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martes, 5 de abril de 2011

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: KNOWING A COLORFUL COUNTRY FROM DEEP INSIDE

Pre-Columbian Dominican Republic: Who were the Taino? 
More than 1,500 years ago, the Arawak people of South America began to migrate northwards, eventually navigating the Orinoco River and exploring what is now the Caribbean and the Antilles. This migration would continue for hundreds of years, until there was a presence of Arawaks on most Caribbean islands, including Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Hispaniola (the European name for what is now the Dominican Republic and Haiti).



Although the tribes descended from the Arawak went under different names like Lokono, Lucayan, Carib or Ciboney, the Taino, which stood for "the good people" in Arawak, was the largest indigenous group under the umbrella of Arawak Indians, and would be the first group of indigenous Indians to make contact with European settlers.


When Columbus landed in what is now the Dominican Republic, in 1492, there was a vibrant and flourishing civilization already present on the island of Haiti (this was the Taino name for what Columbus renamed Hispaniola). Though the Taino Indians of Quisqueya (the Taino name for the part of the island that is now Dominican Republic) were a quiet, peaceful and deeply spiritual group, this society this was one of tremendous resourcefulness and energy.


The Taino 
The Taino had dark golden-brown skin, similar to that of their distant South American relatives, and were average in stature with dark, flowing, coarse hair, and large, slightly oblique eyes. Though modern depictions of Taino Indians at the time of Columbus’s arrival are of savage Indians parading around naked, the Taino were, in fact, highly skilled at weaving cotton and clothing. Clothing, or lack thereof, was used as an identifier of class and rank within the society.


Men generally went naked or wore a loincloth, called a nagua. Single women walked around naked, and married women covered their genitals with aprons made of cotton or palm fibers, the length of which was a sign of rank. Both sexes painted their bodies on special occasions, and wore earrings, nose rings and necklaces, which were sometimes made of gold.


Taino Kingdoms 
The Taino Indians lived in organized, hierarchically arranged kingdoms. Communities were divided into three social classes: the naborias, who were the working class, the nitainos or sub-chiefs and noblemen, which included the bohiques or priests and medicine men, and the Caciques or chiefs. Each Taino kingdom was ruled by a Taino Cacique, or chieftain, and at the time of Columbus’s arrival there were five Taino kingdoms on Quisqueya.


Cacique Guacanagarix’s kingdom was in the province of Marien, which is now known as Samana. Cacique Caonabo, one of the most famous Taino chieftains, ruled the province of Ciguayos. Cacique Guarionex, leader of a Taino revolt, ruled the province of Magua Huhabo. Cacique Behechio held dominion over the province of Xaragua, which was in the southwestern peninsula, and Cacique Cotubanama or Cayacoa ruled the province of Higuey.


Though the Taino kingdoms were ruled by Taino chieftains, it is a little-known fact that Taino societies were matriarchal in nature. The reasoning behind this fact is that though men wielded a considerable amount of power in the communities, it was the Taino women who actually chose the Caciques in the particular kingdoms. In this regard women were important because unlike men, the Tainos could trace royal lineage through women. It was only after Columbus’s arrival that the family structure was to change drastically.


The Caciques
Caciques lived in rectangular huts called caneyes, located in the center of the village, facing the batey. It’s believed that the size of Taino settlements ranged from single families to groups of 3,000 people.


The chieftains carried boldly carved scepters and daggers of polished stone as symbols of their authority. Caciques were also polygamous, and formed political alliances by marrying women from other kingdoms. Spanish records attest to the Caciques' power over almost every aspect of Taino society. “They controlled the collection and distribution of food and trade goods; they organized community festivals known as areytos; and they decided when to go to war. In addition, caciques functioned as spiritual leaders who contacted the supernatural through hallucinogenic trances and to ensure the well-being of the community.”


Caciques also acted as the main intermediaries between people and the supernatural realm. Before ingesting such hallucinogenic mixtures, Caciques and shamans fasted and purged themselves with vomiting spatulas of wood and bone, in order to consume the "pure foods" of the spirits. Then, they inhaled their concoctions from small vessels and trays, using delicately carved snuffers of wood and bone.

Diet, Recreation, & Language
The Taino spoke a language called Island Taino, which is under the umbrella of Arawak languages. Though much of the original Taino language has been lost, certain words have been preserved in our language today. Words like barbacoa (barbecue), hamaca (hammock), canoa (canoe), tabaco (tobacco), yuca (yucca) and juracan (hurricane) have been incorporated into Spanish and other modern languages.


Many Taino words persist in the Dominican vocabulary of today. Names like those of plants, trees and fruits include mani, aji, yuca, mamey, tabonuco and ceiba.


Names of fish, animals and birds have also been preserved in our language such as guaraguao, iguana, carey, jicotea, guabina and manati. In addition, objects and instruments like güiro, bohio, batey, coy and casaba have been preserved.


Also slightly preserved are old indigenous carvings and crafts that have given us deeper insights into daily Taino life. Taino crafts consisted of pottery and skillfully woven baskets, and stone, marble and wood carved with great detail. The Taino were also highly skilled in sculpture, ceramics, jewelry and weaving, and expressed themselves through ceremonial dance, music and poetry.


In the center of a typical Taino village (yucayeque) was a flat court (batey) used for various social activities such as games, various festivals and public ceremonies. The Taino played a ceremonial ball game called "Batu" between opposing teams (10 to 30 players per team) using a solid rubber ball. Batu was also used for conflict resolution between communities.


Part of Taino life included finding food. The indigenous Indians were skilled at hunting, sailing, fishing, canoe making, and navigation, which heavily influenced their diet, which consisted of vegetables, meat and fish.


However, due to the fact that there weren’t many wild animals to kill, the Tainos depended heavily on farming, and developed highly successful agricultural systems.


Taino groups in the coastal areas relied on fishing, using large nets to catch fish, while groups in the interior of the islands were more dependent on agriculture. Their crops were raised in a conuco, a large mound, which was packed with leaves to prevent erosion, and then planted with a variety of crops to ensure that something would grow, no matter what the weather conditions. Their main crops were cassava, (which they ate as a flat bread similar to a tortilla) garlic, potatoes, yautias, mamey, guava, corn, squash, beans, peppers, yams, peanuts, as well as tobacco and anon.


Although there weren’t many animals to kill, the Tainos became skilled at killing the animals they could find. The manatee became a staple of their diet, and they also became accustomed to eating small animals such as rodents, bats, earthworms, ducks, lizards, turtles and birds.


Religion
After finishing the day’s work, the Tainos would gather to share stories or take part in spiritual and religious ceremonies. The Taino were a deeply spiritual group who prayed to a collection of gods. The Taino respected all forms of life and recognized the importance of giving thanks, as well as honoring ancestors and spiritual beings, called Zemi. An example of a Taino god is "Yucahu" who was the invisible spirit of the sky. Yucahu’s mother was "Atabey", the mother of the gods and spirit of the waters.


"Juracan" was also a powerful god, and he was the evil god of storms. Other minor gods or "zemies" include "Boinayel," god of rain, the messenger "Guatauba", "Deminan Caracaracol," who broke the gourd and caused the flooding of the world and the spreading of the waters, "Opiyelguabiran," a dog-shaped god, and "Maketaori Guayaba," the ruler of the Coaybay, the underworld.


During ceremonies, the Cacique would sit on small wooden stools, a place of honor. There was a ceremonial beating of drums, and people wore special costumes for the ceremonies, which included paint and feathers, covered in shells from their knees downwards.


The shaman (medicine man or priest) would present the carved figures of the zemi for prayer, and Tainos would induce vomiting with a swallowing stick. The purpose of the vomit was to purge the body of impurities, both a physical purging, and a symbolic spiritual purging. This ceremonial purging and other rites were a symbolic changing before the zemi.


Women served bread (a communion rite), first to zemi, then to the Cacique, followed by the rest of the community. The sacred bread was a powerful protector. Finally came an oral history lesson, the singing of the village epic in honor of the Cacique and his ancestors. As the poet recited his poem he was accompanied by a maraca, a piece of hardwood which was beaten with pebbles.


The most important and sacred substance for the Taino was cohoba, a psychoactive powder ground from the seeds of trees native to South America and the Caribbean. The Taino sometimes mixed cohoba with tobacco to maximize its effect. Taino shamans took cohoba to cure illnesses for individual patients and Caciques took cohoba to communicate with zemies, spirits and ancestors.


Throughout the ancient Americas, chieftains and shamans used hallucinogens to connect with the spirits of the other world. Only those in touch with the supernatural realm could heal the sick, predict the future, ensure the fertility of the world and resolve the larger problems of existence. Natural hallucinogens were regarded by pre-Columbian cultures as sacred and endowed with inherent force. Their preparation and ingestion was associated with elaborate rituals, and they were only consumed by people considered to have sufficient power to communicate with the spirits and ancestors who dwelled in the other world. The Taino believed it was possible to travel to the supernatural realm during cohoba-induced trances.


Once the hallucinogen was inhaled, the Cacique or shaman would sit on his duho, elbows resting on knees, body hunched forward, lost in the thoughts and images that would result from cohoba's swift effect. In this position, Caciques and shamans communicated with spirits and ancestors.


At Columbus’s Arrival 
At the time of Columbus’s arrival there were an estimated three million Taino Indians inhabiting Haiti/Quiqueya, but this was not to last. In the first 20 years of Spanish presence on Quisqueya, the Taino population dwindled to an estimated 60,000 natives, and in the next 30 years the population would be reduced to almost 5,000 native inhabitants, a decline of almost 98% of the indigenous population.


Some historians argue that for about 100 years before the Spanish invasion, the Tainos were constantly challenged by the fierce, warlike Caribs. The Caribs were adept at using poison-tipped arrows, which they used when they raided Taino settlements for slaves. Historians argue that the strength of the Tainos was gradually weakened by the Carib attacks, and that the Taino were already in decline by the time the Spanish arrived.


Regardless of this fact, the fate of the Taino Indian was sealed on that day in 1492, when they first encountered Christopher Columbus. Though little is left of the once energetic Taino society, except for the cultivated image used to define skin color or identity, it is important to preserve what is left. The Taino presence has dwindled considerably in the Dominican Republic, but it is still part of this country’s vibrant culture and history.


Dominican Republic Transportation
The Dominican Republic is a wonderful tropical island of sandy beaches, rolling mountain ranges, majestic waterfalls and cool freshwater rivers. Its natural aesthetics are breathtaking and its history and culture fascinating. But with so much to experience, how does one get around?


At first glance, the Dominican transportation system may appear quite rudimentary but upon further investigation, most would agree that it is quite efficient and economical.


Renting a car


The most obvious way to get around the Dominican Republic is to rent a car. For those willing to do this, the right vehicle can take you to many of the parts of the country which you would not be able to experience otherwise. It is important that you do have the right vehicle, as road conditions can be poor as you get further away from the highly populated cities and rural towns and explore the more remote parts of the country.


The rules of the road are structured similarly to North America in that one is supposed to drive on the right side of the road but soon after you begin driving, you will discover that basic driving laws are not strictly enforced and Dominicans frequently ignore traffic signs and signals and follow their own set of rules. As a result, you have to be aware of those driving around you and adapt accordingly. However, most people soon get the hang of driving. 


Renting a vehicle is quite easy and can be done at all the major airports as well as plenty of other places throughout the country. For more information on car rentals, you can visit the main car rental companies’ websites listed below:


National
Prestige
AVIS
Hertz
Budget


Also, of course, in order to know where you are going, you will need a good map. For a good, detailed map of the country, you can visit this link.


Buses


If you are not interested in renting a vehicle, a terrific, cost-effective way to get around is on a tour bus. The two major tour bus operators in the country are Caribe Tours and Metro Bus. Both of these operators have buses running on regular, reliable schedules that reach all parts of the country. From Santo Domingo to Puerto Plata to Monte Christi to the Samana peninsula and so many places in between, Carribe and Metro tours is a great option for transportation.


Their buses are air-conditioned (you might want to bring a sweater), comfortable and make regular stops along the way so that you can get out and stretch your legs or get a quick bite to eat or a refreshment. Riding in the buses is also a great way to view the beautiful scenery along the way. The prices are generally considered very economical. Here is a link to the Caribe Tours website Caribe Tours and the phone number for Metro Bus (809) 544-4580 where you can get information on destinations, scheduling and ticket prices.


Carro Publicos


Carro Publicos are another form of transportation that you see on a local level. They are public taxis that run along specific routes. As a passenger, you buy a spot in the carro publico and share the carro publico with other passengers. There are four spots for sale in the backseat of the publico and two in the front. If you are concerned about being crowded and want some personal space, you can buy the front two spots for yourself.


One good thing about carros publicos is that they do not have predetermined stops along their routes so you can request to get out at any point you like. Because you are sharing the carro publicos with other passengers, they are considerably cheaper than private taxis and very popular. In Santo Domingo, carro publicos run along all of the major avenues and make getting around the city very easy and inexpensive. 


Guaguas


Guaguas are minivans or minibuses. Like publicos, they generally travel along a set route but they have predetermined stops. They also carry more passengers and at times, can get quite crowded. Guaguas normally have a guy who hangs on the side of the door and yells his destination at people along the street. He is known as the “cobrador” and also takes your fare and tells you where to sit. Like publicos, Guaguas are considerably more reasonable than private taxis and very popular. 


How to catch a ride


To get a ride on the city’s public transportation system, just stand on the side of any relatively major street and let your fingers do the talking. Stick your hand out and sort of wave in the direction you want to go. For example, to go straight, extend your finger parallel to the street. You can observe more experienced riders for style tips.
Many vehicles just travel back and forth along one road. Others will turn onto other main streets. To catch one of those, point your thumb back over your shoulder. Drivers and conductors will help you by doing their own pointing. 


Often you will need to take a couple of separate rides to get where you want to go, and as long as you know where that is, it isn’t too difficult. Stick to main roads if you’re uncertain, and ask the driver to tell you when you reach your crossroad.


Public transportation useful phrases


Limited knowledge of the Spanish language is not a problem when taking public transportation in the Dominican Republic. However, there are some words and phrases that are useful to know. Say “derecho” if you want to go straight ahead (not to be confused with “derecha”, which means to the right). If you want to know if the vehicle goes as far as a specific street, ask “hasta (whatever street name)”. The only answer you need is a nod or a shake of the head.


There are several ways to say you want to get out of the vehicle. In the buses or minibuses or even in cars, if the radio’s blaring you might have to scream. Don’t be shy, or you may end up somewhere you’d rather not be. General “stop” expressions include “déjeme” (Let me out!) and “dónde pueda” (Wherever you can!).
To stop at the next corner, say “en la esquina” at bigger intersections, you might want to say “antes de cruzar” or “después de cruzar” (Before or after you cross the intersection.) 


Motoconchos


Motoconchos are motorbikes that are used as taxis and are more popular in small towns than they are in the capital city. Basically, you just climb onto the motorcycle behind the driver and tell him where you want to go. They usually only travel short distances and are inexpensive, however, many people consider them to be unsafe as their accident rate is high as compared to taxis.


So, as you can see, there are plenty of ways to get around and experience all of the wonderful things that beautiful Dominican Republic has to offer.


Dominican Republic Larimar
Larimar is a beautiful blue gemstone that is only found in the Dominican Republic. Its blue color is very similar to that of the tropical beach waters and because of its appearance, it is frequently mistaken for turquoise. Larimar stones are thought to have formed years ago as a result of volcanic eruptions. It is theorized that as magma was forced from beneath the earth’s surface, it mixed with a variety of substances such as aluminum compounds, sodium, calcium and iron. This chemical mixture formed into what is known in geology as a pectolite that is essentially a mineral occurring in radiated or fibrous or crystalline masses. This is the cause for its unusual but beautiful bright blue color.


Because larimar is indigenous to the Dominican Republic and because of its unusual beauty, there is naturally a lot of Dominican folklore surrounding it. It is often looked upon as a powerful, spiritual stone. It is said to soothe, heal and enlighten. It is supposed to enable one to view things from a different perspective. The stone itself represents peace, clarity and love and is recommended for people who are stressed. This is all undoubtedly due to its tranquil blue color. 


History of larimar


It is known that the ancient Tainos appreciated and valued amber but whether they placed any value on larimar or not is not known. It is also believed that despite larimar’s beauty, very little attention was paid to it until fairly recently. The volcano where it originated, now dormant, is in the part of the Dominican Republic known as Barahona which is a large town in the southwestern part of the country. Documents from the Dominican Treasury Department reveal that around one hundred years ago, a gentleman by the name of Miguel Domingo Fuerte Loren applied for permission to begin excavating this area. Whether or not he was granted permission is unknown but it appears that a mine was formed and then the idea was abandoned and the area went largely unexplored until 1974.


In that year, two gentlemen, one a member of the United States Peace Corps and the other a Dominican by the name of Miguel Mendez, reportedly found some blue pebbles in this area. Apparently, they began wading up river in search of more of the blue pebbles and in doing so, rediscovered the mine that Miguel Domingo Fuerte Loren had abandoned years before. Within a year, exploitation of the area restarted and today, there are hundreds of mine shafts extending deep into the mountain. 


The gemstone was given its name by Mendez. The word larimar was created by combining the beginning of Mendez’s daughter’s name Larissa with the word “mar” which is the Spanish word for sea. Strangely enough, despite being in existence for so long, up until that point the largely ignored gemstone had not been officially named and the name larimar stuck.


Larimar mining


The actual mine in Barahona is several kilometers north of the main road from Barahona to Bahoruco. The dirt road is very steep and hilly and is not passable without a four wheel drive vehicle. There is also no sign so if you do not know where you are going, you will have a very difficult time finding it. However, the scenery along the road is reportedly a spectacular view of tropical trees and flowers. Aside from that, like many areas of the remote Dominican countryside, the structures in the area surrounding the mine are mostly small, poorly constructed houses and huts. Most of their occupants are men that are employed in the larimar mines and their families. These men usually begin working in the mines at a very young age. As there is not much other opportunity, the mines provide some stability and though the men earn little money, it is enough to allow them and their families to live a simple lifestyle. 


Working in the mines can be very dangerous as they are poorly constructed and reinforced and very few safety measures are taken. The deep tunnels can easily collapse, trapping any miner who may be working inside. A number of miners have reportedly been buried alive due to collapses such as these. 


During the rainy season, the mines occasionally become flooded and as a result, the potential to mine becomes limited. It is really not known exactly how much larimar is in the mine and conceivably, the mine could become exhausted of the precious gem at any time. This uncertainty and occasional rumors surrounding larimars availability causes fluctuations in its price. The fact that the existence of larimar has become more widely known and that tourists have been purchasing it with increased frequency has added to its value. 


Larimar jewelry


Larimar rates between a 5 and a 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness which is a system that measures a substances resistance to being scratched. The darker blue stones rate closer to a 7 with the lighter ones rating closer to a 5. The stones hardness and beautiful color has made it a very popular item for making jewelry. Of course, the larimar is not taken directly from the mine and immediately made into jewelry but has to go through a process. First, the stones taken from the mine must be sorted and it has to be determined which ones are suitable for making jewelry. Next, they have to be classified by size, color, and clarity. Then the stones have to be shaped accordingly and polished before being mounted into the piece of jewelry by a professional.


There are necklaces, earrings, cufflinks, bracelets, rings, pendants and other forms of jewelry made from larimar. There are many stores around the Dominican Republic selling these items as well as several companies on the web. The Larimar museum has become a popular place to visit and is located in the colonial zone in Santo Domingo. It has a large display of larimar as well as a store and gift shop. At the museums store, if you do not see the specific piece of jewelry you are looking for, you can request them to custom make it for you. You might also encounter vendors selling larimar jewelry on the street. Although the items may be cheaper than what you will see in the larimar museum or in stores, it is generally a poorer quality and could very well be counterfeit so purchasing larimar on the street should be avoided or at the very least, approached with caution.


While visiting the Dominican Republic as a tourist, it might be difficult what to decide to bring back as a souvenir. Larimar’s unique history and beauty can make this decision easier. Whether you want to purchase a beautiful piece of jewelry or simply buy a small stone as a good luck charm or memento of your visit, larimar is a terrific choice.


How do street vendors work?


Street vendors work under the hot Caribbean sun, tropical downpours and in the midst of hectic big city traffic, is the answer to that question.


A large part of the Dominican economy is made up of what’s known as ‘the informal sector’. This informal economy includes employees such as domestic workers and small-scale traders. In the case of the traders, the fact that they are ‘informal’ means that their business is unregistered and unregulated, and not subject to taxation. It is also the way in which a large percentage of Dominican people earn their living. In Spanish they are known as ‘vendedores ambulantes’.


Many of these informal businesses consist of little more than a tricycle or cart, often shaded by a colorful beach umbrella. In some cases not even that. The vendors either roam the streets, work from fixed spots on shady corners, or ply their trade at traffic intersections.


Street vendors are a colorful part of Dominican life, but for the tourist, the hawkers and hustlers in vacation areas selling trinkets and foodstuffs can also be a nuisance. The best advice for tackling over-zealous merchants of this kind is to be firm but polite in declining their offers. When this does not work, walk away if appropriate or use a stronger tone. Always bear in mind that this is their livelihood, but at the same time it does not excuse any harassment or invasive behavior on their part. 


If you do choose to engage with these vendors, by all means haggle, but within reason. You might gain some satisfaction from bringing down the price, but again, for the seller, this is his/her living, so keep it in proportion. What is just a couple of dollars to you could mean the difference between getting food on the table and skipping a meal for the seller. It is a fact of life that some vendors will try to overcharge: depending on the item it is possible to detect these attempts if you have an idea what the actual price should be.


If in any doubt - just don’t buy it. If the street vendor does appear to be unscrupulous or aggressive, you could mention ‘Politur’, the tourist police that patrols tourist areas like beach towns and the Colonial Zone in Santo Domingo, and this should scare him/her off.


What do they sell?


Vendors in tourist areas hawk a range of items: seafood snacks (including shellfish marketed as ‘natural Viagra’), crafts souvenirs and artisan items like jewelry, t-shirts, baseball caps, sarongs and plastic beach toys. 


Be aware that some of the ‘artesania’ being sold as local crafts may well be mass-produced in some Chinese factory and not Dominican at all. Other items may be from Haiti, or made by Haitians in the Dominican Republic. If authenticity is important to you, seek out the workshops where local crafts are made instead of buying them on the street. Likewise, caution is advised when buying what are described as Cuban Cigars: these are quite likely to be counterfeit and it is best to go to a recommended store, where the price might be higher but the quality and authenticity is more reliable.


Most beaches frequented by tourists will have one or two ‘Mama Juana’ sellers who usually oblige by letting potential buyers sample his potent wares.


Beyond the tourist areas, street sellers are very much a part of everyday life in the Dominican Republic. In every city or town, from the poorest barrio to the wealthiest neighborhood, fruit sellers and their colorful barrows of tropical fruits are posted on most street corners, and many other sellers do the rounds on specially adapted tricycles selling vegetables as well as fruit to their regular customers. They call out their wares, sound a horn or whistle to alert housewives about their arrival. In the afternoons ice-cream sellers do their rounds on their bicycles, ringing their bells to get the attention of children and older ice-cream lovers.


Campesinos (farmers) bring their produce from the countryside, often on horse-drawn carts laden with lemons, pineapples or coconuts, providing an interesting contrast with the urban traffic. These pieces of fruit can usually be purchased for just a few pesos each.


Street vendors may sell fruit and vegetables, prepared ‘frituras’ (typical Dominican fried delicacies like yaniqueques (johnnycakes), empanadas (pies), carnita (meat), quipes (kibbes) and more), hot dogs and ‘chimi churri’ (hamburgers), natural fruit juices and homemade sweets and candies. All are worth trying, and many are also attractive subjects for photography.


Do take care, though, because hygiene standards are not always the highest, and especially if you have not been in the country very long, your stomach might be a little more sensitive in comparison to the vendor’s local clientele.


Fruit carts are often arranged with intricate care and attention, piling the papayas and bananas in symmetrical pyramids flanked by pineapples. In the run up to Christmas the flavor changes: and apples and grapes replace their tropical cousins as the main fruits on offer during the festive season.


Another common sight in every part of the Dominican Republic is the cocotero, the coconut seller, who gouges off the top of the coconut with his machete and pours the juice into a plastic cup for you, the customer. You also have the option of drinking straight out of the nut, straw optional. Citrus juice is another option, usually the freshly squeezed juice of sweet oranges, known in the DR as ‘chinas’. A traditional treat is ‘frio frio’: a cup of shaved ice with a choice of flavored syrups.


Many of these vendors choose their spots carefully; however, naturally, some spots/intersections are more coveted than others. Vendors frequently fight over the more coveted spots and/or make agreements with each other to compensate for one vendor getting a less desired location. This is the side of street vending, the one that goes on amongst vendors behind the scenes, that motorists do not see. Like the largest businesses, the vendors know their target market and cater to the needs of their customers. These could be housewives, schoolchildren, university students or employees of large companies, who all flock out to buy a mid-morning snack or the ingredients for the lunchtime meal. For Dominicans, these vendors are just another commercial outlet, and very much part of everyday life. They may charge a little more than one would pay in a supermarket or a ‘colmado’, but then again, they are the ultimate convenience store – where the goods come to your door, or at least to the street corner.


Traffic lights are the scene of much activity on the part of the vendors. As well as food of every kind imaginable, you can purchase cell phone accessories, phone cards, vehicle related items like steering wheel covers and windscreen wipers, trinkets, newspapers and even puppies, caged birds and goldfish. Coming up to Christmas time, you will see many vendors selling Christmas related items. The vendors, and purveyors of other services such as windscreen washers, maneuver themselves with impressive dexterity amongst the thronging traffic, and it is a wonder that accidents do not happen more often. 


Buying anything through your car window can be exciting or harrowing, depending on how you look at it. Time it well, and make sure you have the right money, because otherwise the transaction might end up taking too long, and once the lights turn green, as far as the vehicles behind you are concerned your bag of cashew nuts is simply not as important as getting across that intersection!


Some of these vendors are independent, but some are employed by larger concerns: newspaper sellers get 4 pesos for each newspaper sold. Phone card vendors are even issued with corporate style uniforms these days! They get 8% of the value of each card they sell.


In keeping with the makeup of the wider informal economy, many street vendors are Haitian as well as Dominican. The country is host to thousands of Haitian migrants, many of whom are here illegally. They come over in hope of an income in the DR, which is relatively affluent compared to their homeland, the poorest country in the Americas. Haitians traditionally work in sugar cane cutting and construction (the men), domestic service (the women), and low-paid menial jobs. Street selling, which is informal and low-paid, is another sector where this part of the labor force can be found.


Another local fixture is the ‘limpiabotas’ – the shoeshine boys. Many young, poor Dominican boys can be seen walking up and down the streets with their homemade wooden shine boxes. The boxes act as both a holder for all of their shine equipment and as a spot where you can place your shoe while having it shined. Generally, when the limpia bota boy is finished with one shoe, he will “rap” the side of the wooden box to alert you that he is finished with the shoe and ready for the other one. Some, but not all of them, attend school are under the care of charitable organizations like ‘Muchachos y Muchachas con Don Bosco’ (Boys and Girls with Don Bosco), which ensures that hundreds of these children are looked after and provided with training and education. A shoeshine from a younger ‘limpiabotas’ generally costs 5 pesos. The premium service offered by the professionals at Parque Independencia can cost between 50 and 100, but they do a more thorough job.


Payment in the informal economy is strictly cash-only. Neither credit cards nor checks are accepted in this sector. However, once you establish yourself as a regular with a neighborhood vendor, they may well consider providing you with the goods ‘fiao’ (on credit). That way you will know you have well and truly been accepted by the locals!


Race and Dominicanness: A struggle for identity
Understanding race in the Dominican Republic can be a difficult and confusing task. The composition of Dominican society is influenced by a mixture of race, culture, history, and politics which has created an interesting mosaic of people, but it is understanding how Dominicans view themselves through these classifiers, and its effects on this society, that is difficult. What can be even more demanding is understanding how in the Dominican Republic there is an almost endless variety of classifications for skin colors, pseudo-race classifications, that encompass the whole skin color spectrum, without ever including Black (African) as a possibility. Fascinating also is the way that some Dominicans seemingly ignore some basic racial identifiers to justify their appearance, and ultimately their history. It is as if some Dominicans have created their own rules for understanding race. Though the origins of this confusing system can be traced as far back as the time of Columbus, and the Tainos who originally inhabited the island, it takes careful analysis of the racial, and “racialized,” history to come to understand the many layers in the island’s racial dichotomies. 


When race is mentioned in the Dominican Republic the almost non-existent Taino culture is at the crux of the conversation, seemingly and somewhat purposely, ignoring the African influence on the country, and at the same time praising the European background of Dominicans. If we look back almost 400 years in Dominican history we begin to unravel the origins of this occurrence. In 1492 Christopher Columbus landed on Hispaniola, the island that now includes Haiti and the Dominican Republic. This event initiated what is believed to be by some as the Western Hemisphere’s first known genocide. Upon Columbus’s arrival there were an estimated 3 million Taino Indians inhabiting Hispaniola. As the need for development and exploitation of the natural resources grew, the Taino were looked upon to provide the physical labor needed for the development of the colonial economies. Unfortunately for the enslaved Taino they were not physically suited to the harshness of mining, building, or sugar cultivation. Similarly, initial physical contact with the Europeans proved just as destructive, as the Tainos weren’t prepared for the introduction of European diseases like smallpox or chickenpox. In the end death was what awaited the native inhabitants. In the first 20 years of Spanish presence on Hispaniola, (of which the eastern two-thirds would become the Dominican Republic) the Taino population dwindled to an estimated 60,000 natives, and in the next 30 years the population would be reduced to almost 5,000 native inhabitants, a decline of almost 98% of the indigenous population. An astonishing event, substantiated by these wrenching figures, this systematic annihilation of the indigenous population was thought to be just as unbelievable four hundred years ago. Future champion of indigenous rights Friar Bartolome de las Casas recalled that, "there were 60,000 people living on this island [when I arrived in 1508], including the Indians; so that from 1494 to 1508, over three million people had perished from war, slavery and the mines.” Even de las Casas pondered the credibility of these figures exclaiming, “Who in future generations will believe this?"


With so few Indians left on the island the remaining Taino Caciques (chiefs) fled to neighboring islands, or to the hills of Hispaniola, in the hope of saving their people. As fewer and fewer communities remained, war was the only survival option for the remaining natives. Of these, it was one native leader in particular who would come to be immortalized as the quintessential image of Dominicans. Enriquillo, a convert to Christianity who had been mentored by Bartolome de las Casas, would lead one of the final native rebellions. Beginning in 1519, Enriquillo led, what would become a 15-year war against the Spaniards, in hopes of freeing his people, and expelling the colonizers. Due to Enriquillo’s leadership, and the Tainos’ knowledge of the land, the Spaniards were forced to surrender to Enriquillo’s demands. In return for freedom, and rights of possession, Enriquillo promised to return any runaway slaves, who were increasingly of African descent. But this would eventually be of little consequence, as the decreased native population would eventually come under Spanish control. Nonetheless, from these events, a hero emerged, and the model of the Dominican image was formed.


In following decades the need for manual labor increased, and the Europeans looked to Africa for the cheap labor that would bring wealth to their empires. As the African populations grew, and misogyny became the norm, so did a colonial model for the racial classification of these new “breeds” of people. Children born from mixed relations were classified according the percentage of their blood that was “pure,” i.e. European. Terms like criollo, metizo, trigueno, mulato, indio, havao, or cuarteron, amongst others, measured purity amongst mixed people, and created a value system amongst those with mixed ancestry. With the evolution of the classification systems, and justification for the slave practices that fueled colonial economies, Africans were deemed to be inferior, even considered as sub-human beings, therefore anything that had, or seemed African, was not acceptable. Accordingly, praise was given to those born of European descent, and this became the idealized concept towards which future generations would look to as an example for identity. It was the European model, not the prevalent African model of identity, which would eventually be desired, and this has come to be reflected in the Dominican Republic today. Even Taino heritage, which itself had been diluted over many decades, was elevated to a somewhat critical representation of identity, all in response to the continued ‘Africanization’ of the island, which was in stark contrast of the European standards of beauty. Even if one couldn’t “be” European, you could at least be indio, since as a last recourse it wasn’t black, it wasn’t African. According to popular author Michele Wucker it was in “Mourning his [Enriquillo’s] demise and celebrating his legacy, Dominicans resurrected the past, and constructed a Taino-influenced ancestry to explain their color. Today, mulatto and Black Dominicans call themselves Indio, and they say that their color is dark like that of Indians, but different in quality from African skins. 


With these assertions we better understand how Dominicans view themselves. In Enriquillo Dominicans saw the image of a great man. He was, “a heroic Indian who put peace with Spain above alliance with black slaves.” In these statements we see the creation of the Dominican image being drawn out from the myth of Enriquillo, to describe themselves as anything but African. Through Enriquillo’s legend Dominicans interpreted a respect towards Spain, all the while, they reflected on his unwillingness to support the runaway Africans, which they too became unwilling to support, and reveled in his warrior status as a hero, which they too wanted to emulate. He was a strong Christian man, who above anything else wasn’t black; he was ‘Indio.’ Though the physical presence of the Indio died out almost immediately after the initial Spanish presence, replaced by the intermixing with Africans and Europeans, the presence of the Indio in the Dominican psyche, as a way to understand themselves, is still at the core of the Dominican identity today. 


Adding to the ill-defined concepts of race and identity are the strides made by Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, and his campaign of Blanquismo. Trujillo, through violent action and political policy, shaped the Dominican landscape of racial identity, continuously championing Eurocentricity over Africanism, and by default supporting the Indio heritage. In his 30 years in power Trujillo was efficient in his policies of Blanquismo, making great strides to resolve the racial disparities of the island. In 1937 he ordered the systematic massacre of close to 20,000 Haitians, though some estimates place this figure higher. Trujillo’s reasons for this act were obvious, but his main justification was that it was in retaliation for the Haitian government’s support for Dominican exiles trying to overthrow him. Eventually Trujillo allowed entrance to the Dominican Republic of Jewish refugees fleeing Europe, and Republican exiles from the Spanish Civil war, as an attempt to “lighten the race.” Moreover, Trujillo declared Merengue the national music of the Dominican Republic, and had the music and dance subsequently modeled after the European Waltz, a cultural manifestation of his wish to make his country appear more European, at least on the surface. 


Though the extension of the African Diasporas is clearly present in the Dominican Republic through culture, race, food, and other variants, it is important to note that semblances of Taino heritage are still present, which add to the difficulties of the conversation. Since so little is left of the Taino heritage, as opposed to the overwhelming African heritage, one can postulate that the claims towards being indio isn’t in neglect of the African heritage, but as a way of conserving what little of the Taino culture remains. It should be noted though, that in recent years there has been a change towards accepting, and having pride in the Afro-Dominican realities of the island. Increasingly Dominicans of darker complexions can be heard declaring pride for their skin color, in essence accepting their roots, and conversely, some Dominicans can be heard arguing that the idea of indio doesn’t in fact exist, and isn’t a valid classification for Dominicans. What should ultimately be held as true is that it is important to recognize this country’s African heritage, alongside its Taino roots, in order to create a synthesis within the cultural and racial landscapes, that will one day provide a conclusive understanding of identity in the Dominican Republic, something that up until now has been impossible to do.


Among the most distinctive cultural symbols in the Dominican Republic, Presidente Beer has become an iconic brand that represents Dominicans both in the country and abroad. The Presidente brand of beer has become a symbol of national pride, and in its 71-year history has become the beer of choice for Dominicans. 


‘Una fria,” or a cold one, has become a patriotic symbol, something intrinsically Dominican. 


Like the Brugal rum company, the largest rum producer in the DR, Presidente beer has transcended from a simple alcoholic beverage to a way that Dominicans identify themselves. Especially outside the United States, Presidente beer has become one of those icons that manages to keep Dominicans living abroad feeling like they are still connected to their roots. 


In recent years Presidente beer has had competition from other brands, but the introduction of these brands into the beer market has not yet been able to challenge the strong hold the beer has on the DR.


Many Dominicans would be surprised to learn that Presidente beer, which has defined this particular Dominican pilsner taste, and its parent company, Cerverceria Nacional Dominicana (CND), which has a 75-year history in the Dominican Republic, has its roots in the United States. 


Up until the end of the 19th century, and the beginning of the 20th century, the only beers found in the Dominican Republic were from either Europe or North America. So in 1929 an American entrepreneur by the name of Charles H. Wazner saw an opening in the Dominican beer market, which he decided to take advantage of. With an initial investment of US$350,000, Wazner and his investment partners founded Cerveceria Nacional Dominicana. 


With continued efforts by Wazner and his partners the CND rapidly grew. It was only a matter of time before the CND would introduce to the public a signature product that would so heavily influence Dominican culture for the next 70 years. 


May 1935 saw the introduction in the Dominican Republic of CND’s premier product, the Presidente beer, as this beer was designed specifically with the Dominican consumer in mind. 


Dominicans found that the earlier introductions of European beers were in fact too heavy, with a distinctively strong taste, and with high levels of hops. Contrary to this Dominicans found the American beers too clear and light, with an extremely low alcohol content, and simply too refined for the taste buds of the Dominican consumer. Presidente beer was the answer to this problem. 
The Presidente Especial, the brand’s name at the time, was a mixture of both pilsner extremes previously found in the country, and it quickly managed to satisfy the tastes of the Dominican consumer. 


The 1940s and 50s saw the CND prosper, with production of the beer eclipsing the production of rum for the first time ever. This was more amazing considering the fact that rum was at the time the country’s national drink, and held deep historical roots on the island dating back to the time of Columbus. 


In 1951 the CND’s current operating plant on Avenida Independencia was built and inaugurated, symbolizing another move forward for the company. During this period Presidente beer became a drink with social distinction, and it began to carve out its place as a symbol of national pride. 


Though the 1960s brought turmoil and instabilities to the Dominican Republic, with the death of Rafael Trujillo and the civil uprisings after his death, the CND managed to continue expansion, increasing production, storage and management capacities. 


During the 1970s and 80s the CND continued its development and expansion, as it became one of the most powerful and important distributors in the Dominican Republic. 


1983 saw a landmark event, which consolidated the place of Presidente beer in the Dominican Republic.


In 1983 the Grupo Leon Jimenes, long known for its production of cigarettes and cigars, founded the Cerverceria Bohemia (CB). CB, under the supervision of the Miller Brewing Company, (a subsidiary of the Phillip Morris Company, which had maintained a long relationship with Leon Jimenez since 1969), built and installed the most advanced beer production facilities in the country.


Three years later, in 1986, Grupo Leon Jimenes acquired most of the shares of the CND, and effectively consolidated their position in the Dominican beer market. This move by Grupo Jimenes would come to define the current state of the CND as the main beer distributor in the DR. 


Though the CND produces and distributes the Presidente line of beers, its association with a variety of beverage partners, and a diversification of its production portfolio has allowed for the CND to provide the Dominican public with a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, though Presidente beer is still the choice of most. 


Currently the CND distributes seven other beverages in the Dominican Republic. Along with Presidente Light, the CDN also distributes Smirnoff Ice, Lowenbrau, Miller Light, Bohemia Especial, Heineken, Malta Morena, and an Ambar flavored beer produced in the DR, and distributed under the same name.




Outside the Dominican Republic the Presidente brand of beer has gained high esteem among beer drinkers. Since the early 1990s Presidente has been sold outside the Dominican Republic, and since 1995 sales have increased at an annual rate of 31.5%. Also, there are currently 59 international companies involved in selling the Presidente brand of beer. 


In 1990 Presidente beer was introduced to the United States, via the Miami market, and in 1991 the company started sponsoring Merengue and Salsa events in the Miami area. The success of this introduction would lead to the beer being sold in 11 different markets in the United States. 


In 1996 the product was introduced in New York and New Jersey, both areas with large populations of Dominicans, and in 1999 the beer was introduced in Tampa, Orlando and Pennsylvania.


By 2002 the beer was introduced to seven new markets in Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia, Indiana, Georgia, Illinois and California, with an introduction into the Bahamas that same year. 


Aside from the Bahamas, Presidente can be found in other nine other Caribbean nations. Puerto Rico, Haiti, the US Virgin Islands, the Turks and Caicos, Curacao, Aruba, Tortola and St. Maarten. 


More than just a beer product, Presidente has become linked to many events both leisure and cultural, and has managed to carve out a role for itself as the beer that defines nightlife in the Dominican Republic. 


Presidente sponsors cultural events at the Music Competition at the National Theater, Carnival celebrations across the country, The Cassandra Awards (Arts, Entertainment, and Journalism award), The Latin Music Festival, The Winter Baseball League, and the Athlete of the Year Award, amongst others. 


Presidente has been challenged recently by the introduction of the Brahma Beer brand into the beer market, but it has yet to make a dent into Presidente’s popularity, and it seems that for at least the near future, it won’t make the necessary impact on Dominicans. 


Though some Dominicans may wander, and try new beers, either domestic or imported, Presidente beer will still remain the premier beer of their choice. 


Whether it is the taste of the beer, or the simple fact that the beer represents a national icon for the demonstration of national pride, Presidente beer is undoubtedly an important part of the Dominican cultural make-up.




In the DR, Presidente beer is one of those small examples that one can call on to help understand, explain or define this culture, and it is through this beverage that one can also piece together parts of this country’s history. 


For Dominicans who live abroad, Presidente beer, like Brugal rum, is a small symbol that makes Dominicans outside their country feel as if they still have a connection to their homeland, their roots and their heritage. 


Outside of their homeland Dominicans have been able to find comfort in having at their disposal a representation of who they are, and something that they, along with other Dominicans, can relate to. 


Through participation in the arts, sports, music, leisure, and a commitment to the community, Presidente beer and the CND have been able to define their role in this country as more than just a beer producer. Their long history in the Dominican Republic, their willingness to integrate their company in the country’s overall development, and their ability to change with the times has continued to make Presidente the beer of choice in the country, with no foreseeable change to this in the near future. 


And though holding an alcoholic beverage up to such a high esteem, as a representation of identity, is beyond the norm, it is safe to say that Dominicans admire the product as something that is particularly theirs. 


Dominicans derive pride in the quality of the beer, which in turn reflects quality in them as people, their customs and culture. It is this pride in quality, which Dominicans are ultimately most proud of, and which they continuously celebrate.


What is amber?


Amber, a fossil resin, is one of the few substances aside from diamond, jet, pearl and ivory that is considered a gem but is not a mineral. It was formed when sap emitted from trees dried up and hardened. The sap could have come out of the tree bark in a single drip, a large amount could have flowed out at one time or it could have come out several drips, one after another. The later method of multiple drops is known as shlaubs and generally has more fossil inclusions because the initial drops would catch the insects or animals and the subsequent drops would naturally cover them.


Nowhere in the world can it be found with the VARIETY OF COLORS same density as in the Dominican Republic. Actually, a large percentage of the amber used in commercial jewelry production comes from the Dominican Republic. Due to the year round warm climate, the amber found in the Dominican Republic also has a higher concentration of fossils and insects than anywhere else in the world. This makes it highly sought after by collectors and scientists alike.


There are three main amber mining sites in the Dominican Republic located in the northeast and southeast. They are the Cordillera Septentrional in the north (Santiago and Puerto Plata provinces, and Bayaguana and Sabena in the east. Amber, it has been determined, in the DR is primarily located at elevations that run over faults. Although it is theorized that these places had once been part of the same sedimentary basin but had been separated by movements along major faults, the amber was formed differently in the Septentrional range than in the hills of Bayaguana and Sabena. In the north, it was formed by caustic rocks or sandstone accumulating in deep water and in the east it is found in sand, clay or gravel. 


History of amber


Diaries of Christopher Columbus contain the first documentation in the New World. It is said that when Columbus landed in Hispaniola, a Taino Indian offered him a pair of shoes decorated in amber in exchange for a necklace made of Baltic amber that Columbus had offered him. Archeological digs have uncovered Taino burial sites that have been filled with decorative amber. Over the course of time, the country’s rich amber deposits were practically abandoned as the value of gold took a priority.


It was not until the 1940s, when two artisans from the central town of Tamboril in the province of Santiago, Emilio and Manolo Perez began to work amber in a commercial form. They manufactured snuffers for cigars and sold them in Santiago. They found the amber along the Licey River. 


In 1949, Italian geologist Renato Zoppis de Sena, appointed director of mining under the government of Trujillo, carried out research on amber to determine its age. During this period, the exploitation of amber resumed but only lasted a few months because the government was not willing to make appropriate funding available. There were also problems locating buyers in the domestic and foreign markets to purchase the extracted amber. 


His successor at the Department of Mines (1951-55), Dominican naturalist Pompilio Brouwer continued to do research on amber and proposed the exploitation continue. Artisan Emilio Perez was brought to Santo Domingo to teach his craft at a school that was opened to train amber artisans. The government granted 30 scholarships. This marked the start of a true artisanal industry of amber. 


The government would place the mines under the Centro Nacional de Artesania (Cenadarte), national handicraft center, which had the state concession to produce items such as jewelry. 


Brouwer was fascinated with amber and became the country’s leading collector in the 50s and 60s, giving. He was the first to extend the small excavations that were carried out in those years to extract the resin. He is considered the first national who officially assigned an artisanal and industrial value to amber. He sustained that the amber in the Dominican Republic known as the amber of Santo Domingo is of better quality than that of Germany, because of its transparency and the diversity of hues and varieties of amber in the Dominican Republic that represent the varieties of the mineral found in other areas of the world. Brower back then identified the wide range of colors and levels of transparency of Dominican amber. These range from transparent pieces, to pinks, yellows, reds, purples, blue tones, even black-colored amber. 


The exploitation of amber would be subsequently organized commercially with the founding of the Compania de Ambar Dominicano under the technical direction of Dr. Brouwer himself. This company carried out amber extraction in the faults of Las Auyamas, between Puerto Plata and Santiago provinces. In 1963, vendors began to sell the crafts to tourists that came aboard cruisers that docked in Puerto Plata. The first store opened in the port area, and in the market several stores converted from selling food produce to selling amber crafts. 


In 1966, they extracted about 4,000 lbs. amber per month. This exploration lasted only a year and a half, though, when the government awarded the concession to the newly formed Cooperativa de Industrias Artesanales (Coindarte). After that the commercial exploitation of the amber deposits was discontinued and extraction continued only in small quantities. 


Another Italian was to give amber a major boost. In 1970, a pharmacist from Italy by the name of Didi Costa came to Puerto Plata for the first time for a summer vacation with her husband Aldo and their two sons. They were charmed by the north coast and decided to stay. Aldo Costa had worked in tourism in Italy and he would share his knowledge and become one of that tourism industry pioneers in the Dominican Republic. During these initial years, Didi Costa discovered amber, recognized its scientific value and began collecting pieces. At that time, the amber pieces had very little value for Dominicans except to burn them to keep mosquitoes away. 


Before too long, the Hotel Montemar that her husband Aldo was managing opened a gift shop and Didi volunteered to run it. She also began to purchase small amounts of amber brought to her from the mine. She set aside pieces that she considered exceptional and saved them. She was mesmerized by the history trapped inside the pieces of amber and began to buy them by the bag from men who came down from the mine. During that time, she also became acquainted with German and American researchers who were interested in the amber. 


In 1982, she decided to open the Amber Museum in a mansion at Villa Bentz. The Costas got help with the museum from Brandt Ghepart. He had spent 15 years at the Museum of Natural History in Cleveland, Ohio directly working with their amber collection. Between them, they turned the Amber Museum into a reality. Here is a link to its website Amber Museum


With the support of the government program to develop the resorts area of Playa Dorada in Puerto Plata, the Planarte program fostered a center to train jewelers in Puerto Plata under German technician, Heinz Meder. Marketing programs nevertheless were not in line with the training, and soon there was a saturation of artisans. 


The 1993 blockbuster movie Jurassic park by Stephen Spielberg was partially filmed in the Dominican Republic and some of the storyline was inspired in part by a piece of Dominican amber that contained a mosquito. In the movie, scientists used dinosaur blood that was found inside the mosquito to reconstruct and clone dinosaurs. Sales of Dominican amber are said to have increased about 500% immediately following the movies release.


The initial modern day real interest in mining amber would also come from Germans who began mining large amounts of it and exporting it back to Germany. In 1979, concerned about the large amounts of amber that was leaving the country, the Dominican government passed a law forbidding its export unless native artisans were at least partially involved in the mining. In 1987 a law was passed stating that no amber pieces that had insects in them would be permitted to leave the country without the permission of the National Museum of Natural History. This subsequently increased the value of these pieces.


Unfortunately, along with the increase in amber’s popularity and value has come a counterfeit market. Apparently, some of the counterfeit pieces look very much like the authentic amber pieces making them very difficult to spot. One way to tell if the piece you are holding is actual amber is to rub it. Supposedly, rubbing a real piece of amber will result in it emitting a natural pine scent. This also causes it to become electrically charged, especially if rubbed against cloth or wool. After rubbing it in this way, hold a small piece of paper above it. If the piece of paper moves or lifts, it is real amber. Another way to test the authenticity of amber is to attempt to float it in salt water. If it floats, it probably is the real thing as imitations usually sink.


Of the original amber artisans that remain today, is the Grand Factory, under the Ortiz brothers who came from Moca, and Harrison’s that also works the stone into fine crafts.


Today, the Amber World Museum in Zona Colonial Santo Domingo that opened in 1996 can also be visited. Here is a link to their website http://www.amberworldmuseum.com/.




Amber mining


Generally, amber has been found in spots along the steep mountains where there are deep indentations in the land. If the amber happens to extend deep into the mountainside, a shaft will be dug into the mountain to follow the amber deposit. Unfortunately, working in these mines can be very dangerous as the shafts can extend hundreds of feet into the side of the mountain and are sometimes not reinforced very well creating the potential for a cave in. Occasionally, a cave in or a landslide does happen and sometimes in these instances, miners are killed. The estimated age of the amber deposits vary with the youngest deposits being dug out estimated at between 15 to 17 million years old and the oldest estimated at between 30 and 40 million years old.


Most of the miners are poor Dominicans that live in villages near the mines. They spend their day’s deep underground chipping away at rocks while squatting under the light of flickering candles. It is difficult work and they do not earn much money but what they do earn is enough to feed their families and support their simple lifestyles. Some children begin mining at a young age and generally once they begin, continue doing so for the rest of their lives as there is little opportunity to earn a living at anything else. In some of the areas surrounding these mines, entire villages are employed as miners. They can range in age from 10 years of age to 65. 


The higher grade of amber frequently found in the Dominican Republic is sometimes referred to as “blue amber”. It is not actually blue in color but sometimes when the light reflects off it the right way, a piece gives off a bluish sheen. On most pieces of the amber, the blue properties are not noticeable or are difficult to detect. The amber with the strongest blue radiance is said to come from the Los Cacaos mine located in the Cordillera Septentrional. It is believed that the bluish radiance is caused by the presence of volcanic ash that might have been present when the amber was first exuded from the tree and went through the drying and hardening process. 


Amber fossils


Amber pieces that are discovered are usually not more than an inch or two across in size. However, bigger pieces are occasionally found. The biggest amber piece ever mined in the Dominican Republic weighed an enormous 18 pounds. Naturally, mining a piece anywhere near this size is extremely uncommon. 


Some of the pieces of amber taken from the mines have interesting contents. Some have insects, bugs, spiders and even lizards. Some of these rare pieces can fetch quite a sum of money nowadays, especially considering the fact that whatever insect or creature is trapped inside the amber is millions of years old. The oldest known spider found trapped in amber was found in a Lebanese fossil and is said to date back to 130 to 135 million years ago. This fossil made the 2004 Guinness Book of World Records.


One of the more famous amber fossils in the Dominican Republic is a piece on display in the Puerto Plata Amber Museum containing a 42.5-centimeter lizard. One of the rarest amber specimens is one containing hairs of the ‘hutia’, an extinct mammal indigenous to the island. This fossil is a valuable piece of evidence that the Dominican Republic was once a part of South America as these mammals were not found on islands but on bigger land masses. It is said that a piece of amber with a small lizard trapped inside can fetch US$15,000-US$20,000 in today’s market. Ironically, when Dominicans first started mining the amber for the purpose of selling it, they threw away pieces such as these because they assumed that they were flawed and therefore incorrectly assumed that they were worthless. They had no idea what they really had. 


Today, along with numerous stores around the Dominican Republic and in many jewelry stores throughout the world, there are numerous websites selling amber jewelry. Amber has turned into a prosperous business and amber pieces and jewelry can make great gifts, can serve as terrific mementos from vacations to the Dominican Republic, or can serve as interesting collectors’ items.


Music and Understanding Youth in the Dominican Republic
Music in the Dominican Republic and across the world has been a medium for groups, especially youth, for expressing themselves and letting their voices be heard. For many years musical styles native to the island have been a vehicle for this voice, but now, more than ever, the island’s musical landscape is changing, and many factors, including the country’s tourist economy, high poverty rate, strong influences from the United States and Europe, and a more unified global community, are introducing new music that speak to the youth in ways that the traditional songs aren’t doing. Though the new musical styles aren’t taking the place of Merengue or Bachata, they deserve recognition as new and strong alternatives, which are doing now what those musical styles did many years age; represent the voice of young people. 


There are two main genres of music native to the Dominican Republic. These genres also include a variety of sub-genres. Merengue was created in the 1920s by Francisco Antonio “Nico” Lora, and by the 1930s it had caught the ears of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, eventually becoming the national song and dance of the island, modeled on the European Waltz. 


Though Merengue was the outward representation of the country during this time, Bachata and other musical forms, with their deep roots in the Dominican folklore and history, became the inward representation of the Dominican people. 


Bachata, named from the brothels, bars, and bordellos where singers would go and perform, was in direct contrast to everything Merengue was. It was a silent protest against the sanitized image that Trujillo tried to create, and the voice of the country’s poor and peasant population. Revolutionary in the sense that Bachata musicians were forced to develop their own system of producing and distributing their music, this musical genre spoke of the troubles and problems of ordinary Dominican life, one that was not represented in the Merengue. 


As time progressed other styles from around Latin America and the world filled the airwaves. Salsa became extremely popular and other musical styles like American rock provided a voice for the ensuing revolutions of the 1960s. It is important to understand that the popularity of American rock here was in direct relation to the revolutionary spirit present during the 1960s. It was the defiant attitude present in the music, along with the eruption of social unrest, here and abroad, that further popularized the blaring sounds of Rock. 


Though Merengue, Bachata, and Salsa are still strong forces on the musical scene, there is a variety of new music that has become extremely popular amongst this generation of Dominican youth. Just like the parents before them, it is exterior influences that are driving the change in the musical landscape. 
The strong American influence, especially from Dominicans who live abroad, has made Rap music a new phenomenon in the Dominican Republic. Facing the same discrimination as the genre faces in the United States, hip-hop on the island is looked upon as a musical form for marginalized people, and the music, with its street tough lyrics and tales of drugs and gang violence express many of the struggles that poor Dominican youth face daily in their neighborhoods. 


Though there is the question of a language barrier the message in the music finds its way to come across and has made a connection with urban youth here. By listening to the music and mimicking the hip hop style of dress, which includes wearing baggy clothes, baseball caps, fashionable sneakers, or sporting cornrow hairstyles, these youngsters, sometimes referred to as “Yolkies,” “Dominican Yo’s,” or simply just “Yo’s,” have become a visible sector of the island’s youth population. The “Yo’s,” usually found in the barrios of major cities, also have become basketball fanatics, and the AND1 style, made popular in the United States. On any given day one can go down to some of the local public courts, like the ones at “El Olimpico,” to see the mixture between hip-hop culture and basketball. Though these young people aren’t “typical” in their representation of the country’s youth, they make up a significant sector of the DR’s young population.


On the heels of hip-hop culture there is another popular genre that has taken the island by storm. Reggaeton or ‘Rap en Espanol,’ from neighboring Puerto Rico, is popular in other parts of the Caribbean and Latin America, but it is only recently that it has exploded onto the Dominican scene. Reggaeton has a distinctly urban flavor, and its fast-paced danceable beats, street-life narratives, and catchy choruses make it the perfect party music. 


Becoming hugely popular in 2003, after the release of Tego Calderon’s album, “El Abayarde,” Reggaeton speaks of the hard street life that most urban youth deal with on a daily basis, and tries not to hide the realities of the drugs and violence which plague these communities. Though Reggaeton has come under fire recently for its crude portrayal of this urban lifestyle and its misogynistic lyrics, it is easy to see why the genre has captivated youth in the Caribbean, and the rest of Latin America. 


The topics which are dealt with in the music, along with the clothing, language, and accessibility of the artist has made Reggaeton a voice for urban youth who have been ignored. Reggaeton has been able to, with its Spanish lyrics, give Latinos an urban voice. It has also carved out a genre that millions of youth living in the United States can finally call their own, and it has crossed the language barrier by being able to reach that portion of the population that doesn’t speak English, therefore giving them an even bigger microphone with which to voice their concerns. 


The genre of music also acts as a portal through which outsiders can understand many the many problematic situations associated with urban life, but unfortunately, the same gritty lyrics that make the music so popular amongst the youth makes it an unattractive and vague concept for outsiders to understand, therefore alienating them further from the society in which they live. 


Contrary to the hard street beats of Rap and Reggaeton, a vastly different type of music to come to the island is Electronic music. Long popular in the many resorts of the island that catered to mostly European tourists, Electronic music, and its many sub-genres, have become extremely popular in the club scene amongst youth, becoming one the fastest growing genres here. 


This has been made evident by the arrival of many world famous DJ’s in recent years, and the high attendance at their shows. Paul Oakenfold, DJ Tiesto and Chus & Ceballos have played marathon shows deep into the morning light, and because of their popularity here they are poised to return to the island. Although there is a certain class status distinction associated with the genre and its followers, and an association with an underground club drug scene, the genre continues to grow. And though drugs aren’t essential in the Club scene, it is important to know that they are present. Drugs like Ecstasy and Cocaine have become more readily available at these events, but it is the chic aura surrounding the music, and its European roots that draw many to enjoy the music. 


“Boncheros,” as they are called, spend the night partying away at many of Santo Domingo’s trendiest bars and nightclubs, or can be found at “bonches,” (parties) dancing through the night on some of the islands beaches.


American rock, though not as strong as other genres on the island, continues to be very popular, though it isn’t the revolutionary spirit of the past that drives its popularity these days. Rock has a strong history here dating back to the American military presence and revolutions of the 60s, but this brand of rock is vastly different. Bands like “Good Charlotte,” “Linkin Park,” “Metallica” and others are popular, and just like their Electronic or Hip-Hop counterparts, the genre provides an outlet for this group of teens. 


“Los Metal” or “Punk,” (pronounced ‘Ponk’) mimic the style of clothing of their rock idols, and at quick glances can be mistaken for regular American teenagers. There haven’t been many rock concerts on the island because of the lack of mass interest, but the internet has been the key instrument in connecting these youths to the music they love. The internet has been the tool that has connected the island to the rest of the Caribbean and the global world, and has allowed youth here to join that global community. 


At the core of who the Dominican people are there are certain cultural links which connect Dominicans of all walks of life. Bachata and Merengue have done that for many years. These musical genres are racial, cultural, and historical manifestations of “Dominicanness,” as they combine, with their instruments and lyrics, the European, African, and Indigenous roots of the island. But it is now the beats of Electronic, Hip Hop and Rock along with those genres that are representing the youth.


Dominican Republic Food
If you are staying at one of the larger hotels or resorts, we recommend that you take the opportunity to have a look at the full range of foods on offer. Along with the variety of international dishes on display, almost all hotels will present their guests with a couple of traditional Dominican options, as much for their Dominican guests as in the hope that the visitors from abroad will also sample them. Dominicans are justly proud of their cuisine, and enjoy sharing it with visitors, who more often than not do not regret deciding to try something different.


Dominican cuisine has a lot in common with the gastronomic traditions of the neighboring islands of Puerto Rico and Cuba, as well as with the country it shares the island of Hispaniola with, Haiti. It has less in common with other Latin American countries, although there are some shared traditions there too.


The different cultural influences that combined to make the Dominican people are also reflected in their favorite foods. The three primary ingredients in this recipe are Spanish, Taino and African, with a peppering of Italian, Chinese and Arab.


The breakfast buffet will always include mangú, which is a savory puree made with mashed plantains, yautía (taro) or yuca (cassava). Another variation of mangú is ‘mazamorra’, made with the pumpkin-like squash known in the Dominican Republic as ‘auyama’.


‘Mangú’ is traditionally served with fried red onions, and can also be accompanied by fried white cheese, eggs or salami. 


Tropical fruits are eaten at breakfast and other times of the day. This is one attraction that the foreign visitor will always be drawn to, even if he or she is unadventurous when it comes to prepared dishes. Papaya, passion fruit, pineapple and the sweetest bananas you will ever taste are always in season. When it is the time of year for mangos, you will be in mango heaven. There are also several less familiar fruits like ‘jagua’ and ‘zapote’ that you might wish to try, either as juice or by eating the fruit itself.


Lunch is always ‘La Bandera Dominicana’ - the Dominican Flag - which is made up of bean stew, white rice and meat. There are many variations of this tricolor treat. The beans can be black, red, white or ‘guandules’ (pigeon peas). The rice is usually white, but Dominicans sometimes also make rice with noodles, rice with sweet corn, or rice with vegetables. The meat can be chicken, beef, pork or goat, and these are made in any number of ways too: stewed, fried or roasted. Codfish stew is sometimes served instead of the ‘meat’ option. The ‘bandera’ is usually served with a small mixed salad or a plate of boiled vegetables.


On the menus, you will see mentions of ‘salsa criolla’ or Creole sauce, which is the Dominican name for a vegetable based sauce made with onions, green peppers and tomatoes, which can be combined with fish, shrimp, chicken or other meats. Other popular sauces or seasonings include ‘al ajillo’ – garlic sauce, or ‘a la crema’ – similar to a béchamel sauce.


The evening meal is usually light, and can be a variation on what is eaten at breakfast, a simple sandwich and hot drink, or in the hotter months, simply a glass of natural fruit juice. Dominicans are also particularly partial to ginger and lemon grass teas, and thick hot chocolate drinks.


One of the enjoyable parts of discovering a new cuisine is encountering unfamiliar ingredients. ‘Yuca’ and ‘yautía’, ‘tayota’ (chayote or christophene) and ‘plátano’ (plantain) are virtually unknown in Europe and North America, which comes as a big surprise to many Dominicans for whom these foods are as familiar as cornflakes and milk are for the tourists. In addition, the visitor will find familiar ingredients prepared in new ways, like boiled green bananas which are commonly served as side vegetables.


On special occasions, Dominican food takes on a festive air. Sancocho, a thick stew made with up to seven types of meat and a large array of vegetables and tubers, is the ultimate Dominican party food. Christmas time is when families get together to share a roast suckling pig (lechón asado) accompanied by moro de guandules (rice and pigeon peas) and potato salad. At Easter, a large vat of the unique ‘habichuelas con dulce’ (sweet beans) bubbles on every Dominican household stove.


Street corner food stands and roadside sellers are a picturesque part of the Dominican experience. It is advisable to take this slowly if you are a newcomer to the country, because hygiene is not always that great, and your stomach is still adjusting to being in a different climate. Once you feel you are ready, frituras (fried snacks), chicharrones (pork rinds) pollo frito (fried chicken) and chimichurri (hamburgers) are all there for the taking.

The south east of the country was settled by immigrants from the English speaking Caribbean islands, and they brought over their johnnycakes and dumplings which have been warmly welcomed into the national culinary repertoire, with their names more or less intact – ‘yaniqueques’ and ‘domplín’.


The southwestern Dominican Republic has a lot of influence from neighboring Haiti, and some of the dishes there reflect that. One example is ‘Chen chen’, a savory pudding made with cornmeal, which is a close relation of the Haitian favorite ‘maiz moulou’.


The valleys of the central highlands are where much of the country’s vegetable crops are cultivated. As well as definitely non-tropical produce like strawberries and apples, the Constanza area is famous for an unusual tuber called Creole celery root, ‘cepa de apio’ in Spanish. This delicately flavored root can be eaten as a ‘mangú’ or a creamy soup. Another favorite vegetable soup in the Dominican Republic is the ‘crema de auyama’ or cream of squash.


The indigenous roots of the Dominican people are not often in evidence, but their legacy to the culinary tradition is a notable exception. Cassava bread ‘casabe’ is still made the traditional way in several parts of the country, and is a popular accompaniment to sancocho and other stews and soups, like the rice based ‘asopao’.


The country’s African heritage is mainly found in dishes like ‘mondongo’ (tripe stew) and ‘mofongo’ - mashed fried plantains with garlic and pork rind, typically served in a ‘pilón’ – the pestle and mortar at many Dominican restaurants.


Other international recipes have infiltrated into the kitchens of the Dominican Republic, and have been given a uniquely Dominican makeover. These include the Chinese chow fan, which is reincarnated into Dominican ‘chofán’, and Italian pasta which is prepared with an unmistakably Dominican twist. The Middle Eastern influence is also present in the shape of ‘quipes’ (kibbes) and ‘tipili’ (tabouleh), as a result of significant migration to the Dominican Republic from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine.


When certain foods are in season, you will be soon to know. Not only will you see street vendors with avocadoes at every street corner, but hotels, restaurants and households will serve sliced avocadoes at every opportunity. The same goes for mangos.


Desserts in the Dominican Republic are typically sweet. Most are based on milk and fruit. Some are original Dominican sweets and puddings, while others are shared with neighboring nations and Spanish cousins. ‘Flan’ and ‘quesillo’, ‘dulce de leche’, ‘tres leches’ – none of these are uniquely Dominican but they are firm local favorites. Classic Dominican desserts include ‘majarete’ (sweet corn pudding) and the strangely named ‘mala rabia’ a sweet, syrupy compote made with sweet potatoes and fruits such as pineapple. Pineapple, orange, grapefruit, papaya and coconut are the basic ingredients in simple sweets made with fruit and sugar, sometimes spiced with a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg.


If you’re after hot and spicy food, don’t hold your breath. Dominican food is hardly ever spicy – most Dominican cooks don’t even like using pepper. The only commonly known spicy dish is the ‘chivo picante’ spicy goat stew mentioned earlier.


Many popular street snacks are also the nation’s favorite party foods: quipes, empanadas and pastelitos are sold on street corners and served on the most elegant and refined buffet tables.


Different parts of the county have their own specialties, reflecting the local characteristics and history of the area. The northeastern Samaná peninsula, where millions of coconut palms grow, combined the fruits of the surrounding sea with delicious coconut sauce. Crab, fish or shrimp is served with coconut, and another local delicacy is coconut bread. 


The far northwest, on the other hand, is scrubby and arid, and much of the terrain is inhospitable to anything except for grazing goats and oregano bushes. This combination is brought to the dinner table in the form of spicy goat stew, known as ‘chivo liniero’ or ‘chivo picante’.


A Brief History of Baseball and the Dominican Republic
Long before David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez were shattering batting and pitching records, or baseball greats like the Alou brothers and Manny Mota were becoming iconic baseball figures, the Dominican Republic was already introducing a distinctive brand of baseball to the world. The Dominican Republic has a long baseball history, which has only become richer in recent years. 


For over 100 years, baseball has been at the center of cultural life in the Dominican Republic. Though the origins of baseball in the Dominican aren’t exactly known, historians suggest that baseball first came to the island around the 1880s. Though it is a historical misconception that American Marines brought the game to the island during the 1916 invasion, the United States did play an integral, though indirect, role in bringing baseball here. The United States brought the game of baseball to Cuba in the mid-1860s. It is said that it was Cuban immigrants, fleeing their country's ten-year war, who spread the game throughout the Caribbean, including the Dominican Republic. The first baseball teams on the island were formed either in the year 1894 or 1895.


Eventually four teams were formed, becoming the oldest, and founding organizations of baseball in the country. Los Tigres del Licey (The Tigers) was founded in Santo Domingo (in order to compete with Club Ozama y Club Nuevo) in 1907. Over the next 15 years Licey became so dominant that an agreement was made among the three other competing teams (Los Muchachos, San Carlos, and Delco Light) to form a new team, comprised of their best players, in order to beat Licey. That team was Los Leones del Escogido. Las Estrellas Orientales (Eastern Stars) was founded in San Pedro in the year 1911. And later, as mentioned, in 1921, Los Leones del Escogido (Lions of the Chosen One) was founded in Santo Domingo. Sandino, who would become one of the more dominant teams in the league, was founded in 1921, (Sandino was later renamed Las Aguilas Cibaenas, (The Eagles, in 1936). 


After its introduction in the late 1880s the sport’s popularity quickly spread, and by the 1920s and 30s teams from the Dominican Republic were playing other Caribbean nations, as well as teams from North America. 


As with everything on the island, Dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, who became president of the Republic in 1930, through military action, ultimately controlled all of Dominican baseball. Trujillo oversaw the modernization of the Dominican Republic, and undertook the modernization of baseball as one of these tasks. He built the first major baseball stadium, and provided an avenue for the sport to become the country’s national pastime. With the help of the dictator, and his support of the game, this era became crucial in providing the economic and political foundation for the sport. The inception of the official baseball league, and the eventual completion of “El Estadio Trujillo” (later renamed Estadio Quisqueya), were landmark events, as they cemented the place of baseball in the Dominican cultural lexicon. During the first phase in the evolution of the country’s baseball history, games were played only during the day. The game’s second stage began when Estadio Quisqueya was built in 1955. The stadium was a brilliantly designed and well-built stadium for its time. With the stadium came lights, and what is considered Dominican baseball’s Golden Era.


To a further extent, players from the United States, especially the Negro Leagues, ventured down to the Caribbean, especially to the Dominican Republic, to play against some of the Caribbean’s finest, adding to the level of competition already present. 


One of the most famous players to participate in the Dominican baseball circuit was Negro League great Satchel Paige. In 1937 Paige was approached by Dr. Jose Enrique Aybar, Dean of the University of Santo Domingo, deputy of the Dominican Republic’s national congress, and director of Los Dragones. (Los Dragones were the two rival teams from Santo Domingo, Licey and Escogido, who were merged to play in that year’s 1937 Dominican Baseball league). Los Dragones were a baseball team operated by Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, and Aybar hired Paige to recruit talented Negro League players to play for Trujillo. With $30,000 in hand, the Negro League legend convinced eight other Negro League players to join him for the eight-week long season, including future Negro League legends Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Leroy Matlock, Sam Bankhead, Harry Williams and Herman Andrews. Paige had a solid season, recording a league best 8-10 record, and Los Dragones finished the season in first place, with an overall record of 18-13. After Los Dragones beat San Pedro de Macoris in the championship game, (coming from a 3 games to 0 deficit), all the players, except for Paige returned to the United States, though Paige would eventually return to the States. 


Having little baseball options after being banned from the Negro National League, the returning players formed Trujillo’s All-Stars, and barnstormed around the Midwest, playing in exhibition and All-Star games. Eventually Paige would continue to barnstorm around the United States, though he would never return to the island.


The 1940s and 50s continued to bring acclaim to the nation, and its baseball league. The biggest baseball moment for the Dominicans, up until that point, came in 1956. This historic event paved the way for the future migration of Dominican talent to the United States. This year saw the debut of infielder Ozzie Virgil with the New York Giants. Virgil, who played nine seasons in the Major Leagues, brought Dominican baseball into the international spotlight. He was the first Dominican baseball player to play in the Majors, and it was the eventual success of Virgil, and fellow countrymen Juan Marichal, the Alou brothers, Manny Mota and others, that consolidated the Dominican Republic as a baseball powerhouse in the hemisphere. 
With the prospect of a solid talent base so relatively close, teams from the Major Leagues quickly began to send money, players, and scouts to capitalize on the growing demand. This was another great boost for the Dominican baseball league and the country’s aspiring players, as they got to sharpen their skills with some of the world’s best talent. Players like Delmar Crandall, Grady Little, Bob Gibson, Willie Mays, Tommy Lasorda, Mike Piazza, Alex Rodriguez, and many others have taken advantage of the level of competition available here, and helped make the league even stronger. Since the 1960s and 70s baseball schools have set up shop in the Dominican Republic, and these days every team in Major League Baseball has a school or an active representation here.


There are currently six teams in the Dominican league. Those previously mentioned, with the addition of Los Toros and Los Azucareros. The teams begin play in October, and the season runs through February, with each team playing 60 games, and the two finalists playing for the championship title. Both finalists also go on to represent the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Baseball Series against Mexico, Venezuela and Puerto Rico. 


Of the six teams in the league there have been two great rivalries that have emerged, though this has been to the detriment of the league’s popularity in recent years. In the earlier days of baseball on the island Los Tigres and Los Leones battled continuously for the top, but in more recent years it has been Los Tigres battling with Las Aguilas. Los Tigres have won 19 Dominican titles and 9 Caribbean World Series, while Las Aguilas have won 19 championships. 


To date, 420 players from the Dominican Republic have played in the Majors (1956-2005), and according to Major League Baseball there are 119 players representing Latin America, which is 24% of major leaguers. Of these 119 players, 90 players come from the Dominican Republic. There are more Dominicans playing in the Majors than from any other country in Latin America, and the Dominican Republic has more players in the Majors than all other countries in Latin America combined. Dominicans have even made strides in other aspects of the game. In 2003 Tony Pena, formerly of the Kansas City Royals, coached against Felipe Alou, of the San Francisco Giants, making it the first time that two Dominicans coached against each other in the Majors. And in 2004 Omar Minaya became the first Dominican General Manager, working the front office for the New York Mets. 


Though the strength of Dominican baseball is now found in each of the Major Leagues 30 teams, baseball still remains an important part of this country’s history, and an important cultural outlet on the island. Each time the topic of baseball comes up, the names of the legends of yesteryear who helped immortalize the game are remembered and discussed as if those players were still playing today. It is an improbable suggestion that each player, or baseball event will always be remembered, but it is possible to say that this country’s baseball past will always provide the foundation for its rich baseball future.


Bargaining in the Dominican Republic
Bargaining is a skill, and when in the DR it is a skill worth having. At any time of the day you could be presented with an opportunity to bargain for an item, and while your tendency might be to pay the marked price, be assured that vendors are used to the bargaining game and expect you to negotiate, even to the last peso. In some parts of the world bargaining is a foreign concept, but in the DR having the proper bargaining tools could save you money and is a great way to become more involved with some of the country’s cultural aspects. Below are some great tips compiled by some of our very own DR1 message board members on how to bargain your way effectively to a better price. Take the time to read the tips and slowly go about practicing them. Go with a trusted friend to a local market and pick out something you want and begin your journey towards becoming a good bargainer. Remember that bargaining skills are not learned from one day to another, so be patient, learn the ropes and always keep your eyes open. 


1. Speak the language effectively.
This one should come to you as no surprise, but learning the language, if only the key words, could save you from paying an exorbitant amount of money for something you want. Terms like, “Cuanto cuesta, es muy caro, no me gusta, vengo despues or alli es mas barato,” will surprise the vendor and will guarantee that you are given a lower price. Granted, not everyone will be a fluent Spanish speaker before they make it to the DR, but having a few words in your repertoire could be a lifesaver. 


2. Research the going prices.
Being a good bargainer requires knowing how much something actually costs as opposed to what it’s being sold for. Before you buy something, look around at different shops that sell the same thing. Get an average and then start your bargaining from there. Also, watch the vendor’s attitude to see how much he is willing to play the game with you.


3. Don't dress or talk like a "tourist" or otherwise wear expensive brand name clothes and jewelry.
It’s difficult to avoid dressing like a tourist, because that’s what you are. Additionally, vendors can spot a tourist from a mile away and that’s when they start licking their chops. How can you counter this? Try to blend in as much as possible, wearing subtle clothing and no jewelry. When you wear name brand, flashy clothing or big “bling”, a vendor will think you have money to spend and while that may not be the case, you are trying to bargain, not be played for a fool. 


4. Don't hesitate on holding off on the transaction if you are unsure whether it’s a fair deal.
The biggest mistake travelers make is getting too anxious, thinking this is the last “good” deal they are going to get. Wrong. There are plenty of good deals ahead, so be patient and get a feel for what’s around you. If you rush into a purchase, like anything else, you may regret it and end up passing up on something you really want. 


5. Offer half the amount they suggest.
This is bold, but could work to your advantage. Just offer half! And if the vendor doesn’t budge, just walk away. That’s the hook right there. Even if you know the product is worth more than what you’ve offered, being a bit cut- throat is necessary when being a good bargainer. Knowing that he wants to sell, the only way for him to make the sale is to up the price a bit, but it will still be many pesos off the original price. 


6. Say that you only have “X” amount of money, which is less than the asking price. 
If the product costs RD$500 pesos, tell the guy you only have RD$400 and show it to him. That way he will have no choice but to give you the product for that price. This would require you to a) walk around with smaller bills; and b) have an idea, more or less, of what the price of the product is. This is a tricky tip and should only be reserved for veterans in the art of bargaining. 


7. Be willing to walk away and keep walking.
Nothing scares a vendor more than not selling at all. They might be mad they lost out on a few pesos, but are devastated if they make no sale at all. So use it to your advantage and politely walk away. Don’t make a scene or a gesture, just say ‘no thanks’ and walk away. Don’t turn around and don’t make eye contact, simply walk away. And after a few steps you’ll hear the vendor whispering at you so you can go back and purchase his goods at a reduced price.

8. Don’t get cornered in a shop with no escape route and don't let them put shoes on you without knowing the price first.
Getting cornered could be the end of your bargaining days, since you might just feel so obliged to buy something you really don’t want. So what do you do? Go shopping in pairs, have your goal in sight and stay close to the door. This way you can just book it and run if you don’t feel comfortable. 


9. Realize that prices, and even a fair price, can be different depending on what part of the country you are in. 
What works in Santo Domingo might not be true for Santiago, Samana or Puerto Plata, so keep that in mind and don’t walk into a store with your mind made up. Refer to Number 2 for more advice. 


10. Don't buy anything hastily.
Chances are highly likely that there are lots of other places selling the same stuff that you want. Take your time and shop around, making note of the lowest final prices and use this info to your advantage. Don’t feel obliged to buy something just to please the vendor. Keep in mind that this is a game and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of tourists who came before and will come after you. 


11. Give them one chance to give you a good price. 
Ask the price. If you know you are being gouged, just walk away and don’t bother to go back. It will let vendors know that you are not to be messed with. 


12. Getting your mother-in-law to do the bargaining for you or simply stating that you're family will help. 
Having family or trusted friends to help you bargain is always key. If you have a friend here, just let them know what you want and let them go and get it for you. Give them the money, as they are most likely to help you get the best price. Or you can use the DR1 Forums to develop friendships that could help you as you start learning how to bargain. Many of the members know the DR very well and would be willing to help you get great products at good prices. This is an invaluable service. 


13. Try telling them that somebody else can sell the same thing for less – this works in some cases.
You can always fib a bit and say that someone else is giving you a better price. It could work or it could backfire on you. The vendor might just tell you to go buy it elsewhere and well then you are S.O.L. Once again, reserve this tactic for well-versed and veteran bargainers. 


14. Haggle when no one else is around. They do not want to give the same low price to everyone. Look and wait a few days.
This might just be the best advice one could give in terms of bargaining. If there are many people around, the vendor might be unwilling or hesitant to give you a good price, seeing that he might have to give it to everyone else. 


15. Go before closing time, as they will sell off anything at the end of the day. 
So go at night, or when the vendor is closing up shop and offer them a fair price. He might give you exactly what you need. 


16. If you're paying cash you have a good chance of getting a discount.
Always bring cash and bring small bills. Credit cards and big bills are a red light to the vendor that you have cash to spend and that is not what we want them to think. 


17. Check on Ebay for nick-nacks that no one else wants. 
Checking on Ebay might be a final option for those who just can’t bargain. Tourists often make an impulse purchase and regret it when they get back home, so you can get some quality nick-nacks online for a fraction of the price. 


And there you have it. These are some quick and easy steps on how to bargain while in the DR. These tips aren’t foolproof, but could help ease your way into the bargaining culture. Be mindful that not every vendor is willing to bargain and that you won’t be able to bargain everywhere you go. Malls, restaurants, hospitals and heaven are usually places you wouldn’t want to try to bargain, as prices for things are usually set in stone, but everything else is up for negotiation. Enjoy!

The DR's Mobile Supermarket
Street vendors are a part of the Dominican economy that often gets overlooked because of their seemingly minute contribution to the country's overall development. Far away from executive boardrooms and political trade agreements, the DR's street vendors provide a service to the millions of drivers who take to the streets every day. It's hard to measure the economic impact that street vendors have on the Dominican economy. Their sales are almost completely informal, they fill out no forms to establish themselves as legal working entities, they pay no taxes on their revenues or on the corners they work on and they are almost always on the move, making it difficult to make estimates about this underground economy. The street vendor culture is governed by its own rules and is defined by its own system of regulations. Beyond the economic impact, street vendors are part of the cultural makeup of the Dominican experience.


Most street vendors begin their careers on the streets, not by choice, but out of necessity. The prospect of a source of income as opposed to not eating leads many young Dominicans out onto the streets selling what they can to make enough money for the next meal. Vendors ply their trade, at times disregarding legal issues that would otherwise deter them from venturing into this hard knocks form of business. Speaking with some vendors you start to notice a no-nonsense attitude, which drives their efforts to make it through the day.


Julio "Gilbert" Alberto came to Santo Domingo five years ago with the help of his older brother. As he tells it he was just hanging around in his "campo" in San Juan de la Maguana, doing nothing much before he got the chance to come to Santo Domingo. He wasn't expecting a lot when he got here, but was willing to do whatever necessary to make ends meet. He soon followed his brother out on to the streets and became one of the many vendors who march up and down the streets and avenues of Santo Domingo selling small items or foods, trying to make an honest buck. In conversing with Gilbert and some of his street vendor friends, it's easy to see the toll that this lifestyle takes on them, but you won't ever hear any complaints, as they are more interested in the next possible customer who might drive up beside them.


Once he picks up his merchandise, Gilbert hops a bus to his place of work. Gilbert works at the stoplight located on the corner of 27 de Febrero and Maximo Gomez Avenues, headed towards Abraham Lincoln Avenue. Gilbert says that after a long day's work, usually about 10 hours spent standing directly in the sun he only makes about RD$400 on a good day, but that's enough to get him what he needs.


He sells candies and cookies, and although he could make more money selling higher priced items, like his brother Julio, he doesn't seem as worried about that. Julio, who works on the corner of 27 de Febrero and Ortega y Gasset Avenues, makes a killing, according to Gilbert. Gilbert says that his brother sells cell phone accessories like chargers, covers or extensions and can make four times the profit on an item. He says that Julio buys a portable cell phone charger for a Motorola V3 for RD$100 and sometimes sells it for RD$400 or RD$500, much more than what Gilbert will make.
On a typical day Gilbert buys a box of gum that contains 20 packets for RD$125. He sells each packet of gum for RD$15 and will make a RD$175 profit on the box of gum. He also buys boxes of cookies with 10 or 20 units. Each unit costs him RD$10.50 and sells for RD$20.00. Gilbert also sells baseball flags, rice cakes, caramel pops, and even children's toys. Sometimes he might sell educational tools for kids, books or magazines, cell phone accessories, lollypops, and anything else you can possibly imagine.


Phone card vendors, who sell Verizon, Orange or Tricom cards, walk up and down the streets every day making just RD$7.00 per card they sell, so for them to make RD$400, like Gilbert, they need to sell about 57 phone cards in a day. On a good day most phone card vendors can make this amount, but that's only if they are located in a prime area where there is a lot of traffic.


Location is one of the most important parts of the street vendor lifestyle and the vendors with the best locations will obviously make the most money. Finding a good stop, taking it from someone who is already operating there or defending an area can sometimes turn violent, which unfortunately is also large part of being a street vendor. Most street vendors can recall a time when they've had to defend their areas from rogue vendors who think they can just appear and start selling as they please. There is a code of sorts among vendors. If you are selling a product that no one else is selling, then by all means you are welcome, but don't ever dare try to sell what someone else is already selling. This can lead to physical altercations between vendors, and according to Gilbert, to be a good vendor, as well as good people skills, you need a pair of fists ready to defend your turf.


There is a way to avoid violent confrontations, however. Some vendors will sell the "right" to a corner, or area, for a fee. Some fees, depending on the area, could be between RD$2,000 and RD$3,000. In some cases vendors can "rent" an area for a small daily fee. Most vendors, though, are usually unwilling to sell or rent an area because they consider it a gold mine. After so much time in one place vendors develop "friendships" with their clients who in turn will either give them a bit more cash for products or will be generous enough to give them gifts at times. In Gilbert's case, he says he's been working on this corner so long that he has some loyal customers who sometimes just come around and give him a few extra pesos just because he's always been a good vendor. Many drivers who use the same roads daily develop a sort of loyalty to vendors. This is one of the reasons that Gilbert and other vendors are almost always unwilling to give up a certain route.


Gilbert explains that when he got to his puesto, or post, almost five years ago there was no one selling there so he just set up shop and started working. He says that he's had some violent incidents defending his post. He recalls a time when he went and got a metal tube that was lying in the street and took a swing at a man who tried to take his post from him. Gilbert says he has no fear and that when he protects his post he is in fact protecting his livelihood.


For DVD vendors and bootleggers, like 21 year old Frank, a route is just as important a street corner or "puesto". Some DVD vendors have a mapped out route that they follow religiously. Frank, who works in the Villa Consuelo section of Santo Domingo, explains that he has a core group of clients who wait for his weekly drops and won't buy from any other vendors because they know he has the latest movies. He says that it's common for newer vendors to try to steal his clients and trade on his routes, but he says he's never scared to throw a few punches to keep other vendors away.


Frank, although knowingly selling bootlegged and illegal material, makes a fairly good living. He says that he buys his bootlegged DVDs for about RD$60 each and depending on the area he can make an amazing profit. Frank says that if he stays in Villa Consuelo, a poorer part of the city, he'll sell his movies for between RD$80 to RD$100, but continues by saying that he'd rather sell in Santo Domingo's richer neighborhoods, where he makes a killing. He says that he'll go to the city's fancier areas and sell the same movie for RD$200 or even more. But the city center isn't the end of Frank's line. On a typical day of wandering around he says he can make his way all the way to the 9th kilometer of the Duarte Highway selling his movies on buses, stopping at colmados or gas stations, selling to customers who stop to get gas. He says that on a lazy day he picks a colmado and sets up shop there. He'll pay the colmado owner a small fee, maybe RD$100, and spreads his movies out on the floor and lets buyers see what he has. On a weekday Frank says he makes around RD$700. On Fridays and Saturdays he makes a bit more, since people have more time to watch movies.


He also says that he can make upwards of RD$2,000 on a good day, although on other days, like when the weather is bad, he won't make any money at all. Frank usually has everything a potential customer wants, but in the rare cases when he doesn't, he works with other vendors and buys movies from them to sell to his customers. He explains that at times vendors coordinate to make more money by working a con together. An example of this would be when one vendor will purposely sell at a higher price and then another, who just randomly appears, will sell at a lower price, giving the buyer a seemingly good deal. Both vendors will split the profits and the customer is none the wiser.


Frank isn't shy about where he gets his merchandise, but surprisingly enough his bootlegging suppliers aren't residents of the barrios he lives and sells in. On the contrary, Frank explains that his suppliers are what he calls members of the country's elite, who have enough power and resources to make sure a bootlegging business can run strong. As he explains it, bootleggers, or as he calls them "the tigres in the Benzes and Beamers," contract out the services of code breakers and computer hackers who either just download the movies online or go through the extra step of breaking codes to get movies that have entered the movie theaters that very same week. He explains that these kingpin bootleggers also have high-powered computers capable of producing hundreds of DVDs every hour. And what about efforts to stop illegal bootlegging? Frank says the answer to that one is easy. As he explains it, his suppliers are from the country's elite and have special connections and use these to keep the cops and authorities from interfering with their business. He says that kids in the barrios don't have the skills or the abilities to pull off a bootlegging ring that produces thousands in revenue daily.


Sometimes Frank gets hassled by cops, but says he just pays them off with a few DVDs or a few pesos and continues on his way.


Javi's life is a bit different from Frank's and Gilbert's, but at the same time it's much the same. Javi, who's 17, has been cleaning windshields on street corners ever since he can remember. At the tender age of 17 he's seems hardened by the life he leads and the many scars on his face and arms are just stories he doesn't want to recall. He says that once he was able to fend for himself his mom sent him out on the streets to make money any way he could. For him it meant that stealing wasn't an issue, and for some time he would steal and then sell those items back to the people he stole them from. He said he specialized in stealing hubcaps, car accessories and a variety of other items. He said that he would go to the mechanics, car shops, and car accessory stores at La Veinte in the Villa Juana area of Santo Domingo and sell them his recently stolen goods or he would just wander around the city offering drivers the goods he had in his possession. Either way Javi said he got real good at what he did, to the point where store owners would ask him to go out and steal certain parts that customers were inquiring about. He said he used to make a lot of money as a car parts thief, but eventually decided to stop stealing car parts because he never became good enough at avoiding the police. He said he was continually getting caught and beaten by officers and decided he needed a new line of employment and that's when he went ahead and started washing windshields.


As a windshield washer, Javi says he makes relatively good money, though it's never enough, and he still thinks back to the time when he was a petty thief. As a windshield washer he has no real wage stability. There is no set price for the cost of a wash. When a washer starts washing your window at a stoplight they never negotiate a price ahead of time. They only have about two minutes to wash as many windshields as possible, and are dependent on the drivers' generosity. He says that sometimes drivers give him RD$5.00 or maybe RD$10.00 and sometimes they give him nothing and just drive off. 


But Javi's work ethic is what gets him enough money to survive. He says that on a normal day of pounding the streets and putting up with the hot sun, and rude and sometimes cheap drivers, he can make up to RD$700, meaning he has washed windshields for around 60 to 70 cars. And on a spectacular day Javi says he's made up to RD$2,000. Part of his success on certain days is the fact that he has his client group who always give him business. He says the fact that he works on streets that see a lot of traffic makes it easier for him to make the amount he does. The unfortunate aspect of Javi's life, and a reality of the dark side of some street vendors' lives, is that the money he makes won't go towards much more than drugs and alcohol. Javi doesn't hide the fact that he smokes large amounts of marijuana and inhales glue and dangerous fumes to get high. He says that he doesn't have a real bad habit, at least not as bad as the habits of the shoe shine boys, who he says are the ones with the worst drug problems. He says that he's young enough to stop and makes enough money washing windows to support his habit, so for him there is no problem at all.


Marcelino is an ice cream vendor who has been driving his ice cream cart around the streets of Santo Domingo for twenty years now, and it seems that he's willing to go for twenty more. On a regular day, Marcelino picks up his ice cream cart, which he rents for a daily fee, and starts pedaling it through traffic, stopping at certain corners or when he sees a potential client. He starts at the Plaza de la Bandera, where the Central Electoral Board building is located, and in one day makes his way through every neighborhood he can along the way, before finishing up at La Duarte, on the other side of the city. He tries to hit key areas where he knows he'll have clients and if there are events at the parks or schools he makes sure he shows up. He pays about RD$20.00 for the use of his cart which he picks up on Pedro Livio street, near La Veinte in the Villa Juana section of Santo Domingo. Marcelino explains that RD$20.00 isn't as much a fee as it is the cost of the repairs for the cart. He says that when he hands in his cart each day it is inspected to see what repairs are needed and any repairs are charged to the vendor. A payment plan is then set up. Marcelino says that he owes RD$5,000 on his cart and says that he'll probably never pay off the debt. Marcelino says that on a good day he can make about RD$300 in profits. But Marcelino is a good businessman and says that on a great day, when he admittedly overcharges his richer customers, he can make RD$600 in profits. He says that for every RD$1,000 he makes he will make RD$300 in profits.


Marcelino says that summers are the best time for him since kids always have money and they're always at home during the day and at night. He says that once he has finished his route he will go back out again, through some of the same neighborhoods, and try to sell again, so he can make more money. Marcelino says that as with any business you have competition, but he says that he doesn't like competition. He tells of his latest encounter with an ice cream man who would transit on his route selling ice creams at RD$15 less than Marcelino. He started noticing that when he would come by no one would buy from him until he found out about the ice cream man named "Remate," a Spanish word meaning to sell for the minimum or to finish off, who was selling ice cream on his route. He warned Remate about his practices and Marcelino said that was the last of Remate on his route.


Skim Ice or popsicle vendors are also part of the street vendor culture. The tasty cold treats are a welcome sight for drivers trying to battle the heat on sunny days in the DR, but for the men and women who sell them, these treats are just a way of making a living. Skim Ice vendors are part of a larger, more organized business venture. Vendors go to product wholesalers and buy the right to sell Skim Ice. With their initial purchase they receive a hat, a skim ice cooler bag, and depending on how much their initial purchase they can buy the jump suit also. Some vendors, instead of using the Skim Ice cooler bag rent out large penguin-shaped mobile coolers and travel around the city in them. Skim ice vendors buy boxes of popsicles that have either 12 or 24 units. Each unit will cost the vendor around RD$3.00 and the vendor will make around RD$1.00 on the product, which he is selling for RD$5.00.


Peanut and coconut candy salesmen have one of the hardest jobs in comparison to other street vendors. Peanut vendors sell glazed peanut brittle or coconut treats at RD$5.00 each, but only make about RD$3.00 per candy they sell. The peanut sellers go to bakery shops around the city and pick up the treats they are going to sell in a day. As with any street vendor it is tough to really determine how much they make in profits since no official books are kept. Most vendors have no real clue of how much they have sold or how much they average because they don't need to focus on such details. Some vendors interviewed said they could make between RD$500 to RD$1,000 in a day, but these are just estimates.


And what about shoe shine boys who, for tourists and Dominicans alike, are the most common and at times pesky of the street vendors? The rate for a shoe shine depends on the shiner and on the area he works in, but more and more shoe shiners are being kicked out of the areas they work in because police have labeled them a nuisance to tourists. Although most vendor jobs are open to both sexes it is important to note that shoe shiners are most often boys between the ages of 7 and 17, but you'll always find the occasional exception. As well as shining shoes it has become common practice among shiners to beg for tips from tourists, which has led to them being chased out by local authorities. Frustration has set in for some shiners who feel that police have taken away their livelihoods. Shiners in larger tourist areas like the Colonial Zone, the city's University zone, and some of the more upscale shopping centers who usually used to make RD$300 per day on shoe shines alone, are now making a fraction of that - if they are able to get customers. But the police are only a part of the problems that shiners face each day. The unfortunate reality of these shiners, especially the younger ones, is the fact that many are forced to go out at an early age and work for someone else and have to give a large part of their earnings to older guys who run child labor rings. Shiners are sometimes "pimped" and forced to go out on the streets to beg and are only left with pennies of their earnings. Even more difficult is fending of the older shoe shine boys and street children who have no problem with beating a shoe shine boy and taking his money and sometimes his supplies. As well as the violence that these children have to deal with, it has also become part of the shoe shine lifestyle to be drug dealers. Speaking to a group of youngsters at the McDonald's on Maximo Gomez it is clearly evident that drug dealing is more profitable, but more dangerous. These kids, with no fear at all, walk up to potential customers and ask if they want any type of drugs. If a customer says yes they will scatter into the night and within minutes they return with the drug of choice.


Street vendors are an interesting part of the Dominican experience. Sometimes, as drivers, you might be annoyed at the fact that street vendors hold up traffic and cause small traffic jams. At times as drivers you might be annoyed at the fact that vendors will always appear when you don't need anything from them and wonder, "why don't they get a real job?!" But the reality is that for these vendors, and the millions like them, this is a real job. A way to make ends meet and keep their families going. Vendors might not be making million dollar deals affecting the New York Stock Exchange, but remember how important they are the next time you leave home with an uncharged cell phone and you need to call to secure one of those big and important business deals.


Race and Dominicanness: A struggle for identity
Understanding race in the Dominican Republic can be a difficult and confusing task. The composition of Dominican society is influenced by a mixture of race, culture, history, and politics which has created an interesting mosaic of people, but it is understanding how Dominicans view themselves through these classifiers, and its effects on this society, that is difficult. What can be even more demanding is understanding how in the Dominican Republic there is an almost endless variety of classifications for skin colors, pseudo-race classifications, that encompass the whole skin color spectrum, without ever including Black (African) as a possibility. Fascinating also is the way that some Dominicans seemingly ignore some basic racial identifiers to justify their appearance, and ultimately their history. It is as if some Dominicans have created their own rules for understanding race. Though the origins of this confusing system can be traced as far back as the time of Columbus, and the Tainos who originally inhabited the island, it takes careful analysis of the racial, and “racialized,” history to come to understand the many layers in the island’s racial dichotomies. 


When race is mentioned in the Dominican Republic the almost non-existent Taino culture is at the crux of the conversation, seemingly and somewhat purposely, ignoring the African influence on the country, and at the same time praising the European background of Dominicans. If we look back almost 400 years in Dominican history we begin to unravel the origins of this occurrence. In 1492 Christopher Columbus landed on Hispaniola, the island that now includes Haiti and the Dominican Republic. This event initiated what is believed to be by some as the Western Hemisphere’s first known genocide. Upon Columbus’s arrival there were an estimated 3 million Taino Indians inhabiting Hispaniola. As the need for development and exploitation of the natural resources grew, the Taino were looked upon to provide the physical labor needed for the development of the colonial economies. Unfortunately for the enslaved Taino they were not physically suited to the harshness of mining, building, or sugar cultivation. Similarly, initial physical contact with the Europeans proved just as destructive, as the Tainos weren’t prepared for the introduction of European diseases like smallpox or chickenpox. In the end death was what awaited the native inhabitants. In the first 20 years of Spanish presence on Hispaniola, (of which the eastern two-thirds would become the Dominican Republic) the Taino population dwindled to an estimated 60,000 natives, and in the next 30 years the population would be reduced to almost 5,000 native inhabitants, a decline of almost 98% of the indigenous population. An astonishing event, substantiated by these wrenching figures, this systematic annihilation of the indigenous population was thought to be just as unbelievable four hundred years ago. Future champion of indigenous rights Friar Bartolome de las Casas recalled that, "there were 60,000 people living on this island [when I arrived in 1508], including the Indians; so that from 1494 to 1508, over three million people had perished from war, slavery and the mines.” Even de las Casas pondered the credibility of these figures exclaiming, “Who in future generations will believe this?"


With so few Indians left on the island the remaining Taino Caciques (chiefs) fled to neighboring islands, or to the hills of Hispaniola, in the hope of saving their people. As fewer and fewer communities remained, war was the only survival option for the remaining natives. Of these, it was one native leader in particular who would come to be immortalized as the quintessential image of Dominicans. Enriquillo, a convert to Christianity who had been mentored by Bartolome de las Casas, would lead one of the final native rebellions. Beginning in 1519, Enriquillo led, what would become a 15-year war against the Spaniards, in hopes of freeing his people, and expelling the colonizers. Due to Enriquillo’s leadership, and the Tainos’ knowledge of the land, the Spaniards were forced to surrender to Enriquillo’s demands. In return for freedom, and rights of possession, Enriquillo promised to return any runaway slaves, who were increasingly of African descent. But this would eventually be of little consequence, as the decreased native population would eventually come under Spanish control. Nonetheless, from these events, a hero emerged, and the model of the Dominican image was formed.




 In following decades the need for manual labor increased, and the Europeans looked to Africa for the cheap labor that would bring wealth to their empires. As the African populations grew, and misogyny became the norm, so did a colonial model for the racial classification of these new “breeds” of people. Children born from mixed relations were classified according the percentage of their blood that was “pure,” i.e. European. Terms like criollo, metizo, trigueno, mulato, indio, havao, or cuarteron, amongst others, measured purity amongst mixed people, and created a value system amongst those with mixed ancestry. With the evolution of the classification systems, and justification for the slave practices that fueled colonial economies, Africans were deemed to be inferior, even considered as sub-human beings, therefore anything that had, or seemed African, was not acceptable. Accordingly, praise was given to those born of European descent, and this became the idealized concept towards which future generations would look to as an example for identity. It was the European model, not the prevalent African model of identity, which would eventually be desired, and this has come to be reflected in the Dominican Republic today. Even Taino heritage, which itself had been diluted over many decades, was elevated to a somewhat critical representation of identity, all in response to the continued ‘Africanization’ of the island, which was in stark contrast of the European standards of beauty. Even if one couldn’t “be” European, you could at least be indio, since as a last recourse it wasn’t black, it wasn’t African. According to popular author Michele Wucker it was in “Mourning his [Enriquillo’s] demise and celebrating his legacy, Dominicans resurrected the past, and constructed a Taino-influenced ancestry to explain their color. Today, mulatto and Black Dominicans call themselves Indio, and they say that their color is dark like that of Indians, but different in quality from African skins. 


With these assertions we better understand how Dominicans view themselves. In Enriquillo Dominicans saw the image of a great man. He was, “a heroic Indian who put peace with Spain above alliance with black slaves.” In these statements we see the creation of the Dominican image being drawn out from the myth of Enriquillo, to describe themselves as anything but African. Through Enriquillo’s legend Dominicans interpreted a respect towards Spain, all the while, they reflected on his unwillingness to support the runaway Africans, which they too became unwilling to support, and reveled in his warrior status as a hero, which they too wanted to emulate. He was a strong Christian man, who above anything else wasn’t black; he was ‘Indio.’ Though the physical presence of the Indio died out almost immediately after the initial Spanish presence, replaced by the intermixing with Africans and Europeans, the presence of the Indio in the Dominican psyche, as a way to understand themselves, is still at the core of the Dominican identity today. 


Adding to the ill-defined concepts of race and identity are the strides made by Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, and his campaign of Blanquismo. Trujillo, through violent action and political policy, shaped the Dominican landscape of racial identity, continuously championing Eurocentricity over Africanism, and by default supporting the Indio heritage. In his 30 years in power Trujillo was efficient in his policies of Blanquismo, making great strides to resolve the racial disparities of the island. In 1937 he ordered the systematic massacre of close to 20,000 Haitians, though some estimates place this figure higher. Trujillo’s reasons for this act were obvious, but his main justification was that it was in retaliation for the Haitian government’s support for Dominican exiles trying to overthrow him. Eventually Trujillo allowed entrance to the Dominican Republic of Jewish refugees fleeing Europe, and Republican exiles from the Spanish Civil war, as an attempt to “lighten the race.” Moreover, Trujillo declared Merengue the national music of the Dominican Republic, and had the music and dance subsequently modeled after the European Waltz, a cultural manifestation of his wish to make his country appear more European, at least on the surface. 


Though the extension of the African Diasporas is clearly present in the Dominican Republic through culture, race, food, and other variants, it is important to note that semblances of Taino heritage are still present, which add to the difficulties of the conversation. Since so little is left of the Taino heritage, as opposed to the overwhelming African heritage, one can postulate that the claims towards being indio isn’t in neglect of the African heritage, but as a way of conserving what little of the Taino culture remains. It should be noted though, that in recent years there has been a change towards accepting, and having pride in the Afro-Dominican realities of the island. Increasingly Dominicans of darker complexions can be heard declaring pride for their skin color, in essence accepting their roots, and conversely, some Dominicans can be heard arguing that the idea of indio doesn’t in fact exist, and isn’t a valid classification for Dominicans. What should ultimately be held as true is that it is important to recognize this country’s African heritage, alongside its Taino roots, in order to create a synthesis within the cultural and racial landscapes, that will one day provide a conclusive understanding of identity in the Dominican Republic, something that up until now has been impossible to do.


Dominican Slang 101: What they say and what it means
After many years of trying to learn Spanish by osmosis you get tired of this technique and try to polish up your Spanish skills by practicing with some of your friends, who happen to be Dominican. 


No matter how hard you try, you still haven’t been able to fully understand what your friends say when they venture off into side conversations. So you plan a trip to the Dominican Republic to enjoy the many pleasures the island has to offer, and maybe practice your Spanish skills while on the beach. Along with your sun tan lotion, bathing suit and digital camera, you pack a small English/Spanish dictionary filled with useful phrases that might come in handy during your stay. Simple phrases like ‘donde esta el bano?’ and ‘no gracias, no me gusta,’ offer you some comfort in knowing that though you won’t converse at the same rapid rate as the Dominican people, you’ll at least be able to get around with relative ease. 


But then you arrive on the island and your head is spinning round while trying to understand what is being said around you. You can pick out a few words here and there, but for the most part you are lost in the context of what is going on. 


As you continue your tour through the island, and as conversations progress, your level of Spanish also progresses, though you still find yourself getting lost at important junctures of the conversation, partly because you don’t know what certain things mean, and partly because they don’t exactly translate into English. 


You shouldn’t worry about this because even the most seasoned Spanish speaker finds difficulty adjusting to the Spanish spoken in the Dominican Republic. The rapid fire delivery, varied accents, and diverse intonations can be challenging, but it is the stylized version of Spanish spoken here that can be the most challenging aspect of communication. 


Like most countries in Latin America, people in the Dominican Republic speak Spanish in their own unique way. This version of Spanish varies slightly from the Spanish spoken by neighboring Puerto Rico and Cuba, and even more distinct from the rest of the Spanish spoken in Latin America. It is ultimately recommended to try to understand the version of Spanish spoken here, rather than comparing it with other versions of the language that a traveler has encountered, because this can cause great confusion. 


One particular difference in the language comes from the change of certain consonants and vowels. In the capital region the “r” is changed to an “l,” so a word like “por que?” becomes “pol que.” In the north the “r” is changed to an “I,” so a word like “por que?” becomes “poi que?” And in the south the “l” is changed to an “r,” thus the proper name ‘Manuel’ becomes ‘Manuer.’ 


This is one of the many, yet, subtle differences of the Spanish spoken here. These differences aren’t hard to notice and adjust to, what is hard is identifying the slang which Dominicans use so comfortably in everyday speech. 


From street vendors to billboards depicting official political messages, almost everyone speaks some form of slang; however this can depend on class, and can be a reflection of social/economic status. While most Dominicans have some level of formal education, slang is the way in which most Dominicans communicate. Though not imperative to integrating or getting around in the country, understanding the slang can allow one to enjoy some of the many quips and jokes that are often expressed through slang. 


For example, if you and a friend agree that something is cool, instead of saying “esta bien,” most Dominicans would opt to say, “ta jevi,” “ta vacano,” or “ta nitido.” Or if you and a friend agree on something one might say, “ta to,” or even “fuego,” to indicate agreement. What if you had an event planned, but because of some circumstance the event failed to materialize one would say “eso se barajo,” literally saying that it was shuffled. And if you want to imply that your friend is crazy for having thought of said plan, you might exclaim, “tu ta pasao!” or “tu ta loco!”.


What if during your stay on the island you were invited to an event or a date and at the last moment you decided not to go with the person(s) at a future meeting that person could reply by saying, “me sacaste lo pie!” or “eres bultero(a). But you can then explain to your friend that you ‘dissed’ that you were broke from all your trips on the island by saying, “estoy en olla,” which means you have no money. More likely than not you’ll meet great people while you visit here, but what do you do when you no longer want to interact with a person or a group. You can say, “que lo soltaste en banda,” or that you broke of ties and went of in your own direction.


But what if you met a person or group that you would like to get together with. Instead of saying let’s meet and hang out, you would say, “vamos hacer un coro!” And what would you do if one of the many people you meet sparks an interest in you? You could sneak away somewhere “para chulear te lo(a), or make out, just make sure you don’t get in too deep while here because Dominicans don’t fall in love, “ellos se afixian.” 


And as you continue your adventures be careful with what you do because the food here, “te puede dar churria,” or give you a case of the runs and you don’t want to spend your time on the island, “quillao(a),” or mad.


I’m not an expert, or “verdugo,” on Dominican slang, but these phrases and the few others that follow should be a good introduction into Dominican talk. 


Always remember that a key to understanding what Dominicans say is knowing that the slang is rich in metaphors, word play, and double entendres. Though there are no direct translations to certain phrases or sayings, or any literal ways of understanding the slang, usually the context can help. If this is also hard here are a list of 31 other slang terms and words commonly used in everyday speech. Though some of the words are fun in nature, you should be very comfortable in your group of friends before you start using them. Enjoy!


De lo mejor: Ta apero (o aperisimo)
Dejar de molestar: suelta en banda
Masturbar: se hace la paja.
Engañar: te lo mete frió
Sale a pasear: se va a anda
Ser infiel: pega cuernos
Ser mentiroso: es jablador
Ser experto: ser un verdugo
Eyacular: echa un polvo
Conseguir: liga o guisa
Andar en autobus: anda en guagua
Dar un aventon: le dan una bola
Emborracharse: se da un jumo
Resbalar: patina
Espiar: brecha
Burlarse de: tripea
Convencer: da muela
Lamer: lambe
Molestar: fuñe
Llenar su estomago: se harta
Molestarse: se quilla
Golpear: te pelota
Sufrir de diarrea: sufre de churria
Fracasar: se guaya
Encontrar: halla
Compartir en grupo: hace coro
Trepar: se encarama
Bajar: se aplata
Bajarse: se apea
Hacer una siesta: echar una pavita
Convencer: Dar muela


How do Dominican Carnival Masks work?


The Dominican Carnival each February is a huge celebration. It is an event in which the whole family can participate. It is a tradition that is believed to have begun years ago in the Santiago and La Vega areas of the Dominican Republic as a celebration of the countries independence from Spain. During those years, Dominicans began to develop their own identity. The traditions and celebrations they then began to enjoy established them as purely Dominican for the first time. Many of those same traditions and celebrations have carried through to today and are exhibited during carnival activities. Today, the carnival is celebrated in many parts of the country and seems to gain in popularity every year. Many of its themes today have deep rooted European and African influences.


The celebrations usually entail large numbers of colorfully costumed and masked participants parading down streets. In different areas of the country, the celebrations may differ slightly as each regions community adds their own particular flavor to the event. Many of the towns, however, use similar costumes and masks. One of the most popular and commonly seen characters is Diablo Cojuelo. Legend has it that he is a demon that was banished to earth because he was such a prankster. When he was banished, he landed awkwardly on his leg and fell. The term “cojuelo” means to walk with a limp. When this character walks in the parade, he generally does so with a limp. Another figure known as “La Muerte” (the death) wears the classical skull and bones attire and holds a scythe. Another frequently seen character is a transvestite known as “Roba de Gallina” He generally asks store owners for contributions such as money or candy and then shares the items given him with children that follow him around. There is usually also a group dressed as Taino Indians that stage historic dramas and a group dressed as Africans or “Tiznaos”. The Tiznaos blacken their bodies with soot from charcoal and then rub burned engine oil on their skin to give it a glossy shine. Some other commonly seen characters include the chicken thief (Robalagallinas), and the Bear Man (Nicolas Den Den), and Los Indios (The Indians). The devil, however, is always the central figure in the festivities. 


Because the cities of Santiago and La Vega have celebrated carnival for the longest time and with the most continuity, they have the most original and recognizable masks. The celebrations in La Vega and Santiago are somewhat different. La Vega, very much an agricultural community, has a traditionalist environment and as a result, the carnival celebrations act as a protector of these traditions. The La Vega carnival is actually celebrated on two levels. The first is the public one celebrated every Sunday in the general area of the central plaza. This is the one that the vast majority of people attend. The second is more of a private celebration which takes place in private clubs and locations where only certain people are invited.


The masks that you will see at the La Vega carnival are very elaborate and particularly frightening. They generally have bulging, bloodshot eyes, rows of fangs as teeth and protruding horns. They are also usually highly decorated in rhinestones and feathers. 


The Carnival La Vega also provides a much needed economic boost to the town every year. The making and distributing of the masks provides employment and many people from around the country and from abroad make an annual trip to La Vega to witness the popular carnival thereby helping out the local economy.


Traditionally, a lot of Dominican families of influence have resided in Santiago. It is a location that a lot of political forces in the countries history have emerged from. As a result, the carnival held in Santiago is more of a testament to its history than a protector of its traditions like in La Vega. Santiago, like La Vega, has both a main, public carnival that is available for all people to partake in and there are also private celebrations held where access is limited to certain people. The celebrations in Santiago each year begin with a competition in which local artisans display their mask in front of a panel of judges. The masks are then rated on a variety of categories by a panel of judges. These contests are taken very seriously and preserve a tradition that is very unique to Santiago.


There are two basic mask types in Santiago which each originated in separate neighborhoods. The mask that came from the neighborhood of La Joya has two main horns surrounded by multiple, smaller horns. It also has a long pointed up snout. The second type is from the neighborhood of Los Pepines. This one has a broader face similar to a duck. It has smooth, longer horns than the one from La Joya. The different styles can probably be attributed to the rivalry the two neighborhoods have always held. This has no doubt enhanced the creativity of the masks being made as one neighborhood tries to out do the other.


The majority of the masks are professionally made. However, some of the poorer participants who cannot afford to purchase a mask are forced to improvise and make their own. These individually made masks can be composed of a number of materials including cardboard, plastic, discarded jugs and other types of containers. Some of these homemade masks are very imaginative and they allow their creators to participate in and enjoy the festivities like everyone else does.


Masks that are professionally made are related to the cattle farming culture in the Dominican Republic. Leftovers from the slaughterhouse in Santiago such as horns, teeth and hides played a large role in the materials that went into the making of the masks early on. Clay taken from a river near where the slaughterhouse was in Santiago was used to form a mold which was then baked and dried in the sun. The mold for the horns was formed around the leftover horns from the slaughterhouse. These molds could then be used over and over again. Inside the mold would be placed several layers of paper, which were usually brown paper bags to form the masks. Generally, yucca starch which was cooked into a paste and then preserved with lime juice would be used to prevent the mix from spoiling in the heat. 


After the mask has been polished up, it is ready to be painted. This is usually done using household oil paint. Pieces of foam are then attached to the inside of the mask to accommodate the wearers face and make it more comfortable. After that, all there is left to do it attach plastic bands to the sides to support the head.


If you happen to be in the Dominican Republic during carnival, visiting the celebrations in Santiago and La Vega can be a great way to experience some Dominican culture and tradition and gives you the opportunity to personally see what works of art some of these masks are.


This article was written using information provided by Ivan Erikson from his excellent website at dominicanmasks.com


Gangs and the Dominican Republic
Gang life in the Dominican Republic is no different from gang life in any other part of the world. Large groups of mostly young disenfranchised males, find themselves caught in the ‘live or die’ mentality of gang activity, with little or no prospect of ever finding a way out. Many who enter into the gang lifestyle do so because they seemingly have no other choice. 


Many who live outside this world argue that there are other possibilities rather than just surrendering oneself to the ‘eat or be eaten’ codes of big city living, but a drive through some of Santo Domingo’s most impoverished neighborhoods, some almost completely controlled by the youth gangs, quickly challenges this train of thought.


Young people aged between 15 and 35 make up close to 36% of the total Dominican population, almost 3,082,599 people. Of these, almost 63% can be found in urban areas, while only 38% of Dominican youth resides in rural areas of the country. It is these urban youths, such a large proportion of the total youth population, who are at highest risk of succumbing to gang life.


Gang members, or bandoleros, in Santo Domingo and throughout the Dominican Republic, aren’t the king pin drug Mafiosi so commonly portrayed in Hollywood movies, or the types we see on nightly news reports. Instead they are a loose collection of individuals who use the gang lifestyles and mentalities for protection, and are consequently used as pawns in international crime rackets.


Equally dangerous and burdensome on the Dominican correctional system are the many jailhouse gangs within the country’s prisons, who control life behind bars, and wield a tremendous amount of power over society, even after they have been locked up.


What has added to the gang problem in the DR, and has become problematic in recent years is the emergence of internationally linked gang activity present in the country. It is a known fact that there are many Dominicans living in the United States, and these Dominicans send remittances worth billions to the small Caribbean country, but, unbeknown to many, this is how even gang activity has been exported from the United States to the Dominican Republic.


Member gang nations, or naciones, of some of the United States biggest gangs, like the Bloods, Crypts, Folk, and Latin Kings, have spawned disciple gangs in the Dominican Republic and follow the rules set forth by gang life, not by police authorities. Dominican gang members flash colors, protect their “sets,” and hold allegiances to their gangs, above anything else. These gangs are active here in the DR, as they are on the streets of New York or LA, and are just as defiant of any authoritarian efforts to control them.


In turn there are, though it may be hard to believe, youth gangs around the Dominican Republic who are the antithesis of gang members. At first glance they have every opportunity available to them. Gangs like los Cielos or los Dorados are made up of the children of middle or upper class Dominicans who, for reasons known only to them, engage in gang and criminal activity. They can be found living in some of the Dominican Republic’s nicer neighborhoods, but below the “nice-boy” façade are young people who are just as dangerous as their more impoverished counterparts.


What is lost in the rumble of gang life in the Dominican Republic is the reasoning behind the need to be part of this lifestyle. Most young people who enter into gang life don’t do it because it is a glamorized lifestyle they want to be a part of. For them it is a lifestyle they feel they need to join in order to survive. For these youths, gangs provide protection from other people or gangs who may want to hurt them. Gangs provide the concept of brotherhood that may be missing in their lives, and also provide a source of revenue, in some cases. For some youths gangs provide something to be proud of. Inclusion into a group, in contrast to the exclusion they might face from family or society at large is something that some young people crave, and existing members prey on this.


The majority of gang members are in their early to late teens, with some members being as young as 8, or as old as 30. Because of the violent lifestyle they lead, older gang members are not so common.


Regardless, gang membership is for life, with only one exception. In the Dominican Republic, if a former member wants to leave a gang, he can join a church organization, or “meterse en la iglesia.” This simple act of converting to a life of faith can be the only way of successfully leaving the gang. Some former members do it as a calling, while other former members, fed up with the lifestyle they’ve been leading, go to the church regardless of whether they agree with the concept of religion.


Within the gang lifestyle there is an intricate and organized hierarchical structure. There is usually a gang leader, followed by a group of “deputies,” in descending rank. These deputies organize all gang activities, such as gang initiations, petty crimes, and they decide where to start their next fight and with whom.


These activities, especially initiations, are a vital but brutal part of gang life. These activities assert the gang’s hierarchical structure, but they also break down potential members and make them understand that the gang is in effect all they have.


Gang initiations can consist of a range of violent acts. In some cases, in order to be part of a gang, members are ‘jumped in,’ or are beaten by other gang members. Beating on a perspective new member is done to test a member’s dedication to his new gang, and to see how much he can put up with. More extreme ways of joining a gang are when a prospective member is asked to rob, kill, or rape in order to gain entry into the gang.


In recent years gang initiations in Santo Domingo have taken a drastic and more violent turn. Stoplight assaults have become one of the most common and dangerous activities within the culture of gang initiations. While at a stoplight, a car filled with gang members will flash their high beams. If the vehicle they were flashing at reciprocates, the gang members will pursue the vehicle and attack the driver.


Although it is an unfair and almost stereotypical assessment, many gang members sport the hip hop style of dress, which is extremely common and popular within the impoverished neighborhoods where they live. What has become an interesting distinguishing characteristic among many youth gang members in recent years is their desire to sport a more ‘preppie’ style of dress, like polo shirts, in order to fit in at certain events, in order not to be profiled before potential assaults. Also extremely common are tattoos representing their gang affiliations. Tattoos on their necks, arms or chest can symbolize sympathy for, or affiliation to a gang. And very common among many gang members is a gap in their mouths, where many are missing their front two teeth. This can symbolize either the gang member’s initiation, a symbol of gang member’s time in jail, or the heavy drug consumption.


Part of gang life also consists of protecting a “set,” or a gang’s turf. This turf may consist of just a few blocks, or a whole section of the city. Some examples of a gang’s turf in Santo Domingo can be the areas surrounding a shopping mall, or the mall itself. Younger gang members will parade around a mall, for example, looking for prospective victims, or looking to start a fight. These gang members usually never travel alone, and rarely do they fight alone, rather they terrorize as a unit. In most cases one member will provoke a confrontation or prepare a potential victim for an attack, and fellow members will appear out of nowhere to help out. Youth gangs in the city have also been known to go uninvited to parties, looking to cause trouble in this very way.


Within a gang’s turf, the rules that apply to normal society don’t apply to gang members - they make their own rules. One of the most highly publicized gang stories proved this very same detail, and made Dominicans realize the depth and seriousness of gang life in Santo Domingo.


In 2004, after the death of a reputed gang leader and drug trafficker, members of his gang decided to give him a burial “fit for a hero.” During funeral proceedings he was buried with the Dominican flag on his casket, an honor usually only granted to national heroes, and people who have given their lives for their country. But there was little that the police was able to do. The police rarely enter the sector of the city where the burial took place, and if they do it is at their own risk.


Drugs are also a large part of life in Dominican gang culture. Although Dominicans are viewed in the American, and maybe the international eye, as drug kingpins, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, Dominicans and the Dominican Republic are used as pawns in the international drug trade, which these gang members not only aid, but at times become victims. Though there are large drug related cartels doing illegal business in the Dominican Republic, the country is used mainly as a stopping-off point en route to the US, Europe, and the Lesser Antilles.


Many of these drug cartels are controlled in countries such as Colombia, without any real economic benefits ever trickling down to the youths who risk their lives selling the drugs.


Instead, many of the street youth in Santo Domingo deal in small quantities, in order to “make ends meet,” and usually opt for using low quality marijuana, and low quality narcotics like cocaine, in order to get high. But the most common drugs taken by these gang members aren’t the least dangerous, but the most common. Shoe polish, chemical fumes or other inhalants have become the drugs of choice among many street youth, not only because of their availability, but also because of their low cost.


In neighborhoods like Guaricano, La Cienaga and Capotillo, gangs are more powerful than even the police, and although they might not be respected by all, they are at the very least feared. The reasons for joining a gang are numerous, and though the reasoning given by gang members for their participation can be flawed, we must understand that in the reality that they have to live in, this may be the only option open to them. Furthermore, high levels of unemployment, poverty, lack of education, disenfranchisement and a lack of positive role models are continuing the cycle that today’s generation faces.


Dominican Republic Prostitution
Prostitution is commonly referred to the “world’s oldest profession”. It is something that undoubtedly does now and has always existed in every corner of the globe. Prostitutes are depicted on television and in Hollywood films in a wide range of ways from drug addicted homeless women lurking in the shadows of urban city streets to high priced escorts who cater to some of the richest men in the world.


In many countries including the United States, prostitution is illegal. Despite this, it is usually not viewed with the same contempt as more “serious crimes”. Instead, most view it as more of a morality issue, a “vice” or a social evil that because of human nature, can never be completely extinguished but should be kept as far out of public view as possible. Each specific country and their people have their own respective view of prostitution and the Dominican Republic is no exception. In this article, we will examine prostitution in the Dominican Republic and everything that relates to it in some detail.


The prostitution rate per capita in the Dominican Republic is considered very high. Additionally, the Dominican Republic is statistically the 4th largest exporter of prostitutes in the world behind Brazil, Thailand and the Philippines. So why are the rates so high? Why are so many Dominican women prostitutes? Well, we can probably point to a number of social factors to answer that question. 


First and foremost, the Dominican Republic suffers from a very high poverty rate. Over 25% of the Dominican population is said to be living below the poverty line. Educational standards are very low and the majority of people living in the campo (countryside) stop attending school at a young age. The adult literacy rate is a low 87.8 percent. For most, there is little or no opportunity. Unemployment is at a staggering 17% and many, who do have jobs, work for very low pay. There is also a very high rate of teenage pregnancy and fatherless families are extremely common. It is not surprising with so little opportunity and so little hope of future opportunity that many Dominican women turn to prostitution.


How do Dominican Women go about being prostitutes?


Well, the common misconception is that the majority of Dominican prostitutes works in tourist areas and caters to tourists, when in fact this is not the case. A percentage does but the majority of Dominican prostitutes’ clients are Dominican men. The men visit brothels and massage parlors that litter the country and are filled with Dominican women. Sometimes, like immediately before Christmas, you will find more girls than normal working in these establishments in an effort to earn some quick money for the holidays. They will then go back to their normal lives.


Activity such as this has been going on in the Dominican Republic long before the country became a tourist attraction. However there are a couple of tourist destinations in the country which have become infamous for their prostitution. The main two are Boca Chica on the south coast and Sosua on the north coast. Several months before this article was written, there was an initiative to cleanse Boca Chica of its rampant prostitution problem. The result was that many of the prostitutes that worked in Boca Chica relocated to Sosua; however, Boca Chica still retains its ill repute. 


Both of these locations lie along the coast and are tourist attractions, so the common daytime scenes surround beach activities, peddlers selling all kinds of trinkets to tourists, bars and restaurants. Mixed into the scenery are plenty of Dominican women working as prostitutes. In the daytime, this might not be overtly apparent; however any male tourist looking to pay for sex will quickly find what he is looking for.


At nighttime, the scene changes and the discos and bars fill up with Dominican women with the vast majority of them looking to be picked up by a tourist for a night of paid sex. Additionally there are usually various strip clubs and massage parlors in these areas. The strip clubs allow you to take a working girl out if you pay the club a “salida’ or an exit fee. The client is then free to negotiate with the girl on how much a night of sex will cost. The massage parlors give the outward impression that they simply provide massages. However, once the male gets inside, the girl providing the massage usually offers sexual favors in exchange for money. The sex act would then generally take place right there in the massage room.


Bringing a girl back to his hotel is usually not a problem for a tourist as most hotels allow guests. The hotels policy generally is to make sure the girl has a “cedula”. This is the national identity document that states that the girl is over 18 years of age. It is common practice for the hotel to take the cedula and return it to the girl when she leaves. This way, if there is any problem while the girl is there such as an allegation that valuables are missing, the hotel can take the girl’s cedula and go directly to the police.


Typically, the girl who works in these tourist areas as a prostitute is in her late teens or early twenties. She may be from the surrounding area or quite frequently she may have come from another part of the country. She may have previously worked as a prostitute in one of the brothels around the country that cater to Dominican men but came to realize that she could make more money from tourists. The majority of these women have one or more children by a Dominican male but the vast majority of the time, the father has abandoned the family and his fatherly duties and the woman is left the raise the children herself. Generally, this responsibility is handed over to the prostitutes’ mother. This cycle frequently repeats itself generation over generation. 


The money most of these prostitutes earn by sleeping with tourists is usually much more than they have ever experienced before. These girls usually have no concept of saving so the money is immediately spent on items such as clothes, jewelry, cell phones, etc. Additionally, many of them begin to use drugs. There is no concept of personal advancement or aspirations to achieve financial stability. Instead, they subscribe to a “live for today” attitude and the money is quickly spent.


Many of them, along with selling their bodies, act as thieves. Upon meeting a new client, they will first ask him how long he is in town. Then, later back in his hotel room, she will seize any opportunity to steal from him. She may also work as a pickpocket. While approaching a man on the street, she would get close to him and move her hands around on him to distract him. At the same time, she will deftly pick his pocket. The prostitute generally walks away and the tourist has no idea that he has been robbed, until much later. If the tourist on the street catches on, the prostitute will flee and hide in a nearby barrio or somewhere she knows he will not find her. She already knows how long he is in town because that is the first thing she asked him, so she knows when the coast will be clear to come back. Additionally, most tourists out of fear or embarrassment would be scared to report the crime to police and would simply accept the loss as a lesson learned.


Some of the tourists visiting these locations are not just looking to pay for sex but are more interested in a long-term relationship. In these cases, a prostitute will jump to fill the void. She will stay with the tourist for the duration of his vacation and convince him that she is not a prostitute but has fallen in love with him. She will talk him into helping her provide for her and her children. The tourist will generally return home believing that he now has a faithful girlfriend waiting for him to return. She will keep in contact with him via phone or e-mail and he will periodically send her money to help her. He will tell her when he is coming back for a visit and she will be waiting as if she loves him. Of course, she will have several men of this nature thinking she is their faithful girlfriend and will also be working as a prostitute when not preoccupied with them.


Some women in the more affluent areas of the country work as prostitutes in a different manner. They are what are known as “beeper chicas” and cater to more affluent Dominican males. Their clients are generally doctors, lawyers, businessmen, etc. What these girls generally do is enroll in a university and take classes to give the false impression that they are interested in getting an education and mask the fact that they are hookers. However, they are always on call to their affluent Dominican clients. Once “beeped”, she will usually meet a client in an upscale motel and he will pay a generous amount of money to have sex with her. Some of these girls are actual models and model for well known companies. However, they will make quite a bit of money on the side as “beeper chicas”.


Obviously, a big health risk for prostitutes is the possibility of contracting STDs. The HIV rate among prostitutes is naturally higher than among the general population. Additionally, diseases such as Chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, trichomoniasis, syphilis and others are common. Unfortunately, some of these prostitutes are not educated in the use of condoms. Therefore, it is very possible that a prostitute may contract one or more STDs and pass it on.


Prostitution is technically legal in the Dominican Republic. It is illegal however for a third party (pimp) to have any involvement. In an effort for police to counteract the problem in tourist areas, they will generally arrest any girl who appears to be a prostitute and is walking on the street after dark for loitering. To avoid arrest, the girls simply take a motoconcho taxi directly to the discos and operate from there. If they leave with a client, they will ask him to provide them with the motoconcho fare back to the disco or for him to walk her back himself. If the girl is being escorted down the street by a man, the police will leave her alone. If a prostitute is arrested for loitering, she may spend several days in jail and will generally have to pay the police to be released. She might get this money from a family member, a boyfriend or more likely, another prostitute. Then immediately upon release, she will resume the life she knows.

Machismo and the Dominican Republic
You might have heard of it in passing, or might have experienced it directly, but what in fact is machismo, and where does it come from? Male behavior in Latin America and the Caribbean has been a constant topic of conversation relative to male/female relationships, and the concept of machismo has been the driving force with which to understand those behaviors. In understanding the Dominican perspective we must look at the origins of machismo in relation to the images of masculinity in the Dominican Republic. 


Machismo is defined as a strong sense of masculine pride, or exaggerated exertion of masculinity, or male-like qualities. It is derived from the Spanish word macho, literally meaning male or masculine, and through time it has come to be the defining characteristic for males in Latin America. This umbrella term has become the definition, and ultimately the justification, for all acts by males. Masculinity has three main contexts in which it can be understood. It is anything that men say, think, or do and more detailed it is whatever men say, think, or do in order to distinguish themselves as men. Masculinity is, finally, how men understand themselves in relation to women, but doesn’t equate women to the value of men. 


The idea of machismo is somewhat vague because it is ultimately so deeply rooted in the behaviors of men and women in the Dominican Republic. What some might consider as machista behavior, here in the Dominican Republic it is seen as normal, by both men and women, because it has been a part of cultural make up for so many years. Everything from the way in which men act, how they dress, how they interact with each other, or women, the roles that women play, and the opinions men hold, are ultimately defined by an unwritten code of behavior known as machismo. But the term, and the related behaviors, are failed concepts here in the Dominican Republic for the simple reason that when speaking of their behaviors men don’t label it as “machismo,” rather as just the way men are supposed to behave. The term, in Latin America, has only recently been introduced as a way to understand the behavior, therefore it is only few within the society who can step outside of the context and see what the behaviors imply. Machismo in the Dominican Republic manifests itself in a variety of ways. Each situation in which machismo is present provides a deeper understanding of how Dominican society plays itself out. 


In keeping with the machista attitude, Dominican males view themselves as conquistadores (conquerors), of women. It is a fun game they play to see how many women they can actually “conquer.” Each woman they are able to claim is added as a notch to their belts, which elevates their status as male. The smooth demeanor of Dominican males is carefully orchestrated, with each line, each smile, and each joke, purposefully and carefully delivered to his next conquest. The aggressiveness of Dominican males can be overwhelming to newcomers to the country, but it has become expected by their female counterparts here. The acceptable nature of this adds to the continued behavior. 


In traditional Dominican households women are expected to play the submissive housewife role. Though this has changed in the last twenty years due to a variety of reasons, the traditional point of view is that a woman is to be a child bearer and care for her husband’s needs in every way. She cooks, cleans, keeps house, cares for the children, and puts her husband’s needs above hers. If she is an educated career woman she is to put her career aside in order to support her husband’s career, and her voice within family decisions is silenced in the presence of her husband’s. Moreover, extramarital affairs are extremely common within the Dominican Republic, as men feel it is their right, and in some cases their duty as men, to seek the companionship of other women. But women don’t have this same right. A man who is seen with multiple partners is viewed as manly and strong, but a woman who has multiple partners is viewed as easy.


More alarming is the high rate of domestic violence in the Dominican Republic that can be clearly connected to the idea of machismo, and highly aggressive male behavior. It is unclear how many women are abused by their husbands each year. No estimate can ever be fully accurate. Women who are abused rarely report it because they are scared of the repercussions, but also because the legal system in place rarely enforces laws that are meant to protect women. The lack of legal recourse in essence aids the continued development of machista behavior because men will not be punished for their actions. 


Machismo plays itself out in other ways in the Dominican Republic. If a woman walks in front of a group of men it is almost guaranteed that there will be whistling and commentary aimed at the woman. At times it is more in order to impress the other men in the group, than it is to gain the attention of the lady walking by. 


Machismo also manifests itself in another more violent and dangerous way. Being a “coward” is looked down upon, so a “real” man must fight in order to uphold his honor and status as a man. If he doesn’t do this he faces ridicule for being “weak.” A man in the Dominican Republic can never be seen as less of a man. An example of these forms of machismo playing themselves out at the same time can be seen at discos or night spots. A man may make a comment towards a woman, or even attempt to grab her in an inappropriate way, even if she has a boyfriend. In order to defend “his” woman, and protect his image as a man, the boyfriend will confront the person who has bothered his woman, and this usually leads to a fight. 


Equally disturbing is how machismo’s manifestation is defined through the lack of social acceptance of homosexuality. Homosexuality is a social taboo in the country, but in the truest sense, homosexuality starkly contrasts anything that is considered manly. Making fun of homosexuals or even just ignoring their presence is further proof that to be a man in the Dominican Republic is more than just a person’s biology, but what he does and thinks. In certain aspects to befriend a person who is homosexual may cast a suspicious light on a person, even if they are heterosexual, as homosexuality “lessens” the degree of masculinity a person can have. 


In the workplace there is also the presence of the machista attitude. Sexual harassment in the workplace is common, and there is little enforcement of laws that protect women against this type of behavior. Since the power structure on the country is mostly in the hands of men, it is difficult for women to get equal consideration either in the workplace or in the judicial system. Even if a woman reports incidents of sexual harassment it is rarely considered as anything serious, and not much is done. In some cases a woman might be dismissed from her job because she is seen as a troublemaker, and ultimately there is nothing she can do because she has no legitimate legal recourse of action. 


Politics is another clear manifestation of the machista attitude. Politics in the Dominican Republic is a “good old boys club” with most political posts held by men. Though there are women working with the political system at large, the presence of women is minor. Even when women are elected to political office they struggle to find their niches, as their merits are constantly challenged by their male counterparts. They inevitably have to work twice as hard in order to get the respect of their colleagues, and work just as hard to get their agendas heard. 


A change in ideologies with the advent of the 21st century has created more opportunities for women, but the change in the machismo attitude is slow in the coming. Of the many changes occurring within Dominican society, this one will be the slowest to come. In 2003, then Vice President, Milagros Ortiz Bosch, was considered to be a potential candidate for the Presidency of the Dominican Republic. Impressive, considering the country she was in, but the Dominican Republic is still not ready for a female to have such power. It is still strictly a sexist country. Since most people feel this way it makes it more difficult to change existing points of view. Things have changed though, and there are organizations, both local and international, that have taken on the responsibility of making people understand what machismo is, and how it affects life on a day to day basis, but it will be a united movement from the female population that can change the machista attitudes in the country. 


The aggressive machismo that permeates through the behaviors of men is not recognized as a result of a social structure, but as a biological result. This is considered by many, both men and women, as just the way things are, which makes it even more difficult to understand at times.


Living in the barrio
Driving around the center of Santo Domingo on a typical Saturday night is like driving around Manhattan, New York. High end clubs like Praia, LED, or Tonic, blast the latest electronic club music, international DJ’s play into the wee hours of the night and Ferraris, Mercedes and BMW’s roar down the main city drags as if these where the only vehicles allowed to cruise along city streets on weekend nights. The “jevito” crowd in full swing looking as chic as they want to be, wearing their hand made or imported European clothes, expensive shoes, enjoying the night with their “money isn’t an issue” attitudes. On Lincoln Avenue, expensive street racers parade down as on lookers argue as to what car could beat what car in a quarter mile race or which club is better than which club. Looks are at a premium, personality and character, not so much. In this world of “what I have” what you drive, what you wear, who you know and who knows you is more important than what you think and these particular scenes, which are mirrored throughout Santo Domingo’s high end shopping areas and strips, would lead one to believe that the DR isn’t a developing country. Bella Vista Mall or Acropolis are filled with the city’s richest of the richest who spend without a care and distinguish themselves from the country’s popular classes with their cool gadgets and designer ice cream. But, scattered throughout Santo Domingo are numerous barrios where life is completely the opposite. Where BMW’s are replaced with Honda Civics, where electronic music is replaced by the sounds of bitter Bachata and where European clothes are replaced by the look of New York City “Yos.” Barrios in the DR, and around the world, get a bad rap. The drugs, violence, prostitution and negative aspects of society are directed as originating in the barrios of any given town, and though there is some truth to this, it is often overlooked that most barrios are defined by a sense of community, pride and defiance towards the challenges and obstacles that society places on them.


Everything in the barrios is different. Clothing styles, language, hierarchy, gang life and everything in between is defined by a different outlook in these neighborhoods. From the food to the smells the sights and the sounds life can vary significantly from one barrio to another, but what is the same is that these folks, though poor in monetary measures, are rich in their own right.


Clothing
There are a few defining styles of clothing worn in the barrios. Some men stick with the status quo and feel more comfortable with the “jevito” style. A pair of fitted jeans, accompanied by a nice pair of shined shoes or jevito shoes, like Pumas, topped off with a pastel colored polo is common. The jevito style could be varied with the usage of a pair of “crokies” (Nike Air Force One’s) and a New Era Fitted Cap which could make a jevito more of a barrio type. Another style is that of the Yo, or the hip hop styles. Baggy jeans, with crokies or boots, accompanied by a large designer shirts and New Era Fitted Caps are very common. This look has become increasingly popular in the DR due to the influence of Dominican Americans in the US. Finally, there is the bachatero look. The bachatero look is named so because it is a style common among the nation’s bachata singers. Men wear tight jeans with flashy, crocodile skinned or leather shoes and very eccentric shirts which have designs on them. Beaded necklaces, bracelets or sun glasses are very common accessories. The bachatero look is considered by tacky by some, in and out of the barrio, but it is still very popular. The women in the barrio will sometimes vary within these very same styles though there are no real defining characteristics of clothing styles used by women in the barrios.


Transportation
A large number of those who make a barrio their home usually have no money to buy a car so public transportation is very common. Large buses, “voladoras,” or public taxis, conchos, wiz up and down very congested barrio streets, usually over filled, getting patrons to their places of choice as quick as possible. For those who have a bit more money at their disposals two wheel transportation could be an option. Scooters or motorbikes are almost an exclusive aspect of barrio transportation and some Dominicans joke that in certain barrios having a scooter, a “pasola,” can make you more popular with the ladies than having a car. For those who have a higher income cars are the ultimate goal, but you won’t see BMW’s and Mercedes parading around the streets. The cars of choice in the barrios are Honda Civics, Honda Accords and Toyota Corollas, especially among younger barrio inhabitants. The Civic and Corolla, partly because of their costs are popular, but like everything in the barrio there is a twist. These cars have become very popular because of their street racer qualities and the ease with which you can “trick out” a vehicle. Large rims, xenon white lights, loud muffler systems, body kits, special paints all add to the “cool” value of a car. Also, sound systems in these cars can make or brake a car. Sub woofers, tweeters radios are all added to “compete” and gives the owner a special standing within the barrio hierarchy. It is almost a known fact that nothing is considered “chopo” in the barrio. Something “chopo” would be putting zebra skinned seats in Hummer or a BMW, but go to a barrio if you want to see this.


Hair
The barber shop or hair salon is arguably the center of day life in the barrio. For men the barber shop is where politics, sports, relationships and life all have a forum to be discussed. Barbers are a special breed of men in the barrios as all the neighborhood gossip will pass by his ears. Adding to the personality of the barber is that he is a pseudo psychologist and since he is the man responsible for cutting your hair, and making you look good, he will never be wrong in an argument. A good cut will cost you around RD$100, but it’s the atmosphere that is worth staying for. As the night progresses patrons will buy beers from the local colmado and music will play in the background. For women the salon is just as important and hairdressers play the same role as barbers do. Dominican hairstylists are world renown for their skills and looking good, especially for the weekend, is at a premium in the DR. The quality of barrio stylists is so known that some of the DR’s richest will make their way to the barrios to get their hair done.

Food
Breakfast in the barrio is typical of what most Dominicans eat. At home you would most likely have some plantains accompanied by fried salami, fired cheese, fried eggs or some other form of meat. Rice pudding, hot chocolate or coffee with buttered bread are also common breakfast meals. For those who don’t have time to eat at home the empanada is the place to go. Empanada stands are scattered through the DR’s barrios. The empanada is a delicious paddy, filled with a variety of ingredients like ham and cheese, mixed vegetables, corn, meat, eggs, salami or vegetarian. The empanada could be accompanied by a cup of juice which could be lemon, passion, tamarind, pineapple or mabi. Empanadas are also popular for lunch and dinner though restaurants that serve typical Dominican foods are scattered in these neighborhoods and serve a plate of the day that will cost between RD$70 and RD$100. These plates will include rice, beans, a salad, fried plantains and a meat. Also, quipes, empanadas amarillas or corn on the cob are sold on corners and by mobile vendors around the neighborhoods always available as a quick snack. At night the chimy is the place to go. The chimy stand is your basic hamburger and hot dog stand with some distinctive changes. The hot dog has ketchup, mustard, cheez whiz, relish, lettuce, and crush chips. The chimy hamburger is cooked on a grill with soy sauce, hot sauce, ketchup, a “special sauce,” lettuce, tomatoes and onions. The chimy business usually opens after 6pm and is open until about 3 or 4am.


Education
A majority of the schools located in the barrios are pubic schools, known as a liceo, though there are parochial schools. There are very few private schools in the barrio as those are found in the country’s higher end neighborhoods. Unfortunately, the education system in the DR is lacking and a majority of the schools are under funded. Some schools don’t have the necessary equipment needed to teach and some schools are also understaffed. Graduation rates are also very low though there are efforts to curve this trend. For those who choose to continue their education they can go to any university they choose, granted they can afford it, but many poorer students can attend the UASD University, at discounted rates.


Sexual activity
Sex among teens is very common in the barrio and a lack of education has lead to a large number of teen pregnancies and an even larger amount of abortions, though the abortions are rarely publicized. It is not common to see older men with teenage girls engaged in consensual sexual activity and statutory rape is virtually non existent. This cycle has led to many homes in the DR being single parent homes with many young, unwed mothers to caring for many children without the presence of the father.


The Colmado and nightlife
In many barrios the colmadon is the center of nightlife. The colmadon is a large store that is dedicated to selling alcohol and will usually have a large music system that will play a variety of musics like salsa and merengue though bachata is most often the music blaring. The colmadon provides plastic chairs so patrons can sit and many times “parking lot pimpin,” hanging out on the streets, takes place near the colmado. Clubs, bars and pool halls are also very popular in the barrios though unfortunately they are plagued by “tigueraje,” making it dangerous for barrio and non barrio inhabitants alike. Club patrons are usually allowed to enter with guns and at the moments notice an argument can explode with gun shots ringing out loud. Once one gun shot sounds off the crowds run for safety and those who have guns bring them out, making getting hit by a stray bullet a real possibility.


Drugs and illegal business
Drugs run rampant through the barrios, though it’s not just barrio inhabitants that purchase, sell or consume the drugs. Marijuana and crack are the most common drugs in the barrios, though cocaine and heroine can be found. To a lesser degree methamphetamines, hallucinogens, ecstasy are found in the barrios though these drugs have yet to fully infiltrate the barrio culture. They are looked upon suspiciously by some and they are yet not as cost effective as other drugs to make drug pushers want to sell them. The large drug pushers in the barrios are known as “capos,” and they will usually have some connection to an American, European or South American drug market. Prostitution, loan sharking, insurance scams are also common illicit activities that take place in the barrios, as well as large scale robbery rings.


Crime and police
Crimes like theft, high jackings, drug dealing or murder are common in the barrio. For those who live outside these neighborhoods it could be a scary experience driving or walking through a barrio, especially at night. But for those who live in the barrio the fear is somewhat reduced because of barrio people will usually not attack a member of their own community usually choosing to commit a crime in someone else’s back yard. Barrio people will usually protect themselves and the lack of police presence makes this more urgent. Some barrios are so dangerous that police choose not to enter and vigilante justice is extremely common. In some cases when a thief is caught in the act he is beaten up on by members of the community as a whole. Though it is not a deterrent for crime barrio members will at times protect themselves. Unfortunately, this willingness to protect is sabotaged by an unwritten rule not to “snitch” on someone. In the barrio everyone could know where a murder is hiding out, but rarely will people go to the police, choosing to keep their mouths shut and their noses clean, this being one of the paradoxes of barrio life.


Housing and utilities
Rarely will you see high rise projects in the barrio rather you will see small cement or wood houses scattered around neighborhoods. These houses will have two maybe three rooms, small kitchen and a very cramped living room. There might be 5 or more people living in these cramped spaces. In some barrios there are actual houses with driveways, fences and maybe lawns but these are rare in poor barrios where more makeshift housing is common. The majority of the houses in the barrios were built without any real planning and it is noticeable. Many of the houses in the barrios have metal bars as a deterrent for thieves though there are no any guarantees. It is rare that people who live in the barrio pay for electricity. A common practice is to steal power, by connecting your source to the source of someone one who pays. This is done with cable and even phone lines. The theft of power is in the process of being regulated with the power companies asking people to pay at least something for the power they consume. Still, the infrastructure in the barrios is deteriorating. Since houses in the barrios were built in restricted areas when it rains flooding is common. Also, many of the wood houses are cover wish a zinc roof, which makes it unbearable to live in during the summer months.


Conclusion
Though the barrio gets a bad rap most people who live there love where they live. 
Yes, there are aspects that aren’t that positive about the barrio but there is a sense of community in the barrio that doesn’t exist in some of Santo Domingo’s upper class neighborhoods. Living in a barrio is like living in that small little bar in Boston where you can walk down the street during any given day and everybody knows your name. And think about it like this if you ever need sugar or a plantain for breakfast you can’t scream out the window to ask your neighbor, unless you are in the barrio.

Building Cultural Bridges
Dominicans Musicians Making a Change
For a country as culturally diverse as the DR, it is an unfortunate reality that most of that culture is invisible to the public at large. Because of historical pressures and a lack of integrated social-cultural education, the depth of the DR’s cultural heritage and history has been pushed into the background, allowing only a few curious individuals to appreciate it. Add to this phenomenon the reality that contemporary Dominican culture has become a commodity that is now packaged and sold as a tourist attraction, ignoring the full spectrum of what this country really is. Racism, anti-Haitianism, anti-Africanism, Europeanism, Blanquismo and Catholicism are just some of the words that have come to define and shape what today is considered Dominican culture and has created complex identity issues for this country, but this is slowly changing, and it is motivated Dominican youth who are helping that change. 


Unbeknownst to most Dominicans, who shy away from, or are ignorant of this rich history, most of the music they listen to is heavily influenced by remnants of the Taino and African cultures. Many would be surprised, and some would try to deny the influence of African, Haitian and Taino culture in this music, but it is these mixes of culture that make the DR what it is. It is through music that some are trying to revive and recapture that history, creating a cultural and historical bond and educating the Dominican community about who they are. The challenge is tough, erasing hundreds of years of ideology and replacing it with ideas that have been rejected and at times considered blasphemous, but the change, for a variety of reasons, is happening. The DR is an Afro-Caribbean nation and though it has been affected by a denial of its heritage, it has been able to, in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons, preserve some African music and culture. 


Dominican music at its roots: 
Gaga, played during Easter, is a form of music that developed parallel with Haitian Rara and evolved in the bateys (cane cutter settlements). It is a spiritual music, used during baptisms and other religious ceremonies. The development of Gaga in the DR results from the movement of laborers from Haiti to the DR. There are two types of Gaga: one style is found in Elias Piña and is more theatrical. This style involves dramatic renditions of rape and death. The other type of Gaga is seen as more rooted in spirituality and is less dramatic. Gaga is performed in procession and is a celebration of life coming from death. Appropriately, it is synchronized with the Christian celebration of Easter. Dominicans have adapted the music, including the songs and the instruments, to their own culture. Some popular Merengue songs are also performed to the Gaga rhythm. 


Música Congos del Espíritu Santo 
The Congos can be heard in the community of Villa Mella, in the section known as Mata los Indios, since the late 1500s when slaves were first brought to the island. African influences are present in every aspect of this music. This music is highly African in origin and is basically drum music. The music has maintained its original form and is still sung in call and response form. This style of music was usually sung while working where one person sang a line and the response was one word. This was much the same as the slave music in the southern United States. The roots of this style of music are pure African.


Palo
Palo, which means wood or stick in English, is a similar rhythm to Congos del Espiritu Santo. The name usually refers to the rhythm which is played on three tall drums with the largest of the three drums named the palo mayor, and the smaller drums called palo menor. Each drum is made from a single tree-trunk and the drums are accompanied by a guira, which is responsible for beating the rhythm.


Salve 
Salve is another call and response type of chanting that uses panderos, atabales and other African instruments. Salves are highly ceremonial and are used in pilgrimages and at parties dedicated to saints. 


Sarandunga of Bani 
The dance of the sarandunga is a manifestation of religious devotion to Saint John the Baptist. The Saranduga is played between 23 and 24 of June. There are three common rhythmic variations of this dance, two that are danceable and one that isn’t. The two danceable rhythms are named "La Jacana" (live rhythm) and the "Morano", a chant that exclusively complements the marriage ceremony prayers. 


Los Atabales
Los Atabales is probably the best representative of traditional African rhythms. The Atabales is also called the Palos de Vela and there are an estimated 50 variants of these sounds particular to all regions in the DR. This is music of a ceremonial nature that was brought to the island by the African slaves, particularly from Cameroon, the Congo and Angola. 


La Tumba
This music, also of African origin, was the national 
Dominican dance up until the 19th century and became identified with the area of Jarabacoa in La Vega.


Guloya
Originating from the phrase “good lawyer” this dance and music was brought to the DR by the “cocolos” (Black immigrants from the British West Indies and the United States) who migrated to the DR during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This folk music is particular to San Pedro de Macoris.


The music scene 
At the moment, the Dominican music scene is defined by the big three: Merengue, Bachata and Salsa, with a variety of other prominent musical genres developing strong followings on the periphery. Most popular music styles in the DR have some reference to African or indigenous roots but most Dominicans don’t recognize these roots when they listen to the music and will attribute the music to Europe, and hardly ever to Africa or neighboring Haiti. Even though these sounds expose traces of these indigenous or African cultural roots, it is the profitability and a need to define an image that has made it difficult for alternative musical styles that owe so much to those cultural roots, to develop a legitimate and mainstream following. Artists like Tulile, Omega, Krisppy and others have begun to incorporate these sounds into their mainstream style, but still hide the music within the Merengues they sing. 


A challenge for these alternative musical styles is that they represent everything that Dominicans have been taught they aren’t. From the time of Columbus, through the various independence movements, to the “whitening” of the race by Trujillo, to the propaganda of Joaquin Balaguer, Dominicans have been exposed to only a limited version of their heritage. According to Dr. Miguel Anibal Perdomo, professor of Dominican Identity and Literature at Hunter College in New York City, "There was a sense of 'deculturación' among the African slaves of Hispaniola. There was an attempt to erase any vestiges of African culture from the Dominican Republic. We were, in some way, brainwashed and we've become westernized." It is only now, in the 21st century, that there are Dominicans who are willing to grasp the full version of their heritage and accept it as their own. 


The Bands 
Cigua, lead vocalist of Batey, understands the challenge that he as a musician faces in reshaping Dominican culture, but he seems unfazed by the scope of the challenge. With his dreadlocks a permanent calling card of his political and social views, Cigua speaks of the discrimination that he faces just because he chooses to identify himself with an alternative culture. But he adds that the harassment he experiences from the police and others is just fuel for his hope to bring cultural unity. The music that he sings speaks about the current distrust in the political system, the economic situation and the fact that there is an identity issue that no one is willing to recognize. Through the music he relays the struggles in accepting his cultural heritage and adds that, “when you have a certain image a cop stops you and harasses you, its not just color, its hair. It’s bothersome to be different and I’ve been to jail 9-10 times just for looking different. The idea is that gays, druggies and artists are the only ones who wear deadlocks or are into alternative cultures and the hair and its African symbolism is contrary to everything that has been taught to Dominicans since the era of Trujillo. But music is the tool, the vehicle to change this.” 


The music that Batey plays is a mix of African beats, with Haitian rara, Dominican gaga, American rock, the Palos from Villa Mella, all in one blend that Cigua refers to as a “sancocho.” Listening to the music is like taking a tour through Dominican history, but as Jose Carlos, one of Batey’s other members, explains, what Batey is doing isn’t something new - they are just exposing it more. “A lot of the typical Dominican musical styles have these indigenous roots, but since they don’t fit in with the image of what the DR is, it isn’t identified as such, and listeners remain unaware that the music they enjoy, is originally from somewhere else. Unlike their Cuban or Puerto Rican musical counterparts, Dominican performers have shied away from outwardly exemplifying the African roots in their music. Musicians will use the sounds but won’t overly rely on them.” Batey doesn’t know if they will be the group to make the change, and have Dominicans outwardly defining themselves as African or indigenous, but they feel they will have influenced the group that makes the change. In mixing musical sounds, Batey is aware that they are stepping into somewhat uncharted territory, but the support has been positive. Cigua says that at shows things start slow, but once the crowd hears the sounds, Dominicans just get up and identify with it. “It something in the blood, that when you hear the sounds of the Palo or Congos, as a Dominican, you want to get up and dance and move. You don’t know why, but it’s in you. We are just bringing that music out and letting you know where it comes from.” 


SonAbril is another musical fusion band that is trying to bring together musical styles and cultural heritage in one place. The members of SonAbril are mindful of the challenge that they face, but at the same time are willing to play their part in disseminating the beauty of Dominican culture to everyone who is willing to listen. It’s an educational process through entertainment, and as Jose Carlos, who also plays with Batey, explains, the goal is to bring cultural unity. “For people to understand that this is one island and that Haitians are our brothers. This is a mission to educate people about the heritage, because the music isn’t in the schools and you have to go find it, so we are trying to bring it to people and connect them to their folkloric and African roots.” Most of SonAbril’s members are in their late teens and early twenties and consider themselves to be some of the voices of the Dominican youth culture. Willian says that he wants “people to see that you can do something else with music, and that there is something else out there to be discovered. There is a lack of education and self awareness and the system is a part of the reason for that so if we can change that and help bring some positive influences about Haiti, we’ll do that.” Joel Martin, another member of SonAbril, explains that it’s not about money, but more of a mission to get the message out there. “To entertain, but at the same time educate, creating something. To open peoples minds”. 


The future 
Other music groups like Pa’lomonte and the Haitian group Yisra’el are building the same bridges as Batey and SonAbril, and are bringing light to the beauty of Dominican culture and the diaspora. These artists are providing a contribution to the culture at large, but the positive thing is that kids are accepting it, accepting the music, embracing the ideas and in a sense recognizing their roots.


One of the strengths of rediscovering the heritage is the influence that the Dominican community abroad will have on the matter. Previous DR1 articles have documented how rap, once considered a Black-only music, is now a popular genre in the DR, and it was the migration of Dominicans that made this possible. This could be the trend, migration of people and ideas, that helps bring cultural roots to the forefront. Angelina Tallaj, a concert pianist, explains that, “a big influence has been a kind of Afro-diasporic identity that Dominicans in New York develop. After being in New York for a while, or second generation Dominicans who share schools and neighborhoods with African-Americans have no stigma attached to being black.


“I think all Dominicans who come to NYC, including me, no matter how light or dark-skinned, always think of themselves as white, because we are taught in the DR that we are European, that only Haitians are black. But I think that when we arrive here, where we are seen as black, I think there's a moment of trauma, and a moment of just really having to re-examine who we are. And I think all these groups from New York… have probably all gone through some sort of similar trauma, and first kind of neglecting all the African stuff, but then really embracing it, and learning to just accept it as part of who they are”.


Cigua from Batey said it best when he said, “the heritage is there and it’s just a matter of bringing it out. Four hundred years of history and it’s still here. Trujillo tried to whiten the country and couldn’t do it. Africa is still here after 400 years.”




  Dominicans in America
Making up one of the largest ethnic groups in the United States, Dominicans have begun to carve out a place for themselves within the American cultural landscape, but this has not come without its struggles. Long a forgotten minority in the shadow of their more “popular” Caribbean neighbors of Puerto Rican and Cuban descent, Dominicans have begun to make strides as a community with a distinct cultural identity, finally stepping out of the social shadows they have been in for the last twenty years. Though these strides are important to the overall development of a strong unified Dominican community, we must also note the difficulties faced by many first and second generation Dominicans in the face of the integration or assimilation they face each day. The presence of Dominicans in the United States as a formidable ethnic group has its origins in the migration patterns of the late 1980s, but it is also what Dominicans have done since they have been in the United States, and how they have defined themselves, that separate them from other ethnic communities in the US 


The mass migration of Dominicans to the United States began relatively late in comparison to that of Puerto Ricans or Cubans, but this is due in large part to the Dominican Republic’s political and economic situation. Unlike many Cubans who fled to the US after the rise of the communist presence in Cuba, or like Puerto Ricans who enjoy privileged status in the United States as they, since the enacting of the Jones Act of 1917, were natural born American citizens, Dominicans were not allowed to travel under the Rafael Leonidas Trujillo regime. It was only the political and economic elite that was allowed this freedom, and possessed the means to make it to the United States. Those who applied for passports or visas needed to state specific reasons for their travels, and it was a luxury granted to very few. After Trujillo was assassinated, and the power structure on the island changed, travel amongst Dominicans became a possibility, and in some cases a necessity. Eventually, under Joaquin Balaguer, all who chose to leave the Dominican Republic in search of better lives were given every opportunity to go. Due to an almost continuous decline of the country’s economic and political stability in the mid to late 1980s, and due in part to a long recession after the so-called “Dominican Economic Miracle”, Dominicans were part of one of the largest migratory booms of the late 20th century. This migratory boom is made evident not just by the presence of Dominicans as an ethnic group, but from the Hispanic/Latino community in general. According to the 2004 US census there were 35, 305, 818 American citizens of Hispanic/Latino decent in the United States, of which 1,051,032 were of Dominican descent.


Though the number of Dominican migrants to the US between the early 1970s and mid 1980s was rather low, totaling close to 350,000, it was a migration boom within a ten-year period that consolidated the presence of Dominicans in the United States. Between 1990 and 2000 the population of Dominicans increased from 348,000 to 692,000. From the years 2000 to 2004 alone the population of Dominicans once again soared, as there was an increase from 692,000 to more than one million registered Dominicans living in the United States. This statistic only accounts for people who label the Dominican Republic as their place of origin, and doesn’t include the children of Dominicans born in the United States. In considering those who are of Dominican ancestry this figure would almost certainly be much higher. And of all registered ethnic groups from Latin America, Dominicans make up the third largest group, after Mexicans and Cubans. (Note: Puerto Ricans, though Latino in origin, are US citizens and therefore aren’t included in this figure.) Also, of these 1,051,032 Dominicans more than half, 500,061, reside in the state of New York. New Jersey also has a large Dominican population with more than 115,000 Dominicans, followed by Florida with 72,000 Dominicans. 


But the unfortunate reality of Dominicans in the United States is that they live in abject poverty. According to a recent study from the United Nations Subcommittee on Human Development, Dominicans are statistically the poorest ethnic group in the United States. This statistic sheds light on many of the difficulties that face Dominicans when they arrive in the United States.

Many Dominicans who arrive in the US are from the country’s rural areas and barely have any formal education or work skills to help them in their transition. Once they come to the United States they struggle with the language barrier of learning English, and to find work outside of the framework of typical Dominican business. Most Dominicans who arrive in the United States have some family connection there, and once they arrive they enter into bodegas, international phone calling centers, restaurants, remittance wiring, taxi companies, travel agencies and accountants as a means to make a living. In the state of New York alone Dominicans account for close to 25,000 small business owned, mostly in the area of food (restaurants, bodegas) taxi services, or remittance wiring. 


What characterizes Dominicans as an ethnic group in the United States is that they, unlike other groups that have come to the US, haven’t assimilated in the same way. Remittances from Dominicans in the US amount to an estimated 2 billion dollars a year, second only to Salvadoran remittances, which indicates a strong connection to the land of origin. Dominicans in the US also carve out particular enclaves within American cities, and tend to segregate themselves from other Hispanic and non-Hispanic groups. This is made evident by communities such as New York’s Washington Heights, which has the largest per capita concentration of Dominicans in the US 


Spanish is the language of choice for most Dominicans, and another aspect that is characteristic of Dominicans is that they, unlike many other ethnic groups, refer to themselves as Dominicans, and not Dominican-Americans. Cubans, whether born in the US or not, call themselves Cuban-Americans, Puerto Ricans are referred to as Puerto Rican-Americans (or Nuyoricans in some cases), and Mexicans born in the United States are referred to as Chican@, all reflecting a joint level of pride for both heritages, but Dominicans have yet to embrace this as part of their identity. They are ultimately very nationalistic, and the resounding idea among many Dominicans is that they are only in the US for limited periods of time in order to make money. Dominicans are inherently tied to their roots, and hold an overwhelming level of pride towards their culture and customs, which they aren’t willing to give up easily. 
This encapsulation of Dominicans, and their almost unwillingness to fully integrate into the US cultural landscape, is due partly in fact to the disenfranchisement of many Dominicans, and the mostly uncharitable welcome they have received from the start. Dominicans have become one of the most stigmatized groups in the US. The American eye clearly associates Dominicans with the vices of poverty, crime, violence, drugs and lawlessness. Aside from the fact that Dominicans have made strides in the sports world, which too has come at the price of stereotyping young Dominicans as only baseball players, they are labeled as menaces. The news media almost always identifies Dominicans as drug traffickers or the ringleaders of other illicit activities, as they have become the poster children for illegal immigration, money laundering, document falsification or marriage fraud. Dominicans have been radicalized and criminalized in many aspects, which has lead to a separation from the American culture at large. 


Ultimately, the racial aspect has differentiated Dominicans in another way. Dominicans often shun the strict rules of racial classification in accordance with the American model, and rely on the Dominican model as the default concept with which to classify themselves. In the United States there are specific categories for classification. It seems almost impossible to be something other than white or black. But Dominicans refuse these narrow classifications as they prefer to label themselves as racially mixed, neither black nor white, but a variety of other things. Because the American model for racial classification doesn’t capture the spirit of multiracial people, Dominicans have contested the country's conventionally limited view on race. They have expanded the racial possibilities and have made it critical for the public to recognize that Dominicans don’t fit into a conventional mold. 


The situation for Dominicans in the United States is changing. With the growth of a more educated and skilled second generation, and an emphasis from within the Dominican community to integrate, it is only a matter of time before Dominicans become a more prominent part of American society, leaving behind the tainted image they have; though this won’t be easy. In the process, the Dominican community must come to terms with the creation of a bi-cultural generation of youth that is unable to find its own voice, while at the same time providing disenfranchised young people with the assurance that they are accepted members of both the Dominican and American communities. Alongside the cultural struggles that face the future progress of the Dominican community is the advancement towards economic prosperity that can only further consolidate stability for this ethnic group.


Jail: Life behind bars
In the Dominican Republic anybody can easily land in jail for the simplest of crimes and the system is sometimes used by the government and police officials to punish people for personal vendettas. By some estimates 80% of prisoners in jail have not yet been sentenced. Many have no arrest records since they have been sent there by powerful people and on a notice even the President can send somebody to jail without a warrant. The disparities and inequalities of the Dominican jail system are many and in this country you could easily spend 10 years for stealing an egg or spend only days for murder, depending on who you are. In the Dominican Republic who you know is the ticket out of any situation. If you have committed a crime in the Dominican Republic, or have been arrested on a whim, for no real purpose, calling friends in high places. Usually, with a phone call from a friend who is a politician, a known businessman, a high ranking police officer or military personnel or someone who has a lot of connections will get you out of trouble. Only if the crime you are being charged with is related to drugs will you not receive any help.


The process
Once you have been arrested you are taken to the Palacio De Justicia, Palacio de La Policia and or local police station jails where you can spend at most 15 days in interrogation with the Juez de Instruccion, though with deep pockets this can be avoided. Once the judge classifies your case to criminal or penal, then you are sent to formal jails to wait for your day in court. Upon arrest you are fingerprinted and photographed, but with a good bribe you can avoid having this done and you can end up in jail though your police file would not exist. This is why many prisoners are lost in the system. After release you can buy off your police file for barely $500 pesos. Torture is part of the menu at many police stations, where the hardest criminals land first. But you can easily get loose if you have heavy bribe money. The best way to get out is thru direct bribes to the judges and district attorneys, or even government officials connected with jails.


Corruption
A "no a lugar" or discharge can be bought from almost any judge. Corruption in the jail and judicial systems in the Dominican Republic are rampant and drug dealers, thieve and white collar criminals have almost a free pass to what they feel, as long as they have the money to get themselves out of trouble. Discharges, depending on the particular crime, can range from US$10,000 and up, though lesser crimes can demand much less. “Bag men” are used to collect the money, which in addition is spread among district attorneys so they don't appeal the discharge.


Communications in jail
Cell phones with monthly fees can be obtained for $2000-$3000 a month. The lines are stolen from government offices systems which are never checked for counterfeit use and the bills are paid without monitoring. However, many private cell phone lines are tapped by Najayo hackers. Shares were also sold, including to people outside jail. The cell minute is sold for as much as $25 a minute and cell phone couriers walk around the hallways selling cell minutes to inmates. Prisoners also get calling card numbers from family members outside if they are able to bring their own cell phone.


Housing
Once you arrive in a jail like Najayo, money is your ticket to health and safety. If you have it, spend it well. The first thing you have to do is to purchase a "Goleta" or makeshift-jail-cell and special privileges which are sold like products. Goletas are sold like real estate. There are luxury suites, like the ones at "las conyugales", "especiales" or "los veteranos" cells. The conyugales are for up to 4 prisoners (you have to take turns to have sex with your partners). “Las especiales” can be individualized, just like los veteranos, and turned into small palaces with oriental rugs, mirrored walls, air conditioned, electric plants, direct connections with the electric company, TV, radio, fans and king-size beds. There is a jail furniture maker that sells pine drawer type beds for $4000 and up or you can bring your own. To bring your own furniture you have to pay a bribe to the warden for every item. For instance, to "import" a TV you may pay up to $1000 pesos and a fan could cost you around $300. You can connect into a private electric network if you have $1000. Owning a Goleta is as good as buying true real estate. Upon release, you can sell it with its improvements and increase in value. You can also buy several units and rent them for as much as $1000 a week. A small token has to be paid to the warden from your earnings. Open goletas can be purchased. These are built directly into the walls, like benches. Goletas are painted in colorful designs. Some are duplexes with two floors. Your goleta is totally private and you can bring you wife, girlfriend or import girls from local whore houses and spend as much as 4 hours in intimate privacy.


Sex
If you have money, "llaveros" can bring you women from the women's prison. There are many foreign women, most in for drug charges. There are private visits on Fridays to the women's jail and to assure you a sure date just bring a plastic chair. This will help you sit a woman prisoner in your lap, lift her skirt and have sex with her without the guards bothering you. But, this to will cost you and you must pay $100 for the right to go to these parties.

The hierarchy
Poor prisoners are called "ranas" or frogs. They sleep on the floor with mice and vermin around them. They have no private rooms or baths and they must use latrine-type holes in the jail patio and openly evacuate. These prisoners all shower together and fight for the last drop of water, while the goleta owners enjoy private baths. Every morning at about 9am there is a "conteo" or prisoner count where they are asked to walk out of the cells into the hallway to be counted. "Special" prisoners, those who have clout or money, can remain in bed and be counted by the "llavero." Some prisoners even have their own keys to their cell. These prisoners can walk around the hallway after curfew with their own keys and do favors for other prisoners, like passing cell phones for rent and buy food.


Violence
Riots take place at least twice a year. Personal vendettas are solved then. Many prisoners take advantage of riots and wound or kill their enemies. Prisoners burn mattresses and plastic. Jails guards bombard them with tear gas whether or not you are involved. Juveniles are beaten often just to keep them in line. The juveniles are the most dangerous prisoners because they have little to fear. The maximum jail term for a youth is 2 years. Few spend the maximum there, even for murder. Solitary cells are only for rebellious people. Few get there, but when they do it is like hell. If you kill somebody in jail you get 20 years additional automatic. Yet, during blackouts prisoners are killed easily. Blankets are thrown over the victim and stabbed and the killer is never found. Blackouts force prisoners to stand against the wall to protect their backs. If you "are in" for abusing, killing or maiming children or your mother, most likely it is like a death sentence. Prisoners hate these types of criminals and will make them pay for their crimes. A prisoner who chopped his mother into pieces paid the same way within a week in jail.


Escape
Escape from jail can also be bought. 95% of escapees paid their way out thru the "llaveros" who hold the keys and even with the warden's approval. However, once you are out, you are on your own. They will hunt you down like a dog and shoot you on sight. If they catch you alive, expect torture, broken legs and even permanent injuries.


Drugs and weapons
The drug agency has personnel inside jails. They bring in and sell, thru prisoners 90% of the drugs inside. Crack is the favorite drug (piedra). Ecstasy is now becoming very common because of the ease to handle. Real and home-made weapons are easily obtained. Metal pipes are introduced and sold inside to make weapons. Metal forks and even toothbrushes are turned into deadly knives. Unbelievably, "acido del diablo" a toxic corrosive chemical is sold in jails to attack other prisoners. Those sprayed with this acid will be disfigured for life. Nothing has been found to repair the damage.


Food and clothing
Only the very poor eat and drink prison food. Most food is brought in by families. Jail food is extremely bad and unhealthy. Rice is mixed with "alumbre", fattening starches and other products to artificially fatten prisoners. Rice is "apastado"(clumpy) so heavily as to be almost solid. "Cocoa" or chocolate drink in the morning is often spitted on on by the cooks, who do not like cooking detail. Meat is almost non-existent in jail food. Prisoners wear the latest street fashions during visits with expensive sneakers, chains and stuff. Only the very poor have raggedy clothes. Families treat their prisoners well in Dominican Republic and they have no choice since the government provides nothing else.


Transfers
Transfers within the same jail are harder than getting transferred out and very costly, because it becomes a business proposition. The only reason to request a transfer is to get a better cell or Goleta, or to avoid contact with an enemy who is about to be transferred from another jail. This is a privilege that the warden knows has a top value. So be prepared to pay big bucks. Jail transfers are another way to collect "taxes" from prisoners. The warden sends his goons to collect the names for transfers to nasty jails, like "15 de Azua" or Monte Plata". To avoid having your name in a transfer list you must pay your way out ($250). The warden also collects for his "favorite charity". You must pay up. At times charitable organizations and even politicians give out free mattresses to poor prisoners, which are in turn sold. There are pawn shops and you can pawn almost anything.


Getting sick
If you get sick chances are your illness will get worse. Medical assistance is almost non-existent and you must pay dearly to get a hospital or clinic pass. The wardens do not like hospital passes because of the high ratio of escapes. If you need an injection you must buy the prescription, the syringe, the cotton and the propyl-alcohol. All drugs and medicine must be bought by prisoners. At best you will get an aspirin for major pain.


Conclusion
While prison authorities allow many perks, prisoners must never show off or brag about the perks. Spot raids are done by the colonel and the chief of police to show they have control. But this is just to show they are doing something. Prisoners bury their cell phones, weapons and other "prohibited" items in bags in the jail shops. They also make windows from one "goleta" to another and when the inspector comes they pass the item thru the next door window, and vice versa.


But as bad as the prisons in the Dominican Republic can be many fugitives would rather serve time in the Dominican Republic because of the ease afforded to them. With the greasing of a few palms a 20 year sentence can be a walk in the park. But if you are a poor soul a 20 year sentence will feel like an eternity. In many cases US criminals can make their way to the Dominican Republic and will fight extradition knowing that they will end up doing hard time in the US. Even getting a pardon is on sale in the Dominican Republic, for the right price.

Cockfighting
Cockfighting in the Dominican Republic
Some define it as a representation of war or the extension of human aggression, complete with its own theatrical components and metaphorical language, while others classify it as vile, sacrificial, archaic and disgusting. Some stand behind the cloak of culture, customs and history to defend its existence and continued practice, while others deem it barbaric, regressive, inhuman and exploitative. 


No, this is not boxing or mixed martial arts, its cockfighting. 


The blood sport, which consists of two bred and highly trained roosters pitted against each other in a fight to the death, is a controversial topic. There is no denying the popularity of cockfighting within some strata of Dominican society. Breeders in the DR have become experts in breeding contest-ready game, and they spare no expense in preparing their fowl for competition. In some cases the cocks are treated better than family members, receiving specially prepared meals, vitamins, massages and baths in preparation for what could be very lucrative fights. 


Outsiders to the cockfighting "culture" seem either baffled or disgusted by the sport, while insiders accentuate, not the bloodiness of it all, but the beauty and the drama that accompanies the fights. Either way, as part of a defined pastime in the DR it is important to understand the factors behind the popularity of cockfighting in this country, why certain measures are taken to maintain its status as a sport, and to determine whether in fact cockfighting is as popular as publicized. 


History of cockfighting 
Cockfighting can be traced back to before the time of Christ with some scholars indicating that the sport had its start in India more that 4,600 years ago. The rooster had long been considered an admirable fowl before its entrance into the fighting arena. The ancient Syrians, for example, worshiped the rooster as a deity. In addition, the ancient Greeks and Romans associated the bird with the gods Apollo, Mercury and Mars. 


Approximately 3,000 years ago cockfighting was popular with the Hebrews and Canaanites, and raising gamecocks was considered a skill with a lucrative end. For Egyptians cockfighting was a favored pastime and during the height of Greek civilization, a Greek general, Themistocles, held a cockfight the night before battle to inspire his men through the metaphor of the cockfight. 


Persian traders loved to gamble by pitting their fighting birds against each other, and the popularity of the sport even stretched to the Roman Empire. Julius Caesar, the first citizen of Rome to become an aficionado of the sport, brought cockfighting to Rome. 


It took a while for the sport to spread, but by the 16th century it was popular in many European countries, especially in England and France. During the reign of King Henry VIII, cockfighting became a national sport. Schools were even founded to teach students the fine points of cockfighting. At its very height of popularity, the sport was popular among the church members with churchyards being used as cockfighting arenas. However, by the 17th century the sport declined in popularity in England and later on Queen Victoria banned cockfighting with a royal decree. 


The sport was also very popular in the United States during the 18th and 19th centuries. Presidents like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln were admirers of the sport and rumor has it that President Lincoln got his nickname "Honest Abe" for his fairness as a judge in cockfights. Overall, it was socially acceptable and encouraged to have gamecocks. The U.S. would eventually become a center for cockfighting activities and events, and the fighting-cock almost became the national emblem of the United States, losing by just one vote to the American eagle. However, by the beginning of the Civil War the sport had lost much of its attraction and appeal. 


Today, cockfighting is a popular sport in many places around the world including Haiti, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Colombia, France, Mexico, Italy, the Philippines, Peru, Puerto Rico, the Canary Islands, Guam, India and Pakistan. 


History of cockfights in the DR 
Not much information exists on how and why cockfighting got to the DR, although some believe that it was brought over by the Spanish, maintaining its popularity during French and Haitian colonial rule. Very little exists in terms of text associated with the sport of cockfighting, with mentions restricted to liner notes and obscure references in certain texts. However, the importance of cocks is highlighted in Dominican history through political references, most notably through the "bolos patas blancas" and "bolos patas prietas" parties, in references to the factions of Horacio Vasquez's ‘bolo’ political movement of the 1910s. The rooster also has a significant place in Dominican history as it was and still is the symbol of the Partido Reforsmista Social Cristiano (PRSC). The PRSC morphed from the Trujillo-run Partido Dominicano to the PRSC after the dictator’s longtime right-hand man, intellectual Joaquin Balaguer took over the reins of the country in 1966 and governed, officially and extra-officially, until his death in 2000. 


During this time, the symbol of the rooster gained a special place in the nuances of Dominican cultural identity and came to represent the virtues of the Dominican political spirit, further enamoring the public to this fowl. But social commentators like Gustav Jahoda claim that, "in many cultures, notably hunting-gathering ones, animals are believed to have souls and to be in close partnership with humans," taking the argument a step further and presenting the idea that the ritualistic behavior of the cockfight represents the social dynamic which asserts a male's place in Dominican society. The reason men look to animals to describe themselves is because, according to Jahoda, there is an inherent connection between humans and animals, and thus understanding the affection between man and fowl is more plausible. 


In looking at a cockfight, and its prominence as a national sport, one notices how a Dominican male views himself through the lens of the animal. "Like politics on Hispaniola, the cockfight is a male ritual," writes Jahoda. The cockfight, and in turn the rooster, represent the spirit of the Dominican male, and this is why one can argue that cockfighting has carved a special place within the Dominican psyche. According to popular author Michel Wucker, 


"In the cockfight, man and beast, good and evil, ego and id, the creative power of aroused masculinity and the destructive power of loosened animality fuse in a bloody drama of hatred, cruelty, violence, and death. Emotions are displayed in a cathartic microcosm of human interaction, violence released through the flailing spurs, beaks, and feathers in the ring."


The rooster has come to represent all aspects of daily life in the Dominican Republic, according to Wucker. "The rooster represents politics, home, territory, courtship, healing, sustenance, the passage of time, and brotherhood."


Preparation 
Cockfighting can be a very lucrative endeavor, with men spending thousands upon thousands of pesos or dollars on nurturing a prize bird for a fight. Training begins at a very early stage with the owner sparing no expense to guarantee his bird the best chance to be a winner. At times, these birds are treated even better than family members, receiving better care and more attention. 


Preparation for a fight begins close to two years before the bird ever steps into the ring. Many fighting birds are hatched from hens with a record of mothering good fighting birds. From birth they are fed a diet of special grains, vitamins and antibiotics. When the bird is fight-ready, professional groomers trim its feathers, the underbelly is shaved and its combs and wattles are surgically removed. Groomers also cut the birds' spurs with a sharp knife before fitting them with spikes. The new spurs can be metal and are used to inflict more pain, which could lead to a bird's death in an even quicker fashion. The spikes are affixed with a few drops of hot wax, and then taped. The owners smooth away any excess wax with wet fingertips, and make sure that the spikes are straight. Before a fight, a licensed fowl inspector uses an acid rinse that changes color when illegal substances are present on the birds' skin. This rinse is necessary in order to detect foreign or illegal substances that could give one fowl an advantage over another. Sometimes owners rub tobacco or other chemicals on the roosters, to make the bird fight harder or to affect the opponent bird. 


The atmosphere at a gallera, Spanish for the fighting ring, is what's most interesting. Moments before the fight begins there is silence, with onlookers quieting to see the two "opponents". The birds are brought into the circle. Depending on the gallera you are at, the fighting ring could be a dirt floor or an artificial grass floor, as is the case at Santo Domingo’s Coliseo Gallistico. The Coliseo is a modern building fit for human fights, but its simplicity is a testament to the importance of the sport among some in this society. 


Once the matches are set, the fowl handlers drop the two birds into the center of the circle and the fight begins. And this is where the madness starts. This crucial moment is where proponents feel a surge of crude energy and adrenaline and where opponents cringe at the thought of another bird being killed. 


The roosters raise their hackles, then peck and circle each other. As they slowly dance around the circle pecking and inflicting damage on each other, hordes of men shout as loud as they can, betting on the bird of their choice. Money changes hands rapidly and one would think they were on the trading floor on Wall Street and not a cock fight in the DR. Bets range from RD$500 to as much as one is willing to take on. In smaller and less organized cockfights, the bets are much smaller. In many cases the bets are never recorded, but are honored by a special understanding between the betters. In these cases a man's honor and ability to live up to his bet is worth his weight in gold. 
As the fight continues, the brutality becomes more evident. Slowly one of the birds begins to succumb to the slow painful pecks. Sensing close victory, the winning bird continues to pounce as blood begins to squirt and drip out. Feathers are flying and the defeated bird is now one step closer to death. 


Supporting cockfighting 
There are many arguments that defend the viability and necessity of cockfighting. Among the leading arguments by proponents is that above anything else cockfighting is a cultural phenomenon that must be respected as part of the overall Dominican cultural landscape. Many supporters believe that just as bullfighting is popular in Spain, Colombia or Argentina, cockfighting is a tradition on which many virtues and values are hinged on and thus must be respected, protected and conserved. Supporters will also argue about the historical importance of the rooster, considering that the sport has been around for too long to be abolished. Continued arguments put forward the idea that cockfighting is a money generator which creates and circulates funds for local farmers and businesses. Some say that there are as many as 3,000 galleras in the DR with as many as 24,000 men gaining employment from the sport. Proponents say that cockfighting produces millions of dollars in formal and informal revenues and it would be an economic and financial blow to surrounding communities if the sport were abolished. Finally, among the most enduring arguments is the one that indicates that roosters are by nature, aggressive animals that will inherently fight at the sight of another rooster, and conventional wisdom would then indicate that if they are already doing it, then how and why stop them from doing so? Finally, some argue that roosters are brainless animals and that this in itself is a justification to allow them to fight to the death. 


Arguments against 
For every argument that exists in favor of cockfighting, there are just as many condemning the blood sport and that discount all supportive arguments. Opponents are quick to argue that cockfight, and any blood sport in general, is cruel to animals and should therefore not be practiced. Another viable argument states that as the highest form of intelligence on this planet, we must respect the lives of other animals and that it is our responsibility not to partake in cruelty to animals. Adding to this is the argument that profiting from the cruelty, death or suffering of another animal is unfair and cruel. Opponents also argue that while roosters are hostile, this only occurs in a territorial context and they are not inherently aggressive towards other roosters. One final argument is that although cockfighting is a profitable endeavor, it is not as profitable as some would make it seem and that the abolition of the sport would not be as devastating to the economies of local communities as has been argued. 


Interestingly enough, a survey by Mark Feierstein, vice president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner showed that 52% of Dominicans disapprove of cockfighting as a sport, including 60% of women and 62% of the affluent, while 40% of Dominicans firmly disapprove of the sport. Peripheral arguments include that unlike other violent sports, cockfighting is a fight to the death and has no rules, and for this reason the sport should be banned. 


The future 
There a myriad of personal views points that support and oppose this controversial sport, but it seems that cockfighting won't be banned any time soon. Part of cockfighting's strength is its support base, garnering the participation of wealthy and famous Dominicans both in the country and abroad. Many big name politicians are also in favor of the sport. Adding to this is the fact that much of the electorate are fans of the sport, any administration would unlikely alienate that voter base by outlawing a sport that they hold dear. Recently, Sports Minister Felipe Payano assured the DR's cockfighting sector that the government would continue to support the sport. Payano took the time to highlight President Leonel Fernandez's efforts to strengthen the cockfighting sector in the DR. 


Despite being illegal and looked down upon in the US and Europe, cockfighting is legal and considered part of the DR’s cultural heritage, but how long will this fact hold true? Some believe that support for this sport will decline as a product of time and as Dominicans become more educated on the concept of animal rights. As was highlighted in this article there is a growing number of Dominicans who don't support cockfighting, yet it will take time for those voices to shout in unison against the sport. Until then the conversation will rage on as to whether or not to allow cockfighting, with both sides citing the pros and cons. One thing is for sure is that the conversation will not take place at the Coliseo Gallistico.


Machismo and the Dominican Republic
You might have heard of it in passing, or might have experienced it directly, but what in fact is machismo, and where does it come from? Male behavior in Latin America and the Caribbean has been a constant topic of conversation relative to male/female relationships, and the concept of machismo has been the driving force with which to understand those behaviors. In understanding the Dominican perspective we must look at the origins of machismo in relation to the images of masculinity in the Dominican Republic. 


Machismo is defined as a strong sense of masculine pride, or exaggerated exertion of masculinity, or male-like qualities. It is derived from the Spanish word macho, literally meaning male or masculine, and through time it has come to be the defining characteristic for males in Latin America. This umbrella term has become the definition, and ultimately the justification, for all acts by males. Masculinity has three main contexts in which it can be understood. It is anything that men say, think, or do and more detailed it is whatever men say, think, or do in order to distinguish themselves as men. Masculinity is, finally, how men understand themselves in relation to women, but doesn’t equate women to the value of men. 


The idea of machismo is somewhat vague because it is ultimately so deeply rooted in the behaviors of men and women in the Dominican Republic. What some might consider as machista behavior, here in the Dominican Republic it is seen as normal, by both men and women, because it has been a part of cultural make up for so many years. Everything from the way in which men act, how they dress, how they interact with each other, or women, the roles that women play, and the opinions men hold, are ultimately defined by an unwritten code of behavior known as machismo. But the term, and the related behaviors, are failed concepts here in the Dominican Republic for the simple reason that when speaking of their behaviors men don’t label it as “machismo,” rather as just the way men are supposed to behave. The term, in Latin America, has only recently been introduced as a way to understand the behavior, therefore it is only few within the society who can step outside of the context and see what the behaviors imply. Machismo in the Dominican Republic manifests itself in a variety of ways. Each situation in which machismo is present provides a deeper understanding of how Dominican society plays itself out. 


In keeping with the machista attitude, Dominican males view themselves as conquistadores (conquerors), of women. It is a fun game they play to see how many women they can actually “conquer.” Each woman they are able to claim is added as a notch to their belts, which elevates their status as male. The smooth demeanor of Dominican males is carefully orchestrated, with each line, each smile, and each joke, purposefully and carefully delivered to his next conquest. The aggressiveness of Dominican males can be overwhelming to newcomers to the country, but it has become expected by their female counterparts here. The acceptable nature of this adds to the continued behavior. 


In traditional Dominican households women are expected to play the submissive housewife role. Though this has changed in the last twenty years due to a variety of reasons, the traditional point of view is that a woman is to be a child bearer and care for her husband’s needs in every way. She cooks, cleans, keeps house, cares for the children, and puts her husband’s needs above hers. If she is an educated career woman she is to put her career aside in order to support her husband’s career, and her voice within family decisions is silenced in the presence of her husband’s. Moreover, extramarital affairs are extremely common within the Dominican Republic, as men feel it is their right, and in some cases their duty as men, to seek the companionship of other women. But women don’t have this same right. A man who is seen with multiple partners is viewed as manly and strong, but a woman who has multiple partners is viewed as easy.


More alarming is the high rate of domestic violence in the Dominican Republic that can be clearly connected to the idea of machismo, and highly aggressive male behavior. It is unclear how many women are abused by their husbands each year. No estimate can ever be fully accurate. Women who are abused rarely report it because they are scared of the repercussions, but also because the legal system in place rarely enforces laws that are meant to protect women. The lack of legal recourse in essence aids the continued development of machista behavior because men will not be punished for their actions. 


Machismo plays itself out in other ways in the Dominican Republic. If a woman walks in front of a group of men it is almost guaranteed that there will be whistling and commentary aimed at the woman. At times it is more in order to impress the other men in the group, than it is to gain the attention of the lady walking by. 


Machismo also manifests itself in another more violent and dangerous way. Being a “coward” is looked down upon, so a “real” man must fight in order to uphold his honor and status as a man. If he doesn’t do this he faces ridicule for being “weak.” A man in the Dominican Republic can never be seen as less of a man. An example of these forms of machismo playing themselves out at the same time can be seen at discos or night spots. A man may make a comment towards a woman, or even attempt to grab her in an inappropriate way, even if she has a boyfriend. In order to defend “his” woman, and protect his image as a man, the boyfriend will confront the person who has bothered his woman, and this usually leads to a fight. 


Equally disturbing is how machismo’s manifestation is defined through the lack of social acceptance of homosexuality. Homosexuality is a social taboo in the country, but in the truest sense, homosexuality starkly contrasts anything that is considered manly. Making fun of homosexuals or even just ignoring their presence is further proof that to be a man in the Dominican Republic is more than just a person’s biology, but what he does and thinks. In certain aspects to befriend a person who is homosexual may cast a suspicious light on a person, even if they are heterosexual, as homosexuality “lessens” the degree of masculinity a person can have. 


In the workplace there is also the presence of the machista attitude. Sexual harassment in the workplace is common, and there is little enforcement of laws that protect women against this type of behavior. Since the power structure on the country is mostly in the hands of men, it is difficult for women to get equal consideration either in the workplace or in the judicial system. Even if a woman reports incidents of sexual harassment it is rarely considered as anything serious, and not much is done. In some cases a woman might be dismissed from her job because she is seen as a troublemaker, and ultimately there is nothing she can do because she has no legitimate legal recourse of action. 


Politics is another clear manifestation of the machista attitude. Politics in the Dominican Republic is a “good old boys club” with most political posts held by men. Though there are women working with the political system at large, the presence of women is minor. Even when women are elected to political office they struggle to find their niches, as their merits are constantly challenged by their male counterparts. They inevitably have to work twice as hard in order to get the respect of their colleagues, and work just as hard to get their agendas heard. 


A change in ideologies with the advent of the 21st century has created more opportunities for women, but the change in the machismo attitude is slow in the coming. Of the many changes occurring within Dominican society, this one will be the slowest to come. In 2003, then Vice President, Milagros Ortiz Bosch, was considered to be a potential candidate for the Presidency of the Dominican Republic. Impressive, considering the country she was in, but the Dominican Republic is still not ready for a female to have such power. It is still strictly a sexist country. Since most people feel this way it makes it more difficult to change existing points of view. Things have changed though, and there are organizations, both local and international, that have taken on the responsibility of making people understand what machismo is, and how it affects life on a day to day basis, but it will be a united movement from the female population that can change the machista attitudes in the country. 


The aggressive machismo that permeates through the behaviors of men is not recognized as a result of a social structure, but as a biological result. This is considered by many, both men and women, as just the way things are, which makes it even more difficult to understand at times.


Dominican Republic Sanky Panky
A “sankie?” - what’s that? I am a woman who just got back from a week of sun and sand in the Dominican Republic, stayed on a beautiful resort, was treated like a queen and to top it all off, I met the most terrific Dominican guy. Now I am back home in my native country and I miss the Dominican Republic (and the guy I met) SO much that I just can’t keep myself away from my computer. I spend hours surfing around Dominican Republic related sites wishing I was back there. 


But, what is this word “sankie” I keep seeing everywhere? Everywhere I read, people warn of young Dominican men who take advantage of female tourists. They tell tales of encounters with sexy, dark-skinned guys which lead to fun filled days and steamy romantic nights, only to end in disaster. They tell tales of lies, deception and thievery. Some of these women are financially and emotionally ruined after relationships with these “sankies”. I sit back in amazement. I can’t believe these women could be so foolish. Thank God the Dominican guy I met is different. I mean, he is so sincere. He is nothing like the men these girls described. 


As I sit back dreaming of my new Dominican love, I receive an e-mail. It’s Him! I am so impressed to see that he is trying to type in English for me! The e-mail reads, “ Halo biruful. I miss yu. I hop yu can come back to see me agan soon…” As I read on, suddenly something doesn’t seem right. This e-mail sounds exactly like the others I read from the girls who claimed to have been taken advantage of by these “sankies”. My heart suddenly begins to sink. Could it be that I have been sankified???


The above paragraph is a typical example of what a growing number of female tourists who travel to the Dominican Republic report are their experiences with “sankies”. Sankies essentially are Dominican con men who prey on unsuspecting female tourists. They are what are commonly referred to in the Unites States as “gigolos”. They almost always come from poverty, have little or no education and are frequently illiterate. This does not mean that they are not intelligent, however. What they do is prey on human nature/weakness. 


The vast majority of these sankie encounters occur on the all-inclusive resorts that scatter the coasts. This is neither to say that all of the men who work at these resorts are sankies nor that sankies do not exist and operate outside these resorts, however, since these resorts are where many North American and European women come to spend their vacations, it is only natural that the sankies find there way there. They work on the hotel staff, generally on animation teams, as bartenders or as waiters. The salaries they earn are typically low Dominican salaries for uneducated, unskilled workers but the reasons they take these jobs are not for the salaries, but for the opportunity to interact with female tourists who they can potentially scam for much more money. 


So, how exactly do these sankies manage to scam so many women? Well, firstly, as stated before, they take advantage of human nature/weakness. They realize that most of these women, being on vacation, are there for enjoyment and probably are more adventurous than they would normally be. They are aware of the fact that with no man accompanying them, these women might be looking to have a little “fling” while on vacation. They might be looking for a little “sankie panky”. What the sankies then do is approach each woman tactfully. They use what sales people call "qualifying the buyer" questions to pinpoint what your "needs” are. The unsuspecting tourist thinks it's so sweet that this man cares so much about her life and what she thinks.


They also ask specific questions and let the tourist do all the talking while they “mirror" her answers, meaning they repeat her values and what she thinks of life so it seems as if they have similar interests and therefore must be soul mates. Then when the woman appears interested in or at least intrigued by her new man, he will ask her on a “date”. 
Now, the “sankie panky” begins. 


Sankie panky business usually entail a night out drinking and dancing where the sankie can exhibit his exceptional dancing skills. This will be followed by more nights of the same depending on the length of the woman’s vacation. Of course, at some point, the “sankie” becomes intimate with the woman. Depending upon the woman, he picks the proper time to initiate this so that the act will have the most emotional impact. 


Different sankie panky approaches


By this time, the sankie generally has formulated a detailed plan of attack on how he will extort as much money as possible from his new victim. A sankie may determine that a woman does not qualify as a good victim because she lacks the naiveté required. In these cases, the sankie will generally allow the woman to pay for everything during their dates. He will then repay her with sexual favors. The sankie recognizes that these women are just on vacation to have a good time and seeing that he gets free nights out drinking and dancing, he is more than happy to oblige the woman in whatever she is seeking (sankie panky). However these are not the real victims that the sankie is seeking out. 


What the sankie is really looking for is the woman whom he knows will get emotionally attached to him. With these women, the sankie insists on paying for their nights out, thereby building their trust. Of course, the money he is spending is being supplied by other victims whose trust has already been built and who have advanced from the “romancing” stage to the “girlfriend” stage.


The girls in the girlfriend stage have already returned to their native countries and have not only developed feelings for the man they met and left behind, they have also frequently fallen madly in love with him. The sankie has been able to form a bond with them, build their trust, shower them with romance, and give them hopes of returning to a life of romance and love together with him in a tropical paradise. Shortly after their return home, the sankie will initiate contact with the victim by phone and/or email displaying his sincerity. This is when the extortion tricks usually begin. 


Many sankies use the same stories to extort money from their victims with the most common claim being that his mother is sick and he needs money for her hospital bills. At this point, the woman actually thinks she is in a real lasting relationship and feels obligated to help. She can’t tell her new boyfriend that she won’t help his mother, so she wires him as much money as he claims he needs. Some other common stories are that the sankie himself is hurt and cannot work or that his friend or another member of his family is hurt and needs money for hospital bills. The sankie always promises to pay this money back and during the same conversation, reassures the woman that he loves her and that they have a future together. 


Some sankies use different methods to extort the money. Some will use tricks such as e-mailing victims and telling them that they wish they could hear their voice but cannot afford a phone. This generally leads to the victim rushing to western union to wire money to her man so he can buy a phone and a calling plan to call her. Then of course the phone breaks or there is some subsequent story why he needs more money. They will continue to use ploys such as this to get money until such time as the girl gets fed up and stops falling for them, if indeed that time comes. Of course, the money received is used for personal enjoyment and to gain the trust of new victims. 


Some sankies, on the other hand, have a completely different angle/agenda. They are just looking for a foreigner to fall in love with them so they will be able to get a visa out of the country. Then once out of the country, of course, the romance quickly ends with the sankie proceeding with his new life and the woman left devastated both emotionally and sometimes financially as well.


Sankie support network


Naturally, with so much to do, a sankie sometimes needs help. Since he frequently cannot even write in Spanish, let alone English, the sankie needs someone to type e-mails for him. For this he will usually employ a friend, possibly someone who works at an internet café to type and send his e-mails for him. For this, she will receive a cut of the Western Union wire that he receives as a result. Frequently, a sankie will save scripted letters that he just copies and pastes with his “helper” inserting the appropriate name for him. Also, he will have several buddies who usually all operate separately as sankies themselves, who he can rely upon to assist him in his landing of a new victim. While the sankie is with his victim, one of these “support sankies” might come and tell him that there is some emergency. The sankie will then rush off and return to tell his victim the bad news of how he has this sudden dilemma. Of course, it will require money to fix.


Also, the sankie’s boss at the resort might be a sankie himself. He might then decide to conveniently fire the sankie on the last day of the woman’s vacation, only to rehire him as soon as she gets on the plane. She will then go home deeply in love with her new man but concerned about his financial welfare. In order to help him out until he can get a new job, several trips to Western Union will follow. 


Additionally, a sankie will frequently introduce a victim to his family. His mother, sisters, brothers and whoever else will also be a part of his support network. They will act genuinely pleased to meet her and leave the victim with the impression that she is the only girl in the sankie’s life. Of course, it is all an act. A new girl is brought home every week and the family gets to enjoy some of the money the sankie is getting from all of his victims. The sankies are professionals and once in a sankies grip, a starry eyed, naive female tourist doesn’t stand a chance.


Of course, with so many “girlfriends” to keep track of, he sometimes runs into complications. It could happen that two or more of his girlfriends come back to visit at once. This can be a major problem. In this case, it is best for him to sever his ties with whichever one he considerers less profitable. For her, there will be no more sanky panky. But that’s not too bad of a loss for him; after all, there will be another plane of potential victims landing soon. Also, sometimes, a “girlfriend” decides she can’t stand to be away and decides to move down to be closer to her man. For the sankie, this is not good. He needs to immediately turn the woman off so that she returns home. After all, one woman around him for too long will cramp his style and be bad for business.


So, ladies: on your visit to the Dominican Republic you need to be on guard. Enjoy the beaches, the mountains, and the rivers. Enjoy the food, the atmosphere and the people. Experience all the wonderful things that the Dominican Republic has to offer but please... beware of the sankie.

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