The people of the Dominican Republic are the descendants of three completely different ethnic groups. These groups inhabited the island during different times in their history. The Taino Indians (Arawaks) were the indigenous inhabitants. When the Spaniards arrived to the island in the early 1500's, they brought along black slaves from Africa creating a racial mix of Europeans (39%), black slaves (39%), and mulattos or freed slaves (22%). By the nineteenth century, the population of the Dominican Republic had reached 150,000 habitants. Today, the number of people living on the island has risen to 7,826,075 with only 16% of the population considered white. The remaining population is mulatto (73%) and black (11 %). However, Dominicans prefer to refer to themselves as descendants of the island Indians or the Spaniards, causing the African influence to be largely ignored and limited to small groups in Dominican society. Modern society in the Dominican Republic, like many other countries in the world, prefers the light skin and "white" racial features* though that bias does not necessarily restrict a person to a lower status position. Social standing and mobility is more dependent on family background, education and wealth.
*Julia Alvarez's book "In the Name of Salomé" clearly depicts the controversial issue of race and ethnicity in Dominican society.