The Dominican people and their customs have predominately European cultural origins consisting basis, with both African and native Taíno influences. The Dominican Republic was the site of the first European settlement in the New World, namely Santo Domingo, founded in 1493. Shortly after the arrival of the Europeans, African people were imported to the island to serve as slave labour. The fusion of European, African and Taíno traditions and customs contributed to the development of present-day Dominican culture.
Spanish is the predominant language in the Dominican Republic. The local dialect, Dominican Spanish, resembles Canarian Spanish and borrows vocabularies from the Arawak language the Taíno natives.
The Dominican Republic is 68.9% Roman Catholic, 18.2% Evangelical, 10.6% atheists and 2.3% other. It is important to note that there has always been religious freedom in the country.
The most recognized genre in the Dominican Republic is called merengue, a type of lively, fast-paced rhythm and dance music consisting of a tempo of about 120 to 160 beats per minute based on musical elements such as the African drums, brass, piano, chorded instruments and the accordion as well as the tambora and güira, two instruments unique to the Dominican Republic. Some well-known merengue performers include Johnny Ventura, Juan Luis Guerra, Fernando Villalona, Eddy Herrera, Sergio Vargas, Toño Rosario, Milly Quezada and Chichi Peralta.
Another form of music is called bachata. Bachata originated in the countryside and rural marginal neighbourhoods of the Dominican Republic and has gained popularity recently. Bachata grew out of the pan-Latin American romantic style called boleros. Over time, it has been influence by merengue and by a variety of Latin American guitar styles.
The cuisine of the Dominican Republic is predominantly made up of a combination of Spanish, indigenous Taíno, and African influences. Many Middle-Eastern dishes have been adopted into Dominican cuisine, such as the “Quipe.” A traditional breakfast would consist of mangú, sautéed onions, fried eggs, fried salami, fried cheese, and sometimes avocado. Meals tend to favour meats and starches over dairy products and vegetables. Some of the favourite Dominican foods are chicharrón, yuca, casabe, pastelitos (empanadas), batata, yam, chaca (also called maíz caqueao/casqueado, maíz con dulce and maíz con leche), chimichurris, tostones. Some treats Dominicans enjoy arroz con leche (or arroz con dulce), bizcocho dominicano (lit. Dominican cake), habichuelas con dulce, flan, frío frío (snow cones), dulce de leche, and caña (sugar cane). The beverages Dominicans usually drink include Morir Soñando, rum, beer, Mama Juana, batida (smoothie), jugos naturales (freshly squeezed fruit juices), mabí, and coffee.
Carnival celebrations are held in the Dominican Republic each February with parades, street dancing, food festivals and music. Festivities also take place in the week leading up to Easter Sunday. Parades, beauty pageants, and different festivals in each town throughout the country fill the week.