Hola from Rancho Campeche! The students are just winding down now as I write this at 11pm in the evening, after a full day of music, dance, and sweat! In the morning after a delicious breakfast of sweet oatmeal, eggs and papaya, we had an academic seminar on culture that energized the glimpers here into thinking about what the day would uncover in terms of learning about Dominican culture. Our first visit came with Ariel, a young and inspirational dance teacher from San Cristobal. With our youth ambassadors from Yaguate, we learned a hip-hop dance to a tune by Chris Brown (Five Hours), and then we changed the tune (no pun intended) and learned the basic moves of una bachata and a merengue, two dances common to the island (along with a song by Romeo Santo). Moving on to the afternoon, we went to a small town near the rancho called Sainagua to a foundation called Centro Solnaciente dedicated to promoting African music. Here we learned to play the atabales, a traditional drum from West Africa in addition to practicing some dance moves. We also learned a little about the history of African culture in the Dominican Republic and how the slave population in the time of the Spanish colonization worked to preserve facets of their culture through religious syncretism. (Google it, I had to!) By the end of the two hours, we were all dancing and had all learned the basics of drumming. A few students even joined the band members there and were able to play with them. All and all, it was a high energy day filled with lots of laughs, sweat, and fun! Music is heard here from 6 am in the morning until the wee hours of the night and now we understand a bit better about different types of music on the island and just how important it is to Dominican life.
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