A blog by Amanda Alcantara

Monday, September 8, 2014

I have an American life: reflections on my trip to Dominican Republic

I got back from the Dominican Republic a little over a week ago and have yet to write about my experience. I've begun handwriting some of my thoughts. I wrote a poem to the powerful Dominicanas whom I reconnected with that I'll be posting soon. I've written on my journal. But somehow it's not an experience that I can synthesize into a blog post.

I cannot write about the beauty of my country, but rather of the pain of having to leave. I can write about the feeling of nostalgia as I took in the scenery and realized that these views of my once everyday life were now Instagram pictures; images that I want to share with my American friends: this is me eating a coconut, this is El Monumento, this is a Presidente Light, these are my High School friends, this is the street I grew up in.

I felt nostalgia as I remembered the kind of things that I didn't expect to remember, like the butter brand (Dorina), mom's smoothies, the kids cleaning car windshields, the fact that you have to light the stove yourself, and that moment when you're in the beauty salon and the power goes out so you have to wait for them to turn on "la planta".

I felt loved everywhere I went. I was taken care of everywhere I went. It was like I had never left, and yet obvious that I soon was leaving again. My high school friends did a welcome get-together for me, they took me dancing during the week, then they did a goodbye spaghetti party that consisted of splitting up chores just like when I was in school. The two-week experience was so busy that it could've easily been the activities a Santiago citizen did in the three months of summer: I visited all families and friends during the day and went drinking and dancing at night; I spent an entire weekend at the beach then revisited the beach two more times; I got my hair done at el salon three times and even went to Moca to have "el mejor mofongo de todos" (it was very good). Did I mention that I ate a lot of good food? I think Dominicans do that every single day.

Then there was the romantic kind of love I received: the guys that I met and was too afraid to get-to-know even further because I knew that a heartbreak would ensue. Why must Dominican men be everything and nothing at once? With their incredible sazón and sexy dance moves, with their sun-kissed skin and yet their unwillingness to listen "como asi que tu tatuaje significa feminista?". I know that they're not all that way, but two weeks wasn't enough time to go on a scavenger hunt for my future partner-in-crime.

I left my heart in "La Ciudad Corazón"
Santiago De los Caballeros, República Dominicana

I won't reduce my experience there to an "analytical" blog post about Dominican life because all I have is the life of a visitor, the life of a Dominican York. I have an American life.

While waiting for the plane to board on the night when I was coming back, I began to cry. I hadn't cried in a long time. It felt good to know that I had these feelings still, that that person is who I am. It was good to recognize that part of my anxiety is simply the feeling of not being home. But we all know that once you come to American you can't go back. My struggle now is not of a Dominican woman living in the DR dealing with comparison to women with lighter skin, dealing with sexism and patriarchy. My struggle now is of a Third World woman living in the US dealing with racism and sexism here. My struggle now is to connect with others here, to build here, and to somehow influence American and first-world economic policies which basically lead to immigration into the US in the first place.

I am the diaspora. I am a piece of displaced humanity and I am living with others like me. It is difficult to admit that this is what it actually looks like, but I have an American life.


Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing this. Reminds me of my first time visiting Santo Domingo after my father passed away. I had never been, and only had the memories my father shared with me. it all seemed to come alive during my 2 months spend in SPM. anyway.. beautiful piece.

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