Things That Matter

New Safety Measures In The Dominican Republic Following American Deaths

It’s only common sense that tells you to watch your back when you travel, no matter where you go. After all, tourists are prime targets for scams, pickpockets, and the like. And sure, sometimes certain places give you a bad dose of something, which leaves you making best friends with the toilet bowl for a good 24 hours. But, what you most likely don’t anticipate is having to contend with death – and after the deaths of 11 American tourists in the Dominican Republic, officials have been scrambling to deal with the fallout.

New safety measures are being rolled out to protect and assist American tourists visiting the Dominican Republic.

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The reason why we know this is because officials from the Dominican Republic, along with the US Ambassador, gathered in New York City to announce the new initiatives to be put in place. Talking to the media at the Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan, the Dominican Republic’s Minister of Tourism, Javier Garcia, said that the proposed safety measures are designed to address safety issues reported to be at the center of the tourists’ deaths. Granted, even though the safety measures were only recently announced, it’s likely that these initiatives have been in the works for a while – so here’s hoping that they’ve hashed out all the little details, and see some success!

So what was said in the announcement?

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Well, there were four main changes that are gonna be made in the Dominican Republic. Firstly, the plan is to reinforce mandates requiring that both emergency information and 911 be available in guest rooms. A new emergency tourist center, manned by multi-lingual staff, is to be constructed in Bávaro, Punta Cana. The aim behind this initiative is to ensure that, should there actually be an emergency, then there is plenty of help on hand. It’s great to see that they’ve considered language barriers, too, as navigating them can be the difference between life and death in an emergency.

Improved access to emergency services is not all that’s been announced.

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The Ministry of Tourism also announced a partnership with Ecolab, a U.S.-based water, hygiene, and energy technology developer. Ecolab has been brought on board as a training and certification provider for current and would-be Department of Tourism, Services and Companies inspectors. The benefit of this partnership is that the U.S. tends to set acceptable standards for lots of industries, worldwide. Granted, we’re not here to go down that rabbit hole and judge whether that’s a good or a bad thing. Rather, it’s important to acknowledge the line of thinking that if inspectors from the Department of Tourism, Services, and Companies have been trained to what’s synonymous with a world-class standard, at what they do.

This means inspectors who are good at their job ensuring that accidents don’t happen.

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In terms of more general security, our man Garcia also announced that 4,000 agents would be hired across the tourist security agency and the national police. Beyond manpower, 3,000 additional public security cameras are to be installed. On the one hand, this indicates a considerable boost to security resources within the Dominican Republic. On the other hand, not many specifics were mentioned around this new personnel and cameras. For example: where exactly would these agents and cameras be stationed? It’s no good if they’re just added to the current roster of security resources, without any thought about how they could make an impact. It’s no good placing a camera in a busy thoroughfare if it’s not really an area where any crime occurs in the first place, right?

The US Ambassador to the Dominican Republic was on board with the announcement.

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Robin Bernstein reminded the press that the U.S. State Department maintains a level-two advisory on travel to the Dominican Republic – a standard that’s also been applied to countries such as Spain, Denmark, and Belgium. In fact, she declared that the deaths of the American tourists in the Dominican Republic fueled an “unfounded negative campaign,” which has created a “tourism crisis” for the country. “American tourists should feel safe and secure,” Bernstein said. “I am totally comfortable with [the Dominican Republic’s] safety level, it is one of the safest tourist destinations I have ever visited. In fact, it has now become an even safer place to come because of the initiatives.”

The ambassador is cautiously optimistic about the long-term benefits of these safety measures.

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While the Ambassador indicated that she has full faith in the safety standards of the Dominican Republic, she also addressed the reports that tainted alcohol had lead to the deaths of U.S. tourists. “If it was alcohol, people would be dropping like flies,” Bernstein said. “It is not alcohol.” However, she did not offer an alternative explanation as to why the deaths occurred.

Not all of the deaths have been attributed to compromised alcohol.

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That doesn’t mean that concerns haven’t been raised around the alcohol provided at hotels in the Caribbean country. Back in June, Hard Rock Hotel and Casino announced that it would remove liquor dispensers from the guest rooms at its Punta Cana location. Apparently, this was due to “guest feedback” and an effort to “enhance safety moving forward.” From there on in, all alcohol onsite would be brand-name and sourced from the U.S. – bar specialty beverages from the Dominican Republic. Hard Rock also announced that it would be contracting a U.S. third party organizations to assist with inspecting and testing the location’s food and beverages. Seems that it’s a bit of overkill for just merely responding to customer feedback.

Some think that the timing seems a little too coincidental to think otherwise.

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In addition to the Hard Rock Hotel’s change in company policy, Delta Airlines also decided to give its customers a bit of leeway with their flights. The most recent death of 46-year-old Denver resident, Khalid Adkins, on July 25 triggered an announcement from Delta Airlines that the airline would allow travelers with tickets to Punta Cana to cancel or reschedule their flights “due to recent events” – a euphemism for the deaths that have occurred in the region. 

Despite the reactions of these companies to the deaths, the facts still say that the Dominican Republic is a relatively safe holiday destination.

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For anyone who is planning to travel to the Dominican Republic, it’s worth thinking about this: last year, about 13 U.S. citizens died in the Dominican Republic. In 2017, the figure was 17 deaths. So, the rate of deaths is actually decreasing for U.S. citizens traveling to the Caribbean island. The Dominican Republic saw more than 2.7 million visitors from the U.S. in 2017.

Yet, it is always important to feel safe and comfortable when traveling.

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At the end of the day, there’s just not enough information out there to really say how many of the deaths could be connected – or if they were connected at all, save the fact that these US tourists traveled to the same place. Some of the US citizens who died did so due to car accidents, or heart conditions – things that, unfortunately, happen all too common in the US, too. However, some of the deaths are yet to have a particular cause attributed to them. A few of them have occurred after the tourist was drinking, exhibiting symptoms such as excessive vomiting. And, okay, entirely possible that authorities are genuinely still investigating the causes of the deaths, or even keeping the cause of the deaths quiet out of respect for the families of the victims. But, the moral of the story is that it never hurts to exercise caution when you’re in traveling overseas, babes.

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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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