Culture

Every Time I Go Back To The Dominican Republic, I Remember The Person I Am And Want To Be

Anyone traveling to the Dominican Republic this summer has likely been met with the cautionary warning; “Don’t drink anything from the minibar.” Eleven tourist deaths on the island in 2019, ranging from natural causes to counterfeit alcohol consumption, have spurred FBI and State Department investigations. Though news of flight and hotel cancellations abounded, I missed my family and refused to let fear stop me from seeing them. Since I lived to tell the tale, here are a few things I learned about my father, about myself, and about the precarious paradise that keeps calling me back.

Billy Joel and Nas have interpreted the “New York state of mind,” and if you have ever visited the Dominican Republic beyond the purpose of tourism, you’ll know that there exists a Dominican state of mind too.

Credit: Dan Gold / Unsplash

Whenever I exit Las Americas or Puerto Plata airports, humidity slaps me in the face, and my Dominican mindset is immediately activated. On this island, electricity does not run 24/7. When the electricity goes, or as we say “se fue la luz,” water doesn’t run from the tap either. All that is left to do is swap your sneakers for flip-flops, and exorcise your need for immediate gratification. It takes practice, and I re-learn this lesson with each visit.

The Dominican Republic is changing fast. 

Credit: zonacolonialrd / Instagram

There is new construction everywhere you look. I sit on the balcony chatting with my father and stare across the street trying to remember how it looked before the apartment building was constructed in that space. I can see from an open doorway on the ground level that wooden boxes are being stacked, and hauled out in front of a business. I tune out my father’s voice as I focus on the shape and size of the boxes. My Spanish needs work, and I ask my father, “Papi, what does ataúd mean?” The business slogan translates to “Quality Coffins.” I think about magic realism traditions in Latin American literature, and I am reminded that so often a country like this juxtaposes disparate images and experiences in such a casual manner. I don’t think I would be able to live across the street from a constant reminder of death anywhere else but on this incongruous island.

We drive to the countryside of El Seibo for a few days.

Credit: fedoacurd/ Instagram

My father syncs his playlist and he directs my sister what song to play next. The first song is by Boy George. I watch my father sing along, and I can’t help but think about the Dominican Republic’s homophobic culture steeped in hyper-masculinity. Same-sex marriage is not recognized on the island, and members of the LGBTQ community continue to face discrimination and violence. I talk to my sister about this later that night, and she tells me small changes are coming to the island. The city of Santo Domingo hosts inclusive events like Draguéalo, where you can even sign up for a Vogue class.

Credit: Draguelao / Facebook

My father’s playlist continues and I’m struck by his selections ranging from Taylor Swift to A.I.E. (A Mwana), a song by a 1970s group called Black Blood, featuring lyrics in Swahili.

I watched this Dominican dad jam across continents, decades, cultures, languages, and race. I realize there is so much I don’t know about him, and so often we shortchange our parents’ knowledge and experience, reducing them to stereotypes and gendered tropes.

My next lesson is on staying sexy.

                                                           Unsplash/Photo by Ardian Lumi 

After a few days in the countryside, my sister and I rent a hotel room in La Zona Colonial. We ready for a night out when she looks at my outfit and asks me, “Um, is that what you’re wearing tonight?” I thought my yellow jumpsuit was poppin’. My sister pulls out a little black dress from her overnight bag and kindly suggests I wear it. The dress is tiny. It’s skimpy. It’s super short. It’s absolutely perfect. I channel my inner Chapiadora, Goddess of Sex Appeal and Free Drinks, and dance all night. 

Growing up in the 90s, I styled myself in oversized men’s clothing. It wasn’t until that one magical summer in the Dominican Republic when the heat was too oppressive to wear jeans, so I wore—gasp—a skirt. That was the first time I felt sexy, and learned the power of sex appeal. Though I wielded that power throughout my twenties, it fell away in my thirties. Wearing my sister’s LBD I realize I still have “it,” and in the Dominican Republic, sex appeal is ageless. Be careful when you come here. You may fall in love with a local, or you may just fall in love with yourself again.

The island leaves me with one last lesson.

It comes late one night, sharing a few bottles of wine with my father and sister. No hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver—the worst blind person is the one who refuses to see. I could say the current political landscape in the U.S. reflects this willful ignorance, a refusal to see; yet it is the same human experience felt across space and time.

I come away wondering about my own blind spots.

                                                            Instagram/@rensamayoa

I board my return flight thinking up ways to combat willful ignorance at home, thinking about maintaining that flexible DR state of mind and thinking about buying a little black dress. As tourism in the Dominican Republic picks up again, and unfavorable headlines drop out of the news cycle, this changing island stands in its own plurality welcoming visitors, and offering endless opportunities to teach us something new.

READ:

After A Long Recovery, David Ortiz Is Back In The DR For The First Time And His Fans Went Crazy

Entertainment

After A Long Recovery, David Ortiz Is Back In The DR For The First Time And His Fans Went Crazy

Tatiana Fernandez

On June 9 2019, a terrible event shook the baseball world to its core. Retired Red Sox slugger David Ortiz was shot at a bar and almost lost his life. But Big Papi is indeed bigger than life and he pulled through, surviving and becoming even more of a symbol of inspiration for people in his adoptive Boston, the city which he now calls home and which absolutely adores him.

What made the Big Papi shooting even more shocking is the fact that he has always produced a public image that combines brute force with intelligence and a good nature that makes it hard to believe that he would have any enemies (and well, as it turned out he didn’t and it was all an unfortunate mistake). And the city of Boston got behind him with good wishes, cards and love. Ortiz was, for example, one of the unifying personalities in the city following the Boston Marathon bombings. Kids and adults, everyone loves him. 

The emotional and physical scars of the shooting that almost ended Ortiz’s life are still healing, so it came as a surprise that he decided to visit Dominican Republic.

The news devastated Boston Red Sox fan and Dominicans all around the world: Big Papi Ortiz was shot and struggling to stay alive. By now we know that he survived the incident, but he is clearly still shaken by having faced death.

In the first interview since the incident he broke down in tears, telling Univision: “For the first five seconds, I thought I was having a nightmare … I was feeling something that I had never felt before in my life, and that was to try to stay alive”. It has been almost six months since those bullets punctured his impressive physique. Because he has no enemies and an attempt on his life is a ludicrous idea, he was surprised more than afraid.

As he said during the same interview: “‘I wasn’t hurting (at first). I felt like a little burn, but I don’t even look at that. I know that I was hurting because of the impact and the sound. I started hurting later, probably when I was about to walk into the surgery”. 

It has been determined that the incident was a case of mistaken identity!

As bad luck would have it, those bullets were not intended for Ortiz. The authorities have made it official: the attack at the Santo Domingo bar was a nearly fatal case of mistaken identity. Since then a Dominican drug trafficker has been caught and charged.

The real target was Sixto David Fernández, with whom Ortiz was sharing a table and who is cousins with the alleged perpetrator,  Víctor Hugo Gómez, allegedly an associate of Mexico’s Gulf Cartel. So yes, Big Papi got caught in the middle of an international trafficking turf war, and he lost his gallbladder and a big chunk of his intestine, as well as a sense of personal safety, for it. 

Now Ortiz made his first public appearance in the Dominican Republic since he was shot and he received a hero’s welcome.

Credit: Tatiana Fernandez

After he was shot he was taken care of in his adoptive city of Boston, where the slugger has charmed baseball fans and is adored by almost everyone due to his generous spirit and charity worked. Big Papi appeared in front of a cheering crowd when he made a surprise appearance at the Quisqueya Stadium Juan Marichal for the Game of Legends, in which current and past MLB stars from the baseball-crazed country get together for a charity event. 

His words to the cheering crowd: ““Praise God and long live the Dominican Republic.”

Credit: Tatiana Fernandez

There were other stars in the building, of course, including Hall of Famers Pedro Martínez and Juan Marichal, Mets player Robinson Canó and Nationals pelotero Juan Soto. But it was clear that the real rockstar was Big Papi, who was ecstatic about spending time with his people. Dominican fans thought Ortiz would never return to the island que lo vio nacer but that was also the site of the incident that almost took his life.

But Ortiz looked cheerful and was his old generous self, wearing a colorful short-sleeved shirt in the best Caribbean way. But of course he did not participate in the events themselves, as he is still convalescent after multiple surgeries in the Dominican Republic and Boston. As Mail Online reports: “However, he did not participate in any of the events held as part of the Dominican Winter League’s mid-season break”. But his presence is inspiring enough to lift anyone’s spirits and leave the fans happy. 

Make Your Dad Feel Special This Christmas With A Latino-Inspired Gift That Will Speak To His Soul

Culture

Make Your Dad Feel Special This Christmas With A Latino-Inspired Gift That Will Speak To His Soul

mitú

Oh, man. Dads are great, right? They tell all sorts of terrible jokes and they just want the best for you. That’s why when the holidays roll around, you want to make sure they feel loved with super-thoughtful gifts. But it won’t be too hard for you this year, because you’ve landed here! And there happen to be tons of amazing gift ideas for dads literally right below this introduction. So there; have a read. 

‘El Jefe’ hat

This hat says everything your dad wants people to know. Not only is he a boss, but he is also the boss. No one can handle a carne asada like he can and it’s time he gets to brag about it everywhere.

BBQ bundle

I don’t know about your dad, but mine was always in charge of the carne asada. In his mind, no one else can cook a piece of steak as well as he can. So the best grill master in the world deserves the best gift ever, right? Well, look no further! The BBQ Bundle comes with this El Jefe Apron and a bottle of El Machete Hot Sauce so he can be ready to cook up some carne asada in style.

‘Annoyed in Spanish’ Dad hat

Having a bilingual dad means he can get annoyed in both English and Spanish (lucky you). We feel his pain, so we made this [Annoyed In Spanish] Dad Hat to wear on the days when he simply can’t with people. Stay strong, dad, we love you.

‘Puro Pinche Pari’ Tote

This isn’t just a tote bag, it’s a statement piece. If your dad is a bit of a social butterfly and always has a carne asada to attend to, get him ready for any party with the ‘Puro Pinche Pari’ Tote, and ¡salud! Not to mention, you should make him become a little more green with his own reusable bag.

‘Mi Gente Colombia’ tee

Your dad’s heart belongs to his family, his mother, and his homeland. Help him rep his pride for his country with this ‘Mi Gente Colombia’ Tee, and show the world you’ll never forget where you came from. Don’t worry. If you check out the mitú shop, you can check out all of the different countries that would be perfect for your dad.

‘Papi Chulo’ Hat

Your papi chulo is your ride or die who deserves only the best in this world. Show him how much he really means to you with this Papi Chulo Hat.

‘Pupusas & Curtido’ T-shirt

Pupusas & Curtido built your dad’s Salvadoran body and he must tell it to the world, wearing this amazing shirt. Truly one piece of clothing your father will love. Check out the mitú shop if your dad’s body was built on different foods.

‘Sweat now, tacos later’ water bottle

For the fit dad type, or if he’s just thinking of starting the year with a renewed sense of health and wellness, help him out with this little bottle. The more he works out now, the more tacos he’ll be able to eat later, right? Don’t lose sight of your fitness and goals with the ‘Sweat Now Tacos Later Water’ Bottle, papi.

‘Arepa money’ belt bag

Need something to hold all that hard-earned arepa money of his? Well, look no further. This Arepa Money Fanny Pack is perfect for holding cash, arepas, and whatever else your dad might need!

‘Avo Camo’ Sweatshirt

What’s more dad-like than a camo print? We’ll tell you what would make it better, hidden guacardos in the print, for the avocado obsessed dads out there. Each unique, all-over printed sweatshirt is precision-cut and hand-sewn to achieve the best possible look and bring out the intricate design. What’s more, the durable fabric with a cotton-feel face and soft brushed fleece inside means that this sweatshirt is bound to become his favorite for a long time.

‘Pregúntale a tu Mamá’ t-shirt

Your dad might be the man of the house, but everyone knows your mom is the one who makes all the rules. That’s why we made this Pregúntale A Tu Mamá Tee, which is basically your childhood in wearable form.

‘Back To The Taqueria’ Tee

Where we’re going, we don’t need fork because we’re going back to the taqueria! But we recommend you grab this apron before we sell out.

‘Modelo’ Men’s socks

Wear and drink what you like, it’s that simple. If your dad is a beer enthusiast who enjoys his modelo bien fría, gift him something he’ll like wearing too, like a matching set of socks.

READ: These 13 Latina-Inspired Gifts Will Make Your Mom Feel So Seen This Holiday Season