Hello from San Juan de La Maguana!

Today we learned many intriguing facts on our City Tour, including what “Maguana” actually means. Before Spanish colonization, the native Taino people separated the island into five kingdoms. The largest, which includes San Juan, was called Magua, thus… Maguana! On our tour we learned lots of other history about the native population, Spanish colonization, revolution and dictatorship. Our tour guide Cristino was passionate and knowledgeable, and ended by stressing the importance of education and learning about our past to know who we are. He shared lots of revealing stories, like how the Spanish tricked the King of Magua by offering him a mirror as a gift, which he took to be a peace offering. Instead, when he gazed into it, they captured him, tied his hands and shipped him away from his home. Throughout the city of San Juan we saw at least seven monuments, each one distinct. As a more modern example, one monument honors a journalist who was murdered under the Trujillo dictatorship for criticizing his government, which caused us to reflect on how much we must value our right to free speech and not take it for granted. Unfortunately, the US backed Trujillo during the Cold War because we believed he was anti communist.

The photos here show just some of the story this city has to tell.


At the end of the tour, panting and sticky with sweat, we were all awarded for our attention and endurance by enjoying popsicles in the shade. The Dominican teenage ambassadors played games with the students and everyone had a fun time. Finally, after cold showers back in the hostel, we ended our night with a surprise 4th of July celebration! Our hotel staff prepared hamburgers, French fries, corn and lemonade for us! And the PCs made red, white and blue decorations to make us feel right at home!

Overall we realized how to value our own culture, and also embrace a new one. We learned to appreciate the rights we have, while also thinking critically about the legacy of imperialism and the role the US plays in negative cycles of history that repeat all over the world.

Looking forward to Culture Day tomorrow!

Big Love,