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.

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Anti-Mask Tourists Are Traveling To Puerto Rico And The Island’s Residents Have Had Enough

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Anti-Mask Tourists Are Traveling To Puerto Rico And The Island’s Residents Have Had Enough

Ricardo Arduengo / Getty Images

Despite the pandemic that began impacting travel as far back as February, tourists never stopped coming to Puerto Rico. The island’s government has never restricted travel to/from the island and that has come at the cost of local health care systems and the safety and health of local residents.

This means that delusional anti-maskers from the mainland have been able to visit the island, disregard local rules regarding social distancing and face coverings, and put locals at risk. Now, as the island grapples with an explosion of Covid-19 cases, many locals are demanding the island shut down to nonessential travel.

Protesters in Puerto Rico are calling for an end to irresponsible tourism from the mainland.

In Puerto Rico, protesters have been calling for San Juan’s International Airport to shut down all nonessential travel, as tourists continue to vacation on the island despite rising Covid-19 cases and are often seen not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

Ricardo Santos, who organized a protest and is a member of the Socialist Workers Movement, told Democracy Now: “We’re not backing down. We’re going to continue this caravan and this struggle, because this is a life-or-death situation, and this governor has not been addressing this issue. So, as we’ve done in the past, the people are going to take matters into their own hands.”

The move comes as many locals say that tourists come to the island with certain attitudes and disrespect local rules.

Whether it’s because they believe in silly conspiracy theories or complain that it’s ‘too hot’ to wear a mask, tourists without masks have arrived in droves to the island – where many locals see them as an extension of a long history of brutal colonialism. Many tourists to the island have little to no regard for the health or well-being of those who call the island home and they’re even less conscious of the fact that the island’s health care system is still in shambles since Hurricane Maria.

Although face masks are technically required in all public areas, few tourists seem to follow the guidelines. In fact, a fine of up to $5,000 can be slapped on anyone who isn’t wearing a covering on their mouth and nose. Not only are many tourists ignoring the rule, it’s often leading to violent confrontations.

A few weeks ago, a group of women visiting San Juan’s biggest mall allegedly retaliated against a Zara employee’s request that they wear masks by damaging at least $2,000 in merchandise.

Later in July, a man – a resident of the island but from the mainland – spat in the face of a grocery store worker who asked him to put on a mask.  In a video circulating online, the man said a security guard retaliated by hitting him with a golf club. The following day, a woman was reportedly physically struck after refusing to wear a mask in La Perla, the historic neighborhood that runs alongside Old San Juan, which has become a tourist destination since the 2017 video for Justin Bieber’s remix of Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s runaway hit “Despacito” was filmed there.

Many local workers who serve the tourist economy said that visitors are irritated by the mandatory touchless temperature scan and hand sanitation policy. 

“They have attitudes when they get here,” one worker told the Daily Beast. “One said she was going to ‘die of retardation’ for taking her temperature. Another complained about the sanitizer: They said, ‘Ew, what is that?’” 

Tourism is big business for Puerto Rico – but many say now is not the time.

Credit: Jose Jimenez / Getty Images

Tourism in Puerto Rico is a $1.8 billion industry annually, and though the island never closed its borders, officials had announced a formal “reopening” date of July 15, when visitors were welcome to return. But thanks to rising cases of Covid-19, that ‘reopening’ date has since been pushed back a month to August 15.

To help facilitate the reopening, a new order will require all visitors show a negative Covid-19 test at the airport in order to enter the island, or be tested voluntarily at the airport by a National Guard team. The curfew, which was previously set to end on June 22, is still in place from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. every night. 

But for residents, none of this makes sense. Police have threatened Puerto Ricans with exorbitant fines and even arrest for being out past curfew. Alleyways that would usually be teeming with people dancing to live salsa were barren. Yet locals continue to see tourists step out the door of their Airbnb, hand in hand, no mask, to take in a sunset or grab something to eat. Locals feel like they’re on lockdown while visitors are on a worry free vacation.

Like many places across the U.S., Puerto Rico has been hit hard by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Credit: Ricardo Arduengo / Getty Images

As of July 29, the island has seen more than 16,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 211 people have died of the virus. These numbers have been rising in recent weeks as

Puerto Rico was initially praised for being one of the first U.S. jurisdictions to put drastic measures in place, such as implementing an islandwide curfew and banning cruise ships, as well as closing schools and all nonessential businesses, to avoid overwhelming the island’s fragile health care system in March.

But a recent surge in COVID-19 cases has coincided with Puerto Rico’s efforts to reopen nonessential businesses and tourist attractions. Over the past week, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases jumped by more than 1,000, while the number of probable cases increased by almost 1,300.

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People Are Using Social Media to Highlight Racism On The Islands

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People Are Using Social Media to Highlight Racism On The Islands

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

The world is paying attention to racism in the world right now. The Black Lives Matter movement has gone international and people are starting to call out racism everywhere they see it. This means shining a light on racism on social media to really highlight the issue.

Afro-Caribbean people are using #AquíNoExisteElRacismoPero and #PeroNoSomosRacists to highlight racism.

Social media users are sharing their experiences with racism on the Caribbean islands and the hashtags speak volumes. The hashtags translate to #ButWeAreNotRacists and #ThereIsNoRacismHereBut are being used to highlight racism in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

There is an understood in the Latino community that racism runs deep but it is often ignored. Culturally, it has plagued the Latino community for generations with microaggressions about hair and “bettering the race.” It is something that we need to address and these hashtags are calling it out.

Some Dominicans are highlighting the microaggressions that have existed for as long as time.

Microaggressions are some of the most common and annoying moments of racism around. They are little but when there are enough they really add up fast. They are all around and are said so often that people often ignore them when they are said. “Pelo malo” one of the most common examples of racist microaggressions in the Latino community. It is always Afro-Latinos who have “pelo malo.”

The hair microaggressions are some of the earliest.

Twitter users are coming forward with stories of having their hair relaxed and chemically treated to be “better.” The focus on Euro-centric beauty within the Afro-Latino community is toxic and instilling it in children so young is a traumatic and hurtful experience.

Some people have been able to use the experience to empower themselves.

People who can take a moment like this ad grow from it are the kind of people you want to know. You go with your self-acceptance and love. There is nothing more beautiful than being yourself and learning to love all of you is a journey so many have to make.

There are so many microaggressions that have become far to familiar in our community and we have to fight against them.

Cosas que escuché en mi entorno mientras crecía :"En nuestra familia no hay negros""Mijito tienes que mejorar la raza…

Posted by Stefano Navarro on Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Things I heard in my surroundings growing up:
“There are no black in our family.”
“Mijito you have to improve the race.”
“Marry a white girl.”
“You’re not black, you’re tricky, don’t say that again.”
“I’m not black, I’m brunette.”
“You mean the black I was selling….”
“You work like black.”
“You sweat like black.”
“Your kids came out happily white.”
“You smell like black.”
#PeroNoSomosRacistas

READ: 8 Racist Habits Latinos Seriously Need To Drop

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