Question of the Day: How has sugar cane production impacted the DR over the years?

Quote of the Day: “With my consumer choices, I can change the world.”

Hello! My name is Derek Hollingsworth, and I was El Lider Del Dia today. The overall theme for the day was global business, with a focus on sugar cane production here in the Dominican Republic. We woke up early, had breakfast, and then went to a sugar cane mill in Barahona.

When we arrived, Julio, a manager at the mill, gave us a presentation about the history of the mill, as well as how workers are treated. One key point was that the company hires workers from Haiti to work cutting the sugar cane during the harvesting season, from November to May. After the harvest is over, they are sent home. Each worker harvests between 3 tons and 11 tons of sugar cane per day. However, Julio assured us that they like doing the work, and that it is not very hard. They even love working so much that, when their 7 to 8 hour workday is over, the company sometimes has to force them, at gunpoint, to stop working.  Finally, after a hard day of work, they had around 5 hours to be away from the factory to do various things, before they had to return to the housing that the company provides them. Around 10 workers sleep in one room, and they are not allowed to bring in either alcohol or women to their rooms. However, again, he assured us that the workers love it there.

Hopefully that last paragraph raised an eyebrow or two. We all saw through what Julio was saying and recognized the terrible conditions they had to work in.  Every worker has to bring in at least 3 tons of sugar cane per day. That’s 6,000 pounds. Per day. To cut sugar cane manually, they have to use machetes to cut the base of the plant. They do that for around 8 hours, every day. Not only is that hard and tedious work, but it’s also very dangerous. One slip of the arm and they have a terrible leg wound. Also, the part about forcing them to stop working clearly has more behind it than loving their job. Is it that they want to make as much money as possible for their families? Is it a blatant lie? We will find out more tomorrow when we visit the bateyes that many Haitians live in. We will talk to them about the work at the mill, to get a new perspective on the issue and get one step closer to figuring out the truth.

We also taught our third day of English class. We had fewer students than yesterday, possibly because it rained. Regardless, it was easier for us to teach smaller groups, so our classes went more smoothly.

After that, we had dinner, and then did our nightly meeting where I passed the torch on to tomorrow’s El Lider Del Dia, Rebecca Cisneros. Tomorrow’s theme is poverty, and we will be visiting bateyes, which are some of the poorest communities in the entire country. It will probably be one of the most emotional days of the whole trip, and personally, I can’t wait.

Pictures of today are coming soon!

P.S. Just a quick hello to my parents, my brother and my puppy! I miss you all so much! Hopefully I’ll be able to call home soon, but until then, I love you guys!