Friday, July 06, 2007

Full circle: a visit to Santo Domingo and a new journey in Antigua

I walked through the very same streets in Santo Domingo and saw poverty right where I left it a year ago. Orphaned children who shine shoes instead of attending school hung around on Calle Independencia, waiting for business. Street hustlers yelled broken English to tourists to buy their made-only-in-the-Dominican-Republic-goods.

The same Dominican faces and their unfortunate conditions mixed with curious, naive tourist families and foreign men with their caramel-colored-by-the-hour-escorts welcomed me as I walked briskly on El Conde. Illusions of change and progress with the broken down roads in la capital for the construction of the metro still leave the poor, abandoned and suffering. Not much has changed, sadly.

My visit to the maternity hospital reminded me of the hurt and pain I felt each day I worked there. There is a new door by the entrance that separates the waiting room from the upstairs patients' rooms, but the waiting room in the adolescent unit still fills to capacity with young-mothers-to-be. There are still little resources, so little that during my hour's visit, I found myself playing pharmacists again, distributing medicine and instructions to take them to pregnant teens like I had done every day last year.

The purpose of my trip to Dominican Republic was to gather information from successful non-government agencies who work with and support sex workers. Prostitution in the Dominican Republic is legal. Of course, that is not to say that it is easy being a sex worker. Female sex workers experience police brutality on a daily basis and put themselves at all types of risks daily. Some sex workers never make it home alive.

During my first day there, I interviewed a sex worker, who has been doing sex work for twenty years. From her, I learned about the reality and the life of someone who is involved in commercial sex work. On my second day in the country, I had a meeting with three NGOs that work in that area and that have been successful in the work that they do with sex workers. From my meeting with the gracious representatives from their organizations, I learned about commercial sex work from the institutional perspective.

The rest of my short trip in the Dominican Republic was focused on my catching up with friends who became family and exploring parts of Santo Domingo that I had not discovered before. Right now, I am in Puerto Rico en route to Antigua, where I will be working with the government in their Directorate of Gender Affairs office. I will start a project I proposed that will be focused on the Dominican sex workers in the country so that Antigua could provide them with better support and sexual and reproductive health services. I still do not know what to expect, but I am excited to be doing this work for the marginalized in Antigua.


Anonymous Lynn said...

You write very well.

1:14 AM  

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