As an educator, when thinking of the Dominican Republic, the faces of my students appear in my mind and images of where they’ve come from in the country begin to illustrate the funds of knowledge they are bringing into my classroom. Today’s session brought us to Centro de Leon in Santiago, Dominican Republic and focused on the opposite side of the coin: migration to the Dominican Republic. Though it focused on the other side of the Dominican experience, it certainly clarified the reasons we’ve had a great migration of Dominicans to the United States in the last half century. The day began with a presentation by Professor Frank Baez. He opened up his presentation about migration to the Dominican Republic by outlining three different periods in Dominican history: 1875-1929, 1930-1960, and 1961-present. During each of the periods there was an apparent fluctuation in the migration of Haitians into the Dominican Republic. Most notably, during the Trujillo era, 1930-1960, there was a depopulation of Haitians as a result of the Haitian massacre. What was most compelling about Professor Baez’s presentation was the use of data and how some of the data created more questions rather than clarified ideas. For example, the censuses cited by many of his graphs were not conducted every ten years. His presentation, all in all, did resonate with other talks we had experienced this week. One fact holds true about migration to the Dominican Republic: it is stimulated by access to cheap labor and exposure to the ‘corporate’ interest of the times. Professor Andres Navarro’s presentation on the demographic development of the Dominican Republic focused on three key areas of the country that are facing urbanization and destroying the natural habitat. These areas served as sugar plantations and have recently been converted into zona francas. This, in turn, has created areas that are densely populated, lack proper infrastructure, and destroy the natural habitat. More importantly, it focused on how the urbanization of these areas has created unhygienic and dangerous living conditions. Both of these presentations were clearly intertwined. Moreover, they underscored the reasons Dominicans have left their native country to live in the United States and other areas of the world. After spending the day at the Centro de Leon in Santiago, which by the way is a city in which I’ve spent numerous summers of my life, I came to realization that it mirrored the same conundrum that I’ve seen many times. What costs do our modern day lifestyles truly have on all of our natural resources and ‘developing’ countries? How are those who are at the other end of the spectrum well informed about their day to day environmental footprints? Most importantly, how much of a grasp does our Latino youth today have on the historical roots of their native origins and the implications of being ignorant about those roots? As a global society, how much longer can we ignore the plight of the ‘developing’ countries and neglect their habitats and history in an effort to live in our own world?
Posted by Sydney Valerio — English Teacher at North Rockland High School