“How was your trip to the DR,” is the question I keep getting from family and friends. Do I tell them what they want to hear or do I tell them what I really experienced?
A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Dominican Republic, for a retreat. The host home, where I stayed, was beautiful. The architecture and landscaping were amazing. The view was breathtaking. After a couple of days of being housebound, our group decided to go to the beach, which was over an hour away. Riding through the streets and outskirts of the city was a real eye opener and reality check.
Back story – Before I left, my co-worker and I were discussing my trip. He is Haitian and warned me about the treatment of Haitians and darker skinned people in the DR. He also told me of how unsafe it was for women to be there. I knew of the conflict between the Haitians and Dominicans, but I did not know it exactly how serious it really is.
While in the city, you can’t help but notice the lack of people with darker skin. When you did see them, they were poorly looking, standing on the corner trying to sell fruits, vegetables, or anything to make money. As we traveled through the countryside, that’s where you saw the darker skin people. The villages were so remote and the houses were shacks, dilapidated buildings, and huts. I saw children walking barefoot through garbage filled yards, playing in unsafe places. Hiding in the corner of the doorway, you saw the elderly with the look of despair on their faces. But, it was not just the elderly who had this look, it was the young also. My heart broke for them them.
I cannot lie, the beaches are beautiful, the tropical drinks are damn good, and the weather was amazing. Even when it rained it was relaxing and calming. That is one expect from one of the Caribbean’s perfect vacation spots. The brochures and movies would have you believe that it is the most welcoming and safest place on earth. If you are on a resort, that may be true, but outside the resort is another world.
One of the ladies, in the group, was Haitian and while on the beach, men kept approaching her and asking where she was from, and not in a friendly tone. It got to the point where she was actually scared to go to the bathroom. At one point she almost said Haiti, but she caught herself. I and a couple of the ladies, in our group, were actually scared for her safety.
If you’ve been keeping up with world news, you know that Dominicans do not want Haitians in their country. Thousands of Haitians, born in Dominican Republic have been sent back to Haiti, killed, or denied basic rights, such as schooling, work, and healthcare. Many Haitians have also been killed or disappeared. It’s not just the treatment of Haitians, but the treatment and separation of darker skin Dominicans is also apparent. My family and friends were shocked to hear about the struggles of darker skin people and the treatment of visitors, Haitians, and women, in the DR.
My trip and experience in the DR was mine and mine alone. I can’t speak for anyone but myself. I did enjoy my time in the DR but I also have a very different view of the country from what I’ve been feed from the media and brochures.