Dominican Republic Reflections - Rayonna Booth

Dominican Republic Reflection

by Rayonna Booth

To understand life in the Dominican Republic, one must first understand the history to better configure how its inhabitants operate and receive education. It all started with the Spaniards infecting those on the island and coming back after they would die. Then, the French brought many African slaves to do hard labor for them, bringing in a darker skin tone to the island. The island began to separate into what is today, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. After many leaders and years passed, the U.S. came to set up a dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. They put in power a man who was inhumane and rudely cruel; his name was Rafael Trujillo. Trujillo enforced the boarder of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, killing thousands of Haitians because of their darker skin color. Trujillo himself had a grandmother who was Haitian, but he hated Haitians. He even changed his skin color to become more “white” because that is what he saw as being accepted in the country of the Dominican Republic. He banned Haitians of any rights in the Dominican Republic, which left the country to still have hatred towards Haitians today.

The past reflects the society today in major ways. Today in the Dominican Republic people struggle with their identity because of the past. The government considers citizens mixed, black, white or west Asian. Dominicans are really people of color because of their Spanish heritage, which are Latino/as and also when the French sent African culture and heritage to the island; but a “person of color” has a negative connotation on one's life. Being a person of color means that you are at the bottom of the bottom, lower than a person who is “white.” This seems to me that it is a systematic trend; it is put into the mindset to not like those of color, which is similar to what we see in the United States. In the DR, antihaitianismo still exists in their society today that is someone thinking their ethnicity is superior to others. In this country, they practice colorism, trying to make it seem as if they don't have African ancestry and roots. Although, many Dominicans practice this, I don't believe they are responsible for why it exists, but I do believe they are responsible for changing their mindset on colorism.

Colorism is something that I believe has a negative effect on those who can receive an education. While visualizing different levels of their educational institutions, I rarely saw what Dominicans would consider “people of color,” and more students with a “whiter” skin tone. This interested me because while touring the Dominican Republic, I have seen many children and young adults that would be considered as “people of color” but rarely people who look like them in the educational institutions. There is a large population of youth who are not employed nor go to school, and child labor still exists in that large population of youth that does not have the proper resources. To be able to go to school, one must first have a birth certificate and proof of identity, which many youths may not have.

The same issues and problems we have here in the United States are similar to those in the Dominican Republic. What makes the U.S. or other countries different from Dominican Republic? It's not the population, it's not the amount of jobs, it's not the money, it's the education. Education is the key to success in the Dominican Republic. Education is very essential in the Dominican Republic; it seems to me without an education of some sort you will not get very far in life. Many are limited to the resources and tools they need to receive an education, but from the high schools I have visited, they are doing the best they can to prepare students for the real world early. Overall, this study abroad has taught me a lot, but most importantly to not take my education for granted because there are many people in the world who are not able to receive “quality” education.