Things That Matter

This Dominican Republic Hotel Just Claimed Its 6th Victim And Experts Think The Mini Bar Is To Blame

A sixth American tourist was reported Monday to have died from a mysterious illness at a Dominican Republic resort — the latest in a string of disturbingly similar fatalities.

Many of the deaths — and several other severe illnesses — involve healthy, middle-aged adults who had taken a drink from their hotel room minibar before suddenly becoming gravely sick.

That connection seems like more than a coincidence to the victims’ loved ones — and has led to new calls for action and even for the FBI to step in and investigate.

The latest death to be revealed was that of Robert Bell Wallace, 67, of California, who officials said died on April 14 during a stay at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

Credit: Robert Bell Wallace / Facebook

Wallace’s cause of death has yet to be determined. But in an interview, his niece said her uncle became unwell shortly after drinking a glass of scotch from the minibar in his room before dying in a hospital three days later.

“We have so many questions,” she said. “We don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

Compounding the mystery is the fact that another American tourist, David Harrison, 45, of Maryland, had died at the same Hard Rock in July 2018 under similarly strange circumstances.

And just one month after Wallace died, three others mysteriously died in their rooms at another Dominican resort in a five-day period this May.

Credit: WYZN / Facebook

We first reported on the deaths of Miranda Schaup-Werner, Edward Holmes, 63, and Cynthia Day, 49, who all died within days of each other at the exact same resort.

According to statements from Miranda’s husband, who made it back to the US safely, his wife also started feeling sick after drinking something from the minibar.

The deaths made headlines and first put the spotlight on what now appears to be a yearlong pattern.

Credit: @TheSun / Twitter

The reports of the growing death toll were particularly disturbing to Brooklyn’s Awilda Montes, 43, who said she began vomiting blood after drinking soda from her minibar at the Grand Bahia Principe last October — but managed to survive.

“This could have been me in the headlines,” Montes told The Post. “If I knew then what I know now, I would have left the island straight away.”

Montes suspects someone replaced the soda with chlorine and says she has been left with no taste buds, permanent respiratory problems, and ongoing anxiety.

Aside from the sixth deaths, a long list of people are coming forward with shocking stories of severe unexplainable illness.

Credit: @BuzzFeedNews / Twitter

Nearly 70 tourists have reported getting violently ill while vacationing in the Dominican Republic since March, according to a commonly used website that tracks food-borne illness outbreaks.

That’s up from just 10 reported illnesses in the country for all of 2018, according to iwaspoisoned.com. In June alone, 52 tourists reported symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea and fever.

More than 45 of them identified themselves as guests at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana.

Some are starting to believe the incidents are all connected as some plan from a disgruntled employee or even a serial killer.

Credit: hardrockhotels_caribe / Instagram

A team of experts from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization has since descended on the hotels and is conducting tests at the Bahia Principe hotels where the trio died.

For its part, the Dominican government is urging calm and insisting the island is safe for visitors.

At a press conference, Dominican Republic Tourism Minister Francisco Garcia insisted the island was safe as more tourists reportedly are canceling their vacation plans. Garcia said the country had received more than 30 million visitors in the last five years without any widespread concerns about health issues at its resorts.

But all of this news comes as baseball star David Ortiz was shot in the back while on vacation in the Dominican Republic.

While on vacation in the Dominican Republic, Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz was shot in the back.

One suspect is in custody, and investigators are looking for at least one other man in connection with Sunday night’s shooting, police said.

The reason for the shooting wasn’t immediately clear. Ortiz does not know the man being held or why he was shot, and he’s confident it was not a robbery attempt.

All of this has tourists rethinking their travel to the island.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

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

Fierce

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.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

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.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com