The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. The Dominican Republic was colonized by the Spanish in the 15th and 16th centuries; its capital, Santo Domingo, was the first large city to be established by Europeans in the Americas, in 1494. The Dominican Republic gained independence in the 19th century. The Dominican Republic was ruled by a series of strongmen in the 20th century, and still suffers from poverty and corruption. However, it has fared considerably better than its neighbor, Haiti.