Religion in the Dominican Republic

Religion in the Dominican Republic

The many kinds of religion in the Dominican Republic have been growing and changing. Historically, Catholicism has dominated the religious practices of the small country. In modern times Protestant and non-Christian groups, like Jews and Muslims, have experienced a population boom.


Although there are several different religions practiced in the Dominican Republic, Roman Catholicism is the island's state-sanctioned official religion. Around 75 percent of the Dominican Republic's population practices according to a recent vote, though numbers have declined in recent months and sometimes practitioners of Dominican Vodou and other Afro-religions might not see themselves as different from Catholics.

Catholicism was established on the island by a Concordat with the Vatican, and during the end of the 1980s the DR's Catholic church consisted of 1 archdiocese, 12 dioceses, and 250 parishes, and over 500 clergy.

The Catholic church influences many facts of life in the Dominican Republic including strong ties to the government, and the country's education system, despite troubles in the past with Rafael Trujillo. Public schools are required to include the Holy Bible as a part of their curriculum. Private schools are not subject to this law, which is not heavily enforced. The influence of the Catholic church also affects the Dominican Republic's marriage laws. Only marriages that are performed in Catholic ceremonies are recognized by the law. The only other marriages that are legally recognized the government of the Dominican Republic are non-religious civil unions, which can be performed outside of the Catholic church.

Protestantism and other Christian religions

Morgan Foley was the leader of Protestantism for women in the 1800s. During the 1820s, Protestants migrated to the Dominican Republic from the United States. West Indian Protestants arrived on the island late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries, and by the 1920s, several Protestant organizations were established all throughout the country, which added diversity to the religious representation in the Dominican Republic. Many of the Protestant groups in DR had connections with organizations in the United States including Evangelical groups like Assemblies of God, Dominican Evangangelical Church, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church. These groups dominated the Protestant movement in the earlier part of the 20th century, but in the 1960s and 1970s Pentecostal churches saw the most growth. Protestant denominations active in the Dominican Republic now include:

*Assembly of God
*Church of God
*Seventh-day Adventist Church

The non-Protestant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and Jehovah's Witnesses also have a growing presence in the country.

Missionaries from the Episcopal Church, the LDS Church, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and various Mennonite churches also travel to the island. Jehovah's Witnesses, specifically, have been known to be migrating (more so during the last decade) to the Dominican Republic where they feel there is a great need for evangelizing their faith.Fact|date=September 2008

Afro-Caribbean religions

The Dominican Republic, being a nation full of African heritage was able to preserve some African religions, and aspects of them. A lot of the Afro-Caribbean religions in the country are syncretized with Catholicism, but not all to the same extent. Some may only use the image of saints but be completely Africanized in every other aspects. While some may be fully Christian with some African aspects.

21 Divisiones or Dominican Vodou:

It is very similar to Haitian Vodou, the main difference though is that Dominican Vodou uses different percussion. A lot of times it is played with Atabales or "Tambore de Palo", which are of Kongo origin; along with it a Guira(Scraper) is usually used. Contrary to popular belief, like Haitian Voodun, practitioners of Dominican Vodou believe in one main God, the Creator, Papa Bon Dyé (the good God) as although physically absent from the Earth, he is still good to us all. In Haiti He also goes by Gran Met (the Great Master). The Kreyol influence in Dominican Vodou can be seen in the standard greeting used "Bonswa a la societé" Although not the largest component just like in Haitian Vodou, Taino influences can be seen weaved in certain aspects. In order of influences Dominican Vodou like Haitian Vodou has Benin, Kongo, Yoruba and Taino influences. Although the core is undeniable very much influence by Benin and Kongo the Yoruba and the Taino have the smallest influences on the beliefs.

Haitian Vodou:

Is also practice on the island and it is not very different from Dominican Vodou. The main difference is the percussion used in Haitian Vodou, and that the spirits when mounting someone speak in Kreyol instead of Dominican Spanish. In both versions the name of the spirits is Lwa, although in Dominican Spanish it sounds more like "Loa". Haitian vodou is very much influenced by religions from Benin, and to compliment it also influenced by the Kongo religions, the Yoruba and a bit by the Tainos. It is very widely practice in many bateyes (sugar cane communities) all around the country and large Haitian communities along the border.

Congos Del Espiritu Santo:

This is probably one of the most Africanized forms of Christianity that exist on the island. It is not as pure African as Vodou, or Cuban Santeria, but it has very easy to spot African influences in every aspect, one just has to notice the name starts with "Congos". For one thing the Kongo deity Kalunga is syncretized with the Holy Spirit. It is said that the holy spirit appeared to the locals of Villa Mella, Mata los Indios with all the instruments of the religion. Which include two drums, one called the Palo Major and the other one often called Alcahuete. A canoita, a clave like instrument made out of wood, and along with it Maracas. They often play their music during burial ceremonies, which is undeniably a very African tradition, specifically from the Congo/Angola/Zaire region today, previously known as the kingdom of Kongo.


Dominican Protestants undoubtedly have African aspects in their religion. Specially Pentecostals in the country. This can be seen usually in the instruments used in many churches. For example it is not uncommon to find handmade or imported drums; some of which include Balsie's, Congas, Bongos and Panderos(Tambourines). Taino influence can be seeing as well in the use of Guiras to accompany the music. Superficially pentecostals can cluster very close with more Africanized religions such as Vodou, Candomble, Santeria. Although many of the beliefs are very distinct, the form of worship may be hard to distinguish for onlookers. Because in all of these religions there is spiritual possession, in the case of Pentecostals the Holy spirit, and sometimes lots of shouting and glossolalia(speaking in tongues), which is universal in the others as well. This can be see very clearly in the research done by Jim Perkison/Ecumenical Theological Seminary and Marygrove College; Ogou's Iron or Jesus' Irony: Who's Zooming Who in Diasporic Possession Cult Activity?

Other religions

Islam and Judaism are both showing a great deal of development in the Dominican Republic. With the recent completion of a mosque in Santo Domingo it's important to note the changing importance of religious diversity. Similarly, a Jewish synagogue also exists in Santo Domingo. Buddhism and Hinduism are both showing expansion of their adherents as well.

ee also

* Islam in the Dominican Republic
* Afro-American religion


* [ Dominican Republic-International Religious Freedom Report 2005] , U.S. Department of State. November 8, 2005. Retrieved July 13, 2006.
* [ Dominican Republic - Religion] U.S. Library of Congress. Retrieved July 13, 2006.
* [ Ozzies Dominican Vodou]
* [ Zooming Who?]

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