Public Sanitation in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic has some of the most majestic scenery in the whole world. However, this is the only part of the island that many people visiting see. Once a person leaves the resorts that are manicured and groomed to look perfect and steps outside into the real communities where the rest of the Dominicans live, it is easy to see that the rest of the island is not kept in the same state as the resorts. Most obvious is the trash that is everywhere. There are plastic bottles, papers, and other large pieces of trash covering so much of the island. There is also a problem with what to do with the human sewage produced, and where it should go. There is not an adequate water supply for people to properly wash themselves, which can lead to people getting skin diseases, and other sicknesses. There is also a problem with the way in which food killed and preserved, which also affects the health of the people.
In Veron, one of the first places the group visited, there was a little boy who had a bald spot on his head. After further discussion it was understood that the little boy had a skin disease that he contracted from being exposed to raw sewage and living amongst trash, which is piled on the sides of the streets and never moves. This may have been prevented if this little boy would have had a water source where he could bathe properly, but since none exists for this child, he will now most likely live the rest of his life with this skin ailment. In this town there were piles of raw sewage in the streets that even the stray animals knew not to go near because of the almost guaranteed sickness held within it.
On the road to San Cristobal, the sanitation problems seemed to only get worse, but not just with trash but also with food. Multiple butcher shops had their recently slaughtered goats hanging from hooks outside of their shops to sell to the people. This meat was hanging exposed to the outside world to see. The sheep carcass attracted flies flying and landing all over the meat. Also with the heat of the Dominican Republic, the meat can spoil at a fast rate, and then if eaten can lead to the sickness and potential death of the people eating the spoiled meat. With many of the towns being so small, they do not have the ability to ‘shop around’ to other butchers for their meats they want to consume. If a whole town was to eat from a butcher who does not clean his tools or store the meat properly, contamination could potentially lead to the spread of sickness to a whole community.
Lack of proper public sanitation is a current situation faced by people of the Dominican Republic. There are multiple parts of public sanitation that need to be fixed in order for the whole country to become a cleaner and also healthier place for its citizens. No person should have to live with a disease that could be stopped if water was available to bathe in, or if a person cleaned their tools properly before cutting meat up for others’ consumption. These few corrections could lead to the overall betterment and health of the people of the Dominican Republic.
“We have to talk about the reality.”
Being exposed to this extreme racism and hatred is hard to process and understand. How can this exist? There are humans living in conditions that are killing them. Where is the compassion?
Much of this racism is deeply engrained in culture stemming back to colonization. Spain traveled to the new world for the conquest of gold, glory and God. With the spread of Spanish Ideals, Catholicism also prevented the influx of ideas. This further marginalized the locals, preventing them from voicing opinions and living their own way.
However, why are Haitians so hated and feared? Through many centuries of colonization, France controlled Haiti and Spain controlled the Dominican Republic at different periods of time. Thousands of miles away the French Revolution was beginning. The revolution advocated for freedom and equality and these ideas slowly traveled to Haiti. The French were some of the most sadistic slave owners and when this influx of ideas reached some of the Haitians it caused major changes. The Haitian revolution was a result of these ideas. The Haitian Revolution was a brutal massacre of all the slave owners and white people in Haiti. Sugar plantations were burned and sugar production ended. Although Haitians finally gained independence, the uprising was perceived as barbaric by the rest of the world, including the Dominican Republic. Anything that was feared in a person was related to blackness and Haitians.
In the 19th century the United States began to occupy the Dominican Republic. The presence of Americans caused the idea of whiteness to be idealized. During this period of time America was in the middle of its own civil war. In 1915, the Jim Crow Laws, which significantly marginalized African Americans in the United States, were widely practiced. US Marines occupied the island of Hispaniola and spread racist ideas surrounding the Jim Crow Laws. This further installed racism in the Dominican Republic.
With United States influence, Dominican society became obsessed with the ideas of light hair and skin and began to model their appearance after the US. This infatuation with the United States exists despite the fact that the US takes advantage of the Dominican Republic and exploits the country for its resources. In a sense, the Dominicans take this out on the Haitians. Some feel second-class to Americans but “at least its better than being Haitian.” Perhaps the DR feels greater by stepping on Haiti and reaching for America.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many aspects that influence the relationship between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. These ideas are engrained in the culture and society. These ideas have been passed down for generations and are reinforced by the government, advertisements and through the treatment of others.
As I walk the streets of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic as a female, I am constantly catcalled, taunted and treated disrespectfully. As I keep my head forward and continue along my path, I wonder how the local women cope with this ill-mannered disregard. Of course, as an American, my experience will drastically differ from that of a Dominican women. Nevertheless, I want to offer my observations as food for thought.
Dominican women constantly face disadvantages in their socioeconomic conditions and little effort is being conducted for change within the system. Domestic violence is a reoccurring issue that does not receive serious attention from agencies that are designated to help these women. Prostitution and sex trafficking is also threatening women’s safety. Prostitution is legal in the Dominican Republic and has resulted in the country becoming a sex tourism hotspot for foreigners. “Sanky Panky,” which is a term used to call for paid sex, is commonly seen at beaches as well as in the streets of the island. It is also conventional to see clothing stores advertise scandalous and inappropriate apparel for women that tends to be tight and show a considerable amount of skin, especially cleavage. Therefore, women are being swayed by society to dress and act a certain way.
Female minors are also at risk for this revolting injustice. Child sexual exploitation is another aspect of the sex industry that occurs in the Dominican Republic. As a result, these girls are being exposed to repression and mistreatment at young ages, engraving into their minds how they are suppose to behave as a woman.
Male dominance is proving to be one of the numerous reasons why the Dominican Republic is economically unstable. As a consequence of this idea of Machoism, men are taking advantage of women and treating them as if they were objects rather than equal citizens. In doing so, men are impregnating women due to the lack of sexual health, which is causing females to immoderately reproduce, go unemployed, and utilize hospital space that is in high demand. Therefore, a fair amount of money is being lost due to the mistreatment of women.
Throughout the history of the island, there have been countless stories about nation leaders that would sexually abuse women. What is not written in textbooks is the fact that this form of assault is continuing to take place and nothing is being done about it. In some instances there have been glimpses of hope, such as gaining societal awareness of these serious issues, yet women continue to evoke powerlessness in the face of society. It is time for these defenseless women to receive some respect. Repressive gender roles and the attempt to combat patriarchal ideals that suppress women are beginning to receive modification, but globalization proceeds to contribute to the sex tourism industry. Now, it is the responsibility of the Dominican Republic’s government to acknowledge this affair and develop social programs that will allow women to escape suppression. Until then, Dominican women will continue to suffer from this traumatic subordination.
The Price of Sugar
Every day millions of people around the world wake up and put sugar in their coffee, tea, or food. We sit down at restaurants where there are packets on the tables, open cabinets in our homes where there are bags, and shop at stores where sugar sits in rows with the price tags of $1.79 to $4.47 (Domino Sugar) per bag. Sugar is a part of our everyday lives and it is in almost everything we consume, yet do we ever slow down to think about how it got to the store, our table, and into our coffee? Do we ever consider the real price of sugar?
Flying into the Dominican Republic you see the bright blue water of the Caribbean surrounding an island of green. There are many trees, and then a large tract of flat green so large that it looks like its own ocean. The large endless green mass is 250,000 acres of sugarcane fields.
Sugarcane has been produced on the island for most of its history, today it remains the second largest revenue producing industry for the Dominican Republic. The fields are owned and controlled by five Sugar Baron Families and companies, such as Dominos Sugar (whose field is featured above). The fields are worked by illegal Haitian immigrants, who are forced to live in destitute in communities called, bateys.
The Dominican Republic government turns a blind eye to illegal immigration when the purpose is to provide a workforce for sugar plantations. Haitians are recruited by bisconies who go across the border every harvest season and recruit about 30,000 Haitians. They are promised good jobs and fair wages, although once over the boarder their reality is more relatable to slavery.
Haitians who have identification papers and cards are stripped of them, leaving them stateless and subject to arrest everywhere in the Dominican Republic except on the sugar plantations. They are brought to the bateys late at night in the cover of darkness so that they do not know where they are preventing them from easily running away from the plantation. This statelessness is a way of keeping the Haitians complicit and reliant, confining them to the boundaries of the sugar plantations. Disallowing them to leave the plantation is an act to exert power and control but also makes it so the Dominican community does not have to seen nor interact with the Haitian workers. This dynamic adds to the cultural anti-Haitianism and added racism that Haitians face in the Dominican Republic.
Haitian workers are paid based on how much cane they cut per day. Cane is cut by hand using the same techniques as 16th century African American slaves. Cutters work 6-7 days a week for up to 10 hours a day, to make as little as a dollar. Children start to work in the fields as young as the age of 6 regardless of their gender. Living conditions on the bateys would be declared unsuitable for humans by most. Resources recognized as a human’s right are not provided on the bateys. This complete lacking of resources from water to housing creates large public health issues for the workers and their illegal status causes an issue of statelessness.
Clean water, food shortage, malnutrition, disease, and injury are major problems faced on the bateys. Workers may be given vouchers which they can exchange for food in the over-priced company provided store on the batey. Due to lack of nutrients and healthy diet, they will often chew on the cane to gain sugars that they otherwise wouldn’t have. Inefficient diet creates biological issues such as brain matter shrinking, disallowing one to operate at a normal intellectual capacity. This harms the upcoming generations as well places a cap on their social and economic mobility.
They are housed in unclean living conditions provided by the sugar company. Once again a blind eye is turned to the unhealthy living spaces which are excellent conditions for the spread of illness and disease. Lacking proper disposal of sewage, skin diseases are common due to contact with contaminated water. Dangerous work conditions in the fields lead to many cuts, gashes, or missing limbs (most commonly fingers). Due to there being no health care, open wounds are susceptible to infections which can cause more health problems.
It is said that Dominican Sugar is fertilized with the blood of the Haitians. Next time that you put a spoonful of sugar in your coffee, or use a cup to bake cookies consider the real cost of sugar. The cost of sugar is not the dollar and seventy nine cents that you pay at the store, rather is it is the corruption of the sugar companies and the exploration, poverty and health issues that the Haitian cane workers face and live everyday in the field and the bateys.
Tourism in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is portrayed as one of the most beautiful places in the Caribbean, even also called a modern day paradise. As a result of such a beautiful environment people from all over the world fly into this country as tourists. However, do the effects of tourism outweigh the benefits? The resorts especially Punta Cana offer people the opportunity to sit on the beach, be waited on, and indulge in a glamorous lifestyle that otherwise, they may not have back in their regular everyday lifestyle. As these tourists arrive they bring with them millions of dollars to this country to spend on hotels, experiences, and other types of indulgences. This is why many Dominicans try to get into the hotel service, because this industry can allow for Dominicans to make more money while serving others. But, at what costs is the money from tourism worth the exploitation by tourists, the people who will leave the island within a few days and not have to deal with the problems of lack of electricity, malnutrition, atrocious public sanitation, and other essential needs not being met?
Tourists come in and leave the island most likely not ever leaving their resort and see how just a few minutes down the road there are people who do not have adequate drinking water, no school for the kids to go to, or how kids have to live with skin diseases because of living amongst trash and sewage everywhere they go. There is a lack of clean water in the Dominican, yet the tourists will use the little water available to take long hot showers in their resorts. The staffs of the hotels wait on the tourists at almost every request to make sure that they are satisfied and happy, but those same waiters have to travel multiple hours to get to and from work because to live in the area is too expensive with the little money they do make.
Santa Domingo is another highly populated tourist area. For a select percentage of the tourists that arrive here come to further exploit Dominicans in the way of prostitution. Since making a livable wage in the Dominican Republic is a constant struggle by many, young women often turn to selling the use of their bodies to the foreign tourist men. These women can be seen on the streets as soon as the sun goes down and the night begins. These women then have to face the complications that are associated with prostitution such as sexually transmitted diseases, potential unplanned pregnancies, and other physical and mental ailments associated with prostitution.
Due to the lack of enforced laws about the environment and its upkeep, big hotel companies are able to come in and basically do what that they please as long as they can keep money coming into the country. An example of the hotels doing what they please is the large pipe in Santa Doming from both the Hilton and Sheridan Hotels, that dump its’ waste into the ocean. This waste then contaminates the fish that are catch and the beaches. Then when people eat their catch, they too are then exposed to the contamination, and this can lead to further sickness of the locals due to the tourists.
Although the Dominican Republic can be considered a paradise, this paradise is exploited by tourists on a daily basis from tourists being wasteful at their resorts, the ways in which they exploit their hosts, and how because of them, big companies can further contaminate the Island as a whole because they are not regulated by the government due to the money they bring in. The Dominican Republic is a beautiful place, but unfortunately is exploited by tourists from all over the world on a regular basis.
Paradise and the Chaos it brings
For many Punta Cana is a place for spring break, weddings, and affordable all inclusive beach hotels. The water is pristine washing up on the white sands, and when one enters the gates they are quickly swept away by this paradise. Strategically, the airport servicing Punta Cana is directly across from the massive hotel system. A tourist feels the effects of paradise immediately off of the plane, which is perfect because this is supposed to be a vacation. According the Punta Cana’s website this expanse of land is the “backbone” of the Dominican Republic. By backbone it is meant that only 45 cents of each dollar received stays on the island. Those employed by the Punta Cana resort receive a wage of 300-500 pesos a month. this equals around 600-1000 dollars. Many leave the resort at the end of their shift to go home to a dinner of rice and beans and possibly no electricity depending on the day. While thousands of tourist enjoy cold drinks and air conditioning the Dominican and Haitian workers that make these resorts run sleep in mosquito infested homes. The community just outside of the the palmed gates, Veron, is the Dominican reality. Trash lines the streets, children walk barefoot, and an old man picks through the trash for food. For those who want a vacation Punta Cana is the perfect place. It creates the false sense of reality everyone is looking for.
Tourism is the # 1 money maker for the Dominican Republic, and there is a large focus on this business. Due to this focus the country remains third world. Social spending is used for areas that would be palatable for tourism. Why would investors bring their money to a place they cannot make a further money maker? Large amounts of money are made in Punta Cana by international investors, but this money stays on the Republic of Punta Cana. While these investors could do more to help the locals, foreign influence would only place a bandage over the real problems. Problems like, no clean water, lack of a balanced diet, and sanitation. According the Dominican Today (2013), the “Dominican Republic has a high capacity to generate income, but a limited ability to redistribute it”. Problems begin at the top and have trickled down to the poor. The people living on the border have been forgotten and left to fend for themselves while the opposite side of the island keeps the lights on 24/7. The poor Haitians and Dominicans are not given a chance to become more in a place where money talks and problems are hidden by palm trees and a guard post.
Being white means having power. This is a fact that has been evident since the beginning of history. In the Dominican Republic if one is considered black they are Haitian. There is a constant presence of whiteness here on the island. Walking into a general store one finds dolls for children that are white white blonde hair. They range from Barbie dolls to baby dolls and not one is of color. Walk down an aisle and there are stacks of whitening cream (not for your teeth) and displays of hair relaxer. On the street billboards consist of white or light skinned models mainly with blonde hair. Is this obsession with whiteness a way to further separate from Haitians or a way to get closer to Americans? As our group travels down the street those standing around us take special interest. White is wealthy, is is powerful, and it is envied. As the dominant race those that are white are seen as the leaders simply because that is how history has shaped it.
There is a phenomenon of statelessness in the Dominican Republic. In 2013 the Dominican Supreme Court made a ruling that only those who have Dominican ancestors born after 1929 would be granted citizenship. today, this ruling has not been overturned. Haitian workers come to the dominican Republic for work in order to be ale to provide for themselves and their families in Haiti. They works jobs that Dominicans do not want, mainly sugar production. Haitians are more controllable and allowed for the cost of labor not to rise. There is a saying in the Dominican that says, “ You are working like a black person”. This brings about a negative connotation, and demonstrates how Dominicans feel about not only race, but about themselves.