Things That Matter

Something Is Going On In The Dominican Republic As The 11th American Dies And Countless Others Return Sick

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There have been varying reports of illnesses and deaths that have come out of the Dominican Republic that has many wondering what’s going on. At least seven Americans have died this year already in the Dominican Republic, with questions being raised about how is this happening. But despite the news, the island nation says that there is nothing for tourists to be concerned about.

Here is the list of American tourists that have died in the Dominican Republic in the last year.

Donette Edge Cannon. Died in May 2018 if kidney failure after staying in Punta Cana.
Yvette Monique Sport, 51. Died June 23, 2018 at the Bahia Principe in Punta Cana. 
David Harrison, 45. Died July 14, 2018, at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana. 
Robert Wallace, 67. Died April 12, 2019, at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana.
John Corcoran, 60. Died at the end of April inside his hotel room in the Dominican Republic.
Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41. Died May 25, 2019, at the Bahia Principe Bouganville. 
Edward Holmes, 63. Died May 30, 2019, at the Bahia Principe La Romana.
Cynthia Day, 49. Died May 30, 2019, at the Bahia Principe La Romana. 
Leyla Cox, 53. Died June 10, 2019, at the Excellence Resorts in Punta Cana.
Joseph Allen, 55. Died June 13, 2019, at the Terra Linda Resort in Sosua.
Vittorio Caruso, 56. Died June 17, 2019, at the Boca Chico Resort in Santo Domingo.

Officials in the Dominican Republic aren’t buying that there is a problem going in there.

All 11 Americans who have died over the last 12 months in the Dominican Republic were staying at luxury hotels and all died under somewhat similar circumstances. The FBI is assisting Dominican police with investigations and the State Department has stated there has been no evidence of foul play or sign that the deaths are connected.

Ministry of Public Health spokesman Carlos Suero told Fox News this week the deaths shouldn’t bring alarm or fear to potential visitors. She says the people that passed died of natural causes.

“It’s all a hysteria against the Dominican Republic, to hurt our tourism, this is a very competitive industry and we get millions of tourists, we are a popular destination,” Suero told Fox News. “People are taking aim at us.”

Two of the sudden deaths happened at the Hard Rock Cafe in Punta Cana. Liquor from the minibars is suspected in the deaths and the resort is responding by removing the dispensers in the guest rooms. According to CNN, General Manager Erica Lopez said the decision was made to “provide more tranquility” for the guests and tourists.

Despite these reports, many agree that the Dominican Republic is still a safe place to travel.

The U.S. State Department currently rates the D.R. as a level 2 (“exercise increased caution”) out of 4 on its Travel Advisory alert system. Visitors in countries rated as 1 should “exercise normal precautions” while Americans aren’t encouraged to travel to countries rated as 4.

“Millions of Americans travel to the Dominican Republic every year,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement. “Speaking generally, we have not seen an uptick in the number of US citizen deaths reported to the Department.”

People on social media aren’t letting these reports stop them from visiting the Dominican Republic.

Many aren’t buying the news that they should be “fearful” when traveling to the Dominican Republic. Some say the recent string of deaths and illnesses are a huge coincidence that’s being blown out of proportion.

According to CNN, there were an estimated 6.5 million tourists that traveled to the Dominican Republic in 2018. Out of that number, 2.2 million of those were American. Tourism makes up about 17 percent of the Dominican Republic’s economy which might be the reasoning behind why officials have dismissed the idea of an epidemic or growing danger there.

“People die all over the world,” Suero told Fox News. “Unfortunately, very unfortunately for us, these tourists have died here. We had about 14 deaths last year here of U.S. tourists, and no one said a word. Now everyone is making a big deal of these.”

READ: Eighth American Dies In The Dominican Republic And Families Are Pressuring The US Government To Demand Answers

Ancient Mesoamerican Culture Comes Alive At These Top 10 Pyramids Across Mexico

Culture

Ancient Mesoamerican Culture Comes Alive At These Top 10 Pyramids Across Mexico

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Mexico’s pre-Columbian civilizations—the Olmecs, Mixtecs, Toltecs, Zapotecs, Aztecs (or Mexica), Maya, and others—can be hard to keep straight, but they all shared a few common traits. Most of their archaeological sites include ball courts, they considered corn an essential crop, and they all built pyramids. 

Sadly, the pyramids in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan are long gone, but dozens of others throughout Mexico still stand. The following 10 sites, which were constructed over roughly two millennia (from around 900 B.C.E. to about 1000 C.E.), are among the most spectacular and culturally important in the country. Many are even located near Mexico’s major destinations, making it easy for visitors to spend a day exploring the country’s ancient past.

La Iglesia and El Castillo, Coba

The ancient Maya city of Coba, which peaked between 800 and 1100 C.E., is home to two impressive pyramids—the Iglesia and the Castillo (the second largest pyramid on the Yucatán peninsula). Half-ruined and covered in plants, both structures look as if they’ve recently been unearthed, creating a mysterious, almost magical atmosphere.

Getting There: Coba is just over two hours by car from Cancún and 45 minutes from Tulum. If you’d rather not drive, many tour operators offer excursions.

Castillo de Kukulcán, Chichén Itzá

The Castillo de Kukulcán, with its nine stepped platforms, is the centerpiece of Chichén Itzá, a Maya city that flourished from around 700 to 900 C.E. The pyramid functioned as an enormous calendar and was designed so that, on the equinoxes, the play of sunlight and shadow would create the illusion of a snake descending to earth. While visitors are no longer allowed to climb the steps or access the Temple of Kukulcán at the top of the pyramid, they can tour other ball courts, temples, and palaces throughout Chichén Itzá. 

Getting There: Given that it’s halfway between Cancún and Mérida, this UNESCO World Heritage site is often crowded with tourists and vendors. The plus is that you can experience Chichén Itzá as it was during its peak—a bustling city.

Pyramid of the Magician, Uxmal

The Maya were never centralized in one capital, as were the Aztecs and the Toltecs. Instead, the civilization resembled ancient Greece, with competing, independent city-states that shared a language and religious beliefs even as they developed different styles of architecture and their own distinct characters. The contrast between Chichén Itzá and Uxmal is impossible to miss. The structures at Uxmal, including the Pyramid of the Magician, were built in the Puuc style, with highly stylized motifs and a decorative richness not typical of other Maya cities. 

Getting There: A drive of about 70 minutes, on two well-maintained highways, will take you from modern Mérida to ancient Uxmal.

Pyramid of the Inscriptions, Palenque

The buildings at Palenque, in the state of Chiapas, are impressive less for their size than for the elegance of their design. The 89-foot-high Pyramid of the Inscriptions is topped by a temple with piers covered in Maya hieroglyphs—hence the “inscriptions” in its name. Archaeologists estimate that only 10 percent of Palenque has been excavated and other wonders are surely waiting to be unearthed. 

Getting There: With the opening of the Palenque airport in 2014, it’s become easy to visit this once remote site. Interjet offers twice-weekly flights (on Wednesdays and Saturdays) from Mexico City.

Great Pyramid of La Venta

Located in the state of Tabasco, La Venta is home to Mexico’s oldest known pyramid, built around 900 B.C.E. The structure isn’t particularly tall at 100 feet and, since it was built of clay instead of stone, its original rectangular shape has been softened by the ages, making it appear more like a rounded hill. Still, it’s fascinating to behold, as is the sophisticated urban planning of La Venta, which served as a forerunner to Teotihuacan, Tula, and other ancient capitals. 

Getting There: You have to work to visit La Venta. The site is located in a wet, humid corner of Mexico about 90 minutes by car from Villahermosa, which is already off the beaten path. Bring insect repellent.

Monte Albán Pyramids

Situated along the Pacific, the state of Oaxaca was, and still is, the center of the Zapotec people. Monte Albán served as the capital for more than a millennium, from around 500 B.C.E. to 800 C.E., and traded frequently with Teotihuacan—another Mesoamerican city with a similarly large ceremonial center. Today, visitors can explore the site’s “truncated” pyramids, which look like raised platforms topped by temples, as well as several famous tombs and stone carvings. 

Getting There: Sitting five miles from the city center of Oaxaca, Monte Albán is easy to reach by bus or taxi.

Pyramid of the Niches, El Tajin

In the state of Veracruz, El Tajin is one of the most important sites from the so-called epiclassic (or late classic) period, dating from around 900 C.E. The city’s residents were avid ballplayers—more than 60 ball courts have been excavated here. You’ll also see one of Mexico’s most unusual buildings, the Pyramid of the Niches. The relatively short pyramid, 59 feet high, consists of six platforms, each lined with carved niches that were most likely used to track the days of the year.

Getting There: El Tajin is pretty remote, but if your travels take you to Veracruz, it’s a four-hour drive to the site.

Great Pyramid of Cholula

The largest pyramid in the world (in terms of volume) is not in Egypt, but outside the city of Puebla. Upon first glance, however, the Great Pyramid of Cholula looks like something else entirely, covered in vegetation and topped with a 16th-century church constructed by the Spanish. Visitors can access some of the restored sections of the pyramid, then explore the nearly five miles of tunnels excavated by archeologists throughout the surrounding ancient city. 

Getting There: Cholula is four miles outside of Puebla, which is famous for its colonial buildings, cuisine, and the recently opened International Museum of the Baroque.

Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan

Teotihuacan, which flourished from roughly 100 B.C.E. to 550 C.E., was one of the most influential cities in Mesoamerica, with a population of nearly 200,000 at its peak. Dominated by the enormous Pyramid of the Sun, the Pyramid of the Moon, and a citadel, which sit along the 2.5-mile-long Avenue of the Dead, the site awed even the Aztecs, who wondered what vanished civilization could have created such a monumental city. 

Getting There: Located an hour north of Mexico City, Teotihuacan is a popular day trip (visit midweek for smaller crowds). Many tours stop en route at the Basilica of Guadalupe for a glimpse into another aspect of Mexican culture.

Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl, Tula

The Toltecs stepped into the vacuum created by the fall of Teotihuacan, establishing their capital at Tula (or Tollan), which reached its peak between 950 and 1150 C.E. The most impressive structure here is the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl, fronted by a colonnade and topped by imposing, 13-foot-tall statues of Toltec warriors, but you’ll also want to explore the vast ceremonial plaza, the palace, and the ball courts. 

Getting There: Tula is another easy day trip from either Mexico City (roughly 90 minutes by car) or the colonial city of Querétaro (just under 2 hours).

Argentinian Teen Electrocuted To Death While Walking Barefoot in the Dominican Republic

Things That Matter

Argentinian Teen Electrocuted To Death While Walking Barefoot in the Dominican Republic

Melina Caputo, 17, was on vacation in the Dominican Republic with her family when one misstep ended her life. Caputo was walking back from the beaches of Punta Cana to her hotel room when she came in contact with a live wire and was electrocuted. By the time paramedics arrived, they were unable to revive her, and she was pronounced dead on the scene. Her brothers and cousins reportedly witnessed her death.

Caputo’s grandparents hosted Melina and her brothers on the Dominican Republic trip.

Credit: leandrocaputo_ / Instagram

It was the last day of their trip, and the group was heading back to the hotel, Be Live, presumably to pack up and head back home to Argentina. Melina was walking back from the beach barefoot, and once she stepped up onto some metal stairs, she reportedly “came into contact” with a live wire. Preliminary investigations assert that the teenager died from cardio-respiratory failure, but the family is waiting for results from the autopsy.

The Director of Communications for the hotel chain insists there were no live wires on the hotel’s property.

Credit: melllchu / Instagram

The family was staying at Punta Cana resort Be Live of Bayahibe. Its parent company, Globalia, has issued a statement asserting that there is no live wiring on their property. There are no reports as of yet as to who is responsible for the live wiring found on the metal bridge linking the beach to the hotel property.

Melina’s father has since traveled to the resort to make arrangements for her body.

Credit: MeLina Caputo / Facebook

He’s also there to offer support to his family. Since her, her friends have posted emotional tributes honoring the young girl’s life. Nicolas Baistrocchi, who was Facebook married to Melina, shared, “We both thought that if we were going to separate, it would be when we are old, but I never imagined that I was going to lose you so soon.”

Her brother, Leandro, has taken to social media to honor her memory.

Credit: leandrocaputo_ / Instagram

“I saw you being born, I saw you growing up, I saw you fighting, I saw you crying, I saw you smiling, I saw you dreaming,” he wrote in an emotional post. “I know you were a good-intentioned person, as you were always fighting for the defenseless, I apologize my love for not being able to do more to have you by my side.” Leandro witnessed his sister’s death.

Just last week, Leandro shared a new tattoo: her name inscribed on his chest, por siempre.

Credit: leandrocaputo_ / Instagram

In pure poetry, Leandro captions the post, “We had those same pleasures, those of scratching ourselves like a school bench, those “gustos” of piercing our ears, nose, weird clothes, extravagant hairstyles. The sad tunes that only our souls could feel hugged by, and now it’s my turn to follow without you, how? I still don’t know, but with the hope that you give me, las fuerza hermanita, I love you madly, my guardian angel and wait for me, please. We still have a thousand songs to dance to.”

The last thing Melina posted on her social media before she died was, “me voy despidiendo,” which means “I’m saying goodbye.”

Credit: leandrocaputo_ / Instagram

Melina also had a separate Instagram account for her band. The photos she posted of herself wearing goofy, white plastic glasses with her friends and side-view car mirrored selfies are all framed with beautiful images of roses and palm fronds. 

After 13 Americans have died in the Dominican Republic so far this year, Melina’s death is only the latest.

Credit: MeLina Caputo / Facebook

It’s hard for any family to make sense of the reported deaths in the Dominican Republic thus far. While the DR’s minister of tourism, Francisco Javier Garcia, balked at the notion that the DR is any less safe than its ever been, the United States’ own FBI launched its own investigation. Since then, tourism has dropped by 74 percent on the island, and Javier Garcia is finally acting.

New measures have been put in place that could help save lives, and assure tourists that they are safe.

Credit: MeLina Caputo / Facebook

The Dominican Republic has newly officiated a Department of Tourism Services and Companies. The department will oversee the enforcement of new policies that include ensuring medical professionals on staff at hotels are sufficiently qualified, that lifeguards are fully certified, along with reinforcing an existing law that requires hotel staff to notify guests of what to do in the case of an emergency. After a string of deaths related to consuming mini bar liquors, resorts are now required to release their standard operating procedures for handling food items and a list of all their beverage suppliers.

READ: Dominicans Are Taking To Social Media To Make Sure That People Stop Trying To Cancel The Dominican Republic