Once ruled by Spain, the Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, a former French colony.
The Caribbean nation is a major tourist destination. This, coupled with free-trade zones, has become the country's major employer and key sources of revenue, replacing dependence on sugar, coffee and other exports.
The Dominican Republic is inhabited mostly by people of mixed European and African origins. Western influence is seen in the colonial buildings of the capital, Santo Domingo, as well as in art and literature. African heritage is reflected in music.
Capital: Santo Domingo
Population 10.6 million
Area 48,072 sq km (18,696 sq miles)
Major language Spanish
Major religion Christianity
Life expectancy 71 years (men), 77 years (women)
Currency Dominican peso
President: Luis Abinader
Luis Abinader, a US-educated scion of a political dynasty, was elected president in 2020 on a platform of leading the country out of the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Of Lebanese extraction, he has business interests in the important tourism sector, and has made its revival his priority.
He stood unsuccessfully for the presidency in 2016, and his win ended 16 years of rule by the centre-left Dominican Liberation Party.President Abinader has signalled a toughening of relations with neighbouring Haiti by announcing the constructions of a border fence to curb drug smuggling and migration.
Media ownership is concentrated in a few influential hands. There are scores of terrestrial TV channels and hundreds of radio stations, most of them commercial.
Journalists reporting on drug crime and corruption are exposed to possible threats.
Some key dates in the history of the Dominican Republic:
1492 - Christopher Columbus visits the island, which he names Hispaniola, or "Little Spain".
1496 - Spaniards set up first Spanish colony in Western hemisphere at Santo Domingo, which subsequently serves as capital of all Spanish colonies in America.
1697 - Treaty of Ryswick gives western part of Hispaniola island (Haiti) to France and eastern part (Santo Domingo - the present Dominican Republic) to Spain.
1795 - Spain cedes its portion of Hispaniola island to France.
1808 - Spain retakes Santo Domingo following revolt by Spanish Creoles.
1821 - Uprising against Spanish rules is followed by brief period of independence.
1822 - Haitian President Jean-Pierre Boyer marches his troops into Santo Domingo and annexes it.
1844 - Boyer overthrown; Santo Domingo declares its independence and becomes the Dominican Republic.
1861-64 - President Pedro Santana returns the Dominican Republic to Spanish rule. Spain withdraws from, and annuls its annexation of, the Dominican Republic following a popular revolt.
1865 - The second Dominican Republic proclaimed.
1906 - Dominican Republic and US sign 50-year treaty according to which the US takes over the republic's customs department in return for buying its debts.
1916-24 - US forces occupy the Dominican Republic following internal disorder.
1924 - Constitutional government assumes control; US forces withdraw.
1930-1961 - General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina establishes personal dictatorship following the overthrow of President Horacio Vazquez. He rules the country until his assassination in 1961.