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Much of the region is a desert and it includes Lake Enriquillo, the island's largest lake.
Lake Enriquillo is a saltwater lake that lies 150 feet (46 meters) below sea level and is inhabited by unique fauna, including crocodiles, huge iguanas, and flamingos.
Seventy-three percent of the population is mixed race—combinations of descendants of Spaniards and other Europeans, West African slaves, and natives.
Sixteen percent is Caucasian and 11 percent is black, which includes a Haitian minority.
In addition, they retain close ties with the United States, which occupied the island in the early twentieth century.
The national community is struggling to build a democracy against a corrupt and authoritarian political elite. The Dominican Republic is located on the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola and is 18,816 square miles (48,734 square kilometers), about twice the size of New Hampshire.
A few years later the city of Santo Domingo became the Spanish capital of the New World, and because of its location in the trade winds, it was the gateway to the Caribbean.
Hispaniola is near the center of the West Indies, a group of islands that extend from Florida to Venezuela.
To the north of Hispaniola is the Atlantic Ocean, to the south the Caribbean Sea, to the east Puerto Rico, and to the west Cuba.
Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Jamaica are referred to as the Greater Antilles.
By 1804 the black African slaves in the western portion of the island (now Haiti) rebelled against the French and ruled the entire island.
French troops eventually reclaimed the island, but were able to occupy only the western end.