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Dominican Republic
Wiki dedicated to Cultural Exchange - Learn about people, cultures, geography of the Dominican Republic. HHS Students can ask questions about the people, culture and geography of the places you see in these wiki pages using the discussion tab. Remember to be polite and respect the postings of others!

Check out Ponce de Leon's Castle

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Here are two photographs taken only a few miles apart. However, you will notice a difference in the quality of surroundings. The first picture was taken at the resort where our Virginia Tech class was staying. The second was taken a few miles down the road in the first town you come to, Veron. The cheapest of rooms at the resort go for 300 dollars per night; 300 dollars is more than many of the people in Veron will see in a year and maybe in their lives. One of the projects our group worked on was how to boost local involvement in tourism to bring added income to these regions.

Our class was located on the eastern-most tip of the Island of the Dominican Republic, which is bordered on the west by Haiti. Many of the people in the surrounding towns work in the all inclusive resorts such as Punta Cana, Cap Cana, and Ocean Blue Resort. They work 14 day shifts, 10 hours a day, for many times no more than 6 or 7 dollars an hour. The only relief they get is a three day rest period at the end of their 14 day shift. This money is sent back home to support their families who often consist of not just immediate family but grandparents and siblings as well. Most often a father will work to support his wife, kids, any unmarried sisters, his and his wifes parents, and also orphaned nieces and nephews. However, being separated from the family for long periods of time facilitates the breakdown of morales that were once upheld by the close-knit family life. Living in these shanty towns, where unemployment often reaches 40 percent, men are free to do as they please; prostitution and alcoholism are rampant.

While driving through these towns it is extremely hard not to relish running water and underground sewage. The sewage runs through the streets of many towns and open pit sewers are common. Being so close to sea level does not allow the island to have fresh water from underground, rather, the houses have tanks on the roofs that are filled with drinking water. Many times this water is collected from rain fall. When driving down the roads in DR you notice that they are covered in potholes and often almost unnavigable. Standing on the side of the streets are boys and girls, men and women of all ages, clearly not working, or, if they are working, they are peddling pictures and trinkets to tourists who happen to stop.

Although this paints an unhappy picture of the Island, all is not bad. Many of the resorts in the area have programs that help teach locals up to the high school level. They also employ a great number of them, especially of they speak English. The resort I was in actually built a high school in the nearest town. This is not enough though. More of the government's budget needs to be turned towards education in order to give more of the citizens a chance to excel or at least better their lives.

~Chance H.
Dominican Republic Learning Exchange