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Title: Dominican-American  
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Subject: West New York, New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey, Gilbert Hernandez, American literature, Hispanic and Latino Americans, Julia Alvarez, Maya & Miguel, Proyecto Uno, Judy Marte, Jose Peralta
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This article is about Americans with roots from the Dominican Republic. For Americans with roots from the Commonwealth of Dominica, see Dominica American.
Dominican American
Template:Image array
Total population

0.53% of the U.S. population (2012)[1]

Regions with significant populations
Mostly concentrated in New York City, New Jersey, South Florida, Boston, Providence, and Philadelphia
Spanish, English
Predominantly Roman Catholicism
Minorities practicing Protestantism · Jehovah's Witness.
Related ethnic groups
White Latin American, Afro-Latin American, Mulatto, Hispanic and Latino Americans, African Dominican, White Dominican

A Dominican American (Spanish: Dominicano estadounidense) is an American who has full or partial origin from the Dominican Republic.[2] Although their emigration began in the nineteenth century, waves of migration of Dominicans in the United States emerged in the 60s especially, after the fall of the Trujillo regime. In 2010, there were approximately 1.41 million people of Dominican descent in the US, including both native and foreign-born.[3]


Immigration records of Dominicans in the United States date from the late 16th century, and New York City has had a Dominican community since the 1930s. The first immigrant to New York City has been identified by scholars at City University — and politicians at City Hall have already named a swath of upper Broadway in his honor.

Sailor-turned-merchant Juan Rodriguez arrived downtown in 1613 from his home in Santo Domingo, in what is now known as the Dominican Republic, making him the first visitor to spend a night in Manhattan, researchers say. He also became the first non-Indian to settle permanently in the city, the first Dominican resident, the first Latino and the first settler with Portuguese and African blood, according to the City University of New York’s Dominican Studies Institute.

20th century

From the 1960s onward, after the fall of the dictatorship of General Rafael Trujillo, large waves of emigrants have thoroughly transnationalized the Dominican Republic, metaphorically blurring its frontier with the United States. With increased emigration, Dominican diaspora communities have sprouted in New York metro area, New Jersey, Boston metro area, Providence, South Florida, and Philadelphia/Eastern Pennsylvania.[4]

Smaller waves of emigrants have settled in the metropolitan areas of Orlando, New Orleans, Chicago, Buffalo, Columbus, Atlanta, Raleigh, North Carolina, Houston, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and Washington, DC. Dominican emigrant communities have similar settlement patterns to that of the Puerto Rican population.[4]


Almost half of all the Dominican Americans today have arrived since the 1990s, especially in the early part of the decade. There has been another surge of immigration in recent years as immigration from Mexico has declined, allowing more backlogged Dominican applicants to obtain legal residence. Dominican Americans are the fifth-largest Hispanic or Latino American group, after Mexican Americans, Stateside Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans, and Salvadoran Americans.[5]

As of 2010, the five largest concentrations of Dominican Americans are in New York (674,787), New Jersey (197,922), Florida (172,451), Massachusetts (103,292), and Pennsylvania (62,348). Rhode Island is the only state where Dominicans are the largest Hispanic group. In New York City, the borough of Manhattan (New York County) is the only county in the country where Dominicans are the largest ancestral group and its Washington Heights neighborhood has long been considered the center of the Dominican American community.[6] The 2010 Census estimated the nationwide Dominican American population at 1,414,703.[7]

Race and ethnicity

Since 1980, the Census Bureau has asked U.S. residents to classify their race separately from their Hispanic or Latino origin, if any.

In 2010, 29.6% of Dominican Americans responded that they were white, while 12.9% considered themselves black. A majority of 57.5% chose the category 'Other race'.[8]

The prevalence of the 'other race' category probably reflects the large number of people who identify as mixed African and European ancestry in the Dominican Republic, where 73% of the population identified as being of mixed African and European descent, commonly known as Mulatto.[9] Genetically, most are multiracial, however, having also Taíno Native American ancestry.[10]

Geographic distribution

As of 2010 Census, the top 10 U.S. states with the largest Dominican populations are:

  1. New York – 674,787
  2. New Jersey – 197,922
  3. Florida – 172,451
  4. Massachusetts – 103,292
  5. Pennsylvania – 62,348
  6. Rhode Island – 35,008
  7. Connecticut – 26,093
  8. North Carolina – 15,225
  9. Georgia – 14,941
  10. Maryland – 14,873

As of 2010 Census, the top 10 U.S. communities with the largest Dominican populations are:

  1. New York, New York – 576,701
  2. Lawrence, Massachusetts – 30,243
  3. Paterson, New Jersey – 27,426
  4. Boston, Massachusetts – 25,641
  5. Providence, Rhode Island – 25,267
  6. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – 15,963
  7. Yonkers, New York – 15,903
  8. Perth Amboy, New Jersey – 14,773
  9. Jersey City, New Jersey – 13,512
  10. Newark, New Jersey – 12,527

As of the 2010 Census, the top 10 U.S. communities with the highest percentages of people claiming Dominican ancestry are:[4][11]

  1. Lawrence, Massachusetts – 39.67%
  2. Haverstraw (village), New York – 32.35%
  3. Perth Amboy, New Jersey – 29.11%
  4. Paterson, New Jersey – 18.89%
  5. Sleepy Hollow, New York – 18.67%
  6. Passaic, New Jersey – 17.76%
  7. Bronx, New York – 17.45%
  8. Haverstraw, New York – 17.16%
  9. Union City, New Jersey – 15.16%
  10. Providence, Rhode Island – 14.20%


A significant number of Dominican Americans are young, first generation immigrants without a higher education, since many hailed from the country's rural areas. Second generation Dominican Americans are more educated than their first generation counterparts, a condition reflected in their higher incomes and employment in professional or skilled occupations.[12]

Over 21% of all second-generation Dominican Americans have college degrees, slightly below the average for all Americans (24%) but significantly higher than U.S.-born Mexican Americans (14%) and U.S.-born Puerto Rican Americans (9%).[13] In New York City, Dominican entrepreneurs have carved out roles in several industries, especially the bodega and supermarket and taxi and black car industries.[14]

Political participation

Over two dozen Dominican Americans are elected local or state legislators, mayors or other in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.[15] Dr. Eduardo J. Sanchez was the Commissioner of Health for the state of Texas from 2001 to 2006,[16] and New York Secretary of State Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent, has held her post since 2007.[17]

The electoral participation of Dominicans in the United States may improve as a result of the 1994 approval of dual citizenship by the Dominican legislature, which makes it easier for migrants to become U.S. citizens without relinquishing their Dominican nationality. A 1997 Dominican law, which took effect in 2004, allows Dominicans living abroad to retain their Dominican citizenship and voting rights, even if they become citizens of another country.

Traditionally, Dominicans living in the United States are passionately involved in politics "back home", but unlike other Hispanic or Latino national groups, such as Cuban Americans and Mexican Americans, they are not as inclined to take an active part in U.S. politics, but there are more recent increases in involvement in US politics.[18]

Dominican American culture


Dominican music includes above all merengue and bachata. Bachata, as well as reggaeton, have become popular among many Dominican American youth, as have house, salsa, rock, hip hop and other musical genres.


Traditional Dominican cuisine has translated well to the United States as Dominican Americans have opened reputable restaurants throughout the diasporic communities. Traditional cuisine is very colorful with red and green peppers and cilantro. Traditional cuisine consists of Mofongo, rice, beans, fried plantains, and a meat like chicharrón de pollo (deep-fried chicken), Mangú (green plantains with oil and sautéed onion), slices of avocado, fried eggs, salami, empanadas and pastelitos (fried meat pies), and sancocho (stew of meats, potatoes, and vegetables).[19]

The most well known drink is “Morir Soñando” which translates to “die dreaming.” It is a drink of orange juice, cream, and vanilla. Desserts include flan, bread pudding, rice pudding, and tres leches. Dominican restaurant owners in the diasporic community really aim to conserve the taste of the mainland as they feel that is what immigrants seek out when looking for authentic Dominican cuisine.[20]

Achieving that taste is not hard in the United States as most grocery stores stock Dominican, Puerto Rican, and other Latin American products made by Goya Foods. Dominican Americans take pride in their food from their homeland and they use it as a symbol in times of celebration. For example, when the Dominican Republic won the World Cup of Baseball, Dominican Americans cheered carrying plantains.[20]

The experience of Dominican-American cuisine goes beyond the consumption of the food, however. It is vitally integrated into the everyday culture of the Dominican-American community. Through the sensations of eating, to the act of cooking, Dominican-American food is part of the Dominican-American experience.[21]

Dominican food is an integral part of the formation and maintenance of the Dominican diaspora. According to Liberato and Feagin’s section in the Other African Americans eating traditional Dominican food ties second generation Dominican Americans to the diasporic homeland.[22] Dominican food and other cultural practices like speaking Spanish help newly immigrated Dominicans situate themselves in the racial hierarchy of the United States. The US Census data from 2000 showed that Dominicans “have the largest concentration of people below the poverty line.”[23] When racial categories that apply on the island are no longer pertinent in the US and Dominican immigrants use features of Dominican culture- like cooking traditional fare- to differentiate themselves from Native Black Americans to help themselves establish a unique identity.[24]

Notable Dominican Americans

Arts and literature

Junot Diaz drew on his life and the Dominican American experience generally in authoring Drown and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the latter of which won him the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008 and made him the first Dominican American and the second Hispanic or Latino American in history to win the Pulitzer Prize.[25][26] Julia Alvarez is the nationally-recognized author of In the Time of the Butterflies and How the García Girls Lost Their Accents. Nelly Rosario, born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New York City, also won critical acclaim for her debut novel Song of the Water Saints.[27]


Dominican Americans have increasingly made a presence in the financial industry. Cid Wilson was ranked #1 Wall Street financial analyst in the Specialty Retailing category by Forbes in 2006.[28][29]

Fashion and design

Designer Oscar de la Renta, born in the Dominican Republic to a Dominican mother and a Puerto Rican father, is one of the most recognized names in the fashion industry.

Film, stage, and television

María Montez was dubbed "The Queen of Technicolor" for the numerous Hollywood adventure films that she starred in the 1940s. Zoe Saldana, the female leading star of the movie Avatar, is an actress born in New Jersey to a Dominican father and a Puerto Rican mother. Michelle Rodriguez, born of a Dominican mother and a Puerto Rican father, is known for her roles in the television series Lost and the movies The Fast and the Furious, S.W.A.T., and Resident Evil.

Dania Ramirez is known for playing Callisto in X-Men: The Last Stand, Sadie in Quarantine, Alex in Entourage, and Maya Herrera in Heroes. Merlin Santana was a New Yorker whose most notable role was as Romeo on The Steve Harvey Show. Carlos De La Mota, born in New York to Dominican parents and raised in La Vega, and José Guillermo Cortines are popular telenovela actors who often work stateside.

Claudette Lali is a former model turned actress also born in New York and raised in the Dominican Republic. Charytín is an actress, singer, dancer, and television host who has been a longtime fixture in the US Hispanic/Latino media. Tina Aumont, Miguel A. Nuñez, Karen Olivo (a Tony Award-winner), Victor Rasuk, Judy Reyes, Shalim Ortiz (son of Charytín) and Tristan Wilds also have Dominican origin.

Government and politics

Also increasing is the Dominican American profile in government and politics. Milestones along the way have been marked, among others, by Guillermo Linares and Kay Palacios, the first Dominican Americans elected in the United States, as former New York City Council Member and former Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey city council respectively; Marcos Devers, the first Dominican American mayor in the U.S., who was appointed as Acting Mayor of Lawrence, Massachusetts; Passaic, New Jersey mayor Dr. Alex D. Blanco, the first Dominican American mayor ever elected in the United States;[30][31]

The first Dominican American New York County Supreme Court Judge was Rolando T. Acosta; Camelia Valdes, the first Dominican American to become a head Prosecutor or District Attorney in U.S. history;[32][33] Adriano Espaillat and Grace Diaz, respectively the first Dominican American person and the first Dominican American female to be elected to a state legislature in the United States; Juan Pichardo, Rhode Island State Senator, the first Dominican American to be elected State Senator in the United States.[34]

President Barack Obama made his first major Dominican American appointment on March 13, 2009 when he nominated Thomas E. Perez to be Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.[35] Perez was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on October 6, 2009. Angel Taveras, mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, is the first Hispanic mayor of the city, the third elected, and the fourth serving Dominican American mayor in the United States.[36]


Juan Manuel Taveras Rodríguez was a Professor Emeritus at Harvard Medical School and Radiologist-in-Chief Emeritus of the Massachusetts General Hospital. He is widely regarded as the father of the medical specialty of neuroradiology, having co-authored the first textbook of this specialty and founded both the American Society of Neuroradiology and its journal, of which he served for several years as editor.


Some notables in the music industry include: Kat DeLuna singer; Fuego Merengue singer, Ralph Mercado, founder of RMM Records and music producer; Johnny Pacheco, singer, godfather of New York salsa; Karina Pasian, singer and pianist; Proyecto Uno, merengue hip-hop group; Anthony Romeo Santos, singer and songwriter; Rosanna Tavarez, singer and television host.[37]


Dominican Americans have made great strides in the field of baseball, the community's favored sport. Alex Rodriguez, New York-born, is the most well-known Dominican American in this field. He is the highest-paid player in Major League Baseball (MLB), and one of the most famous athletes in the United States. The larger portion of MLB players of Dominican origin immigrated from the Dominican Republic, number in the hundreds, and count among them Robinson Cano, Rafael Soriano, Pedro Martínez, David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, Manny Ramírez, and Hall of Fame member Juan Marichal.

Some of them including Cano (2012) have obtained US citizenship. Dominican natives Felipe Alou and Tony Peña were managers, and Omar Minaya is a general manager in MLB. Basketball has seen the likes of Felipe López, Francisco Garcia, and Al Horford, all originally from the Dominican Republic, and Charlie Villanueva from New York. In the National Football League (NFL) there are Luis Castillo and Tutan Reyes.


Among other notables of full or partial Dominican origins are Nancy Alvarez, sexologist and talk show host in Spanish-language media; Susie Castillo, Miss USA 2003; Mary Joe Fernández, a tennis player and television commentator; Providencia Paredes, an assistant and confidante to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; Ilka Tanya Payan, an AIDS/HIV activist, actress, and attorney; and Wolf Hudson, a pornographic film actor.

See also


Further reading

  • Krohn-Hansen, Christian. Making New York Dominican: Small Business, Politics, and Everyday Life (University of Pennsylvania Press; 2013) 336 pages; A study of Dominicans in New York City focusing on immigrant entrepreneurs in the bodega and supermarket and taxi and black car industries.
  • Lima, Alvaro, Mark Melnik, and Jeremy B. Thompson. “Imagine All the People: Dominican Immigrants in Boston.” New Bostonian Series: 1–12; A comprehensive look at Dominican immigrants in Boston that includes statistics on population concentration of Dominican Americans throughout the city, historical information that informs immigration patterns, and contributions of Dominican Americans to local economies.
  • Cepeda, Raquel. Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina Atria Books. 2013. Synopsis and Excerpt

External links

  • Dominican American National Roundtable
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