Why This Dominican Says #NoDomRep

I still cry as I am driven to the airport after my stay in the Dominican Republic comes to its end. It is the one place that has a distinct smell of home for me. It feels different on my skin. The sunsets used to bathe me in a shade of red I have yet to see stateside. The scent of the rain on the pavement still brings pictures of children running in the streets dancing. I ache for that island. And yet... I learned about racism on that island. As I spent my summers there as I child, I learned about what hate looks like. I learned how people that had little treated people that had nothing. Mami and Papi would recount wrongs that they had seen, sometimes by family members. A young trabajadora (house worker) being mistreated or abused. A day laborer being made to work throughout the day without break or food and water. It always made me sick to my stomach.

The Dominican Republic shares the island with Haiti and history shows that one side invaded the other long ago. Sadly, the hatred that Dominicans feel for Haitians is always right below the surface. Haitians have migrated to the DR for decades. And yet, they have always been seen as lesser than. It's self-hatred, in my book. With a population of over 70% of the island mulatto, it's difficult to argue that Dominicans carry African blood. If my sister is indeed NOT adopted and the 23 And Me DNA test she took is correct, we can see that in our blood.

But that's not general knowledge. Most Dominicans still attest that they are white or Indian (by the way, the DNA test showed zero indigenous blood though I'm sure others will argue theirs does). And the government assists in this delusion. In my Dominican passport the line on race reads: Indian. I kid you not. My mom's and dad's read the same.

Why does it matter?

Let's skip through the historical timeline. Let's not talk about the close to 50,000 Haitians that Trujillo, the dictator that ruled the island for over 30 years, killed in the Parsley massacre. This man literally went around the countryside and had his henchmen kill Haitians in order to "cleanse" the island. With bayonets and machetes. Now, let's  not forget that there are black people in the Dominican Republic. And seeing as you can't really truly tell the difference 100% of the time, it's safe to say that many Dominicans died on that October day in 1937.

It was called the Parsley massacre simply because the word "perejil" (parsley in Spanish) is pronounced different by those that speak creole. That R doesn't sound the same. It is a flatter sound as opposed to the trill sound you might hear when a native Spanish speaker says it. As much as it pains me to say it, my daughter, who can't roll her r's as of yet wouldn't have made alive out of that test.

Why the history lesson?

It is 2015. And there's a new type of death being distributed by officials on my island.

Until 2004, all children born in the Dominican Republic enjoyed a constitutional right to Dominican nationality, thus many children of Haitian migrant born in Dominican Republic were recognized as Dominican and, as such, provided Dominican identity documents. [1]

Makes sense, right? If you come here from, let's say DR and have a child, your child is a U.S. citizen, no? Pretty clear, yes?

But that kind of changed.

The Dominican constitution states that anyone born in the country is just solis. A citizen of the republic. Except for that small percentage of ambassadors and dignitaries that were on the island temporarily or in transit.

In 2005 the Inter-American Court ordered that the DR recognize citizenship of two girls born in the country in accordance to its own constitution. Well, 10 out of the 13 justices of the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal decided to up and quit because they did not like the ruling.

In 2012 a new tribunal was inaugurated in the DR and...changed things up a bit. That little loophole for folks in transit got ripped open. In it the Dominican Republic can now fit well over 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent. Anyone born after 1929 is at risk of losing their citizenship. That's what, 4 generations?

So, I'm supposed to sit up here and tell you guys about Tamir Rice and McKinney and Trayvon and this is supposed to fly under my radar?

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Martin Luther King, Jr. stated that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

And I am a firm believer in that quote. I have read of people with their citizenship in question going and filing papers as they were told and then hearing nothing back. Of overcrowded offices with little to no attention being paid to those that are there looking to resolve their situation. Of murders.

With children being born in the countryside, sometimes by a midwife and without being issued a birth certificate, there's no clear and cut way to resolve this issue. No clear cut way to weed out the Haitian from our blood. That's the truth.

You know what else is truth? That as much as it pains me, there's no way I can step foot on my island until this is resolved. No way I can hand over my dollars to a country that insists on being oppressors even as their own people are oppressed outside of their country! Come on, son! Really?!

(translation: if Dominicans living illegally in the US had those same politics that they're applying to Haitians applied to them, then they'd surely be crying)

I agree with Marien. I am angry at this situation. That this doesn't make the news (but really, if black folk stateside have to fight to make the news then, what do I expect for the overseas people?).

I don't know how far my voice will carry. But I read this statement and I can't help but be moved to action:

“Everything,” the aid worker says, “is set for the deportation and that the DR government is saying it is going forth on this Tuesday, June 16” [2]

I think about my island. And how kids are taught early on to associate "bad" with "black". Here's what Manuel Barcia says in his op-ed:

Discrimination against the Haitians and their descendants in the DR is nothing new and starts from early childhood. A recent study carried out by the TV show “Con el consumidor”, concluded that Dominican children [Sp] of between 4 and 13 years of age were more likely to associate evil, ugliness, and poverty with black rather than white people. 

Let that sink in for a second. Papi came to this country in the late 60's and got called a mulean by the Italians that he just "knew" he'd be friends with since his grandfather was Sicilian. It was taught then and by some of the ignorant and oppressive comments I've seen, it is certainly taught now.

Dr. Manuel Vargas, professor of anthropology at Rollins College back in the day used to say "I didn't know I was black until I came to the U.S.". People didn't understand how that was as they stared at the dark skinned man wearing an Afro. And I know that to be true. I was lucky. I had an extra set of parents (common on the island, if you're extra lucky) and I learned very early on about the association of hate, bad, poor, wrong to the color of one's skin or the texture of one's hair. Because Papa was black and so were my sisters. Mama and I were light but some of that side eye came my way what with this "bad hair" of mine.

The self-hatred is why Dominicans are so good with those blow outs, don't you know?

Because we have spent decades attempting to blow away the African in our blood and in a few days, we get to do another social cleanse. I bet Trujillo is smiling from his special cage in hell.

As for me and mine? I say #NoDomRep until this situation is resolved. These issues are deep rooted but I think we can make a difference. The one way I know how is to speak up. And to speak with my dollars. I hope you'll join me and Tweet your message of support out with that hashtag.

While finalizing this post, I read that concentration camps have been built in the DR in order to handle the pending expulsion. Just in case you thought I might be blowing this out of proportion.

[1] A Crisis of Nationality: Dominicans of Haitian Descent [2] We Regret to Inform You That in 4 Days You and Your Family Will Be Deported to Haiti

Additional reading material: Haitian man apparently lynched in Dominican city amid rising tensions Dominican Republic’s New Naturalization Law Falls Short Haitians in the Dominican Republic in legal limbo Stateless Dominicans Still Face Fears of Deportation

Home Is Where JetBlue Is

As usual, this is a time of ups and downs for me. My imbalanced relationship with papi doesn't help that. Mami being gone solidifies the ups and downs equally. I have so many memories of Christmas in New York. A house full of Dominicans dancing (isn't that what you get on the 9th day of Christmas?). Food, laughter, happiness, home. I moved to New York City a little over a month before my 5th birthday. And although I was rooted in the city, my soul knew of another home. Every summer, I would trek there and spend lazy days being "fattened" up, spoiled and loved on by Mamá, the second mother in my life. The air always smelled different to me in DR. The clouds were a shape that I could not find in the city. I remember the excitement of my soul going home and the sadness my body felt when leaving. That drive as I stared at the ocean and tried to remember every shape of the clouds through my tears is still etched in my memory.

When this video hit my inbox, it touched some dormant place I haven't wanted to look at for a while. The place that yearns for home even as I establish my own. It brought back memories of Mamá who I haven't seen since 2004 and Papá who passed away in 2006. Of the fact that the Frog Princess hasn't been to my home yet and how I so desperately want Mamá to have the pleasure of seeing her before she passes.

Anyways, lots of love and memories in my heart at the moment but I wanted to share this awesomeness that JetBlue put together. It's a reminder of what home is, where home is and who home is.

The Delgadillo family knows the trials and tribulations of leaving home. In fact, Mr. and Mrs. Delgadillo left Santo Domingo for the US for better opportunities for their family. They left behind successful careers and family in the Dominican Republic for better economic and educational opportunities for their children. 

From jobs as an engineer and a therapist in the Dominican Republic to positions as a cab driver and house cleaner in the US, the Delgadillo’s did whatever it took to survive, all of which didn't ease their yearning for a little bit of home.

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Sounds like so many stories I have known. Where is home for you and, do you yearn to go back?

If Dominican Were a Color...

If Dominican Were a Color... ...It would be the sunset in the sky blazing red and burning bright ...The shade of cinnamon in your cocoa, skin so soft it drives you loco

...My grandma's eyes honey brown with mahogany skin ...My other grandma's yellow tint like mine has been

If Dominican were a color... ...It would be the shades of blue in the sunrise's hue ...The Haitian black on my Dominican back

...The deep green tints that carry the palm tree shades, the memories in your head that never fade ...The neutral browns that color our lips, the cafe con leche that everyone sips

...It's the color of merengue hips swaying when I walk, the "no you didn't" head and hands moving when I talk ...It's the way my words shape in my mouth it's the color they might not know in the south

...It's the curls and kinks that blend my hair it's the straightness of my glare ...The one that's mixed and blended and shaped, partly out of love and partly out of rape

Dominican_Flag_Painting

...The color of the ocean in the night, with the moon beaming down rays of sheer delight ...It's the color of the slaves that no one sees, who built the country but got no keys

...It's lovemaking on the beach it's the student learning how to teach ...It's movement, passion, tenderness and glee, it's all those things that make me, me.

...You'll have to watch my every move and check out my sensual groove ...The way I kiss the way love, the way I fight and all the above.

...It would redefine the palette that we know, and it would surely put on a hell of a show ...I can't do it justice, I just can't compare you'll just have to notice, but make sure you don't stare.

...It could be you, it could be me you never know, just wait and see ...Just never ask what it is that I am, if you don't wanna give a damn

© 2003

Today is Dominican Independence Day and while I am a proud American, there's always a certain level of excitement around this day. Is it the yummy food I'm smelling? Or perhaps all of the great songs my friends share on social media that take me back to my childhood. Regardless, I wrote this 11 years ago that still rings true.

It Takes a Village And You Can Help!

This is my birth month.  Not the month I was born but, the month I gave birth.  It's appropriate that it's Thanksgiving because I have a LOT to be thankful for.  If you've been reading my blog for any period of time you know that I do not believe in coincidences.  Tonight was one of those nights that made me sit back and smile. Last week I was talking to my cousin and telling her that I felt like I needed to do some sort of ministry for babies but wasn't sure what that would look like. I knew what I wanted to do but wasn't sure how to get it done.  We were so blessed with so much when the frog princess was born! I am always looking for ways to pay it forward.  I do this by finding people that need some of the things I have and passing it on to them. But the one thing I keep thinking about is how, in third world countries (like the one I as born in) some children leave hospitals wrapped in a towel because their families have no clothes for them. How could I get clothes to those kids? This has been on my heart for weeks now.

Tonight, as I was driving with one of my birth mamas for some coffee, I started telling her about this and as she checked her phone to see about the traffic jam we were in, she noticed that by sheer "coincidence", she'd received an email from our birth class teacher, Terri, owner of Beautiful Birthings.  She is in midwifery school and is traveling to my country of birth to...(wait for it...) go deliver babies!  Again, no coincidences.

I was instantly moved to write this blog though I had none scheduled for today (I'm cool like that with an editorial calendar and whatnot, well, at least this week). Here's why: I'm being told to move and I've learned that I need to heed that Voice when I hear it.

Here's Terri's story in her own words:

I am a senior midwifery student at the Florida School of Traditional Midwifery. My school work has been incredibly challenging although participating in home births has been amazingly rewarding. I am sure you know how much I love midwifery care and how passionate I am about midwifery. I am devoted to giving women and their families safe midwifery care, informed consent and respect during their pregnancy and birth. At this point in my schooling I am acting as the primary midwife. I currently carry out prenatal care, deliver babies and follow up with women during their postpartum visits under the supervision of my preceptor. I feel blessed to know that I am working at something I love. I am eagerly looking forward to opening a home birth practice next year!

Serving women in a developing country has always been an aspiration of mine. I have decided to travel to the Dominican Republic and work in a local hospital for 10 days. On January 9th I will be boarding a plane and traveling to Azua (just west of Santo Domingo) to deliver babies at the Hospital Regional Taiwan. This hospital delivers up to 15 babies every day and many women travel from all over Dominican Republic and Haiti to have their babies at this location.

The hospital I will be working at can have up to 8 women laboring in the same room. Doctors don’t have enough gloves and often wash the gloves they utilize between uses. Their collection device for sutures and needles is an old milk jug taped to the bed. In this hospital the beds are rusted and some don’t even have sheets. Moms rarely have any choices during their labor and pain medication is not available. Birth for women at this hospital can be a scary event that can last for days. A previous volunteer had said “We are there to learn a lot and also to be a blessing to the poor.” My hope on this trip is not to “save the world” and confront the birth practices that currently exist. Instead, I want to reach out to the moms that I will have contact with. I want to lead by example as well as give a little more compassion to a country where birth is not as respected. I recognize that during this trip I will grow as a human being and as a midwife. All my experiences will be brought back with me and applied to my future practice.

The financial stress of paying school tuition, driving 25,000 miles a year, being a single mom, and precepting full time at various midwifery clinics has left me very little money to afford a trip like this. I am required to pay for my plane ticket, lodging, food, and the volunteer fee. I will also be donating supplies to the hospital and families once I am there. I am writing to you in hopes that you will make a financial donation to aid my desire in helping women less fortunate than us. My intention is to raise $2,000 to cover all my costs. I must have everything paid for in the next 2 weeks. I have set up a PayPal donation account and my gratitude goes out to everyone who is able to financially support this trip.

As mentioned above, I will be bringing 2 suitcases full of supplies.  If you are local to the Orlando area, I will come pick them up! I have included a list of supplies the hospital has requested:

  • Gloves (sterile and non sterile)
  • Delivery instruments
  • Chucks pads (disposable or washable)
  • Single bed sheets top and bottom
  • Summer baby clothes / blankets size  infant-12 mo
  • Photo paper / 4×6 for moms to get picture of baby
  • Soaps, shampoos and towels for moms and babies
  • Spanish books or info on pregnancy, birth, post partum, breastfeeding and Bibles
  • General OB / L&D items
  • bulb syringes
  • OB meds
  • surgical cloths
  • thermometers
  • O2 equipment
  • ambu bags
  • breast pumps
  • disposable baby wipes

If you know of anyone interested in donating to this trip, please forward this message to them. Every dollar helps! Thank you so much for your generosity!

Here is my story: Terri is passionate about moms empowering themselves to have the type of birth that they want, whatever that might look like for them. She was very knowledgeable during the class and I was sad that she didn't take me seriously when I told her this baby was not going to be past due because we had a project plan. Terri was going on vacation and could not be my doula because of that conflict.

I have heard of babies that leave maternity wards in Dominican Republic wrapped in a towel because the moms don't have clothes and neither do the hospitals.  I remember the FIVE baby showers I had, the gifts after my baby girl was born and I cannot ignore this need.  I will try my best to give Terri what I can (and it ain't much these days).  But above and beyond that, I want to try and provide babies with a Welcome box. Perhaps a few onesies, some socks, etc. They don't have to be new. We all know how some of those items of clothing that we had for baby weren't ever even worn, right? Most women won't mind if they've been gently used.  Cloth diapers and pads would be ideal as well.  I also want to see if I can collect some of the supplies needed as I can send additional items and will commit to the expense of shipping a box (or boxes) of supplies ahead of Terri for use and distribution.

My mom and I always wanted to do something for babies.  Doing something in our country of birth was always in the back of our heads.  Now, I have an opportunity to do this in her name.  Are you able to help? Do you have a few things lying around the house taking up space that you'd like to get rid of? Perhaps you have a $5 in your pocket for your latte tomorrow.  Would you mind donating that for Terri's trip?  If you are a brand, what can you do to help us? Maybe you can donate some diapers or thermometers? Or a box or 2 of surgical gloves.  Every little bit helps.  After all, it takes a village, don't you think?

Click to donate to Terri's trip!