Puerto Rico was a colony of Spain for four centuries before being ceded to the United States in 1898. The neighboring nation, the Dominican Republic, had already been an independent country for two decades at that point, but before it declared independence, it too was a colony of Spain. In fact, the present day Dominican Republic was the site of the first New World colony of Spain, Hispaniola. It also held a referendum on whether to become a state of the United States at one point in its chaotic history.
In 1697, Spain ceded the Western half of the Island, Haiti, to France. In 1791, the slaves in Haiti began a revolution that lasted for 13 years before they gained independence in 1804. France returned Dominica to Spain five years later, in 1809. In 1821, Dominicans declared independence from Spain, but the following year Haiti invaded the eastern side of the island and took over all of Hispaniola. In 1844, Haiti was overcome by the Dominicans, who once again declared independence. From 1861 to 1865, Dominica again was under Spanish rule, before they declared independence once more.
In 1870, the nation held a referendum on U.S. statehood, since President Grant was offering financial incentives to allow U.S. annexation. The choice of statehood won overwhelmingly (there were just 16 votes against). However, the frequent violent political upheaval made this idea unpopular with Congress.
As an independent nation, the Dominican Republic had multiple outbreaks of civil war. They had dozens of presidents and 19 constitutions, and the United States began to worry about the possibility that they would provide a stepping stone for European powers in the conflict of World War I. In 1916, the United States seized control of the Dominican Republic and occupied it for eight years.
Strife between Haiti and the Dominican Republic has continued to be a feature of the history of both nations, with violence on both sides. More than a century after Haiti invaded Dominica, an eight day massacre left thousands of Haitians dead. Many years later, the Dominican Republic renounced the citizenship of its Haitian-born citizens and left them stateless. The two nations continue to experience conflict to this day.
Comparing Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic
The U.S. Senate has never offered statehood to Puerto Rico, but it has also never voted down the possibility of statehood for the Island. The Dominican Republic, an independent nation which once asked for U.S. statehood, is much larger both in geographic size and in population size than Puerto Rico, which is a territory of the United States.
According to World Data, the average per capita income of the Dominican Republic is $8,100 US, compared with $22,460 for Puerto Rico. The per capita GDP of the Dominican Republic is $8.40, while Puerto Rico’s is $32.60.
The average life expectancy for men is 69 years in the Dominican Republic and 76 years in Puerto Rico. Life expectancy for women is 76 years in the Dominican Republic and 85 years in Puerto Rico. The birth rate is 18.43% in the Dominican Republic and 5.90% in Puerto Rico.
The average age in the Dominican Republic is 27.9 years, while Puerto Rico’s is 43.6 years. Both islands have fewer than two doctors for every 1,000 residents.
World Data rates Puerto Rico far ahead of the Dominican Republic in quality of life, health, level of corruption in the government, political stability, civil right, climate, and cost of living. The only metric where the Dominican Republic outshines Puerto Rico in the Word Data rankings is in tourism — twice as many tourists visit the Dominican Republic as Puerto Rico.
As we have seen in our earlier comparisons with independent nations in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico is better off economically than the Dominican Republic. Guadeloupe is the only neighbor who is in a stronger financial position, and Guadeloupe is a department (state) of France.