When Columbus arrived in 1492 in what was to be known as Hispanola (today's Haiti and Dominican Republic) 400,000 indigenous Taino people lived on the island since arriving from South America around 2600 BC. The lived of the land amongst other growing sweet potatoes, peanuts, tobacco, guave and pineapple. 30 years later only 1,000 were left and today they are long extinct. Both France and Spain colonised the island bringing lots of African slaves to work in the plantations. The French part became independent in 1804 and called Haiti from the Taino word of the island. In 1821 Santo Domingo declared independence from Span leading to an invasion and occupation by Haiti. In 1844 a bloodless coup freed the country that returned to Spanish rule until 1864 when it became independent.
The following many years the country was ruled by one military leader after the other until the US in 1916 sent in the marines to prevent a coup – they ended up staying 8 years stabilising the situation and developing the country. In 1930 the chief of the national police Trujillo made his way to presidency which lasted until he was assassinated in 1961. He developed the country improving the infrastructure, opening factories and giving land to peasants but mostly he is known for being a cruel and ruthless dictator killing thousands of people and for being the richest man on the island through corruption.
Trujillo was followed by Balagauer who clung to power for 12 years succeeding Trujillo's line of dictatorship. After a number of years he was re-elected in 1986 where repressive economic policies heavily devaluated the peso and thereby peoples savings. Protests were met by violence and by 1990 900,000 people had left the country to live in the US. Nevertheless he managed to stay in power rigging the elections until he was forced to step down in 1996.
In 1996 42-year old lawyer Fernandez became president making big changes – economic growths, low inflation, privatisation and lowering illiteracy and unemployment – however, still many corruption scandals. Before returning to power in 2004 he was shortly replaced by Mejia who increased fuel prices and lowered public spending which together with declining exports and tourism drove the country's economy to its knees. In his second term Fernandez has increased gas prices and cut spending on education, health care and other social programs and instead allocated funds to large infrastrcuture programs like a new USD 700m subway In Santo Domingo. After the Haitian earthquake in 2010 DR provided help and allowed foreign aid organisations to transport supplies through DR but the Haitian cholera epidemic created new tensions, border closings, etc.