The first inhabitants of the Dominican Republic were the Tainos, who arrived in 11 A.D. The Dominican Republic’s European history began in 1492, when Spanish conquistadors, including Christopher Columbus, explored and claimed the island of Hispaniola. Because of the influence of the Spanish crown, The Dominican Republic’s official language is Spanish and 95% of its population is Roman Catholic. For almost three centuries, Spain controlled the country. Spain conceded the Dominican Republic to France in the late 1700s. The French held power until the country was conquered and ruled by its neighbor, Haiti, for over two decades. The Dominican Republic gained its independence from Haiti in 1844. The 1880s was a time of political turmoil for the Dominicans, with several parties fighting for power. In the 20th century, Chinese laborers looking for jobs migrated in masses to the Dominican Republic, and this led to an increase in the Chinese-Dominican population, which is currently 50,000. From 1930 to 1961 Rafael Trujillo, a dictator who gained power through blackmail, murder, and torture, controlled the Dominican Republic. The Trujillo assassination in 1961 gave rise to another era of power struggle in the Dominican Republic. From the mid 1960s to late 1990s, Joaquin Balaguer held major political influence in the country and served three terms as president. Currently, the Dominican Republic has elected its new president Danilo Medina and is working towards improving the Dominican citizenship laws, particularly in relation to the Haitians.