A Love Letter to the Dominican Heritage Tour by Katherine Carol

The Barahona viewpoint mountains and blue waters

The Dominican Heritage Tour is a cultural heritage project delving into the cross-cultural influences and deep history of the Caribbean – in the hopes of better understanding and preserving our rich heritage while embracing the country’s natural wonders. This project is of particular importance in today’s increasingly transnational world and for us first-generation hyphenated Americans – who grew up between worlds, yearning to better understand our roots and multicultural values/identities. This project is in collaboration with local entrepreneurs, community leaders, and researchers in the efforts to not connect with but support each other.

Below is a reflection of the 9-day trip experience by Katherine Carol.

My patriotism has always been a reluctant one. Dominicanidad to me was an affection for my family and a tenderness for the memories of my veranos en la isla. But pressing down on the peripheries of that affection were the stories of rampant delincuencia, the “no salgas de noche,” “no te confies,” the arbitrary colorism, the insidious internalized colonialization, the machismo, the xenophobia, and what I believed to be a heartbreaking lack of activism. As a result, I grew to have this super dualistic relationship to RD – a messy split between a hypercritical regard and deep yearning for connection to mi isla. 

When I saw Dominican Abroad post about her heritage tour, yo simplemente pense, huh. It would be cool to explore the island as an adult and support turismo. That’ll be chill. 

And then homegirl gave me whiplash, do yall hear me?! She said lack of activism? FUA! Here are Nicole Pichardo and Ruth Pion, two dope women who are dismantling and challenging sh*t, holding juntas to address racism and sexism and engaging in environmental advocacy. She said internalized colonialism? FUA FUA! Here are Ayaguana Ayitï and Jean Sano Santana, researchers working on decolonialidad, reconciliación de nuestra afro-descendencia and reconceptualizacion of Dominicans as afro-indigenous people. she said peligros y falta de confianza? BOOM. Lets take several night walks to our restaurants (lo que yo siempre pensaba que era completamente impossible en la Isla, since delincuencia, right?). 

Taino Heritage Workshop

And on top of all that, she said TOMA! theatres, second-hand stores, beautiful galleries/book stores/coffee shop hybrids! she introduced us to the super knowledgable professor and researcher Pablo Feliz, who was an encyclopedia when it came to environmentalism and biodiversity. en mano con David David Duran Bueno, nos llevo a saltos escondidos y a cruzar rios en vestidos. and she introduced us to Moraima Capellán, who led us through the yummiest moon salutations. con la delicadez que tiene Gerry, she cracked open Every. Single. One. of my misconceptions and sprinkled seeds (all of which felt like detonations though, to be clear) for future exploration. IN NINE DAYS YALL.

Katherine Carol @ Bahia de las Aguilas

My head is still spinning, my heart has been fluttering, there is a fire flickering in my chest. And the best part? My favorite disintegration of prior beliefs was the fact that I always thought this was un trabajo solitario. Dominicanidad is nuanced and complicated and everyone arrives at that unlearning in their own time. Which can mean your pace is a lonely one. and so my experience has been to reach for connection through the solitary action of reading. but this trip stitched more than a dozen like-minded, open-hearted, curious and incredible Dominican women from the diaspora together and allowed us to question and relearn en comunidad. It was powerful. I think I have sounded a little bit dramatic when people have asked me how this trip was ? pero honestamente, I felt a deep shift. Me amplio totalmente mi punto de vista y me enseño que si hay comunidad en esta exploración. 

Campo life in DR

To all the incredible people we met along the way, les doy las gracias del fondito de mi corazon. Son increibles y una gran inspiración. And thank you Dominican Abroad, for your intentionality and love for this project, which DRIPPED in every single thing we did. I am so in awe of you. 

When I told my friend about it, she said “it kind of sounds like the Dominican version of Birthright.” Yo. APT DESCRIPTION! 

Palitos de Coco / Katherine Carol

Katherine Carol is a Dominican-American highschool counselor living in New York City.

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