The Caribbean gets sold as a single location, especially by the cruise industry, and this is a major disservice to the region and all its beautiful cultures. Dominica was the first place I ever traveled in the Caribbean, and as a hiker, it is my favorite island so far (although, they are all amazing!). This island nation is special for more than just its natural beauty, however, because its people are warm, artful, and part of a resilient society. Strap in and get ready to learn 10 things about the culture of Dominica that you didn’t know before.
Dominican Culture and History
(1) Most people in Dominica are Roman Catholic, and a small number of people also have a unique set of beliefs called Obeah that is a mix of African, European, and Kalinago traditions.
(2) The national dress of Dominica is called wob dwiyet. Women primarily wear this during celebrations, and includes a colorful scarf worn on the head. The dress itself has a white, collared shirt with beautiful embroidery as decoration.
(3) Dominica is serious about taking Sunday off. Almost everything on the island is closed on Sunday except for hotels. If you need to go grocery shopping for the weekend, be sure to go on Saturday, but go in knowing that the lines will be out of this world. The longest grocery lines I have ever seen were in Dominica.
(4) Dominica is home to one of the large medical schools that US and Caribbean students alike attend. Traditional remedies are also still practiced by a few. These address the presence of evil spirits, called jombies, and makes use of medicinal plants.
(5) Dominica was passed between France and Britain for a long time, and this struggle is evident in the mix of French and English names on the island. Shortly after Britain abolished slavery in 1834, Dominica was the first of its territories to have a black legislature. It goes without saying that African traditions and resilience have played a key role in the unique character and culture of Dominica.
Kalinago Culture and History
(1) The Kalinago people once lived throughout the Caribbean, but retreated to Dominica when European colonization and war decimated their population. The mountains of Dominica protected them from the colonists for a long time and the island is now home to the world’s last community of Kalinago people. Although native cultures aren’t often acknowledged in outside materials about the Caribbean, the culture of Dominica and the region were founded on their civilizations.
(2) The Kalinago people make up a little less than 1% of Dominica’s population, but they have their own region of the island. They offer some very genuine tourism experiences, as well as traditional handicrafts.
(3) Kalinago society was far more egalitarian than European culture. Women held as much power as men, and although both genders did different work within their civilization. In the past, they were governed by a chief, but they now have a council that helps run their communities.
(4) The traditional Kalinago religion held the volcanic peaks of the Caribbean to be the source of life for the islands of the region. The people created statues out of stone and conch shells which were called zemis and represented the peaks. Volcanic peaks are, in fact, the heart of these islands, having formed them. The Kalinago people also believed that it was essential to maintain the balance between good and evil in the world, and maintain the close relationship between humans and nature.
(5) The Kalinago people were expert navigators on the water and originally colonized the Caribbean from the Orinoco River Basin of South America. They were also powerful warriors that fought against the Taino people that had built a civilization in the Caribbean before the Kalinago arrived. They also fought valiantly against European colonists, but they were greatly disadvantaged by smallpox and other “old world” diseases.
Learn More About Kalinago Culture
Experts on Kalinago Culture:
– List of References for Further Reading
Chances for Travelers to Learn More From the Kalinago People:
– Living Village Experience at Touna Kalinago Heritage Village
For more information on travel in Dominica, be sure to read through our guide.
What an interesting island. This really proves my belief that you have to get away from the resort to experience the true place.
I completely agree! The resorts are far from the genuine experience.
I am so eager to get to the Caribbean! And this post has definitely put Dominica on my radar! I love that theres a great hiking trail! Thank you for sharing 😊
Glad you enjoyed it! The Caribbean truly needs visitors at the moment.
interesting article. I actually didn’t know anything about Dominica so learned a lot reading this:)
I don’t know anything about Dominca so this was interesting to read and learn. The people and culture sound wonderful. Would be fun to visit and see.
Yes, Dominica is a wonderful place!
Dominica is an interesting place. I found it very different from the rest of the caribbean. It’s interesting it was the first place you visited!
I went for my PhD research, so it definitely wasn’t the regular route for exploring the Caribbean. I can’t wait to see more of the region! I’ve been to Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Haiti so far. I think they’re all unique.
Dominica looks like such a beautiful place. I love the diversity of these places touched by different cultures.
Same! And yes, Dominica is amazingly beautiful.
Interesting!! Such a beautiful place by just looking at those photos. Would love be here soon too!
It is definitely amazing!
I like the seriousness of taking a Sunday off that Dominica has. It sounds idyllic to me! I enjoyed learning a lot about Dominica in this post
I liked it too! Besides not being able to find food. Hahaha. Glad you enjoyed the post!
I learned a lot about Dominica that I never knew before. The photos are gorgeous and make me wish I was there as well! Perhaps someday!
I hope you can visit someday!
I enjoyed reading your article I learned so much about Dominica. It looks like a beautiful place to visit and I had no idea most of the people there were Roman Catholic.
Glad you enjoyed it!
Such a beautiful place to be. Loved how nature and culture make Dominican republic so awesome for travelers.
This is actually about a different island. 🙂 Dominica is it’s own country.
sometimes we know places only by their names unless we come across some beautiful posts like yours which in a way introduce us better to those names and we are then able to carve a proper identity of that place, wonderful and thanks for introducing me to Dominica
No problem! I hope more people can learn about it and visit.
I have not been to Dominica before so it was nice to see photos and learn about the Dominican people and their culture.
I love how they take Sunday’s off! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Dominica is on my summer vacation list:) Now, I feel I have some knowledge about this fantastic destination. I will make sure not have anything planned on Sunday:)
Such a beautiful place and these 10 new info are so nice to know about a people i knew nothing about prior to now. Thanks alot.
Thanks for sharing these info. about Dominica. It seems this is another awesome place for the summer, and yeah I would rather not work on Sunday. It is the only day we can rest.
Thank you for writing and honestly showcasing my beautiful island.
I hope I did it justice! Dominica is an amazing country with lovely, lovely people.
Dans votre publication, vous avez écrit culture Dominicaine, vous devez pensez à corriger s’il vous plaît, c’est culture Dominicaise, il ne faut pas nous confondre avec la République dominicaine. Île de la Dominique nous sommes des Dominicais et Dominicaise.
Merci d’avoir valoriser mon île et bonne continuation. ☺️
Hey there! I would be happy to make a change to make this clearer, but in English, I believe that the words are the same. Do you happen to know if there is a different English version? I think it is literally the same spelling but pronounced differently in English. Dominican and Dominican. I checked on Google translate and it translated both to the same word in English. Any suggestions?