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    Dominicana On Line - El Portal de la República Dominicana


    The Christianization of the New World, which began in the Cradle of America – The Dominican Republic, planted the seed of Catholicism, which was fruitful through the centuries. In the twenty-first century, 64% of the Dominican population claims to profess the Catholic religion (ENDESA 2002). Two years ago, in 2000, a Gallup survey showed a higher percentage of the population that identifies itself as Catholic: 75%.

    The predominance of Catholicism sits against a backdrop of a strong Catholic hierarchy that is present in all the social, economic and political aspects of the culture, as seen in the Concordat signed by the Holy Seed and the Dominican Republic in 1954. The agreement has permitted the church in Rome to develop a spiritual power that transcends both military and political party lines.

    Nevertheless, during the Twentieth century, the Dominican Republic began to experience the development of a diversity of religious expressions – within the Protestant faith – which joined the different manifestations of the so-called popular religiosity, a phenomenon which has been present since the arrival of African slaves to the island.

    The spirituality of the blacks made itself clear in the middle island, even though they were forced to be creative so as to disguise their gods in the midst of the Catholic impositions. The slaves from various areas of the African continent had different languages, religions and cultures; however, they were all, in general, polytheists. Their preservation of their spirituality was a reaction to the necessity to preserver their identity in light of the utopia of one day recovering their freedom.

    The manifestation of the popular religiosity, which is still deeply-rooted today in fragments of the population, originates in the Africans who occupied the western part of the island, colonized by France. Voodoo was the religion of the people, which developed in Haiti and which later appeared in the Domincan Republic, but with a local variant: it has elements of European Kardecist Spiritism and Cuban Spiritism.

    As part of the religious history of the country, we also find an indigenous contribution. The Tainos Indians, who inhabited the island when the Dominican Republic was discovered by Europe, possessed highly structured religious beliefs that provided explanations for the origin of the world – the natural and the supernatural – and human existence. The Tainos called their gods cemies, with whom they communicated through rituals and ceremonies that were led by a priest or behique, who was a combination doctor and spiritual leader.

    On the other hand, the relevance of the Catholic rites in the Dominican Republic is most evident in the national celebrations, all of which are related to this branch of Christianity. Holy Week, Christmas, the celebrations to the patron saints in each town, the worship of the Virgin of Altagracia, with the annual elaborate processions, are part of the range of Catholic celebrations.

    Higüey, the main city of the province of Altagracia, is the first city of Mary worship of America under the advocation of the the Virgin of Altagracia, the spiritual mother of the Dominican people.

    Regarding faith practices, ENDESA 2002 determined that 70% of people of faith regularly attend some religious ceremonies, and that women constitute the majority of that percentage (77% women versus 64% men). Also interesting to note is that Catholics who attend religious functions do so far less than those practitioners of other churches: 67% Catholics versus 88%-92% of other Christian branches. With respect to the country’s provinces, the greatest percentage of church-goers is found in the provinces of María Trinidad Sánchez, Santiago Rodríguez and La Vega (more than 78% in each one) and the lowest percentage can be found in Azua, Bahoruco and Monte Cristi (between 62% and 63%).

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