Thursday, February 20:
I had a long night last night. I was dropped off at the airport at about midnight
Saturday, February 22.
Today was my first interview. Yesterday was the Friday before the last weekend of Carnaval street celebrations, so it was difficult to talk to anyone about my project. This worked out pretty nicely, as I was able to get my preliminary research together, organize my thoughts and really prepare for my first interview with the principal of a local school. One thing I have noticed in my short time in this country is that driving seems to be a full-contact sport with next to no rules. Red lights, stop signs, and pedestrians seem to be mere suggestions to stop, not requirements. It is not uncommon to see three Vespas joined together by each drivers putting one foot on the scooter closest to them. This makes it so people can still talk while on the move. Needless to say, we did not get in a car here without some level of trepidation! I was also able to witness an incredibly interesting ceremony in which a baby was baptized with his godparents present in his own home. It is called a ‘water party’ and it was quite similar to baptism ceremonies I have been to in the States, except for the fact that it was in a home instead of a church.
Sunday, February 23.
One of the greatest things about anthropological research is the requirement that you immerse yourself in the local culture to understand better the people you are researching. Being in La Vega for this weekend is incredibly lucky, since I am able to witness and participate in Carnaval. Every Sunday in the month of February, La Vega is turned into the cultural capital of the Dominican Republic. Parades and partying take over the streets, which are clogged with people and demon costumes wielding large beanbag footballs on ropes, which they use to hit Carnaval-goers in punishment for the sins they have committed in the past year. It was painful when I turned my back to the “demons” and got a surprise attack! After leaving Carnaval and the music of the party behind, I was able to conduct another interview despite the loud music outside. I was pretty exhausted by the end of the long, fun day. It was almost impossible to sleep through the continuing music and yelling filtering in through the bedroom window!
Monday, February 24.
Today was quite productive and exciting! Not only was I able to get two interviews done, one in the morning and one in the early evening, but I was able to explore more of the island. After my first interview, we headed out to see a museum dedicated to the Mirabal sisters. These sisters were murdered during the Trujillo regime and are remembered as heroines and near saints all over the island. They are even featured on 200 peso bills. Unfortunately, the museum is closed on Mondays, so we were unable to take a tour. Fortunately, the sisters’ birthplace was nearby and we were able to talk our way into a tour of the grounds. It is now a cacao farm, as it was then, and the home is nearly the same as it was when the sisters lived there. We were able to try some fresh cacao seeds (white and fleshy, I thought they tasted like watermelons) and some sundried ones which were incredibly bitter but unmistakably chocolate. After leaving home, we visited the memorial across the street that was erected for the sisters. It was an incredible experience I can only hope to repeat. The last wonderful part of the day was the interview I had this evening with a local hero and entrepreneur. Today exceed my every expectation and I cannot express my gratitude for this amazing country.
Tuesday, February 25.
My last interview was today, and it was a bittersweet experience. The interview was with the owner of the oldest operating restaurant in the city, who was incredibly kind and intelligent; it was a joy to talk with him about my project and to hear his story. While I cannot wait to get home and begin to put together my research and present it, I am going to miss this country and city greatly. The people have been incredibly welcoming and kind, and I have never experienced such hospitality. Tomorrow is going to be my last full day here, and it is looking like it will be spent packing and resting up for our early flight and return trip home. I really hope I can return here again, to incorporate these amazing stories into my graduate studies in a bioarchaeological context and to better understand what happened to the amazing people of this nation under one of the most brutal dictators in the history of Latin America.