8 Exceptional New Yorkers From the Dominican Republic

PHOTO: Dominican Day Parade
Ted Hesson/Long Island Wins

Earlier this week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg renamed an uptown stretch of Broadway after Juan Rodriguez, the first immigrant to make his home in the five boroughs.

Rodriguez came to New York in 1613 by way of San Domingo, a city that would later become Santo Domingo, the modern-day capital of the Dominican Republic, The New York Times reported. A trader, he traveled to New York with a Dutch ship captain, and later settled (or was marooned) on either present-day Manhattan or Governor's Island.

That made Rodriguez the first non-Native American New Yorker, according to a report by the Dominican Studies Institute released this year. Ramona Hernandez, the director of the institute, told the Times that Rodriguez is "the first immigrant, the first black person, the first merchant, the first Latino and, to us, the first Dominican to have ever lived in New York City."

The stretch of Broadway dedicated to Rodriguez is in Washington Heights, the historic heart of Dominican New York. In honor of that recognition, we've compiled a short list of notable quisqueyano adventurers who've left the DR to try their luck in the Big Apple.

PHOTO: Ydanis Rodriguez

The New York City councilman, a progressive who was arrested at the Occupy Wall Street encampment in late 2011 (and reportedly bloodied-up), was the driving force behind honoring the city's first immigrant with a renamed avenue.

PHOTO: Dania Ramirez
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP Photo

Born in Santo Domingo, Dania Ramirez moved to New York City with her family at age 10. She began her acting career here, and has since appeared on Entourage, Heroes, and The Sopranos, and in X-Men: Last Stand.

Kathy Willens/AP Photo

While he doesn't have the national profile of fellow Yankees Alex Rodriguez or Derek Jeter, baseball fans know that the solid productivity from Robbie Canó helps keep the aging team in contention. If he stays consistent and healthy, he could be the best second baseman in Yankee history."

PHOTO: Alvarez
Bill Eichner ©

The acclaimed author of How the García Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of Butterflies was born in New York, spent the first decade of her life in the DR, and then came back again as her family fled the U.S.-backed Trujillo dictatorship. She now lives in Vermont.

PHOTO: Henry Santos
Courtesy of Henry Santos

Before there was Prince Royce, there was Aventura, bachata's answer to Boyz II Men. While members have roots in the Dominican Republic, Henry Santos, who is now embarking on a solo career, was the only one born there.

PHOTO: Oscar de la Renta
Courtesy of Oscar de la Renta

And here we thought he was Italian. Born Óscar Aristides de la Renta Fiallo in Santo Domingo, de la Renta's parents were well connected socialites in the Dominican Republic. He studied and worked in Europe before becoming a world-dominant fashion designer. He lives in Park Avenue apartment that looks like Versailles.

Tsar Fedorsky/AP Photo/Courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Even though the Dominican-born author grew up in Jersey, we'll include him here as an honorary bridge-and-tunnel New Yorker (one of our editors spotted him in the East Village last night). His newest book, the short-story collection This is How You Lose Her -- reviewed here by ABC/Univision's Ed Morales -- explores machismo and being a Dominican man. On October 2, he was awarded one of the MacArthur Foundation's $500,000 "genius grants."

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