Every morning I try and do something active to get myself going before the heat sets in, although it never seems to ‘cool off’ here even in the early mornings.
This day, as I was leaving the sports complex a series of things happened all within 5 minutes; I greeted the Haitian guard who talks to me every morning, I spoke with three siblings who I see twice a week, I walked under the gorgeous Flamboyant tree that is covered with red flowers, I heard saxophone music and glanced over to see a policeman playing the saxophone under a tree, and I bought papaya and bananas from a young Haitian man who buys the fruits and the peels them and cuts them into servings to sell to people walking by.
What a rich five minutes those were for me. As I carried my fruit and continued to walk home I realized that those 5 minutes represent a difficult reality for many people in the Dominican Republic.
The guard may be of Haitian descent yet he has never been to Haiti and probably neither have his parents or grandparents. His skin is darker and that places him in the lowest social class. Racism is extremely prevalent here.
The young man who sold me fruit represents over a million immigrants in the DR from Haiti. Many have no documents and are either deported or continue to do the work the Dominicans choose not to do eg. Heavy construction, informal selling on the street corners and selling fruit, vegetables and snacks from make shift grocery carts.
The three siblings I spoke with are all unique in that they all wear their hair in the natural way, which says many things about their identity. The majority of Dominican women have their hair straightened on a regular basis. I was getting a haircut one day when a mom brought in her 2 and 4 year olds. They were both crying. She told the hairdresser, “they hate coming because of the excess pulling on their delicate hair and the high heat of the blow dryer which are very painful for them but since they weren’t born with fine, straight hair, they need to get used to it.” Dominican people have African heritage but do not want to be identified with people who are black especially Haitian people.
My heart immediately hurt for the young police man playing the saxophone. Gordy and I have both commented that we are living with U.S. prices here while people receive poverty wages. That young man probably receives between 8000.00 to 10,000.00 pesos per month. That is between $110.00 U.S to $200.00 U.S. per month!
I am sobered living in such a difficult reality and humbled as people tell me every day how grateful they are to be working in some way, earning even a bit of money to take home to their families every night.
The Flamboyant tree with the red flowers is absolutely gorgeous, which is the same for much of the Dominican Republic’s landscape. I am in awe of the beauty of God’s creation here which is manifest through nature and the people.