Explored and claimed by Columbus on his first voyage in 1492, the island of Hispaniola became a springboard for Spanish conquest of the Caribbean and the American mainland.
In 1697, Spain recognized French dominion over the western third of the island, which in 1804 became Haiti. The remainder of the island, by then known as Santo Domingo, sought to gain its own independence in 1821, but was conquered and ruled by the Haitians for 22 years.
It finally attained independence as the Dominican Republic in 1844.
Source: CIA World Factbook 2002
Population: 8,721,594 (July 2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.61% (2002 est.)
Total area: 48,730 sq. km.
Birth rate: 24.4 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 4.68 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: -3.59 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.) Infant mortality rate: 33.41 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)