Second Class Dominicans

Divide et impera, is in definite the phrase that gave genesis to the usefulness of the “scapegoat” concept, because if to effectively rule you need to divide, what a better way to achieve so, than to blame a person or a faction of all the evil, or bad circumstances that affect us at the present. To expiate our sins with the help of an unwanted cohabitant. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, the infamous Dominican dictator, knew this while exercising power. That’s why he always was on the lookout to reinforce loyalty from his ministers and military officials, in order to maintain a three decades reign. And he also knew that dividing the opposition —the enemy— from within was important. And so, he did inherit us a few sequels from his regime to our present, that separate our population into conflicting demographics: the Dominicans and the quasi-Dominicans.

Residents from Haitian Descent compose the largest minority in the Dominican Republic, yet instead of gaining access to representation or power, the government structures of the country have managed to always keep ‘em in their place, maintaining them in a position where is even hard to breath. For as long as I can remember, the demonym of the sibling nation, has been used as a pejorative noun. I recall being a ten-year-old lacking all sorts of ground and perspectives imitating a trouble maker seventeen-year-old cousin, that employed his free time in bullying the Haitians at nearby construction sites, where he would throw rocks at these exploited-low waged men, and shout “¡Maldito Haitiano!” as if adjudicating somebody with that nationality was the ultimate and vilest insult. And you know how children learn by osmosis; although I was taught kindness in my family, and I would not perpetuate that behavior thereafter, I absorbed all of its negativity and was implanted intrinsically inside me.

On the ’37, the Generalisimo gave the order to the Dominican Army to swept the borders of the Spanish side of the island; to eliminate the Haitians living in our side of the land, in order to white wash the country and keep it as European as possible. It was imperative to outcast the African savagery our neighbors showcased. Soldiers would go and perform round ups throughout the settlements in the borders of the island, and to differentiate the sometimes, indistinguishable afro-Haitian from the afro-Dominicans, they would grab a parsley sprig and ask the individuals while pointing a gun at them, to pronounce the plant word in Spanish “Perejil”. Whether you were going to be dead or alive for the next seconds depended on the enunciation of that word with the emphasis in the r and guttural j, accordingly with Spanish phonetics. And as so, were the settlements of innocents civilian workers extinguished and thousands killed with bullets, club and machetes by the Dominican Armed Forces.

Have you noticed how the United States citizenship is given to children born in inside the territory regardless of their parent’s documentation status; and if a child is born overseas to American parents, or even just one, the citizenship is bestowed into them irrevocably; in the case of the Dominican citizenship —according to the government and their definition of nationality in regards Haitian blood in someone’s veins— it operates different. As a matter of fact, the Dominican Constitutional Court says that anyone born to undocumented (Haitians) parents is not a citizen, and that’s why the beginning of the regularization process/ exodus occurring in the DR in the recent years.

For an individual like me with dual citizenship, the Dominican and the American, and with three national identities (Dominican, Puerto Rican and American), this type of institutionalized oppression, has a way to get in between my ribs. The fact that I can reside in the State of Massachusetts and exercise the civism of voting, not only in the country of my current residence, but in my homeland thousands of miles away, it’s quite unfair. Compared to the lack of rights that born Dominicans have to confront for having Haitian parents, whom only speak Spanish and may not know no other reality than to leave at the east of the Hispaniola island, but that may carry a French-Creole name for their inconvenience.

The Jus sanguinis citizenship, is the one that Haiti abides by, which grants the nationality to children, not by were they born, but by the parents ethnic origin. The one that the Dominican Republic applies is the Jus soli, which determines a children citizenship by the territory in which they were given birth at. So to Dominican nationalists convenience, they would argue that there’s no such thing as a naturalized Haitian, due to their constitution stating that their citizenship is determined by their ascendance; so despite they being born at the moon, mars, or DR, they are going to keep being Haitian, quite handy an argument.

—Junot Díaz

Many shrug while human beings with the rights that a nationality entitles are being abused. To my understanding it is rather honorable to follow the footsteps of Junot Diaz, who thanks to be advocating in the United States congress against the policies being enforced against the Haitians and the Dominicans from Haitian decent, had the Order of Merit award revoked. Diaz whom is now hated by the Dominican nationalist and right wings/elitists, had even being called anti-patriotic for asking the US government to put sanctions on the DR for its outrageous actions, which do not comply with the human rights declaration. Is ironic how just after being praised for exposing the Dominican culture abroad in a positive manner and being a dignified citizen worthy of honors for its works and accomplishments, Junot the Pulitzer winner, earned himself the hate of a significant group that sees being patriotic enacted at the expense helpless families as not mutually exclusives.

Haitians sustain the base of the DR economy, to the point that I can affirm without being afraid of being erroneous, that there is not a single piece of infrastructure in the country that has been built without a Haitian hand involved.  Yet we seem to still be wanting to find excuses for the praxis of iniquity, but like the character Urania, from Mario Vargas Llosas’ Feast of the Goat would say “After reading, listening, investigating, thinking, you’ve come to understand how so many millions of people, crushed by propaganda and lack of information, brutalized by indoctrination and isolation, deprived of free will and even curiosity by the fear and the habit of servility and obsequiousness, could worship Trujillo” —could perpetrate its rhetoric and agendas in the name of “La Patria” up until today. According to Albert Camus memory is the enemy of totalitarism, so let us not forget.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Dissecting The City Of Lawrence

“So much depends on reputation—Guard it with your life”

—Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power: Fifth law.

THE BAD

In my two years of living in Lawrence, MA I’ve noticed one collective behavior: an unpleasant consistency  in people’s remarks towards the alleged perdition that seems to proliferate in the municipality. As if it was not enough to hear residents and ex-residents constantly talking about fumigating, bombarding its inhabitants and start the settlement from zero, or the recommendations to just leave immediately, The City of Immigrants,  as far away as possible. “One should prevent one’s family to inhabit such place”—some would say; to the point to see people who have fled, employ connotations of a deep relief when referring to it, as an achievement milestone in their lives. And after you hear some of the youth’s expressing their need to leave their hometown as a compulsive palpitation in their being, and so you begin to wonder about your surroundings. The 78% hispanics-population-town is not precisely an Utopia, but Lord, the image that materializes even in social media comments when news from the locality roar, its out of control.

And so you see yourself forced to do a little bit of research to understand the recent background of your new home, and you come across an article published by Boston Magazine on 2012 titled Lawrence, MA: City of the Damned with a headline like so: “Crime is soaring, schools are failing, government has lost control, and Lawrence, the most godforsaken place in Massachusetts, has never been in worse shape. And here’s the really bad news: it’s up to controversial Mayor William Lantigua to turn it all around”. I knew things were bad but after receiving the validation of this print, I began to worry. I find out that we are the poorest city in the state, and as much as I would like to dignify poverty, we all know all of its implications.

This is a place which serves as cushion for immigrants coming from underdeveloped countries such as Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Guatemala whom do not posses, in their majority, high levels of scholarship nor proficiency in english, and many can be unfortunately illiterate and semi-illiterate in their native language. Reality that is going to determined the exclusive entry to manufacture jobs in the “light” industrial field.

THE UGLY

According to urbandictionary.com —and we all know how accurate the informal and folkloric site can be— states that the city’s population main income consist of welfare and drugs, which is not even funny at this point. For one of the things that we as immigrants like to be recognized for, is being hardworking, not for the opposite due to lack of opportunities. This machiavellian dictionary which states things as they are and not as they should be, gave me a miserable representation of the place I inhabit. And one keeps reading the newspapers like the Eagle Tribune, whose editor clearly has an special “love” (difficult to distinguish from contempt) towards our city , and find content like: the mayor William Lantigua is under federal and state investigation for campaign-finance improprieties and other questionable behavior, whom is by the way campaigning for a re-election on 2017 against the incumbent Dan Rivera; that Lawrence’s public school system is in receivership due to local mismanagement, and that our high schools have had a dropout rate of up to 50%; that one of the former superintendents, Wilfredo Laboy, is under criminal indictment for fraud and embezzlement. That we are one of the largest drug suppliers for the state of Massachusetts, and even the Governor of New Hampshire bestowed on us, being the providers of at least 85% of the narcotics consumed by the neighbor state. Ok, that’s cool and all, but as we all know from “Basic Underground Economics 101”, that for every market expansion, there needs to be a demand of a product and service offered. Hence, in this correlation we need consumers; so Mr. Governor, you should probably take a look at the successful Portugal drugs’ policies and their positive impact in the iberian population, before using my city as an scapegoat for your local problematics, prior starting to implement your modus operandi as far as with your jurisdiction-

Continuing, we’ve had a City engineer who had been accused of indecent exposure, and was forced to resign of his public seat of 80,000 per year. A City Counsilor whom faced assault charges after allegedly attacking a woman who was having drinks with an ex partner. Crimes were decapitation and dismembering of a teenager body parts was involved in the equation. And yes, is true that every so many houses there is a drug hotspot that often operates unapologetically to simple sight,  in which transactions can be easily identified, but this is no all of what we are.

THE GOOD

For instance, We Are Lawrence, is an organization that came as a direct initiative to restore the image of the city that so much has been undermined mediatically, trying to slap back the sequences of bad press that for so long have dragged the name of the city against the ground. This nonprofit organizes activities like cleaning of the streets during the earth day. Lawrence Community Works is another non-profit that preoccupies to prepare individuals for job interviews, and even provides internship opportunities, so people can obtain experience in diverse fields. Or individuals like the State Representative of my district, Juana Matias, who is doing an effective labor writing policies and serving the constituents she represents. These are a few of the many occurrences that are worth sharing.

Every time I overhear somebody speaking ill about my city I just ask myself —But what are you doing for your community? I decided to listen to the Lawrence Public Library Director, Jessica Valentin, when she mentioned  I needed to create a bilingual bookclub; something that would make some good to my people. That day, I was diagnosed with a chronic condition called “pernicious reading proselytism” and so The Agora’s Laurel was created as a result. Given that I belonged to a marginalized minority (Dominican) that lived for half his life into another’s marginalized minority territory (Puerto Rico), prior to moving to the states, I was able to see situations from very odd perspectives thanks to my life experiences. And so I understood that reading is the only cure for the vilest transgression to oneself and one of the most presumptuous blisses there are: ignorance.

I read in a regular basis because I want to become an effective creative writer, but that is not is not enough for me. I needed that passion of reading to be contagious, yet I don’t need to make people fall in love with reading from first instances; I am going to be militantly persuasive to drag my friends, family, acquaintances and bystanders towards the habit, and then the readers to be, can eventually fall in love later on. It would be rather interesting to write a blog post in the form of a poem as an analogy to Dante’s Divine Comedy, condemning every public figure in Lawrence and allocating them in one of the nine infernal circles according to their sins respectively, proportionate to their “miscalculations” of course, but pointing fingers will not fix anything.

We are running on a deeply disenfranchised panorama, but there is definitively many good things happening in this city. If you live here or know about this interesting place, I would like to know about the good things occurring that you’ve heard about . The real problem with poverty, says the Economist Henry Hazlitt, is not a problem of “distribution” but of production; and I truly believe that reading is the ignition to address that problematic. I think it would be ideal for the poorest city of the state, to pursue reading as a goal towards growing as a collective, for it provides interesting tools and leads to interesting places.