Reflecting on my DR Abroad Experience

After four full months of deciphering Dominican Spanish, stuffing myself with plátanos and my host mom’s delicious cooking, riding motorcycles to get to class, and otherwise learning about Dominican culture, I am back safe and sound in my home in Atlanta after a teary airport reunion with my family.

I think the best word to describe my experience in the Dominican Republic is meaningful. I choose this word because it encapsulates all of my memories, from the happy and fun ones to the more challenging ones. I feel like I fulfilled my goal to learn about and to appreciate a culture different from my own. However, this was not always easy. Language and culture played a much larger role in hindering deep friendships from forming than I had expected. Although I hung out with locals on a daily basis, whether it be at the universities I attended or with my ultimate frisbee team, I struggled to have anything more meaningful than surface-level conversations. If I did, the conversations were with Dominicans who spoke English. While my program was small, I still spent most of my time with the other Americans, and although I formed lifelong friendships, I do regret having few Dominican friends that I will keep in touch with beyond my time here.

I am perhaps most thankful for the time I spent at the Alta Gracia factory. No one at the factory spoke any English, so when I was there I was challenged to speak and improve my Spanish without cheating and switching to English. Chatting with my boss always made for interesting conversation about the factory’s labor practices and the economic situation of the community that it serves. Going out to the factory on a weekly basis expanded my view of the Dominican Republic beyond the relatively industrialized capital city where I was living. This experience is something that has shaped my worldview and opinion on our global economic system.

I have loved the challenges that my time in the Dominican Republic has forced me to confront. I have been confronted with aspects of my own white American privilege that I do not necessarily think about living in the United States. And living in a country of the world simultaneously impacted by the Zika virus and systematically denying women’s right to reproductive justice has been thought provoking to say the least. While I certainly had a lot of fun bonding with my program and going on cultural excursions, I think I ultimately draw the most from my challenges here. These cultural differences that have checked my privilege, empowered my marginalized identities, and expanded my perspective. The Dominican Republic has taught me life lessons I will never forget. To me, that is meaningful. To me that is special. To me, that is what study abroad is.

Peace.Love.Meaning

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The Perks of Studying Abroad in the Spring

When I was making my decision regarding which semester to study abroad, I heard many arguments as to why I should study abroad in the fall. From being in a foreign country during application season to potential housing complications to missing key Georgetown events and memories, studying abroad in the spring can sometimes be seen as a stressful endeavor.

However, I couldn’t be happier with my choice to go abroad in the spring! While spring study abroad may not be for everyone, it certainly has its advantages and perks.

First, being abroad in the spring did not affect my ability to find my summer internship or to interview for my on-campus extracurricular commitments for next year. If you go abroad in the spring, Skype will become your best and most reliable friend. In fact, not having as many commitments while abroad actually gave me more time to research internships and craft my applications. The same goes for finding senior year housing—I was able to sign my off-campus housing lease with a group of four friends via electronic signature with little to no stress. As for missing spring semester Georgetown events, this was a sacrifice that any abroad student faces no matter the semester and is something that I reflected on long before I went abroad, ultimately deciding that this was the right decision for me.

Additionally, having the summer to decompress and reflect on my abroad experience instead of being thrown into another Georgetown semester is something that I look forward to after returning. My study abroad experience in the Dominican Republic has been a large cultural shift, and I encourage students seeking abroad experiences in new and different cultures to think about having that three-month break before re-entering Georgetown academics.

For my program specifically in the Dominican Republic, the spring semester offers different opportunities for cultural excursions. For instance, our overnight excursion included a boating trip to observe whales in their migration season that only occurs in the spring. The baseball season, a huge sport in the DR and an important part of this country’s culture, is in full throttle in the spring as well.

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of going in the spring from my experience is that there is comparatively less time to pull visa documents together before leaving for abroad. This means that I had to be aware of my program’s start date and the visa process during fall semester and specifically finals period, which was pretty stressful.

At the end of the day, studying abroad in the spring should be a viable consideration for all students! To potential study abroad students, weigh the advantages and disadvantages in your particular situation and do what is right for you.

Peace.Love.SpringAdventures

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A New Side of Cape Town

In the months that I’ve been in Cape Town, I’ve been able to check so many “touristy” items off my list: hiking Table Mountain, surfing at Muizenberg, exploring Central Business District, and checking out all the amazing sights that Cape Town has to offer. Two months into my study abroad experience, I was feeling pretty confident and comfortable in my knowledge of this amazing city. However, my home stay in the Langa Quarter township last weekend changed my view and perspective of this city.

Langa is Cape Town’s oldest township, established in 1923. Although Langa literally means “sun’ in Xhosa, it was named after Langalibalele – a famous chief who was imprisoned on Robben Island for rebelling against the government. As with the other townships in Cape Town, Langa was one of the many areas that was established by the government and designated for Black South Africans. With this difficult and heavy legacy of racial segregation and inequality in mind, I didn’t know what to expect for my weekend homestay.

When we arrived, we were introduced to Langa and our homestay families at the Langa Quarter Community Center. The community center served as the entry to Langa’s development projects and initiatives. We learned about the community’s plans for expanding opportunity and for opening up Langa to tourists from around the world. It was incredible to see how the diverse and dynamic plans that Langa had for its future.The past legacy of division and economic inequality was not holding this community back.

Another study abroad student and I were paired with our “Mama”, who had two grandkids who would be showing us around Langa. They, along with several others of the “homestay kids” from different houses, took us around the township throughout the weekend. We hung out with their friends in all the best locations and got a small glimpse into life in this vibrant township. I ate chicken feet (it actually wasn’t too bad!) and even had a small bite of a “Smiley” – the nickname of a cooked sheep’s head, a favorite delicacy in the township. We met locals who were running successful restaurants out of their homes, entrepreneurs who started tour companies, and young adults who were excelling in school and hoping to make difference for their community with their education. Everyone we met had a unique and powerful story, but all had a shared vision for where they wanted Langa to be in the future.   
For me, the most jarring part of this homestay experience was the disconnect between Langa and other areas of Cape Town. It was the view of Table Mountain that made me realize how big this divide really is. Table Mountain stands in the distance, a familiar view from every part of Cape Town. No matter where you are in the city, the view of the mountain is a constant presence. It was hard to believe that this township, which struggles with poverty and economic inequality, exists under the same mountain as the stunning Camps Bay, a beach town which boasts houses worth millions of Rand. The disparity of wealth and opportunity in Cape Town, all under the unifying shadow of Table Mountain, was truly evident to me during this homestay. The ubiquitous view of Table Mountain was the reminder of the divisions that still exist in Cape Town. However, despite this challenging realization, I was so inspired by Langa’s inhabitants. So many of the people I met had a strong commitment and hope for the future of Langa, despite the many obstacles facing the community. My homestay was an incredible turning point in my experience. I am forever grateful to the family that welcomed me into their home and the community that opened my eyes to an entirely new side of Cape Town. It was truly an experience I will never forget.

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A Brave New World

Never in my early imaginings of Italy did I foresee a Zen experience. In a country known for loud, gesticulating talkers, cussing, reckless drivers, and droves of chatty American tourists, I didn’t anticipate a space for quiet or introspection. And I was perfectly happy with that.

A textbook extrovert, I’ve always hated being alone. Other people give me energy and life, whereas alone, I tend to get trapped in my own head, to spiral downwards into an abyss of negative thoughts and memories. The older I’ve gotten, the more insistently I seek out company out of fear of silence. At school, I’m nearly never alone, surrounding myself with people whenever I eat, study, or do extracurriculars. I call people on my walks to and from class, I’m in constant contact with my friends throughout the day, I even take short showers to avoid the quiet.

Before I left for Florence, my friend told me that his favorite and most rewarding parts of study abroad were those when he travelled alone. He regaled me with tales of getting lost in the crooked backstreets of Germany and Iceland, of wandering into careworn pubs or beautiful gardens, of forming spontaneous, childlike friendships with locals and travellers alike. He told me that the only way to truly know yourself is to put time and effort into the relationship.

As hard as I’ve tried to brush off those sage words throughout my time here, they’ve stubbornly stuck in that steel-trap brain of mine. Now, with the semester winding down, there’s less to do. I secured my dream internship, finished all my final papers, and read nearly every book in the tiny English section at the local library. So, I decided, as a final hurrah, to get to know Florence on a personal basis.

Every day, I run the six miles down from our golden Villa on the hills to the Duomo, the gorgeous landmark in the heart of the city, to the soundtrack of NPR’s This American Life or Serial. From there, I go on mini Kate adventures. One day, I went to All’Antico Vinaio, Florence’s best Panini shop. Unfortunately, it’s a badly kept secret, and tourists formed lines miles long, clutching guidebooks and oversized water bottles. My face dropped as I took in the spectacle. Waiting two hours for a sandwich, when the line had been nonexistent just two weeks before, felt absurdly touristy to me, a hardened and sophisticated pseudo-Florentine.

As I was contemplating biting the bullet and getting a substandard Panini at the place next door, I felt a tap on my shoulder. A guy with a University of Florence sweatshirt had broken off from his group of his friends towards the front of the line. He asked me if I wanted him to order me a sandwich, rolling his eyes in characteristic Florentine disdain at the bumbling tourists who’d invaded his city. Five minutes later, I emerged triumphantly with my prosciutto, pecorino, and truffle sauce sandwich, buoyed by my new Italian friends and unexpected good fortune.

Another day, I decided to tack on a couple more miles and run to Gusta Pizza, the acclaimed Neapolitan pizzeria adjacent to the Ponto Vecchio. As usual, it was packed. Impatient customers waved their little white deli slips like flags of surrender, demanding tables and citing the many minutes they’d already had to wait. I got to the front of the line and asked the beleaguered cashier for a margherita pizza to go. He looked exhausted and completely overwhelmed. A pang of compassion shot through me, and I asked him how his day was going. After we chatted for a few minutes, he took a surreptitious look around and grabbed a newly completed pizza from the rack. Slipping it to me, he winked as he called out the next number, a full twenty digits from my own. I left the shop smiling and absolutely starving. Cracking the pizza box, I saw that he’d given me one baked in the shape of a heart.

These stories probably sound like little more than a series of vignettes in which nice Italians help me jump lines. But they’re also personal triumphs. In the few weeks I’ve been doing this, I’ve finally encountered and befriended actual locals, breaking out of the wonderful but completely insular community at the Villa. I’ve given tourists directions and taken special shortcuts, finally feeling like I belong in this city. I’ve had the time to reflect on myself, my life, and my semester here, as I walk down uneven streets peppered with leather vendors and artists.

I come back from these runs centered, calm, and usually well-fed. Italy has given me a newfound appreciation of silence, a joy in wandering its streets and drinking in the springtime air perfumed with wisteria and honeysuckle. I’ve been able to let go of that pervasive anxiety and default replaying of bad memories and weighty to-do lists that used to occupy my mind when I wasn’t cramming it with social interaction and constant stimulation. I run. I eat. I make a friend. I wander. It’s a freedom unlike any I’ve ever experienced before, and it’s put me on much closer terms with a person I’d been neglecting for months – myself.

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“Purple Rain” in Cape Town

Prince often graced my mother’s car radio as she took me to school every morning during my elementary, middle, and high school years. He was also played on the way home from school. For the months that any given Prince cd resided in the stereo, you better believed I started to memorize the words to songs like “When Doves Cry,” “1999,” “Musicology,” and other jams by Prince. Yep, my mother loved Prince and a love for him fostered within me. When I started Georgetown University, I continued the tradition of intertwining the presence of Prince with my education. I definitely listened to my Prince playlist on Spotify (before he removed all of his songs) as I cranked out papers for midterms and finals. I even listened to Prince a few times here in Cape Town because it reminded me of those car rides to school, scents of my mother’s perfume, and the years that have gone by.

Needless to say, my heart dropped when I found out the news of his passing. Ever since then, I have been reading articles about his life and watching countless videos of his performances. He defied sexist and racist gender expectations placed on Black male bodies. Heteronormativity could not touch him, his music, his hair, or his timeless threads. In an interview, Prince said that his father used to play the piano and would not let him play that piano because his father believed that younger Prince was not as good as him. However, after his father left, 9-year-old Prince played that piano and taught himself how to “play music.” How many 9-years-olds can say that? Later down the road in the 80s, he produced one album per year. How many musicians can top that? He definitely showed the world what hard work and consistency looks like. He represented the grind that if any of us tapped into, we could all reach our own level of genius, like Prince.

Sidenote: to call him the “King of Shade” is only to touch on one aspect of the man. He was much more than his facial expressions. He honored us with his music and in return we should honor this artist, who mastered all of the instruments in his band, who wrote all of the songs he sang, and who self-produced while producing other artists’ music. I honestly do not think there will be another musician like him.

His death reminds me of the quote:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. We are all meant to shine, as children do. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.” – Marianne Williamson.

This quote, like Prince, is timeless. If anything, Prince taught us not to die mediocre.

Thank you Prince, for your music, your life, and your international legacy, which highlights your genius that my words cannot encompass. Thank you for being unapologetically Black and rocking your afro, for always melanizing on stage during every performance, for the time you wrote “slave” on your face, and for the track “Baltimore.” I needed the healing you placed in that song.

 

 

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Spain has no government—but not because of the anarchists

The unprecedented series of events occurring in the U.S. presidential election cycle has sparked international interest (and concern) and a total saturation of the domestic media, so it’s easy to forget that the U.S. isn’t the only western democracy undergoing a tumultuous political transition. To wit, Spain has been without a government since the general election of December 2015. Spain has had two consistently successful parties, PP on the right and PSOE on the left, since its transition to democracy in the 1970s, but the recent election showed results fractured between four major parties and many small ones. At a time when both the Republican and Democratic parties are facing respective identity crises that could potentially lead to their own demises, it’s worth exploring how another dual-party system can suddenly become one of multiple parties.

Throughout the majority of 2015, Spain was in the midst of political campaigns of some form or another for the separate municipal, regional, and general elections. These elections were contextualized by two distinct elements: a persistent economic crisis and a series of political corruption scandals in both of the major parties. The economic crisis began in 2008 when PSOE controlled the Congress of Deputies, a situation that lead to a landslide victory for the PP in 2011. Despite this, the past 4 years of austerity measures from the government of Mariano Rajoy have not lead to much improvement, and as such both PSOE and PP entered the 2015 election cycle perceived as equally responsible for the dire state of the economy.

This crisis, coupled with years of corruption scandals in both parties (most notably in the recent arrest of over 20 PP officials in the region of Valencia), caused voters to call into question the legitimacy of the parties in their capacity to represent the interests of the people and to doubt the efficacy of what amounted to a two party system. With the popularity of PP and PSOE at record lows, new left-wing party Podemos and the nationally expanded center-right party Ciudadanos to pick up significant support in the regional and municipal elections.

This success continued into the general elections in December with the result of no party having secured a majority of seats in the Congress and preventing any of them from governing alone. Although this was the likely outcome of such a fractured electorate, the history of a two-party system has made all four players ill suited to the style of politics that coalition building necessitates, and thus the Prime Minister’s chair sits empty. In March a pact was formed between PSOE and Ciudadanos with PSOE’s Pedro Sanchez as the Prime Ministerial candidate, but even together they failed to secure 50% of the vote. The measure was firmly opposed by the remaining parties and here Spain stands, without a government, four months after the election.

If a coalition isn’t formed soon, the state may have to resort to new elections in June, although this “solution” would only be the beginning of a new set of problems. The exorbitant cost of such a venture would not even guarantee any major change from the initial results, a prospect that would leave the country back where it started in December. For all the moaning across the internet about how corrupt and rigged the American electoral system is, at least we are able to depend on the levers of the constitution to provide us with a President by next January, for better or worse. Like Sanders and Trump, the alternative voices of Podemos and Ciudadanos rose from the mobilization of passionate voters dissatisfied with the status quo.  Unfortunately, an increased plurality in the Spanish system has merely highlighted the deep political divisions in this country and the incapacity of the current political structure to encourage compromise. As a result, democracy has come to a crashing halt.

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Cherry Blossoms and Tomb Sweeping

It’s hard to believe midterms and spring break are already behind us, and there are only 4 more weeks of class ahead. I got so used to my routine at school, made friends I enjoy working with at my internship, and really built something I could call a home in the chaos that is this city. As I was flying back to Beijing after my recent trip to Vietnam, I decided to make the best of the next month and meet new friends outside of my established circles.

Luckily, an opportunity arrived fast when my Chinese marketing professor decided to invite a couple of his foreign students to audit his Chinese marketing class (which is more like an English class for Chinese business students). After overcoming the awkwardness of standing in front of 50 students who greeted us with an unnecessarily long applause, we sat down and answered all the questions they had about America and our lives abroad. It was clear that most of their knowledge about the states came from government propaganda or movies (even though there is a quota on the number of Western films legally allowed in the country), and questions ranged from “do you have huge backyards?” to “do you go clubbing every night and eat pizza for every meal?” At the end of the session, we got to ask them a few questions of our own. Apparently, taking a girl out to Pizza Hut is considered a decent date option (Pizza Hut is actually quite fancy in China), most students would prefer going abroad for grad school, and none of them misses their days of studying for the Chinese college entrance exam (the infamous Gaokao高考). After the session, we all exchanged WeChats (the app that does practically everything in this country), and I immediately received 10 messages from students who just want to hang out and practice their English. This impromptu cultural exchange got me thinking about the preconceptions I had about China before coming here, and how ridiculous some of them seem to me now. Students at my university have been nothing but kind and helpful, and it is amazing how easily you can make friends here.

In other news, spring is finally here, which means we’ve officially survived one of Beijing’s coldest winters. I didn’t even have time to miss spring in DC because just when everyone was posting photos of the cherry blossoms, the cherry and apricot trees began to blossom here too. It might not be the Tidal Basin, but celebrating spring in the Forbidden City is pretty awesome too. The first week of spring is also when Qingming 清明节 festival, or the Tomb Sweeping Day takes place. It is the second largest festival after the Chinese New Year, and one of the most interesting traditions China has managed to preserve. It is a time of both joy and mourning, and you are meant to both enjoy walks in the park and flying kites, as well as commemorate those who have passed away by sweeping their tomb, burning (fake) money and bringing offerings to the cemetery. As modern days change the way people perceive wealth, some also burn paper models of houses and cars to ensure their loved ones won’t miss a thing in the afterlife. It was an interesting time to be in China and experience first-hand a festival I’ve heard so much about.

That’s it for this month’s adventures, but there is more to come from our visit to the Great Wall, my weekend of solo traveling in South Korea, and our final week of class.

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Being an African American in Africa: “What are you?”

Disclaimers

1) The question, “What are you?” is objectifying. If the goal is to find out a person’s heritage, the more proper question to ask is “How do you identify?”

2) Every African American’s experience in Cape Town, South Africa is different. I am not speaking for all African Americans in this blog post.

When I first inquired about studying abroad in Cape Town, I was told that this place is characterized by race relations that are starkly different from what I experience in the United States as an African American. In Cape Town, the main racial categories originating from the apartheid era are Black African, Coloured, White, and Indian. I was also told that people may categorize me as a Coloured South African due to my light skin complexion. Thus I anticipated to experience a somewhat chameleon effect when I came here. However, this was not the case.

When I first arrived, people STARED. This staring was so noticeable that the colleagues in my program asked me if I knew why people were staring. I always answered that I didn’t know why people were staring at me. I only assumed that it was because my Blackness seemed foreign to them (not from South Africa or the Continent), thus they could not guess my origins or it could have been for reasons of attraction. I lean more towards the former than the latter.

At my school, University of the Western Cape, people stared, but some took it a step further and asked me, “What are you?” Sometimes I was hesitant to answer. When I did answer, I said “African American” and then I saw them make the “oh, that makes sense” face. Other times out of curiosity I asked them, “What do you think I am?” Here were the answers I received: South African Coloured, Egyptian, Ethiopian, Zimbabwean, American or “I’m not sure, but not South African.” Some people could tell that I was American due to my accent, but without talking they would not have a clue.

Over time, I became aware of the fact that my facial features were extremely different from a native South African Coloured or Black African. My eyes, lips, nose, and face shape tell a particular history of Africa, Europe, and America. I am proud of this history and don’t mind sharing what I know because I discovered that I was the first African American woman that some South Africans have met. This does not surprise me because most people assume that Americans who come here are white. I tend to either confirm or crush the stereotypes of African Americans. Here are some stereotypes that I have come across: twerking, neck-rolling, fried chicken, watermelon, and Madea(a Tyler Perry movie character that represents the Mammy).

Needless to say, I live an interesting reality, as I am experiencing life as an African American in Africa, more specifically South Africa. At times there is this sense of distance given my American identity, but simultaneously, there is a strong sense of closeness given my Blackness. I have made it back to one part of the Motherland (a common term most African Americans use to refer to Africa given our ancestral history). My ancestors descended from enslaved Africans who originated from the West African region. I am intrigued to see how I am identified in those countries given their specific histories of colonialism and use of racial categories. Side note: after two months in Cape Town, I have made peace with the staring.

 

 

 

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#SomosPueblo

NO voy a firmar, ESO no es ÉTICO, scroll the Spanish subtitles along the bottom of a relatively cheesy ad that plays—and that we the captive audience watch—over and over again in the metro. The ad displays a man who is the CEO of a business in a conference room where he is asked to sign a corrupt contract with another company. The heads of the company tell him that signing this contract will make him rich, and if he doesn’t sign, they will simply conduct the same contract with another business. However, our virtuous CEO decides to make the ethical decision not to sign the contract. The next scene shows him celebrating his decision with his wife and two kids, then cuts to a white screen that says For a Transparent DR.

One thing that I have come to notice while being here, especially with the upcoming presidential elections that will take place in May, is Dominicans’ relative lack of confidence in their government. I have seen many cars zoom by with Yo no voto, todos son ladrones written across their back windows. As one presidential candidate was seen publicly visiting los campos on the national news, my friend’s host mom told her that that was the first time he had ever visited the rural areas of the Dominican Republic. A main cause of this lack of confidence comes from the copious amount of corruption that is associated with government and politics in this country.

Yesterday, thanks to the invitation of one of my Dominican friends, I attended una fiesta por la democracia, a celebration of democracy. The celebration included speakers who passionately argued for Dominicans’ right to government transparency and musicians who sang and busted anti-corruption beats. One of the main points of the event was to call into question the corruption of the incumbent president, Danilo Medina, who is running for reelection and whose campaign may be associated with dirty money linked to Joao Santana and the corruption scandal currently happening in Brazil. Speakers called upon the Dominican people, no matter what political party they support, to come together and demand transparency from their elected officials. They asked their fellow Dominicans to take to social media to spread the word and demand accountability: something that they feel has not been adequately covered in the mainstream media.

The organization that hosted the event, Somos Pueblo, has the ultimate aim of empowering the Dominican people and exposing injustice. While the right to vote could be a powerful tool that would show politicians that Dominicans will not stand for corruption, many Dominicans do not have enough confidence in its efficacy to utilize it. For politicians to be held accountable and for political change to occur, the people will have to demand it. Somos pueblo. We are the people. We have a voice. We have the power to change our society. This is the message that more and more Dominicans are coming to adopt. It will be interesting to see how anti-corruption efforts will affect the Medina administration in the upcoming elections and the wider political scene in the Dominican Republic in the near future.

Peace.Love.SomosPueblo

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Carnaval: Estilo Dominicano

In the Dominican Republic, Carnival is a festival that happens every Sunday in the month of February, culminating on the final Sunday that also serves as a celebration of el Día de la Independencia, 27 de febrero. This year, Independence Day fell on Saturday, so it was a packed weekend!

Carnival happens all over the island in many different cities and towns. Perhaps the biggest and most famous parade happens in the city of La Vega. My program and I chose to stay in Santo Domingo and go to Carnival down Maximo Gómez, one of the biggest streets in the capital.

Down the entire stretch of the road were barricades, bleachers to sit on, and vendors selling everything from temporary tattoos made with spray paint to Presidente, the beloved Dominican-made cerveza. Giant figurines lined the streets, as well as arches that proclaimed “Carnaval Santo Domingo 2016.” As afternoon turned into evening, the streets filled with people and the parade began.

One of the unfortunate repercussions of being female at Carnival is that you need to watch out for golpes. All the male characters dressed up in their vibrant costumes carry light, balloon-like balls on strings that they use to whip women from behind with as they walk by. Fortunately I wasn’t hit too many times, but the few times I felt the sting of one of the golpes I also felt my blood boil at the patriarchal, machista culture that allows these types of degrading occurrences.

The link between the last and biggest day of Carnival and Independence Day in the DR is no coincidence. It is interesting to note that the country that the DR is celebrating independence from on February 27th is actually Haiti, not Spain. Because of this, Independence Day is somewhat controversial. Some argue the holiday perpetuates anti-Haitianism and fails to recognize the real imperialist threats to the country propagated by Spain and the United States. Perhaps as a result, Independence Day becomes linked with and overshadowed by the festivities of Carnival. If you ask a Dominican what the big holiday in February is called, they will most likely say Carnival and not 27 de febrero.

I feel lucky to have been able to witness the parade and a key part of Dominican culture. I also feel lucky to have both peers and teachers here who challenge me to think about the day we are celebrating and the forces at work behind it.

Peace.Love.Carnaval

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