Tag Archives: Dominican Republic

CLACS K-12 Summer Institute on Colonial Latin America

Barbara D’Ambruoso at Parque Colón in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Barbara D’Ambruoso at Parque Colón in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Last summer, in the first ever collaboration between NYU CLACS, Yale PIER, and the Yale Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies, CLACS helped organized the Colonial Latin America Summer Institute for educators. The Institute is a series of intensive professional development sessions that serves as a continuing educational training tool for in-service and pre-service educators. The objective of the Summer Institute is to present the best and the latest scholarship on international education to help educators introduce current perspectives on international topics and improve teaching materials for their students. The sessions are led by faculty, graduate students and other expert educators who provide an in-depth understanding of the latest research on teaching international content subjects in schools.

A new element of the 2011 Summer Institute was the production of “classroom-ready” teaching materials, which would be tested in one classroom and then disseminated widely online. By making the materials available on the CLACS website, they can be shared widely, and free of charge, with educators interested in bringing these topics into the classroom.
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Crossing Borders in the DR

I am in the Dominican Republic doing 3 weeks of research in the Archivo General de la Nación in Santo Domingo. I am a third year PhD student in the Spanish Department at NYU, and my research concerns the border region between colonial Haiti and the DR (Saint Domingue and Santo Domingo) in the late 18th Century before and during the Haitian Revolution. I’ve been looking at diplomatic correspondence between the French and Spanish sides of the island, police treaties having to do with the border, and maps, with a focus on language (translation issues), slavery, citizenship, non-state actors, contraband trade and topography (how the states divided space along the border versus the reality of the situation).

I want to see how these “contested topographies” in the border region have continued to this day, as the border still simultaneously acts as a divisive yet porous wall between the two sides of this island. Last weekend I had the opportunity to travel to the sugar “bateyes” in the southwestern part of the Dominican Republic, near Baharona. The community in the bateyes is comprised of mostly Haitian families – some having been there as long four generations, yet many still without Dominican citizenship – and Dominican families who make their living in the sugar cane fields. Like on this island, there exists a border in these communities. The Spanish-speaking Dominican families live on one side (with access to running water and better amenities installed under President Balaguer’s government in the 80s), the Haitian-Dominican families live in the middle (they are completely bilingual in Spanish and Creole after one generation there), and the newly arrived Creole-speaking Haitians, who live in much poorer conditions on the outside of the community. Creole is maintained even after 4 generations of living in the Dominican bateyes, because it is the language spoken within the home and community and because of the constant influx of Haitians arriving to work the cane.

Being able to do archival work on the border 200 years ago, and seeing the topographical and linguistic divides still manifest in the sugar bateyes, have shown me how important it is for history to shed light on the present. I wonder if those Haitians and Dominicans living in the sugar bateyes in Baharona know that 200 years ago that very region close to the border was considered a “no man’s land” on the island, where maroon slaves from both the French and Spanish sides would escape (although the majority from the French sugar plantations) and establish communities known as the “Maniel” and “Bahoruco,” living in freedom and outside of state surveillance.

Posted by Nathalie Bragadir – PhD Candidate in Spanish at NYU

Batey 8, Dominican Republic, Bragadir

Yale-NYU K-12 Summer Institute: Rethinking Columbus… On the Way to the Airport


Altos de Chavón Archeological Museum Director Arlene Alvarez discussing Taino artifacts

While I was in the Dominican Republic last week, I kept running into Columbus. He turned up in colonial museums where the history of his voyages to the island was featured. He was in the lovely plaza next to the cathedral (a statue in his most famous pose) where he now faces the Hard Rock Café. What struck me most notably, however, was that everyone talked about him. In the United States, we only talk about Columbus around Columbus Day, which happens to be a long weekend. (“What are your plans for…?”). If we really think about Columbus, he remains controversial. In Rhode Island, where I live, there is a small statue of Columbus in Providence. It was not erected by the city, however. It is, in fact, on the site of the Italo-American Club. The members wanted to honor a fellow Italian, but the statue cannot compare to the imposing figure of Columbus in Santo Domingo.

On the way to the airport, Israel, my driver, asked me what I had done during my stay in Santo Domingo. Among other things, we talked about visiting the cathedral and the fort in the colonial district, visiting the archeological museums in the Centro León and Altos de Chavón, and having dinner by the water in Boca Chica. Then he asked me if I had visited the Faro de Colón. I had not. He would take me there “to take a picture.” It was very important. I had to see it… on the way to the airport. Israel explained that Columbus had come to Santo Domingo (the island) first. Here the first encounter with indigenous people in the Americas, the Taino, took place. Here were the first fort, the first churches, the first cathedral, the first hospital, the first university… In short, the first European institutions in the Americas. And Santo Domingo was—and is—the first city in America. Thanks to Columbus. He put Santo Domingo on the map (the first map?) of the “New World.” All of the Dominicans I met were proud of this history—and it shows in their monument to Columbus. The Faro de Colón, where twenty-nine of Columbus’ bones are interred, is an enormous structure in the shape of a cross, a “lighthouse” with not one beam, but many beams (visible from space) forming a cross on the sky. I took two pictures.

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Yale-NYU K-12 Summer Institute: Migration and Demographic Development of the DR


Professor Andres Navarro, Dept of Urban Planning, UASD

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

Sydney was an educator participant in the Yale University PIER Yale University CLAISNYU CLACS  Summer Educator Institute on Colonial Latin America in July 2011.

Yale-NYU K-12 Summer Institute: Haiti-DR Relations


Miguel Angel, our guide, discussing syncretism during the tour of the Colonial Zone

I think one of the most controversial days we spent in Santo Domingo was on Friday, July 14th. The activities planned focused on contemporary issues about the Dominican Republic and Haiti, including a panel discussion on contemporary perspectives about Haiti. I was especially looking forward to this event because my research project focused on Dominican-Haitian relations. In some ways, I was very satisfied with the event, and in other ways I was disappointed. However, it was overall an enlightening experience.

The panel consisted of six speakers, including the former Ambassador of the Dominican Republic to Canada and Columbia, The International Project Manager of the United Nations Development Program, the President of the National Emergency Commission and Executive Director of Civil Defense, and several other distinguished individuals.

One of the my first reactions to this panel was surprise at the various organizations dedicated to investigating and improving Dominican-Haitian relations, such as the Dominico-Haitian Global Forum and Batey Relief Alliance (BRA),  of which the former coordinator and current Executive Director, respectively, were present. Their presentations on programs supporting Haitians living in the Dominican Republic opened my eyes to a world of organizations that I would be interested in contributing to in the future.

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Yale-NYU K-12 Summer Institute: Sugar Production in DR


Slave bunker at Boca de Nigua sugar mill

During my trip with the PIER Institute to Santo Domingo, I visited the first two sugar mills constructed in Spanish America. Touring the sugar mills or ingenios was interesting to me. The ruins of the ingenios, show the remains of the socio-economic effects of colonization, and have historic importance, and since my project is on the topic, it was an invaluable experience. Our knowledgeable guide Miguel Angel gave us a tour. They stand approximately 500 yards apart and are located about an hour away from the capital. We drove through several impoverished small towns before arriving at the site

The first mill we visited, Ingenio Santa Isable/Boca Nigua, was built in 1508 and restored in 1978. The Spanish part of the island, and where the slaves lived, is the site of the second major slave revolt, which took place in 1796. The second mill ruin we visited, a few hundred yards away, was situated on the River Nigua. Very little of its structure is left, but the canal, which was an integral part of the mill, still stands. Built in 1504, it was the very first sugar mill in Spanish America.

It is fascinating to walk around these sites, imagining and sensing the magnitude of what once was the thriving force of slave labor for sugar production in Latin America, and to reflect the socio-economic complexity of colonization. Many slaves lost hands, limbs, even their very lives to the process. This horrific thought stayed with me long after we departed. My colleagues and I observed the absence of signs and billboards, or anything else that might have indicated the site’s importance. It was as if nothing of relevance ever happened. Travel books list the mills as historical sites of the Colonial period, yet even there, there is little recognition. Where is the tribute or honor paid to the many workers of African and indigenous descent who contributed to the wealth of the island? One can only wonder.

Posted by Myriam Victoria — Dual language Leader, PS 24 Dual Language School for International Studies

Myriam was an educator participant in the Yale University PIER Yale University CLAISNYU CLACS  Summer Educator Institute on Colonial Latin America in July 2011.

Yale-NYU K-12 Summer Institute: The Colonial Period in Santo Domingo


Street sign on the Calle las Damas in the Colonial Zone, Santo Domingo

For my reflection of the visits to the different Taino – Colonial settings and museums, I have to state that as a Dominican student growing up in this country in the late 60’s all of the 70’s, I had limited knowledge of the level of history, the richness and above all, the great significance that 1492 and the century that follow meant to the encounter and development of modern day society in the Americas and the impact on the rest of the world.

Studying the Tainos from a historical, anthropological, sociological, political and humanist   perspectives has allow me to developed a very different and paradoxical view of their way of life, systems, social structure, rituals, and above all – more in accord with the reality of their times and not the romanticize, embellished or infantile view that was presented in my early 8 years of education in the Dominican Republic, or the obligatory week long imposed curriculum of my high school years in suburbia schooling USA – often titled “Celebrating Columbus”.

I live in the Diaspora.  If one wants to learn about one’s history, the best thing to do is to go there.  Sadly enough, I must admit that what sparked my desire to reflect on my history was not my many, many visits to the Dominican Republic, or my newly minted “Cedula” that functions as my ID and gives the background of my dual citizenship.  No.  It pains me to say that even thought as a committed teacher of Spanish and Latin American studies, it was not the hours of preparation to deliver an educational unit that was more than just a celebration, but a critical and thought provoking exposition and discussion of the living history of the real founders of the Pre-Colonial Americas, los indios.

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