500 Years of Christianity

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Shortly after Columbus arrived on the island of Hispaniola the explorer Diego Velasquez discovered Bánica and established a Spanish missionary presence (1502-1504). Bánica was soon elevated to the status of “Villa Real,” one of only 13 towns on the island to receive this designation.

The native “Taino” population was wiped out within a short period of time mostly by European diseases. Enslaved Africans were then brought to the region over the next 200 years and the culture developed along African-Spanish lines. The rise of the French colony in nearby Haiti resulted in Bánica being claimed by both colonial powers at different points in its history.

The current colonial style church in Bánica was built ca. 1735. A sun dial in the town plaza was erected in 1795 (the second oldest on the island after the one in Santo Domingo). In 1844 national independence was secured. The 20th century was marred by the rule of two strongmen, Rafael Trujillo (1930-1961) and Joaquín Balaguer (1966-1978). The country functions today as a representative democracy trying to overcome the legacy of Trujillo and Balaguer.

The Parish of Bánica (Saint Francis of Assisi) belongs to the Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana. In 1991 the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, entered into agreement with the Bishop of San Juan and adopts the Parish as its own by providing priests, volunteers, and generous material support. The Parish of Bánica along with the neighboring Parish of Pedro Santana (San José) are in the care of Arlington priests and count over 13,000 people dispersed in over 60 communities.

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