The question is this: Choose a country or region and tell us a little bit about it, including, of course, an author or two who hail from there, and you can add a link to your response here.
The question was inspired by my listening to The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which takes place in the U.S., but both the author and his characters are of Dominican descent. As I said in the initial post, my lack of knowledge was interfering with my enjoyment of the book. So, I did a little digging and here's what I found out:
The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. It was inhabited before being "discovered" by Christopher Columbus, but unfortunately the native Taino population was completely wiped out by disease and slavery. The Spanish (and the French, in what would become Haiti) then brought thousands of African slaves to replace some of the 400,000 natives who had died. The Dominican Republic gained independence from Spain in 1864.
Here it is, just south and a little east of Florida, U.S.A.:
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-Junot Diaz (pictured at right) educates Oscar Wao readers a bit about former leader Trujillo at the beginning of the book. [I had mixed feelings about this--on the one hand, I should know this stuff. On the other hand, the book is long and it is fiction, where I prefer to have relevant background info dropped in where it fits with the characters and plot. I wanted the story to get going. I'm halfway through the book now and I'm still not sure the story has quite started. I think it has.]
But I was talking about President Trujillo. He was this horrible, power-hungry guy who ruled the D.R. for 30 years. Lonely Planet says, "Though he was himself partly black, Trujillo was deeply racist and xenophobic,"--you know, I'd say ordering 20,000 Haitians "exterminated" takes racism to a psychotic level, but maybe that's just me.
As for my initial question of what the characters might look like, you can see from the photos along the side that Dominicans are as varied as Americans in appearance. They are, from top to bottom: Junot Diaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Drown, Julia Alvarez, author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, and Sammy Sosa, one of the all-time nicest pro baseball players ever. Even at the height of his career, he never failed to blow kisses to his mom whenever he was caught on camera.o
I added a Dominican American song to the soundtrack in my sidebar. Here's Donde Estan Esos Amigos, by Chaval.