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What The Heck Is Going On In The DR That Made 47 Jimmy Buffett Fans Violently Sick On A Recent Trip

Recently, we’ve gotten reports of tourist deaths resulting in visits to the Dominican Republic. Fortunately, this story doesn’t have any casualties but it’s further proof of trouble in paradise. This time, it’s a group of 114 Oklahoma-based Jimmy Buffett fans who have fallen ill.

In an April trip to Punta Cana, 47 of the fans allegedly got violently sick during their trip.

Twitter / @msn

The group — the Central Oklahoma Parrothead Association — spent a week at the Dominican Republic’s Hotel Riu Palace Macao. During the trip, the nearly 50 fans began feeling ill; experiencing extreme diarrhea, vomiting, dizziness, and headaches. Dana Flowers, a member, and the group’s travel agent, told PEOPLE that they first thought the illness was food poisoning.

“We went [to the resort] for the week — some longer, some shorter,” he shared with the magazine. “We were enjoying the beach and the pool, and about 3 or 4 days into the trip we started hearing about people getting sick.”

Unfortunately, some of the group’s members are still experiencing symptoms two months afterwards.

Twitter / @NYDailyNews

It wasn’t until after the symptoms worsened that the group suspected it was more than food poisoning that was making them sick. According to Flowers, who also got sick, everyone who became ill swam in a specific pool or drank at the pool’s swim-up bar.

Things became more suspicious when the group sought medical treatment from doctors in the Dominican Republic.

“Most of them got an IV, then were prescribed a medicine for parasites,” Flowers explained. “[The doctors] didn’t do any testing, they just automatically gave them medicine for parasites.”

According to Flowers, two members of the group tested positive for salmonella after returning to the States.

Twitter / @puppet90210

In a statement provided to PEOPLE, Hotel Riu Palace Macao is denying responsibility for the illness.

The statement reads in part:

“We are aware that three guests staying last April at this hotel and coming from the same group … were attended by a possible case of gastroenteritis in our doctor’s office. These events occurred after an external activity of this group outside the hotel, so we can not determine the exact origin of the stomach upset. … No more similar cases were registered by other guests during the indicated date above.”

In response to the illnesses and deaths coming from DR, there are calls for Americans to no longer visit the country.

Twitter / @BTruhome

As far as we know, it’s only American tourists suffering illness and death from visits to DR. The public outcry will no doubt impact American tourism to the country.

According to some, this has been going on much longer than we realized.

Twitter / @Pbosslady

This Twitter user shared a response from a personal incident at the Punta Cana Hotel and Casino Hard Rock. She became ill after drinking wine at the hotel’s karaoke bar. As she pointed out, these clusters of incidents are finally calling proper attention to this problem.

Some are even suggesting government interference to prevent this from happening again.

Twitter / @Beauty4Ashes_1

It’s likely that the CDC — which is investigating the deaths out of DR — will enact a travel ban if one comes about. However, maybe it’s best to avoid this part of the Caribbean for now regardless of a ban.

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The Dominican Republic Finally Outlaws Child Marriage After Years of Campaigning by Girls’ Rights Activists

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The Dominican Republic Finally Outlaws Child Marriage After Years of Campaigning by Girls’ Rights Activists

Image via Getty

Outside of the U.S., some good news has occurred amidst a week that has otherwise been full of mayhem and chaos.

On Wednesday, the Dominican Republic’s Executive Branch approved a law that unilaterally bans child marriage in its country.

In the past, children younger than 18 were allowed to marry with a special exemption from a judge. These exemptions happened often. Now, no woman or man under the age of 18 are allowed to marry under any circumstances in the Dominican Republic.

This move is significant because the Dominican Republic has the highest rates of child marriage in Latin America and the Caribbean. Official government figures show that 36% of Dominican girls and adolescents marry or enter into “unions” before the age of 18. In 12% of these relationships, the female partner was less than 15 years old.

More informal “unions” where a girl simply moves into an older man’s household are also common in the DR. These are very common in higher poverty communities where many girls are considered a financial burden on their families. Unions like these will be harder to penalize because there is no formal documentation of their partnership.

There are multiple factors that play into the Dominican Republic’s high child marriage rate.

One of the main factors is the culture of machismo that informs the way that young men and women approach relationships.

According to research conducted by Plan International, 81% of Dominican girls said they preferred men that were five years older than them. This statistic is in stark contrest to 39% of Dominican men who prefer their partners 18 or younger because they found them more “obedient” and “adaptable”.

Not only that, but there is also a strong cultural expectation for girls and women to become mothers and wives. These cultural beliefs have simply stoked the practice of child marriage.

“Child marriage and early unions are seen as normal in society. It is driven by machismo that sees the role of a woman to be just a mother and wife,” said Rosa Elcarte, UNICEF’s representative in the Dominican Republic, to the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Ending early unions will require years of work to change cultural norms.”

Feminists and human rights activists consider this law a win after many years campaigning to put an end to this practice.

But on a bittersweet note, many advocates realize that one law doesn’t dismantle the patriarchal structure of their culture that enabled this practice for so long. There is still a lot of work to be done.

“Our girls and adolescents will be protected … and cannot be forced into marriage in their childhood or adolescence, which in the past was often carried out by parents and legally allowed,” said Sonia Hernandez, an associate director of the International Justice Mission, in a statement to NBC News.

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Mexico Announces 11 New Pueblos Mágicos And It’s The Post-COVID Travel Lust We All Need Right Now

Culture

Mexico Announces 11 New Pueblos Mágicos And It’s The Post-COVID Travel Lust We All Need Right Now

Although Mexico is literally one of seven countries that U.S. citizens can travel to right now amid the global Coronavirus pandemic, it doesn’t mean that we should all pack up our suitcases and hop on a plane. In fact, U.S. visitors to the country are already causing a spike in cases across the country.

However, Mexico is looking forward to a post-COVID world and the hopeful return of tourism to the country, which so many Mexicans depend on for their livelihoods.

With that in mind, the government is expanding its widely successful ‘Pueblo Magico’ program that highlights cities and towns across the country for historical, architectural and/or cultural contributions to the country.

Just last week, officials announced 11 new pueblos to the list of 121 existing destinations on the list, with the hope that these new communities will become pillars of the economy and help drive tourism and much-needed growth.

Mexico adds 11 new destinations to the successful ‘Pueblo Mágico’ program.

Mexico has long been a popular destination for travelers from around the world. But much of that tourism (and along with the economic benefits) has focused on the large coastal resorts, like Puerto Vallara and Cancun. The government hoped to help diversify that development when it launched the ‘Pueblo Mágico’ program, by bringing tourists to typically less traveled destinations.

Now, the list of 121 existing “magical towns” has grown by 11 more as the government announced new destinations to the list for 2021.

Mexico’s lakeside community of Ajijic, Jalisco, and the small port of Sisal, Yucatán, are among 11 new “Magical Towns” announced last week by the federal Tourism Ministry. The other nine new Pueblos Mágicos are Isla Aguada, Campeche; Maní, Yucatán; Mexcaltitán, Nayarit; Paracho, Michoacán; Santa Catarina Juquila, Oaxaca; Santa María del Río, San Luis Potosí; Tetela de Ocampo, Puebla; Tonatico, México state; and Zempoala, Hidalgo.

Announcing the new Magical Towns at a virtual press conference, Tourism Minister Miguel Torruco said that they and the existing ones will become “pillars of the regional and national economy” under the current federal government.

He also said that domestic tourism – many of the Pueblos Mágicos rely heavily on local visitors – will be “the driving force” of the tourism recovery amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

As we wait for a post-COVID world, here’s a look at some of the highlights from these incredible pueblos mágicos.

Located south of Guadalajara on the banks of Lake Chapala, Ajijic has a population of around 10,000 people, a large number of whom are retired expats from the United States and Canada. The town has a lakeside malecón, or promenade, a well-maintained central square, cobblestone streets and several art galleries among other attractions.

Sisal will likely grow into a very popular tourist destination.

Sisal is located about 50 miles northwest of Mérida on the Gulf of Mexico coast. Formerly Yucatán’s main port, it is now a sleepy beach town with fewer than 2,000 residents. The town’s name comes from the Sisal plant, a species of agave that yields a sturdy fiber that was once shipped abroad from the Yucatán port. Sisal, the town, has a fort, pier and an abundance of mangroves that can be visited on a tour with a local guide.

Also in the state of Yucatán, Maní is a small city about 65 miles south of Mérida. Inhabited by the indigenous Mayan people for thousands of years, the newly-minted Pueblo Mágico has a 16th-century church and convent. Uxmal, one of the Yucatán Peninsula’s most impressive archaeological sites, is located less than a hour’s drive to the west.

In Michoacán, Paracho draws on its rich traditions.

The guitar making hub of Paracho, located about 75 miles west of Michoacán’s capital Morelia, is the sixth new town on the Pueblos Mágicos list. Full of shops that sell handmade guitars and other stringed instruments, Paracho’s fame was enhanced by the animated Day of the Dead-inspired Disney-Pixar film Coco because an artisan who trained there was responsible for the design of the main characters’s white guitar.

Oaxaca already has its fair share of pueblos mágicos but this new addition was much welcomed.

Inland from the Oaxaca resort town of Puerto Escondido is Santa Catarina Juquila, a town of about 6,000 people best known for its church. The Santuario de Nuestra Señora Imaculada de Juquila (Shrine of Our Immaculate Lady of Juquila) houses a small statue of the Juquila virgin, which has been venerated for hundreds of years. As a result, the church is a popular destination for Catholic pilgrims.

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