The Dominican Republic (Spanish: República Dominicana) is a nation on the island of Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries. Both by area and population, the Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean nation (after Cuba), with 48,442 square kilometres (18,704 sq mi) and an estimated 10 million people.
Taínos inhabited what is now the Dominican Republic since the 7th century. Christopher Columbus landed on it in 1492, and it became the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas, namely Santo Domingo, the country's capital and Spain's first capital in the New World. Santo Domingo can boast of many firsts in the Americas, including the first cathedral, and castle, both in the Ciudad Colonial area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
After three centuries of Spanish rule, with French and Haitian interludes, the country became independent in 1821 under the rule of a former colonial judge who maintained the system of slavery and limited rights for the mostly mulatto and black population. The ruler, José Núñez de Cáceres, intended that the Dominican Republic be part of the nation of Gran Colombia, but he was quickly removed by the Haitian government and "Dominican" slave revolts. Victorious in the Dominican War of Independence in 1844, Dominicans experienced mostly internal strife, and also a brief return to Spanish rule, over the next 72 years. The United States occupation of 1916–1924, and a subsequent calm and prosperous six-year period under Horacio Vásquez Lajara, were followed by the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina until 1961. The civil war of 1965, the country's last, was ended by a U.S.-led intervention, and was followed by the authoritarian rule of Joaquín Balaguer, 1966–1978. Since then, the Dominican Republic has moved toward representative democracy, and has been led by Leonel Fernández for most of the time after 1996.
The Dominican Republic has become the Caribbean's largest tourist destination; the country's year-round golf courses are among the top attractions.
The Dominican Republic is situated on the eastern part of the second-largest island in the Greater Antilles, Hispaniola. It shares the island roughly at a 2:1 ratio with Haiti. The country's area is reported variously as 48,442 km² (by the embassy in the United States) and 48,730 km² (by the U.S. CIA), making it the second largest country in the Antilles, after Cuba. The country's capital and greatest metropolitan area, Santo Domingo, is located on the southern coast.
There are many small offshore islands and cays that are part of the Dominican territory. The two largest islands near shore are Saona, in the southeast, and Beata, in the southwest. To the north, at distances of 100–200 kilometres (62–124 mi), are three extensive, largely submerged banks, which geographically are a southeast continuation of the Bahamas: Navidad Bank, Silver Bank, and Mouchoir Bank. Navidad Bank and Silver Bank have been officially claimed by the Dominican Republic.