Posted by: Anni Orekh | May 18, 2010

Dominican Republic is the world’s 2nd happiest country

Dominican Republic is the world’s 2nd happiest country

From a very early age, we are taught in school that the Dominican Republic occupies the premium side of the  Hispaniola Island: coasts in both oceans, a breathtaking piece of central Cibao, magnificent extensions of  green forest in Jarabacoa, deserts, valleys….name practically any topographical miracle in an island: it exists.

As with all self evident truths, we grow accustomed to the landscape and think nothing of getting in a car in the city of Santo Domingo on a boiling hot Sunday with 39°C weather, to drive 45 minutes up San Jose de Ocoa mountains and enjoy a cool, foggy afternoon, drinking hot chocolate, eating arepas and wearing a sweater to defeat the icy 40°C temperatures. This is the closest we get to sudden weather changes. Being in the Torrid Zone, we have no seasons in my country, Dominican Republic. Weather news is not a big business. You will never see live reports of a thunderstorm being tracked incessantly on four television channels. Either it rains or it stays dry and depending on the altitude, it is either hot or cold. An occasional  tornado will make the front page of newspapers if children are able to make a slim, 2-inch tall snowman. -never happened- There was an tiny hailstorm in Boca Chica beach all I remember was dominican people outside on their knees asking G-d for ‘ forgiveness’.

However, the relationship we have with the landscape clearly determines the different types of Dominicans you will encounter. And if you are a seasoned Spanish speaker, you will notice that with each comes a very distinct accent. For example, the “cibaenos” live in and close to the capital cities of  las Vegas and Santiago, located in the high altitude mesa of the Cordillera Central (central mountain, we have 1 peak). Known to be very reserved, they think of themselves as cultured and sophisticated. Very aware of fashion trends, Santiagueros and Veganos relish lineage, family trees and heritage. Puertoplatenos, on the other hand, born and raised on the strenuous slopes of the mountains and beaches of the North section, are the model for entrepreneurial spirit, much like the gold diggers who founded California. No enterprise is too risky or difficult for a puerto plateno who, according to popular legend, is able to sell a hole in the ground.

“Cibao Adentro”  come from the valleys located between the mountains of Jarabacoa, Costanza, Valle Nuevo, the latter part usually close to DR’s central South West. Mother Nature has not been incredibly challenging to us. Crops and cattle multiply effortlessly, water is abundant and we enjoy relatively stable temperatures all year round. Easygoing, we are great hosts, expansive and lovers of simple pleasures.

The unchallenged national masters of fun are the “costenos” who live by the two seacoasts. Nagua, Samana, etc With a heavy accent, fond of loose, colorful clothing to fight warm temperatures, they carry the “burden” of being the country’s party animals. Belly dancing and exotic.

Bani, San Juaneros, Barahona, Neyba, etc  inhabit Dominican Republic’s extensive plains. With a heart as big as the horizon, along with Seibanos they are known for their uncanny abilitywith horses and classic outdoor lifestyle. Like Texans, they have created 1001 recipes to barbeque steaks, the most famous one being the “chivo con yuca” (goat meat style).

Just like Canadians who try to explain their fondness for cultural diversity using the “melting pot” metaphor, Dominicans are more than the sum of all these parts. We are also the sons and daughters of a very rich Taino Aboriginal tradition, as ancient and legendary as the  Arawak, Caribe, Chibcha cultures in Venezuela from they originally came from . We endured a very bloody Spanish conquest and fought it rebelliously by Enriquillo. Though founded  in  1496, (oldest in Latin-America) one could say that Dominican Republic is a very young country. Its diversity and heritage are still struggling to settle and take shape. Recent attempts to redefine our nation and agree on the civic, peaceful life we all want to live, have bonded our people more than ever, specially in the touchy issue of Haiti, our neighborgs. We are about to  elect a new president by the most overwhelming majority that the country can remember. We pride ourselves in having one the oldest and most stable democracy on the continent.

Unable to define it by traditional standards, no wonder then that  Julia  Alvarez or Junot Diaz  appealed to faith, to define what makes such richness, exuberance and diversity so unlike any other.

 
Dominican Republic: Suggested Readings

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