The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti and (after Cuba) is the second-largest nation in the Caribbean Sea, both in area and population. The first permanent settlement in the Americas was established on this island after Christopher Columbus landed there in 1492. The Dominican Republic has the largest economy in the Caribbean and Central America, much of which is fueled by tourism, as it is the most visited nation in the region. Nevertheless, the country is still plagued by economic disparity and high levels of unemployment.
Unofficially, Catholicism is the state religion. Although the great majority of Dominicans still consider themselves Catholic, that number has been steadily declining in recent decades, and the people who consistently practice their religion are comparatively few. While the number of professing Christians is growing, only a small percentage of those professions are accompanied by lasting fruit and continued participation in a local church.