A few months ago, I traveled to the Dominican Republic with Northeastern's Social Enterprise Institute to work with the Haitian immigrant population in Muñoz, Puerto Plata. We partnered with a local organization, Project Esperanza, which "serves the Haitian immigrant population of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic in the areas of education, social aid, and community development."
By way of context, following a court ruling in 2013, thousands of Haitians throughout the Dominican were rendered effectively stateless. In response to widespread international criticism, the Dominican government established a tenuous path to citizenship for people of Haitian descent, which has been widely regarded as onerous and ineffective. The politics of statelessness and the arduousness of becoming a citizen there are embedded in a complex history of racism against those of Haitian descent- one which has made acquiring basic documents nearly impossible even for the many individuals born in the Dominican Republic.
For further information on stateless Haitians in the Dominican, you can read up here, here, here, here and here. I've seen little media coverage of the issue in the years following the court ruling and it's integral here that we pay attention. This is a fundamental issue of human rights, and the violation thereof, affecting a politically marginalized population.
Nonetheless, as with any seemingly bleak situation, there is of course tons of complexity and nuance within the Dominican Republic. It was my first time traveling to the Caribbean and I'm already desperate to get back.
I'm still totally incapable of avoiding stray dogs wherever I go and have to play with every animal I see. Cheers to being a rabies case in the making. Worth it.
I also spent a bunch of time with the kids in our neighborhood, bantering in Spanish and playing around with my camera. The more I sift through the photos, the more compelled I feel to go back.
We stayed on the outskirts of a batey- loosely defined as a 'sugar workers town'. The batey is composed of many brightly colored houses, rooms and barracks built into the hillside, and around one another. They vary in size with alleyways, paths and small storefronts dividing the entirety. I'll be sharing more images from the batey in my next post!
While there, we also visited Hacienda Cufa- a family owned and operated cacao farm in Puerto Plata. We toured the farm, and learned about how they cultivate and harvest the cacao to eventually produce their own stone-ground chocolate products. It was wonderful to speak with some of the farms' employees, many of whom had worked there for years.
Our group also spent some time working in the school operated by Project Esperanza, teaching the kids about recycling and learning more about their curriculum. The woman in the first two images is one of the teachers, and I got to photograph her and her children one afternoon.
Another afternoon, we met up for a massive soccer game on the outskirts of the batey. I'm forever intrigued by the ways in which people choose to pose, especially with one another.
I'll be sharing the second half of my photos from the Dominican later this week, once I get to Amman! xx