This day marks the independence day of a small island in the Caribbean – Dominican Republic.
It is the ONLY example on the planet where TWO countries SHARE land on an island. Two countries that SHARE a past, inherit more like it.. from two European powers – SPAIN and FRANCE
France OWNED Haiti and SPAIN owned D.R.
The way these two former European influences ruled has had a MAJOR affect in what we call the present.
The French treated it more like their ‘slave’ port, whereas the Spanish treated it like their ‘vacation getaway’. This treatment lead to the growth of the Haitian population. Let’s be real, slavery was a trade and the more you GROW it, the more profit.
The population of the Spanish colony stood at approximately 80,000 with the vast majority being European descendants and free people of color. For most of its history, Santo Domingo had an economy based on mining and cattle ranching. The Spanish colony’s plantation economy never truly flourished, because of this black slave population had been significantly lower than that of the neighboring Saint-Domingue, which was nearing a million slaves before the Haitian Revolution.
Needless to say, the Spanish side of the island as well as the French side had enough and broke off the ties… and then the formerly Spanish side had enough of the formerly French side and decided to be INDEPENDENT on February 27, 1844
Today, this day is marked by parades, endless hours of dancing on the streets, drinking with friends, feasting on anything and everything DOMINICANO.. and I miss it
I am half Dominican..
My mother Isabel was Dominican. She was a teenager when she moved to this country.
Here she is with her siblings, my aunt Esther, Giovannia and my uncle Frank. A picture taken in Santo Domingo, in middle school. This was when they all were ‘transferred’ to the USA.
She went to Brandeis High School in the late 60’s, early 70’s and that’s where she met Victor Hugo Chavez, a pimply faced Ecuadorian boy who was ‘fresh off the boat’ as well and Oops! that’s where my story began.
I moved to D.R, thanks to my grandmother when I was in 4th grade up till the end of my 8th year. I went to private school, the ONLY kind of school the children of foreigners or the then middle class go to because the public school system is not easily relied upon UNLESS you go to University. The truth is that the FIRST University on the WESTERN HEMISPHERE was erected in Dominican Republic, La Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo est. 1538
Take THAT, HARVARD!!
My years in DR..
As a child that knew ONLY spoken Spanish, learning how to write it and read it.. was not easy but it made me, ME..
I learned how to conjugate a verb… English is NOTHING compared to a Romance Language… imagine every single thing, inanimate or not, to have a GENDER… and refer to it in its correct FORM.. yeah, we take pride in our Language.
And the Music, the fast paced merengue
And the food…. a reminder, I am a self proclaimed GLUTTON… I KNOW FOOD
yet one of the biggest lessons was Pride for Country, a.k.a. La Patria
I learned how the entire island was once divided into 5 major tribes before Columbus ‘claimed’ it for his financiers.
I learned of the founding fathers, Duarte, Sanchez and Mella.
I learned of the many poets, artists, musicians, many of them WOMEN… Imagine learning at the age of 10, how NORMAL it is for WOMEN to be instrumental in the formation of the country!
I believe it was thanks to this, this kind of gender-less teaching in my formative years that allowed me to be unapologetic. Questioning my right to exist in certain spaces was NEVER an issue yet I was an overweight child, therefore ‘certain’ spaces were still unattainable.
And there was this ONE class – MORAL y CIVICA translation: Morals and Civics
Now you may think, ‘HUH?? Where does a school get off teaching MORALS to kids?’
There may be so many people that disagree, yet if you have reached a level of enlightenment where you can see how THIS can be a positive, then there is no explaining.
There was no denying that we were being taught right from wrong in our home, or any other Dominican home, as the country is FLOODED with Catholicism and Christian thinking… but what about the homes where those lessons ARE NOT TAKING PLACE??… Where the adults do not communicate nor lead by example?
How amazing if our children were taught the meaning of citizenship, democracy, peaceful cohabitation, respect for your fellow human beings outside of the home?!
Those 5 short years were unforgettable and hazy.. There are things that I do not remember but the impact of the lessons learned lifts the fog in my mind.
Dominican Republic taught me to love Independence despite and because of the struggle it took to achieve it. That it’s best to live free than under the servitude of another, because that would be the same as death