Reflections on the Dominican Republic
by Mayraleeh Nelson
The Dominican Republic is a beautiful country with an interesting deep history, filled with lovely people that are caring and proud to be Dominican. Although they are labeled as a developing country, there were a few things that left an impression on us. Some of us found ourselves wondering aloud, "Wow, why don't we have this in America?" A few of the observations that left those impacts were: having a counter for the street lights (although they decided when they wanted to follow the street signs); free health care; technical elementary and high schools that give the option of going to university or starting a business upon graduation; and rec centers for the children and families who are homeless and working on the streets instead of being in school.
This trip also brought to my attention that multiple countries that have complex relationships and problems within their own lands that are deeply rooted in history. For the Dominican Republic, their complexities rise from their DNA makeup and the neighboring country of Haiti. Dominicans are proud to be Dominican, but we learned that there is no full definition of what a Dominican is versus what a Dominican is not. Unfortunately, what a Dominican is not, is everything a Haitian is. The systematic racism and colorism of this country is deeply rooted and prominent still in the society that exists today. As we all know it is hard to erase, reverse, or change something in less than 60 years. The Dominican Republic gained its independence from their dictator, Rafael Trujillo, in the early 1960s but shortly had his right-hand man as president for three nonconsecutive terms up to 1996. It is presumably unlikely for the racist and colorist mindset to subside when your leaders all share the same mindset as the dictator who tried to ethnic cleanse the island. With that being said, the Dominican Republic was the first and last to Haiti's aid after the 2009 earthquake and took in a lot of their refugees which, some have argued, created a slight issue with their economy and health care causing a little more ill mind towards Haitians.
All in all, the experience of the Dominican Republic was amazing, filled with a deep and interesting history of the culture and history of the island.