Archive for the ‘New World’ Category
Friday, May 5, 2006
The last time (February 15th) we were on the subject we more or less took the story of visitors to our island of Hispaniola up to one of those black-historical points in human history: the near extermination of the Taíno Indians which then leaves us to cover just the last 500 years or so.
By a clear margin the most famous of all visitors since that time is Christopher Columbus (whose name by the way in Spanish is not quite so famously known by English speakers to be Cristobal Colon). For such a prestigious visitor you would expect it to have been the all-expenses paid trip that it was but not such an obvious thing back in 1492. He was of course the first white man here and by default the first non-Indian visitor and the first ever person to come with a return trip-ticket. His all-inclusive ticket, along with many of the other paradise-seekers who came at that time, was paid for by the Spanish crown and it was the Spanish themselves who abruptly changed this style of paradise-seeking visitor when they started bringing in slaves from Africa who clearly had no hope of any kind of return ticket and were disgracefully brought in for no other reason than to replace those badly decimated Taíno Indians as laborers.
After that the next identifiable group of arrivals, in any significant numbers, was the French who took advantage of the Spanish being distracted by their insatiable search for greater wealth in other parts of South America. The French concentrated on the north and west of the island thereby explaining the current division between French-speaking Haiti and Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic. Interspersed in the early years the English too had their own style of visits with their particular specialty being pirate trips also usually all-inclusive. Most notable of all was that of Sir Francis Drake who just a little along the coast from us very successfully held Santo Domingo to ransom in 1586. By the end of the 19th century both Haiti and the Dominican Republic had established themselves as fully fledged republics even if it came with the usual bubbling turmoil you get between neighbors and visits, at least to this side of the border, both from Haiti and overseas have continued apace in one form or another ever since that time.
For example quite a sprinkling of Chinese can be found here including an up and coming Chinatown in Santo Domingo – as of writing an arch-type entrance way is being constructed, funded by Chinese businesses, at the intersection of Avenida’s Duarte and Mexico to designate the area. The Chinese began arriving from other Caribbean islands together with even greater numbers of other natives seeking regular work and opportunities from the 19th century onwards. Considerable numbers of Americans arrived in the early part of that century to set up plantations as many of the Europeans had done in the previous centuries and then the US army made its first visit in 1903, they certainly must have liked it because they came again in 1916 and stayed for a full eight years. They came again in 1965 but moved on much more quickly this time for they were gone by the following year.
Arabs formed the nucleus of another group of visitors, mainly Lebanese with lesser numbers of Palestinians and Syrians who first started arriving towards the end of the nineteenth century and continued to come and stay through the following century. A visit to one of the principal shopping areas in Santo Domingo, namely Avenida Duarte, reveals names on shop hoardings here and there directly reflecting this, one of the most familiar being the large department store under Lebanese-descended ownership: Plaza Lama.
A peek back to the last century shows that the most notable single groups with, at least, intentions to settle entered the country from the 1930s onwards. Many founded agricultural colonies that unfortunately very often didn’t work out as planned but of these groups there can still be found legacies of their presence here. Among the groups were German Jews (1930s), Japanese (after World War II), and Hungarians and Spaniards (both in the 1950s). Then more Chinese came from Taiwan and Hong Kong in the 1970s and 1980s actually making them second only to Haitians in numbers settling in the country.
Nowadays we have visitors all the year round of course and from all around the world, the majority of which return home tanned and relaxed, some choose to stay on and become ex-pats like ourselves and perhaps still the largest group who come in search of their own paradise or at least to escape the ravages of that desperately unstable seemingly impossible to govern neighbor of ours Haiti.
Saturday, September 3, 2005
Horrific though the recent events have been due to Hurricane Katrina in some of the southern US states, we applaud the vibrant American spirit of always keeping the show rolling, and we welcome the imminent start of the new North American football league which seems to be all set to go… barring finding a temporary stadium for the New Orleans Saints so they can play their home games.
So as to maintain our tradition we will be showing this season’s games in the Playa Vista bar as usual via our satellite system and wall-to-wall screen. The opening clash is, as you might know, between ‘The Oakland Raiders’ and last season’s worthy champions ‘The New England Patriots’ on Thursday 8th September with the kick-off time being 9 pm. We will also be following two other traditions: Hot dogs will be available for the hungry patrons and the gamblers can be satiated with the football pool which costs a mere RD$50 per square to have the chance of sharing the pot and winning up to RD$5,000!
We wish all you football fans a good season!
Sunday, August 15, 2004
Last time around we referred to some of the events behind the Dominican Republic’s independence. In order to fill out the history plot a little more we have to point out that the first hiccup to the country’s independence arrived in 1861 when Spain, clearly not being able to break with an old habit, decided on re-annexing the country. Power swayed to and fro between the Spanish rulers and the supporters of independence for four years before full independence was restored and it is the anniversary of this restoration which is celebrated each year on August 16th as ‘Restoration Day’. It is a national celebration and a national holiday usually bringing a great number of people out on to the streets even in the form of carnivals. This year’s ‘Restoration Day’ on Monday will be a particularly auspicious day, for it is also the day when Leonel Fernández begins his four year term of office as the new president carrying many hopes for a return to the steady progress that we witnessed up until 2000 in his previous term.
After a very brief flirt with the outermost effects of hurricane Charley earlier in the week the weather is currently at its very best with almost constant sunshine and light winds drifting along the beach every day. A festive hopeful mood of renewal is in the air and we expect there to be a very big crowd at Playa Vista celebrating in happy good-humored fashion on our “double whammy” Restoration Day!
Meanwhile seven years later:
And the people will be out on the streets celebrating again in glorious color and good humor. Everybody loves a party but in our experience the Dominicans perhaps a tad more than most.
Friday, August 6, 2004
The island of Hispaniola, on which we live, is about three times bigger than the state of Massachusetts, and we on the Dominican Republic side share it with Haiti… another independent republic. Roughly one third of the land mass is Haitian and two thirds Dominican. Squeezing the recent historical story of the island into a single sentence it can be said that the two countries finally went their own ways in 1844 when the Spanish-speaking Dominican side fought for and gained independence from their Haitian neighbors, who incidentally had gained their own independence from France a little further back in 1804.
In Haiti they use two languages namely French and Creole. Although far more widely spoken Creole was only finally made official as recently as 1987. We hear quite a lot of it in and around Boca Chica because there are many who come to settle here from the extremely impoverished Haitian side to improve their lot on this “better” side of the border.
On our side the official language is exclusively Spanish and although it differs from the land of Don Quixote, it is arguable that in general no more than the difference between British and American English.
So Spanish it exclusively is – apart from recent small incoming gatherings such as our own little Playa Vista enclave with our own strange, dare we say entertaining, mix of international English accents – or so we thought, until we talked to a bar guest from San Pedro de Macorís the other day. San Pedro is a sizeable city in itself half an hour to the east of Boca Chica and famed for its quality baseball players notably the super Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa. Our visitor told us of a genuine English speaking enclave in that city. He told us of the Cocolo Community where descendants of sugar plantation laborers brought in from the British Antilles still speak English. Apparently from the turn of the 20th century and even as recently as the 1940s people were brought in from St Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, and other English-speaking Caribbean islands. It is said that the Spanish language is making steady inroads in the USA – well, with the growing Playa Vista enclave, the Cocolo Community and the new President Fernandez’s plans for more English teaching in the schools to keep up with the internet explosion, we are quite sure that the reverse is the case here in the Latin DomRep!
Meanwhile seven years later:
Now with the end in sight of President Fernandez’s eight-year period of office and regrettably it is hard to discern any noticeable improvement in English comprehension from any initiatives his government may have taken. But perhaps the divide is narrowing anyway with the increase in numbers of Spanish speakers in the USA along with the very evident boom in Internet useage.
Friday, April 30, 2004
As you may or may not know the municipality of Boca Chica consists of the town of Boca Chica and the associated and contiguous district of San Andrés, nearly always abbreviated to just ‘Andrés’. To make an easy distinction between the two, one could describe Andrés as the area centered on the sugar refinery with its distinctive red and white chimney about a mile to the east of main town Boca Chica where most of the tourist traffic is. However, both look across to the Caucedo peninsula a little further to the east where there has been a considerable amount of development activity in the last few years.
From the vantage point of the Playa Vista terraza we have been witness to what portends to be a considerable shot in the arm to the local economy principally from the newly constructed ‘mega port’ which although inaugurated last week with a terrific firework display and presidential blessing, has been receiving ships for the past five months.
The only evidence of man’s engineering over in that direction used to be the arrival and departure of airplanes as they headed to and from the runway of Santo Domingo’s principal international airport located in the middle of the peninsula and by the way no more than a convenient 10 minutes by taxi from our own central location. Over the last three years the skyline has changed quite dramatically but it is at night that the developments are particularly notable, as they are all accompanied by quite spectacular lighting arrangements– the kind of unfailing electric show that would be the envy of quite a number of parts of the country that are often subject to complete and extended blackouts.
Conveniently we overlook the scenery directly from the west and can see the sun sink behind the peninsula… sometimes with its own inimitable display at the same time as the electrical illuminations are set in motion starting at the tip of the peninsula where there is a jetty for the large gleaming white storage tank located immediately alongside. As we scan inland the next major lit-up structure is that of the 300 megawatt electricity generating station which was stated to have been funded by the World Bank to provide economic power to both this country and supply down on to Haiti, although we have yet to hear of a follow up report on whether any energy eventually reaches our beleaguered neighbor. Then begins the mega port itself with a row of five up-to-the-minute technology giant cranes shipped in from China for loading and unloading of container ships tied up at the 600 meter wharf. All in all quite a light-show. Our bar has, over the last couple of years in particular, been visited by a range of seamen, workers, technicians, experts and managers associated with the various construction projects from various countries and we have it on good authority that the mega port development has been rigorously managed and controlled and kept on time and within the tolerances laid down. The port has potential for roll-on-roll-off ships as well as cruise liners, which a lot of people around here hope will also soon choose to dock in Boca Chica with their, for the Boca Chica area in general, equally valuable cargoes.
The night scene will, by the way, be so much more viewable from May 1st because the Playa Vista bar will no longer be throwing customers out just after sunset, but will stay open for the full spectacular entertainment until 10 pm or thereabouts – we just had to satisfy the increasingly vociferous demand to enjoy a nightcap and the million dollar view from the Playa Vista Terraza!
Meanwhile seven years later:
The cargoes brought in to the Caucedo port have continued to grow unabated and is now established as a major multi-modal port in the Caribbean. The port has clearly added employment over in Andres although direct advantages have been little felt in Boca Chica and the arrival of cruise ships appeared to be just another of those disappointing rumors.
Thursday, March 4, 2004
Hello folks… due to a sudden urgently required trip back to Europe the blog will be in recess for a couple of weeks. But no worries… we’ll be right back!
Meanwhile seven years later:
That particular trip was due to a death in the family. Exactly seven years on the photograph shows the woodland burial plot of that family member and the seven-year growth of oak tree planted as a marker in a style of burial increasingly popular in the UK to get away from those less ecological, religious traditions back in the old world.
For more information: http://woodland-burial-grounds.50webs.com