February 27 – Dominican Republic's Independence Day

Posted on February 27, 2014

It's pretty common for nations to have more than one national holiday, more than one independence day, even. That's because many nations unite with other nations, then split apart, are conquered, then win back their independence, and so forth and so on, over the centuries changing their names and borders and allegiances.

The Dominican Republic has two independence days. The Caribbean nation celebrates its 1844 independence from Haiti today and its 1865 independence from Spain in August.

Learn more about the Dominican Republic in this and this other earlier post. Today I'm going to focus on the designated gem of this country: amber.

The Dominican Republic has at least two small museums and shops dedicated to amber (or ambar in Spanish). This gemstone isn't made up of a single element, like diamonds, nor a complex mineral, like rubies. Instead, amber is fossilized plant resin. It glows a beautiful gold color, and we can sometimes see, encased in amber, insects that have died in the resin when it was still soft and sticky!

You might be thinking that amber is made from the sugary sap that travels up and down a tree's trunk, acting in similar ways to our blood—but resin is not the same thing as sap! Resin is the semi-solid stuff that is secreted by many plants, especially pine trees and other conifers.

Some scientists say that it is basically a waste product—stuff that the plant doesn't really need—but resin can help the plant that secretes it because plant-eating creatures (from deer to beetles) either don't like the sticky stuff or get trapped within it. Also, resin can quickly seal over a wound and prevent fungi or other agents of disease getting access to the plant's insides. It can even lower the amount of water lost by the plant's tissues.

Since most amber ranges from pale yellow to orange, it is surprising to find out that some amber is green or even blue! This is the case for some amber found in the Dominican Republic. According to the website Caribbean Green Amber, Dominican amber is probably made from an ancient species similar to the modern algarrobo, pictured here, about 20 to 40 million years ago. Dominican blue amber fluoresces, and in direct sunlight scatters reflected light back to our eyes, making it appear blue. 

These two photos (above and below)
show the exact same chunk of blue amber.

The photo above shows it in direct sunlight;
the photo below shows it backlit.

Also on this date:

Author Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's birthday

Plan ahead:
Check out my Pinterest boards for:
And here are my Pinterest boards for:


No comments:

Post a Comment