Skip to main content

Today we are going back to the basics. We believe that to truly understand the Global Water Crisis and its effect on the world, it is important to understand the history of countries where we are working to partner with communities to bring access to clean water. Our Director of Field Development & Partnerships, JJ Gomez, has taken the time to sit down and share a bit of the history of his country with us and we wanted to share it with you! So, here’s to all of you history/economy/political buffs out there. Grab a warm cup of coffee, find a comfortable seat, and dig into this post because it’s full of great information.

by JJ Gomez, Director of Field Development & Partnerships: Healing Waters International

The history of the Dominican Republic is truly an interesting one. Christopher Columbus, or Cristobal Colón as he is known in Latin America, in an attempt to find a shorter trade route to India, arrived in 1492 to what is today the island of Hispaniola, home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  The island’s original inhabitants were a group of Arawak aborigines, most commonly known as theTaino, who had “island-hopped” from present day South America.  Although most historical accounts report that the entire population of “Indians” was wiped out by either disease brought over from Europe (influenza) or from direct slaughter by the Spanish, some modern day Dominicans claim heritage back to the native aborigines.  Many historians believe that inter-relations between the European and Taino, and then with the slave population brought over from Africa, resulted in the Ladino, Afro-European and Mulatto type populations which has given the country its present ethnic diversity.

The city of Santo Domingo, present day capital of the Dominican Republic, was the first official European settlement in the Americas, founded 520 years ago and built over a period of two years (1496 -1498).  It quickly became the representative seat of the Spanish Royal Court and, as such, was an important city of power and influence in the New World and, as the first city and head of the regional government, it also became home to the first Catholic Cathedral, built between 1512 and 1540, the first University “Santo Tomás de Aquino” established in 1538 and the very first Hospital.

Since the late 1400’s both France and Spain controlled the island at different points in time, and even the United States held a presence, ruling for a brief period in the early 20th century. The entire island remained under Spanish control for close to 200 years, until 1697, when the western third (present day Haiti) was given to France under the Ryswick treaty.  In 1795, by the Treaty of Basel, Spain ceded the colony of Santo Domingo to France, however French control did not last for too long.  In 1804, a revolution started by the slave population and headed by Toussaint Louverture, gained independence for the western part of the island, Haiti, becoming the first free black republic on the planet.  However, the eastern two-thirds of the island, the Dominican Republic, did not benefit from this revolution.  Even though Haiti was now free, the Dominican Republic continued to be ruled by France for another five years.streaming King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

A decisive battle returned control of the eastern side once again over to Spain in the year 1809 and then, finally in 1821, a revolt in the Dominican Republic managed to gain independence from Spain.  While the Dominican Republic was freed from Spanish control, this did not grant the Dominican people true independence.  In 1822, the country fell under political control from Haiti, and this remained as such for another twenty-two years.  In 1844, a group led by Juan Pablo Duarte, Matías Ramón Mella and Francisco del Rosario Sánchez were able to wrest control from Haiti and finally establish the Dominican Republic as a true and independent country. The country’s first constitution was adopted on November 6, 1844.


From being the gateway for matters related to Government, Faith, Education and Health to the New World, in a little over 500 years the Dominican Republic has fallen notably behind in most of these areas. Of particular concern, since it affects the largest number of Dominicans, and being a crucial element to ensure sustainable development of the country, is the critical state of Education.

That Was Then – 2010

In a study prepared in 2010 by the International Commission of Strategic Development for the Dominican Republic, a team of experts under the direction of French economist Jacques Attali, and presented to then President Leonel Fernández in April 2011, while recognizing the sustained growth experienced by the Dominican Republic over the last forty years, cautions that the Dominican economy “remains vulnerable and the fundamentals are more conducive to stimulating consumption, than to anticipate innovations and education needs in the long term.” The report stated that even though the country, where one-third of the population is under 14 years of age, has a competent rate of enrollment (91.3% ages 6 to 13), the results of the school system ranked the country among the least efficient of the region.

The report identified three main reasons for these results:

  1. Public expenditure for education is much smaller when compared to that of most other countries in Latin America. At 2% of the GDP, compared to 4% average in the region, there are not enough infrastructures to provide access for all children and as a result, students were receiving, on average, 2 hours of education a day, in overcrowded classrooms.
  2. The low educational level of teachers does not allow them to attain higher results for their students.According to the United Nations Development Program, the United Nations’ organization that connects countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help development, by 2006, only 56.9% of the teachers had levels equivalent to bachelor’s degree and less than 5% met the official school program.
  3. Schools do not have any degree of autonomy. For example, it is prohibited for local schools to execute minor maintenance repairs or purchase supplies without the approval of the Central Administration Offices at the Education Board. Educational policy is implemented through a decentralized structure based on three Regional Centers, which are organized in districts that are the true representatives of local policy controlling ministry and schools. A reform is needed that will ensure the transfer of competencies to the district and the school levels.

The report then states that while the economy in the country is growing at a positive pace and proving to be sustainable, a competitive market economy without proper investment in human capital development will be difficult to maintain.

To be continued…

We’re on a mission to end the global water crisis. We build holistic clean water solutions and spread God’s love in at-risk communities around the world, empowering people not just to survive, but to thrive – physically, socially and spiritually.

Share this

Leave a Reply