Thursday, September 15, 2005

On passing as una dominicana

September 15, 2005

I am lucky that when I walk down the streets of Santo Domingo, my appearance does not shout, “gringa,” “foreigner,” or “Americana.” . My Russian and Antiguan blood has blessed me with caramel skin and thick hair that tells the history of my African descendents bought to the Caribbean by conquistadores. I resemble the mixed blood of Dominicans and thus do not have to worry about being approached for my American money because I am not rubia (blonde) enough to be americana. “Soy casí dominicana, I am almost Dominican,” I tell those who ask.

I explain that I’m from a barrio muy latino in the Bronx where the melodies and rhythm of merengue and bachata resonated throughout my building’s corridors. Growing up both black and white in the United States made me a part of neither group. So, I was dominicana or latina or whatever I had to be to call a group my own.

However, unlike most Dominicans, I am not ashamed of my blackness. “Somos una mezcla de indios y españoles,” (We are a mix of Indian and Spanish blood), one man proclaimed to me. I wondered why he did not mention the African blood that he and so many other Dominicans try so hard to conceal. Would that make him more like the Haitians that Dominicans loathe seeing in their country?

The answer is complicated and multi-faceted. To me, part of the black-hate stems from colonialism, which was further perpetuated during the era of Trujillo, and also from recent Haitian emigration to the Dominican Republic. In general, the Dominican psyche has been brainwashed into thinking that everything negro (black) is bad. For instance, women relax their hair to straighten their natural kinks, erasing their blackness. Their image of beauty is not brown skin, not wide noses, not African hair.

Even after the black power movement in the United States, black is still not beautiful to many people all over the world. Blackness still does not carry prestige or power. The whiter you are, the better you live, eat, learn, and are almost everywhere in the world. Years of oppression and abuse by European colonizers has robbed the indigenous and darker people of this world of their identity, dignity, and happiness. Unfortunately, racism still exists and we have a long way to go.


Blogger perate said...

Gosh! Jumping off a "micro" in Santiago is quite stupid. I'm sorry. I can't help commenting it. I tried it once and I fell on a pedestrian. He wasn't happy, specially considering tha fact that I weight like 100 kilos.
O.K. so, nice blog, and Dominican Republic rocks, just don't start mixing the 'r's and 'l's, because then nobody is going to be able to understand you outside Santo Domingo. Trujillo, eh? Hve you read "La fiesta del Chivo", great book. Dang it, I'm really bored.

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Penny said...

Un gran abrazo, Deana. Me alegro mucho saber de ti y leer tus pensamientos y sentimientos sobre tus experiencias. Gracias por todo. Por favor continue escribir lo mucho posible porque es tan interesante. Estoy aprendiendo mucho.Pensando en ti y esperando leer más pronto. Cuidate mucho.

5:11 PM  
Blogger Anthony Vitarelli said...

dena -- i dig the blog. good luck with your research!

7:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Dena!!
it's so good to see that you are doing well. This post was deep...learn as much as you can and speak that good truth.

you make me proud!! one day we gonna have to chill.


2:41 PM  

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