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The Dominican Republic (/dəˈmɪnɪkən/ də-MIN-ik-ən; Spanish: República Dominicana, pronounced [reˈpuβlika ðominiˈkana] (listen)) is a country located on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean region. It occupies the eastern five-eighths of the island, which it shares with Haiti, making Hispaniola one of only two Caribbean islands, along with Saint Martin, that is shared by two sovereign states. The Dominican Republic is the second-largest nation in the Antilles by area (after Cuba) at 48,671 square kilometers (18,792 sq mi), and third-largest by population, with approximately 10.7 million people (2022 est.), down from 10.8 million in 2020, of whom approximately 3.3 million live in the metropolitan area of Santo Domingo, the capital city. The official language of the country is Spanish.
The Arawakan-speaking Taíno moved into Hispaniola from the north east region of what is now known as South America, displacing earlier inhabitants, c. 650 C.E. They engaged in farming, fishing, hunting and gathering. The fierce Caribs drove the Taíno to the northeastern Caribbean, during much of the 15th century. The estimates of Hispaniola's population in 1492 vary widely, including tens of thousands, one hundred thousand, three hundred thousand, and four hundred thousand to two million. Determining precisely how many people lived on the island in pre-Columbian times is next to impossible, as no accurate records exist. By 1492, the island was divided into five Taíno chiefdoms. The Taíno name for the entire island was either Ayiti or Quisqueya.[better source needed]
After its conquest of the Aztecs and Incas, Spain neglected its Caribbean holdings. Hispaniola's sugar plantation economy quickly declined. Most Spanish colonists left for the silver-mines of Mexico and Peru, while new immigrants from Spain bypassed the island. Agriculture dwindled, enslaved people were no longer transported to the island, and white colonists, free Black people, and enslaved Black people alike lived in poverty. The breakdown of racial and class-based social hierarchies facilitated an increase in cross-cultural contact, resulting in a population of predominantly mixed Spanish, Taíno, and African 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 one of the main sources of livelihood for the island's inhabitants.
In the mid-17th century, France sent colonists to settle the island of Tortuga and the northwestern coast of Hispaniola (which the Spaniards had abandoned by 1606) due to its strategic position in the region. In order to entice the pirates, France supplied them with women who had been taken from prisons, accused of prostitution and thieving. After decades of armed struggles with the French settlers, Spain ceded the western coast of the island to France with the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick, whilst the Central Plateau remained under Spanish domain. France created a wealthy colony on the island, while the Spanish colony continued to suffer economic decline.
Haiti's constitution forbade white elites from owning land, and Dominican major landowning families were forcibly deprived of their properties. During this time, many white elites in Santo Domingo did not consider owning slaves due to the economic crisis that Santo Domingo faced during the España Boba period. The few landowners that wanted slavery established in Santo Domingo had to emigrate to Cuba, Puerto Rico, or Gran Colombia. Many landowning families stayed on the island, with a heavy concentration of landowners settling in the Cibao region. After independence, and eventually being under Spanish rule once again in 1861, many families returned to Santo Domingo including new waves of immigration from Spain.