QOTD: “The more you can increase fear of immigrants and aliens, the more you control all of the people.” –Noam Chomsky
Jessica: Greetings everyone! Today me and Tarunika were both leaders of the day for a day that I was very excited for, Immigation Day. We learned about immigration in the Dominican Republic as we traveled to the border of Haiti and Dominican Republic. While our way to the border town, Elias Piña, we picked up some friends we hadn’t met yet, and they shared their experiences with living by the border with us.
The day started at 5 in the morning. It was the earliest we would have to wake up on our trip, so the nightly meeting before everyone rushed to get ready for lights out. While preparing for our long awaited bus ride to Elias Piña, myself and Taru both feeling rushed, forgot the LLD travel bag filled with toilet paper and snacks. We both felt our stress level on high, but the problem was solvable. The same stop picking up our friends, we were also able to get our missing necessities.
Arriving in Elias Piña, it was filled with people all around preparing for the market that was taking place in the streets of the town. Since it was Friday, vendors from both the Dominican Republic and Haiti weren’t required to show identification to cross the border. Anyone was allowed to cross the border to sell their goods at either the market that was taking place in Elias Piña or in the market taking place in Haiti. We actually had a special moment where everyone in the group placed one of their legs in D.R. and the other one in Haiti. Because of many immigration reforms happening back in the US, I personally felt very inspired seeing how Haitians and Dominicans come together to create a community, but I also I wished there was better treatment for the Haitians. They share a market space in Elias Piña that has become apart of their culture since it started, and do this routine every Monday and Friday.
Before experiencing the market for ourselves, we stopped at El Museo De La Cultura Fronteriza. Back in the Trujillo Era, the space where the museum is now used to be a hotel for Military Officials back in his dictatorship. Trujillo would build buildings to try to prevent Haitians from moving the border into the Dominican Republic. He would want to distance both countries from uniting as one, but today we experienced otherwise. The museum demonstrated both Haitian and Dominican culture. Both countries have differences, but the similarities they share were embraced in this museum through the various forms displayed. We learned about religion, music, and tradition. This was a great way to learn from both cultures and prepare for the market that we went to after. While in the market, we saw both Dominicans and Haitians come together to be apart of the market. One of our friends that we made, Jude, was of Haitian descent, and he helped me learn some words in Creole because I was eager to speak with some of the children I met in the market. This was the highlight of my day because I am very passionate about children and learning from them. The market experience is definitely one to remember.
Hello! It’s Tarunika now. After the chaotic yet colorful market experience, we transitioned into an informative and emotionally-charged lunch with the Haitian youth. They told us about their experience of being Haitian descendants in the Dominican Republic. The youth also mentioned the racism they have to face because of their backgrounds. But one consensus they all agreed upon was that life in the DR was far more beneficial to their future. Even though we asked a lot of questions and learned about them, in turn, they asked us many questions as well. The bonds that were created with the youth were truly touching. That is because even though we all come from different backgrounds, stories, and experiences, we all could share that connection together. Saying goodbye to them was bittersweet, especially for me because they were all so friendly, but we had to move onto our next activity.
It was a long ride back to Onaney’s, but it allowed some of us to catch up on some much needed sleep. We had to wake up very early in the morning after all. At Onaney, we rested up a bit and got ready for English tutoring. Today was actually a national holiday in the DR, so we were worried students would not show up. But at least personally, I was touched when the few students did show up. Their drive for learning is truly inspiring and so was their desire to expand their knowledge. The day wrapped up with dinner, and the nightly meeting, where we had a deep conversation of immigration and how we can relate to it back in the United States. It was interesting, as it was a multi-faceted conversation with many angles.
Jessica: Overall, today was a very informative day learning about two different cultures. This was by far my favorite day because it was an impactful experience. Hearing many of the Haitian youth’s stories made me realize how important it is for others to keep sharing their stories to impact others like ours did today. It made me realize how immigrating to a new country can make you lose sight of your roots. Relating this back to how it is living in the United States today, being first generation, it is hard to embrace my culture when my country is constantly trying to reject it. In a time when immigration is very controversial in the United States. It is important to see past the border lines.
Tarunika: Today, the stories I learned and the friendships I made were priceless. Immigration is something I can relate to as I am an immigrant myself. I know how strenuous the process was on my parents and how hard it can be to ensure you are properly secured in the new country you moved at. I also marveled at the thirst for knowledge that I see at English tutoring and wish to carry on their energy in my own life. Our group also had such an amazing support system and that was something I personally enjoyed seeing. I am very thankful for this experience.