the semifinals of the U.S. Open; she has also been a winning doubles player, taking eight tournaments; her earnings exceed $2.1 million. Juan Marichal (1938– ), born in the Dominican Republic, is a baseball Hall of Famer and a former pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, the Boston Red Sox, and the Los Angeles Dodgers; he works as a scout for the Oakland A's.

Organizations and Associations

Center for the Development and Protection of Dominicans.

Contact: Yutelka Tapia.

Address: c/o Yutelka Tapia, 245 East 180th Street, Suite 2C, Bronx, New York 10457-2905.

Dominican-American Foundation.

Contact: Dr. Hugo M. Morales.

Address: 1211 Gerard Avenue, Bronx, New York 10452-8001.

Museums and Research Centers

Dominican Genealogic Institute.

Founded in 1983. Historians, academics, and genealogy researchers who encourage the study and practice of genealogy in the Dominican Republic. Identifies the ancestors of Dominican families and constructs family trees. Publishes a bulletin called RAICES.

Contact: Luis José Prieto-Nouel, General Secretary.

Address: EPS A306, P.O. Box 52-4121, Miami, Florida 33184.

Telephone: (809) 686-8849.

Fax: (809) 687-0027.


Online: .

Sources for Additional Study

Americas: New Interpretive Essays, edited by Alfred Stepan. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Caribbean Life in New York: Sociocultural Dimensions, edited by Constance R. Sutton and Elsa M. Chaney. New York: Center of Migration Studies for New York, 1992.

Del Castillo, Jose, and Martin F. Murphy. "Migration, National Identity and Cultural Policy in the Dominican Republic," Journal of Ethnic Studies, 15, No. 3, 1987, p. 67.

Klein, Alan M. Sugarball: The American Game, the Dominican Dream. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991.

Ojito, Mirta. "Dominicans, Scrambling for Hope," The New York Times, December 16, 1997; p. B1.

Torres-Saillant, Silvio. The Dominican Americans. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Also read article about Dominican Americans from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 9, 2007 @ 10:10 am
Great information! But,
Maybe you should add what is there traditional dance, song and clothes!
daija james
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 19, 2010 @ 9:09 am
i luv dominican people Im actually dominican myself
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 24, 2010 @ 10:10 am
where do dominicans decend from geographiclly... plz email me asap if you have the answer at i have a project on my culture but i need to know where dominicans decent from geographiclly my january 26 2010 this tuesday...thnx :)
Report this comment as inappropriate
Aug 1, 2010 @ 2:02 am
This report contains great references and imprtant information concerning the changes with the immigrants social, political, economic, and linguisicts within American culture.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Aug 9, 2010 @ 4:04 am
is this web site credible? I am doing a report for school ans was wondering if this site is credible for academic essays?
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 22, 2010 @ 9:09 am
Please tell me how I can get a resident permition or Domonican citizenship, I will be thankfull if you help me.

Sincerely B.A.Meshkani
Report this comment as inappropriate
Nov 17, 2010 @ 9:21 pm
This was a great article - a wealth of information. However, I have a few questions not covered in this article - maybe someone reading these comments can assist me. I am seriously considering become involved with someone from Santo Domingo - and if all goes as I believe - we will most like want to live in this country. However, he speaks very little english and currently works in sports and recreation (baseball team). I'm attempting to locate any associations in this country that assist with helping immigrants of Dominican descent acclimate to American culture in relation to language, culture, community, education, and employment. Are there any refernces or organizations that could answer questions I may have concerning these areas. My email address is Any assistance is appreciated. BTW, I currently live in Ohio, and would be willing to relocate so that he has the support of a Dominican community.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Dec 28, 2010 @ 3:15 pm
the first dominicans in the area of new york citi,were the rodriguez in 1614 so they are the first spanish-speaking in the big apple.

ruddy. 10029 new york,
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 31, 2011 @ 7:19 pm
I love this website. It has been a great resource for my schoolwork and for fun browsing to learn.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Apr 5, 2011 @ 2:02 am
Great articles on this site...need more info for citations. Any suggestions? Really just need the date the article was written! Thanks!
Report this comment as inappropriate
Apr 26, 2011 @ 11:11 am
I happen to think that one of the nicest people in the world you could ever meet is a Dominican and at this time he happens to be one of the most popular people in the United States. His name is Albert Pujols and he is the number one home run hitter in the baseball world today. He plays the sport for the St. Louis Cardinals and he also returns to the Dominican Republic to help those in need by giving them new mattresses and shoes, and he also brought a doctor there so that the members of the communities could get proper health care check ups. He brings books to the children in the Dominican Republic and also started a baseball camp for the children who want to play just like him.
Report this comment as inappropriate
May 7, 2011 @ 3:03 am
I just wanted to know when this article was written?
Report this comment as inappropriate
May 28, 2011 @ 3:15 pm
Thank you for the information, but you may have a typo...
I believe the Dominican Republic is the eastern two-thirds of the island and Haiti is the western third.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jul 11, 2011 @ 11:11 am
as a dominican -american i love to know that there are websites like this one that can enhance my knowledge of the Dominican Republic. I was born and raised in new york, but every summer i would go to d.r to visit family. i love it! I am married to a puerto rican woman and have three boys. My wife and kids have visited the dominican republic and love it. Thank you all who have made this site possible.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Aug 21, 2011 @ 1:13 pm
You said the Dominican Republic occupies the western half, I'm pretty sure you meant to say the Eastern But its still a great article.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Nov 26, 2011 @ 12:12 pm
Wow, I must say that this information is quite impressive creditable. All the questions I had in my head have been answered. Dominicans should be proud of their culture9for those who aren't). My girlfriend is Dominican, born and raised in 'el campo' and she talks about her experience all the time and given the reasons her fore parents left definately coincides with the information presented here. I must also add that I'm pleased to say that this cite has helped me in yet my second assignment. I'll gladly recommend any individual curious of Dominicans in whatever way to visit this cite in order to be taught. Thanks to all the contributors.

El Caballero
Report this comment as inappropriate
Dec 15, 2011 @ 9:09 am
i love dominican republic .

im dominican myself
marisol perez
Report this comment as inappropriate
Nov 21, 2012 @ 9:09 am
I am so glad i stumbled upon this site.I never found so much information on my culture in one site . I was born in new york but my parents were born and raised in dominican republic. Sadly i have never been there.When ever i was asked where are u from i always say i was born and raised here but my parents are dominican . Some people deny there culture but the way i see it is , the blood that runs threw my veins is dominican therefore so am I . I hope to go one day in the near future .
Donnie Lockhart
Report this comment as inappropriate
Aug 3, 2016 @ 1:13 pm
I am a African Ammerican and after reading this article, found this Article interesting.
I would like to obtain more infomation that would assist me with more Support Of my Dominican Family.
Thank you.

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: