Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Debut in Dominican Newspaper

The title reads: Adultos hablan de la infancia
(Adults talk about children).
The picture was taken at the National Congress,
where participants of the WANGO conference met. Posted by Picasa

This is the Hoy newspaper. I am wearing orange.
Click on images to enlarge. Posted by Picasa

Neocolonialism in the sex trade

November 7, 2005
I was wearing the only two-piece bathing suit I own, the brown one with black curvy designs that I bought in Antigua the summer we visited my grandmother’s grave. Usually, on trips to the beach, I wear a one-piece suit complemented by a pair of basketball shorts to cover the child-bearing hips I inherited from my mother. I have always concealed myself, not because I am uncomfortable with my body, but because I could never get used to being the sexual object of someone else’s gaze. However, since it was the first time I was at a resort without my family and, instead, with friends my age, I thought that exposing a little more of my body would enhance the already-liberating experience.

Not surprisingly, within minutes of stepping foot on the beach, illegally set aside for hotel guest only, one of the scuba instructors was professing his love to me. I thanked him for his compliments and told him that a long distance relationship would not work out anyway. He pleaded, “Pero no hay distancia en el amor. No hay fronteras,” (But there is no distance in love. There are no boundaries). I smiled at his attempt to court me the way he must have succeeded with other foreigners. He went along his way, but not before telling my friend that she and he would make handsome Dominican babies. I was not insulted that my future offspring were not good enough for him. After his leaving, I was finally able to escape to the mesmerizing music the sea’s reunions with the shore create.

As the earth started on its daily retreat from the sun, my friends and I took that as a sign to make our own retreat from the beach. I insisted that we stop for a drink to take full advantage of the all-inclusiveness of the hotel. On my way to the bar, I noticed a table of German, maybe Dutch, men who were calling each other’s attention to me. I tried to ignore their stares, their sexual appetite for me, but they watched me the same way a lion watches its prey. These four men suddenly made me aware of my body. They raped me with their eyes.

In passing their table, they attempted to get my attention by muttering, “Saludo,” each in their own gringo way, but I had already noticed them; their effort was unnecessary. I returned their greeting only to be polite. They wanted me to stop. I did not. When I finally reached the bar, I ordered a refresco (soft drink) and realized that these men must have thought that I was a Dominican prostitute among the sea of fair-skinned beach-dwellers in the city with one of the highest rates of sexual tourism, Sosua.

With a plastic cup of Coca-cola in my hand, I had no choice but to pass these same men again. They continued to examine my brown, exotic skin intently. I avoided eye-contact because I did not want to know what their eyes desired to express to me. Their blatant objectification was sufficient. I did not need to know anymore. To them, I was just sex, just what they were probably looking for.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Outside of every bar and club in the small Northern pueblo of Sosua, they sat still with their legs crossed and backs upright, resembling dolls on display in a store’s window front. Their faces, although expressionless, were perfectly painted with make-up; their hair nicely styled. Their bodies were adorned with the best flashy outfits they must have owned. These women were on sale for the highest bidder.

Prostitutes gathered on every corner, every cranny, selling their services. White men paraded the streets, some with these dark-skinned women already by their side, others still searching for their own doll to purchase, to own for a few hours. I lamented for all the women, and men, of the world who feel that they must resort to prostitution just to make it to the next day.

Suddenly, I realized in the middle of crossing a street that this was a form of colonialism. Foreign men come from all areas of the globe to this tiny, impoverished town to buy sex, to establish their power with money. The town’s inhabitants have no choice but to sell their bodies for a few pesos, as there are not many opportunities to earn money to support their families. The sex market is booming in this quiet town. The town inhabitants do what they have to do.

They are powerless to the foreigners who come in and flaunt their power. Instead of being raped by force, as natives were in the past, they are lured to do what they probably do not want to do by the foreign money they need to survive. They are objectified and dehumanized the same way Dominicans were during colonial times by conquistadores. So many years later, they are still powerless; they are still sex slaves. To these foreigners, who are mostly white, they are not regarded as people, but as objects of sexual satisfaction. They are just sex, the same way I was just sex to the four men at the resort who are probably roaming these very same streets looking for their own Dominican doll.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Rude Man on the Street

October 28, 2005

I do not know what gave him the right to throw a little piece of whatever-he-had-in-his-hand at me. Certainly, his calling me “bella” did not excuse his action. I wanted to run after him and hit him over the head with the Westover School Nalgene bottle I had in my hand to teach him a lesson about respect, but I did not, and I could not, as I was walking alone on a poorly, lit street in a country who I have known for only two months. All I could do was muster up an annoyed “Por favor,” but what I really wanted to tell him is too obscene to write.

I continued on my way home, completely exasperated because not only had he objectified me like most Dominican tigres do, but also because he saw nothing wrong with his action. He nonchalantly walked passed me after invading my space--expressing no remorse, saying no “lo siento” (I’m sorry).

His rudeness and disrespect for me caused me to think about the many articles I have read about the high rate of domestic violence in the Dominican Republic. I remembered the woman I met during my first weeks here who had left her husband and children in a pueblocito miles away from Santo Domingo. She could not tolerate her abusive husband anymore. He did not hit her, but he was killing her slowly and painfully each day with his verbal assaults. She had to escape. Without her telling me, I knew that she had suffered and was suffering because one’s eyes do not lie.

“He threatened me and told me I must come back. He has a gun,” she confessed. What was I to do? I could not march to their small house in the Dominican clay mountains and play police. I could not change him, make him respect her, or demand him to allow her to live again. I was just as powerless as she was. She continued, “I miss my children. If I go back, it is for them.” Although she had no desire to return and no more strength to endure his abuse, she would sacrifice her temporary freedom for her children.

“I admire you and your strength,” I told her. “Not many women could pick up and leave as you did.” Somehow, I felt the need to empower her with my words and make her feel accomplished for breaking away from her husband. However, I felt a sense of sorrow rush upon me because I know she was still not happy. Even though her husband had shredded her apart with his verbal daggers, she left the only piece of what she had left of herself with him—her children.

I asked my friend about this woman the other day only to learn that she had gone back, that she would sacrifice herself for her children. Despite the abuse, her husband provided financial stability, prestige, and power. She, like the many other women in her situation, has no other option but to endure the daily abuse and torture. Unfortunately, in many developing countries, it is difficult for older women with children to secure jobs, especially since there are limited opportunities. I, at least, was able to walk away from my 2-second public assault,unscathed and unharmed, whereas this mistreated woman must reluctantly spend the rest of her life in the battle zone of her husband’s name-calling.

El Festival Presidente

October 16, 2005

I have never been the type of person who fantasizes about marrying some pop singer or superstar that does not even know I exist. I always found all that dreaming and wooing over famous people silly. That is why I barely buy CDs or go to concerts. I think there are better ways I could spend my money instead of making the-already-rich richer.

Yet, I was convinced to go to el festival Presidente, a 3-day event of the biggest Latino performers sponsored by the main beer company in the country, Presidente. I did not know what I was getting myself into, but I figured going to the festival was all part of the experience.

El festival took place in the Olympic Stadium in Santo Domingo. Thousands of Dominicans from all over the country took the trip to the capital to celebrate Latin music over the weekend. Performers included: Grupo Negro, Julieta Venegas, Diego Torres, Marc Anthony (with J. Lo), Frank Reyes, Eddy Herrera, David Bisbal, Chayanne, Krisspy, Franco de vita, Sergio Vargas, Hnos. Rosario, Toros Band, Rubby Perez, and Daddy Yankee.

Despite the shoving and pushing up front where my tall friends persuaded me to stand during the weekend, I had an amazing time. Everyone danced, celebrated the Latino culture, enjoyed the music, and, of course, drank Presidente beer. There is no other rhythm like the Latino rhythm that hypnotizes your mind and takes over your body. If you ever get the chance, go to el festival Presidente--if not for the music, for the experience.