Things That Matter

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

sashamerci / flavioalberth / Instagram

The Dominican Republic has been dealing with some really horrible press lately. Hundreds of people are falling ill while visiting the island and 11 tourists from the U.S. have died since last May. A bulk of the deaths occurred in the last couple of months and people are getting concerned. However, some people are trying to make sure the entire country isn’t thrown away because of this news.

The Dominican Republic is facing some really hard press lately and it has people concerned.

Credit: @davidalangrier / Twitter

There are at least 11 Americans who have died while in the Dominican Republic or shortly after coming home from their vacations. Hundreds more have reported falling extremely ill while on vacation. The most notable examples of people falling ill are at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana. According to reports, the culprit is the liquor in the minibars in the guest rooms.

The stories have people on edge about possible trips and outings to and in the Dominican Republic.

While everyone is showing legitimate concern or cracking jokes, Dominicans are getting pretty upset about the collective call to cancel the DR. Not only are they bothered that their home country is being treated with such disrespect.

Jokes aside, here are some reasons people want you to stop trying to cancel the Dominican Republic.

Sasha Merci is not here for you and your willingness to just write the whole country off. Her biggest concern about the movement to cancel trips to the DR is the lack of people looking to find solutions for what is happening in the country.

And she’s not alone.

Credit: jacobbergeractor / Instagram

For so many people, the deaths in the Dominican Republic, while horrible, should not keep people scared from traveling to the Caribbean island. According to officials on the island, the deaths in the DR are not abnormal when compared to years before, however, the reaction to the deaths is at a peak.

There are also DR defenders who claim those canceling the island have never even been.

Credit: wiillygaga / Instagram

There are plenty of people telling people to cancel their trips to the island. However, there are other people pushing for people to educate themselves so they can still go to the Dominican Republic, have a good time, and stay healthy.

Those who are already planning a trip to the Caribbean island are staying firm and telling everyone else to calm down.

Credit: ot.does / Instagram

It does seem like a severe reaction to a level of deaths that Dominican officials claim to be normal for this point in the year. People are joking that they just won’t touch the mini bar to guarantee their safety. However, the consumption of alcohol is one of the main factors linking the deaths together.

A couple of social media users are hoping the fear of traveling to the Dominican Republic will lower the cost of plane tickets.

Credit: @jtripnation / Instagram

Low key, who wouldn’t be down for a trip to the DR if the tickets are just $108? It seems like too good of a trip to miss out on. Cheap, international, and a quick trip since it is pretty close to the U.S. According to reports. 6.5 million tourists visited the Dominican Republic in 2016 and 2.2 million of them are from the United States.

Despite the number of people calling for understanding, some people are just ready to write-off the whole nation.

Credit: imkingricky / Instagram

People were quick to defend the island in the face of this comment. A lot of commenters pointed to all of the things happening in the U.S. and asked why there hasn’t been a call to cancel the U.S.

If you are canceling your trip to the Dominican Republic, there are people willing and ready to take your tickets.

Credit: ohhjani / Instagram

The deaths in the Dominican Republic are tragic. No one should be losing their lives while on vacation in a resort. However, while calling for a boycott of a country might feel good and necessary, it does not to address the problem. Fortunately, authorities are starting to investigate the deaths to try and prevent them moving forward.

READ: 11 U.S. Tourists Have Died In The Dominican Republic Of Illnesses Since Last May, What’s Going On In The Dominican Republic?

Converse Is Putting Dominican Art On Their Shoes And Here’s How People Are Feeling About The Decision

Fierce

Converse Is Putting Dominican Art On Their Shoes And Here’s How People Are Feeling About The Decision

Influencer Ray Polanco Jr. and Converse have collaborated again for Latinx Heritage Month as a part of the “Converse by LatinX” collection. Polanco Jr. recruited artist Eric Narváez to hand draw and create a Chuck Taylor that featured coloring book style art of Dominican iconography. 

The collection also features work from tattoo artist Don Rimx, and Mexican and Colombian artist Paloma Montoya. Each of Polanco Jr.’s shoes will have a unique pattern of the cultural iconography — that means every pair is one of a kind. 

Ray Polanco Jr. Uses Dominican Upbringing As Inspiration

“Inspired by Ray Polanco Jr.’s experience growing up Dominican in New York City, the hand-drawn images encourage wearers to bring the design to life with color transforming the Chuck Taylor into a cultural coloring book for your feet. Make the “Puro Platano” story your own. Shout to Uptown,” the Converse description reads.

Puto Plátano

“What a feeling… meet my new @converse the “puro plátano 2”  — a cultural coloring book for your feet inspired by my experience growing up Dominican in NYC. I want the world to get to know us beyond flag colors, so I designed a visual story of pride. I left the hand-drawn images blank so YOU can collab with me. the reality is us LatinX come in all colors, so I want u to make these ur own,” Polanco Jr. wrote on Instagram. 

This isn’t the first time Polanco Jr. has brought Dominican pride to Chuck Taylors

Polanco Jr. collaborated with Converse on the Puro Plátano last year. It was a simple plátano green shoe with the words “puro platano” on the side in gold letters. 

“As a storyteller, I believe sneakers are the perfect canvas to communicate a message because we all wear some kind of footwear. Last year, I wanted to get the world to know more about Dominicans beyond just the colors of our flag and I thought food was the best way to do that, which led to transforming the Chuck Taylor into a Platano. This year, I wanted to connect on a deeper level with the ‘Puro Platano’ story by collaging distinct images from my experience growing up Dominican in New York City,” Polanco Jr. told Footwear News

This year he really amped up the Dominican iconography. There’s rolos, plátanos, bachata dancersandbottles of rum among other familiar images to anyone who grew up in The Bronx.

“A lot of the shoe is inspired by family: my dad playing dominoes at the bodega with his friends, my mom wearing rolos in her hair after the beauty salon, and things like that.” he said. “Shout out to my sister who would cop Chucks in every color on Fordham Road in the Bronx back in the day. Beyond my story, I feel like anyone who grew up in NYC will connect with at least one thing on the shoe and hopefully, other people in different cities can relate, too.” 

Polanco Jr. is not the only artist included in Converse’s LatinX collection.

Paloma Montoya

Mexican and Colombian artist Paloma Montoya’s artwork was inspired by Colombian culture, like its cafes, people, and vallenato musicians and singers.

“I was born from my father, a Mexican and my mother from #medellincolombia, but I was raised by my mother and maternal grandparents. All #antioqueños. I grew up on arepas, tamales and empanadas #colombianos , sancocho and natilla. I listened to Carlos Vives and know the lyrics (in Spanish) to Jaime R. Echavarría’s Serenata de Amor – Thanks Mamita,” Paloma wrote in her Instagram caption. 

“My grandparents bought the house in South Gate. I’ve been here all my life, I didn’t embrace my Mexican side from my father, I embraced it here with my friends who are Mexican and Mexican-American. Mexico and South Gate run through my blood, but I have generations and generations of Colombian blood in me. Maybe that’s why I think about going back often? Maybe that’s why when I went and met my relatives high up in the mountains of #antioquia – it felt like home. This pair is for you Mom, Mamita and Papito.” 

Don Rimx

Puerto Rican muralist and tattoo artist, Don Rimx also got a chance to make his own custom sneaker. The unique pattern mimics rosary beads and colorful feathers. 

“Muy honrado de poder colaborar con @converse en este proyecto para diseñar un patron para el Chuck Taylor dandole un giro personalizado con el estilo original de Don Rimx inspirado en su cultura y el camino por andar,” Rimx wrote on Instagram. 

The Converse by LatinX collection is available now. Shout out to Converse for hiring these independent Latinx artists as well! 

From WhatsApp To Facebook, Here’s How Social Media Has Been Weaponized Against Free And Fair Democracy

Things That Matter

From WhatsApp To Facebook, Here’s How Social Media Has Been Weaponized Against Free And Fair Democracy

veja.abril.com.br / Busakorn Pongparnit / Getty Images

Social media has been credited with the success of mobilizing young voters to elect Barack Obama into office; it was the catalyst and accelerator of the Arab Spring; it put racial injustice at the forefront with #BlackLivesMatter. 

But with each story celebrating how the tech tool has helped democracy, there’s a matching narrative with nefarious players choosing to use it in order to undermine free and fair governments. One does not need to look too far to find a recent example of this issue—the 2016 election and the Trump administration is synonymous with fake news.

Our personal data has been weaponized by third-party organizations attempting to sway elections without regard to the will of the voters.

Credit: @SusanSoloman / Twitter

The Great Hack,” a 2019 documentary, provides further proof of how data from Facebook was weaponized by Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting company, in order to give rise to the Trump Administration, Brexit and other far-right political agendas. 

The way this was done was bombarding swing voters with messaging that stoked their fears. Depending on information collected from a one-click personality test, a personality assessment was made and then used to manipulate them for the benefit of Cambridge Analytica’s clients. Some people might believe themselves to be smarter than the person who willingly gives up personal data to a third-party vendor who uses it to sell them things. However, Cambridge Analytica was so far-reaching because they didn’t just crawl the profiles of the original user giving access, they also mined that person’s network—regardless of the fact that they did not have permission.

How much information was collected, who was targeted and how that data was used remains a mystery. What is clear is how a tool meant to connect family and friends, is being used in a way it was not intended for. Which begs the question of whether or not technology is threatening the democratic process. 

“For all the negatives said about social media, what cannot be denied is that it is the greatest tool so far invented to spread awareness of an issue to the masses,” Andrew Selepak, media professor in the department of telecommunication at the University of Florida, and Director of the graduate program in social media, said. “Politicians who didn’t have the money or connections of the establishment would never be heard or have the opportunity to win office.” 

It’s true, the internet, followed by social media, is often touted as an equalizer. But what happens when some of these viral social cause campaigns are actually orchestrated to meet the needs of the people who are working to sabotage progress?

Take the “Do So!” movement in Trinidad and Tobago.

“The Great Hack” offers it up as a case study on the topic. The campaign, orchestrated by Cambridge Analytica’s parent company SCL, targeted young people in the country—a key voter demographic—and encouraged them not to show up at the polls. They labeled it as a sign of resistance against the politics around voting. Young people participated in rallies, YouTube videos promoting the campaign sprung up organically and street art promoting the cause peppered the prime minister’s home.

A Cambridge Analytica executive explains how on Election Day, the Afro-Caribbean youth did what the Do So! campaign wanted. They stayed home and didn’t vote. However, the Indian kids showed up at the polls. Even though they participated in the protests and made their pledge not to vote, they did. Why? The exec explains how they knew this sub-set would not go against the wishes of their parents. They had fun participating in the protests and counterculture, but in the end, their personality profile predicted a certain behavior that was manipulated by Cambridge Analytica to get the election results they wanted.

Even apps like WhatsApp have served to radicalize supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

Credit: @xeni / Twitter

According to an in-depth report on Huffington Post, WhatsApp helped spread misinformation about Bolsonaro’s left-wing challenger. WhatsApp, which is used primarily as a text messaging service in the U.S., has a much different purpose in Brazil. A reported 120 million people in the South American country use WhatsApp from everything ranging from text messaging to disseminating news and information in groups.

According to the report on Huffington Post, these groups resembled a pyramid with a small group of influencers at the top creating misinformation intended to go viral and passing it to larger groups to spread the information and serve as an online army.

The most notorious moment from the misinformation campaign on WhatsApp was the attacks on Bolsonaro’s opponent Fernando Haddad. Bolsonaro supporters spread information stating that Haddad openly endorsed homosexual pedophilia. The baseless claim took on a life of its own on WhatsApp reaching such proportions that Haddad’s campaign and reputable news outlets had to reject the notion.

Is this enough to say technology is hurting democracy? Not necessarily.

Credit: @ewarren / Twitter

“Tech is inherently amoral—it doesn’t care about right and wrong—it simply does whatever it’s programmed to do,” Monica Eaton-Cardone, tech expert and COO of Chargebacks911 says. “In the hands of a responsible, egalitarian society that respects individual rights and personal liberties, tech can preserve and enhance our greatest democratic ideals.”

This is perhaps the alarm “The Great Hack” is trying to raise. The tech giants have created an enormous problem where our personal data can be used against us. It’s not a partisan issue. Both sides of the political parties are being duped into fearing and hating people unlike them. The film underlines the damage done to the execution of a free and fair election—stressing it will take years to recover from. 

“The real failure we’ve seen so far in tech is that the pervasive use of propaganda has become a whole new industry,” Alexander M. Kehoe, co-founder of Caveni, says. “While we may have become numb to the propaganda posters that worked on our ancestors, the effectiveness of new strategies—deep fakes, social media bots, convincing fraudulent news sources—is making it incredibly easy to spread misinformation. Tech, like all tools, can hurt or help, depending on who is using it and for what purpose.”

And perhaps this is why Carole Cadwalladr, the journalist who uncovered the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal, made an emotional plea to the “gods of Silicon Valley,” in a Ted Talk earlier this year. Her voice cracks as she asks them to consider their role in all of this—and not in just terms of profit.

As to the answer of whether or not this new form of communication is a blessing or curse, Eaton-Cardone said it best.

“Tech is simply a tool, it’s our responsibility to use it wisely.”

READ: The Alarming Issues Raised In ‘The Great Hack’ Will Keep You Up At Night