Religion in the Dominican Republic

Religion in the Dominican Republic (2016) [1]

  Catholics (80.1%)
  Protestants & other Christians (16.9%)
  Unaffiliated (3.0%)

The many kinds of religion in the Dominican Republic have been growing and changing. Historically, Catholicism dominated the religious practices of the small country. In modern times Protestant and non-Christian groups, like Buddhists, Jews, and Muslims, have experienced a population boom.

Roman Catholicism

The most professed denomination by far is Roman Catholicism. There are an estimated 7.6 million baptised Catholics in the Dominican Republic, (78% of the population), in 11 territorial dioceses and one military ordinariate, served by 800 priests.

Protestantism and other Christian religions

Morgan Foley was the leader of Protestantism for women in the 1800s. During the 1820s, Protestants migrated to the Dominican Republic from the United States. West Indian Protestants arrived on the island late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries, and by the 1920s, several Protestant organizations were established all throughout the country, which added diversity to the religious representation in the Dominican Republic. Many of the Protestant groups in DR had connections with organizations in United States including Evangelical groups like Assemblies of God, Dominican Evangelical Church, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church. These groups dominated the Protestant movement in the earlier part of the 20th century, but in the 1960s and 1970s Pentecostal churches saw the most growth. Protestant denominations active in the Dominican Republic now include:

Other religions include The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and Jehovah's Witnesses who have had a growing presence in the country.

Missionaries from the Episcopal Church, the LDS Church, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Seventh-day Adventist church, and various Mennonite churches also travel to the island. Jehovah's Witnesses, specifically, have been known to be migrating (more so during the last decade) to the Dominican Republic where they feel there is a great need for evangelizing their faith.

1920 Dominican Republic Census
Subnational Divisions T. pop. % Protestants
Prov. of Azua 101,144 Less than 0.1%
Prov. of Barahona 48,182 Less than 0.1%
Prov. of El Seibo 58,720 2.3%
Prov. of Espaillat 50,946 Less than 0.1%
Prov. of La Vega 106,245 Less than 0.1%
Prov. of Monte Christi 67,073 Less than 0.1%
Prov. of Pacificador 78,216 Less than 0.1%
Prov. of Puerto Plata 58,923 Less than 0.1%
Prov. of Samaná 16,915 12.6%
Prov. of San Pedro de Macorís 38,609 14.5%
Prov. of Santiago 123,040 2.0%
Dist. of Santo Domingo 146,652 Less than 0.1%
Dominican Republic 894,652 1.3% (11,927)

Afro-Caribbean religions

The Dominican Republic, being a nation full of African heritage was able to preserve some African religions, and aspects of them. A lot of the Afro-Caribbean religions in the country are syncretized with Catholicism, but not all to the same extent. Some may only use the image of saints but be completely Africanized in every other aspects. While some may be fully Christian with some African aspects.

21 Divisiones or Dominican Vodou

Main article: Dominican Vudú

Dominican Vodou is composed of three divisions, the Indian Division, which refers to Taino entities, the Black Division, whose entities are of African origin, and the White Division, whose entities are of European origin. The Indian Division is one of the main features that distinguishes 21 Divisiones from other forms of Vodou. Dominican Vodou uses a different percussion, a lot of times it is played with Atabales or "Tambore de Palo", which are of Kongo origin; along with it a Guira (Scraper) is usually used. The drums are known as Palos and the drummers as Paleros, and when a ceremony in which they are at is usually referred to as a Fiesta de Palo. Dominican Vodou is practiced through a Tcha Tcha lineage (“maraca” – which means rattle – lineage).[2] In Haiti, Vodou has come about and become more popular through another lineage known as the Asson. However, before the Asson, the Tcha Tcha lineage was the prominent lineage in Haiti. Thus the Tcha Tcha lineage is one of the oldest lineages within the Vodou tradition.[2] Las 21 Divisiones is less strict than the Haitian Vodou tradition. There is less regleman (fixed doctrines or rules) within the Haitian Vodou Tradition. There is no fixed doctrine, defined temples or ceremonies, and it does not have as rigid a structure. This can be seen in the many different ways in which Caballos de Misterios conduct ceremonies and how the spirits mount a person. Dominican Vodou practitioners are often called “Caballos” but they are also known as Papa Bokos and Papa Lwa (both for males) and Mama Mambos and Mama Lwa (both for females). One who has obtained this title has gone through the last and highest level of initiation that can take anywhere between 3 and 9 days and nights as well as have spent a time working for the community.[2]

Haitian Vodou

Haitian Vodou is also practiced on the island. Haitian Vodou is very much influenced by religions from Benin, and to compliment it also influenced by the Kongo religions, the Yoruba, Roman Catholicism and a bit by the Tainos. It is very widely practice in many bateyes (sugar cane communities) all around the country and large Haitian communities along the border.

Congos Del Espiritu Santo

Congos Del Espiritu Santo is probably one of the most Africanized forms of Christianity that exist on the island. It is not as pure African as Vodou, or Cuban Santeria, but it is very easy to spot African influences in every aspect, one just has to notice the name starts with "Congos". For one thing the Kongo deity Kalunga is syncretized with the Holy Spirit. It is said that the holy spirit appeared to the locals of Villa Mella, Mata los Indios with all the instruments of the religion. Which include two drums, one called the Palo Major and the other one often called Alcahuete. A canoita, a clave like instrument made out of wood, and along with it Maracas. They often play their music during burial ceremonies, which is undeniably a very African tradition, specifically from the Congo/Angola/Zaire region today, previously known as the kingdom of Kongo.


Dominican Protestants undoubtedly have African aspects to their religion, especially Pentecostals. This can be seen usually in the instruments used in many churches. For example, it is not uncommon to find handmade or imported drums; some of which include Balsie's, Congas, Bongos and Panderos (tambourines). Taino influence can be seeing as well in the use of Guiras to accompany the music. Superficially Pentecostals can cluster very close with more Africanized religions such as Vodou, Candomble, Santeria. Although many of the beliefs are very distinct, the form of worship may be hard to distinguish for onlookers. Because in all of these religions there is spiritual possession, in the case of Pentecostals the Holy spirit, and sometimes lots of shouting and glossolalia (speaking in tongues), which is universal in the others as well.


Buddhism was brought to the Dominican Republic by Japanese immigrants who came in the 1960s. Two men, Kurato Kimura and Jun’ichi Nishio started the first Buddhist activities in the Dominican Republic. Most practice the Mahayana style, with Zen and Nichiren centers in various areas of the country.


The current population of Jews in the Dominican Republic is close to 3,000,[3] with the majority living in the capital, Santo Domingo and others residing in Sosúa, which was founded by Jews after President Rafael Trujillo offered to accept up to 100,000 Jewish refugees in 1938. Both locations have synagogues.


There are Muslims in the Dominican Republic, which is shown by the recent completion of mosques in the cities of San Pedro de Marcorix and Santo Domingo.

See also


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