Reflections on the Dominican Republic
by Victoria Branch
Traveling, for me, is all about gaining perspective and widening my world view. I had decided to pursue this opportunity because of my limited knowledge regarding Latin American nations and their history. I knew that there would be no better way to learn about a country as complex as the Dominican Republic than to go there and immerse myself in the culture. The first day of the trip was exhausting in the best way possible; with activity after activity I had little choice but to go with the flow and accept things as they came to me. It was sensory overload in the best pay possible. From the complex landscape to the local university students who we got to meet, the first day proved to me that DR has more to offer than its tropical climate and picturesque views.
Previously regarded as a vacation destination, I learned that much like the African Diaspora that exists in the United States that there is arguably an even more complex history of that which inhabits the Dominican Republic. I chose this program with the hope of learning more about how Blackness has manifested itself throughout the Americas. I learned very quickly that the U.S.'s understanding of race is not universal, despite a shared history of chattel slavery. This allowed me the opportunity to place my own Blackness into perspective as I learned that discrimination in DR has less to do with being Black and everything to do with one's closeness to African roots and the neighboring country Haiti.
Nationality in the DR is to race in the U.S. and to say that you're Dominican is a major point of pride no matter what the color of your skin appears to be. This phenomenon is one of the major reasons I seek out opportunities to travel. I feel that as a Black American it is essential to see the different ways you present throughout the world that may not be a limited as those offered within the U.S. There is nothing more powerful than understanding that you are not limited to the perspective and views of one operating society. In taking the opportunity to travel and understand yourself through various perspectives you learn that there is no higher value of self than your own, because no matter where you go your placement in any given society will be different and so it is essential to have the confidence to place yourself where you feel you deserve to be.