Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Q is for Quisqueya

Letter Q in my A-Z of the Dominican Republic seemed at first like a challenge, but in the end there was no contest. Q is for Quisqueya which was the original name of the country.

Quisqueya was the name used by the indigenous Taino Indians for the whole island including Haiti and it means the Great Land. When Columbus and the Spaniards arrived they changed the name to La Española meaning little Spain, which was then changed by Pietro Martyr d'Anghiero who wrote his account of the island in Latin in 1493 and translated La Española as Hispaniola. In 1930, the United States Geographic Board apparently decreed that the whole island should be called Hispaniola.

When the French took over the whole island in 1697 they called it Saint Domingue - Santo Domingo in Spanish, and when the slaves revolted and took control of the western portion of the island they named it Haiti, using the Taino word Ayiti meaning  mountainous land, which was the name of the area in the Dominican Republic now known as Los Haitises.

Once the war of independence ended, on 27 February 1844, the name Dominican Republic was formerly adopted. There are groups however who wish to change the name back to Quisqueya from the Dominican Republic stating that Quisqueya reminds us of the real roots of the island whereas Hispaniola is a reminder of a time of the Amerindian genocide and colonisation. Nowadays the word is used for restaurants, a beer, and other items or companies from the Dominican Republic.

Here are some interesting facts about Quisqueya - the Dominican Republic.

Hispaniola is the second largest island in the Caribbean.

It is the 9th most populated island in the world.

It is the 22nd largest island in the world.

Only 2 islands in the world are shared by two countries. (Any idea what the other one is?)

It has the highest point in the Caribbean - Pico Duarte at 3,175 metres high.

It has the lowest point in the Caribbean, Laake Enriquillo at 46 metres below sea level.

Santo Domingo is the oldest city in the New World, with the oldest university, house, hospital, street and cathedral.

It has the only flag in the world with a bible on it.

To marry a man must be 16 and a woman 15.

The second largest Dominican city, Santiago, has fewer Dominicans living there than New York.

The national bird is the Palmchat (Cigua Palmera), the national tree is the West Indian Mahogany (Swistenia Mahogani) and the national flower is the Rose of Bayahibe (Pereskia Quisqueyana).

The national game is baseball.

The Cardinal has the rank of a military general officer, as well as being Archbishop.


  1. The other island belonging to two countries would be The Falkland islands (Or Malvinas) belonging to Britain and Argentina, am I right?
    I think having to call Dominican Republic - Quisqueya - would be complicated, not easy to say!

  2. I think the other island might be St Martin/St Maarten which is half dutch and half french. I think the Falklands is British - the Argentinians invaded and then left!
    I should have put the pronounciation Sami. Qu is pronounced as k so it is kiss kay ah which isn't too hard.

  3. I feel very ignorant not to have known more of this Lindsay. Hispaniola has a lovely ring to it but I had no idea where it was. Quite like Quisqueya but I'm not a fan of changing countries names. Life's confusing enough!

    1. I agree, although the Dominican Republic often gets confused with the other Caribbean island, Dominica. I can't see any change happening though.

  4. In North-East Germany there is an island called Usedom, which is one part German and one part Polish.
    But Borneo is divided into three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.

    1. Interesting re Germany. I have been to Indonesia and Malaysi and Borneo, I used to dive there! Maybe there is a definition as to how big an island has to be to be called an island? Is Australia an island?

  5. I would like to see the Dominican Republic and Haiti one day (re-)united as "Quisqueya".

    1. That would be amazing but I doubt will happen!

    2. Why do people insist on "reuniting" the island as if we were only one spirit? They already are united. We WERE one once. However, this doesn't mean that we are the same as 500 yrs ago. Please!!! Each country has their own identity. We don't even speak the same language. I mean think of this California in USA was México before but that was then, not now. Please people grow up!!!

  6. I imagine you meant New Guinea, which is split between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, but there are other islands that are split between countries, no?

    1. Apart from those mentioned above maybe Ireland - Northern Ireland and Eire, or maybe Cyprus too? I am not sure, I just found the fact that the Dominican Republic was one of only two islands which were home to two different countries.
      Maybe it means not areas belonging to two different countries but which are two totally different countries.

  7. The other island shared for tow countries is New Guinea.

    By the way i like your blog, is so refreshing!