Dominican Republic

Traditions and customs of the Dominican Republic

What traditions and customs are there in the Dominican Republic?

We will see the customs and traditions of the Dominican Republic.


Food in daily life

The main meal is served at noon and can last up to two hours. Bandera is a nationally popular dish; white rice and red beans recall the colors of the flag, hence its name. The third ingredient is braised meat, which is usually served with fried plantain and salad.

Another favorite dish is sancocho, a meat, plantain, and vegetable stew. On the coast, fish and conch are enjoyed, and coconut is used to sweeten many seafood dishes. Root vegetables include sweet potatoes, yams, cassava and potatoes. Small amounts of chicken, beef, pork, or goat are eaten with a meal. The food is generally not spicy.

Dining out is popular and the restaurants in Santo Domingo are superior and reasonably priced. The Hotel Lina has been chosen as one of the ten best restaurants in the world. Even the food sold by street vendors, such as grilled meat or tostones (fried plantain patties), is delicious.

Food customs on ceremonial occasions

On special occasions, like Christmas or Easter, extended families sit together for big parties. Roast pork, pigeon peas (small yellow beans), and boiled chestnuts are served at Christmas. Fish is the traditional dish at Easter.


Three different types of conjugal union include church marriages, civil marriages, and consensual or common law unions.

Church and civil marriages are more frequent among the upper classes and the ceremonies can be expensive, while consensual unions predominate among the poor. These patterns date back to the Spanish colonial era and that of the slaves. The Spanish settlers brought with them a strong ethic of family solidarity, and the father was the dominant figure.

Slave families break up and marriages are often not allowed. Informal unions between Spanish settlers and African slave women were encouraged, and today’s range of skin tones and marriage practices are a reflection of colonial heritage.


Politeness is a very important aspect of social interaction. When you walk into a room or start a conversation, it’s polite to give a general greeting such as buenos dias, which means “good morning.” Handshakes are another friendly gesture.

Personal appearance is important to Dominicans and they go to great lengths to appear clean and tidy. They like the latest in New York fashion. Men wear long pants and smart shirts, except when they are on the beach or doing manual labor.

Professional men wear business suits or the traditional chacabana, a white shirt worn over dark pants. Rural women wear skirts or dresses, but in urban areas jeans and short skirts are acceptable. Bright colors and shiny fabrics are preferred.

Children often dress up, especially for church or to visit. Shorts are not allowed in government buildings and shorts and tank tops are not to be worn in church.

Formal introductions are rare, but professional titles are used to address respected people. Older and more prominent people may be called Don (for men) or Doña (for women), with or without their first names.

Most women ride sideways while on the back of motorcycles, because sitting with your legs apart is considered unladylike. Personal space is limited, contact is normal, and crowding is common, especially on public transport.

Dominicans are lively and often make gestures and use body language. “Come here” is indicated with the palm down and the fingers together waving inward. To hail a taxi or bus, one wags a finger or fingers depending on the number of passengers needing a ride.

Dominicans point with pursed lips instead of a finger. Men shake hands firmly when greeting, and close friends hug. Most women kiss on both cheeks, and a man who trusts a woman will kiss her too.


Religious beliefs

About 95 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, although not all of these people regularly attend church. Catholicism was introduced by Columbus and the Spanish missionaries and is still a major force in shaping society today.

Although many Dominicans are quite secular, children are often taught to ask for the blessing of their parents and other relatives when they greet them. For example, a child may say “Bless me, Auntie,” and the response is “God bless you.”

The dominance of the Catholic Church waned in the late 20th century, due to declining funds, a shortage of priests, and a lack of social programs for the people. Although some Protestants are descendants of non- Spanish immigrants who arrived on the island in the early 19th century, the Protestant evangelical movement has been gaining more support.

The style of worship is much less formal than that of the Catholic Church, emphasizing family rejuvenation, biblical teachings, and financial independence. Despite differences in beliefs and opinions, there is little conflict between religious groups.

During World War II (1939-1945) the small town of Sosúsa was built by a group of European Jews who escaped persecution, and remains the center of the island’s small Jewish population.

Voodoo is practiced in secret, mostly along the Haitian border, and originated with African slaves, particularly those from the Dahomey region. Practitioners believe in one God and many lesser spirits.

They believe that each individual has a protective spirit that rewards the person with wealth and punishes them with illness. Nature spirits oversee the outside world. Ancestral spirits are the souls of dead ancestors and will protect the living if properly remembered with funerals and memorials.

Because the early settlers banned the practice of Voodoo, people learned to disguise the spirits of Roman Catholic saints. For example, the Virgin who represents motherhood, beauty, love and sex is Erzulie. Although many voodoo products are for sale in the markets, voodoo is unpopular with most Dominicans.

Religious professionals

Roman Catholicism has been combined with traditional folk religion, especially in rural areas. It is very common for devout Catholics to consult a folk practitioner for spiritual advice or to avert calamity.

The incantation is a healing song that is usually performed by an older woman, and is one of the most respected popular practices. Folk healers work through the saints and ask for special help for those in need.

Some people are skilled at using herbs and other natural objects for healing, and are called witches. They are also believed to have the power to banish evil spirits.

Secular celebrations

Secular holidays include New Year’s Day on January 1; Juan Pablo Duarte’s Birthday on January 26; Haitian Independence Day, celebrated with a carnival that includes parades, costumes, and parties on February 27; Pan American Day on April 14; and Labor Day on May 1; the Foundation of the Trinitarian Society on July 16; the Santo Domingo Merengue Festival, at the end of July; the founding of Santo Domingo on August 5; Restoration Day on August 16; Columbus Day on October 12; and United Nations Day on October 24.

The arts and humanities

Arts support

There are a variety of organizations and schools that support all forms of art, from fine art to traditional crafts. The Fine Arts Council controls the Academies of Music, the National Conservatory of Music and Elocution, the School of Performing Arts, the School of Fine Arts (in three different cities), and the School of Plastic Arts.

The Institute of Dominican Culture promotes cultural tradition and encourages artistic creation and the expression of the spirit of the Dominican people. Recently, Dominican artists have gained international recognition.

In the capital, Santo Domingo, there is a neighborhood of Haitian immigrants, which includes many people who try to make a living by selling their paintings to tourists. The paintings are usually oil on canvas and are colourful, stylish and inexpensive. These people have a history of being mistreated by the police.


The Dominican literary heritage has historically come from the elite, particularly the Henríque-Ureña family, who had the advantage of formal education. The works and literary style have a European influence, especially Spanish and French.

Gaston Fernando Deligne led the movement towards modernism. Don Pedro Mir is known as the National Poet. More recent Dominican authors, such as Julia Álvarez, are leaving Spanish influences behind and creating a unique Dominican style.

Graphic arts

Folk arts provide a cottage industry for many. Both glazed and unglazed terracotta pottery pieces are sold in the markets. Especially popular are terracotta figures for Christmas cribs. Carved gourds or gourds are made into masks or filled with seeds to sound like maracas.

Rural women are well known for their macramé hammocks and bags. Other crafts include basket weaving, palm weaving, and jewelry made from coral and native seashells. The most elaborate jewelry is made from amber and larimar, an ocean-blue semi-precious stone found only in the Dominican Republic.

Performing arts

Dominicans love music and dance. Merengue, with its African rhythm and spirit of Spanish salsa, is the most popular. Other influences are the sound of Jamaican reggae and Spanish guitar. Music can be heard on every street corner and there are huge outdoor festivals. There is also the National Conservatory of Music and Oratory.

Share the customs and traditions of the Dominican Republic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button