The Dominican Republic was discovered by Christopher Columbus on December 5, 1492 during on his first voyage. Columbus named the island Hispaniola. Columbus admiration for Hispaniola with his crew's discovery of gold deposits in the island's rivers led to the establishment of European settlements. The Taino Indians, the inhabitants, were put into slavery and years later, they were eventually wiped out. Bartholomew, brother of Columbus, was appointed governor and in 1496 he founded the city of Santo Domingo, the capital city. The Island of Hispaniola remained under Spanish until 1697 when the western part of the island became a French possession. In 1804 it became the Republic of Haiti. In 1809 the eastern side of the island returned to Spanish rule. In 1821 the Spanish settlers declared an independent state but just weeks later, Haitian forces invaded the eastern portion of the island and incorporated Santo Domingo.
For the next 22 years the entire island came under Haitian control. On February 27, 1844, the eastern side of the island declared independence and gave their land the name "Dominican Republic." The 70 years that followed were characterized by political unrest and civil war, mainly due to fights for leadership of the government by Dominican strongmen.
After a dictatorship of a sergeant in the Dominican Republic army named Rafael Trujillo in 1930, who was assassin in 1961, Juan Bosch became the first democratically elected president in 4 decades. In 1966, Joaquin Balaguer won in free election against Bosch. In 1996, the US raised Leonel Fernandez but was criticized for not fighting for poverty that affects the population. In August 2000 Hipolito Mejia was elected president but in 2004 he was defeated by former president Fernandez and was reelected on May 16, 2008 defeating Miguel Vargas.