We kicked off the day with an energizing breakfast of ham, cheese, bread, fruit, and pancakes! The pineapple was demolished within seconds (as it is any normal morning here). Then, with satisfied stomachs and anxious minds, we headed off to the Batey Librtad. A little information about Bateys: bateys are housing for workers (mainly in the sugarcane industry) that are populated by communities that include Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent. After a long bus ride, we were greeted by children big, small, loud, quiet, but all smiles. They accompanied us on the tour of the community where were taught its history and background. Once we were finished with the tour, we spilt up into groups and enjoyed a delicious Dominican style lunch with a host family. After lunch, we gathered in the headquarters of Yspaniola (our partner organization that provides literacy education for children in the batey), where guests speakers Keara, Ani, and community members shared their stories and issues regarding immigration. During our time in the headquarters, we had time to read with the local children and talk with the community members. We ended up forming a music circle, where everyone shared a little piece of music from their culture. Afterwards, we thanked our hosts and left back to our home of Monte de Oracion. We then had a wonderful dinner and a very in depth self-reflection. Finally, we ended with the usual nightly meeting,
It was a very tiring, but fun day. When we first arrived at the batey, the children came up to us as if they were waiting for us. I held hands with a few of them for a while, forming a bond. During the tour, they showed us a river that was once clean enough for people to swim and bathe. However, I was very disappointed when I found out that they now use it for just trash. When we got into groups to talk to the community members, I had a lot of fun hearing their answers to our funny and serious questions. I got to play with the children and bond. Overall I had a long, but very educational and fun day. I got to experience and learn about things that I never thought that I would, such as seeing people live completely different from how I live. Being a co-leader of the day was tiring, but my co-leader was there to support me. I would not change a single thing that happened today.
Today was a powerful day for me. Even though we had fun bonding with the children, playing games, eating delicious food, and creating a circle of mixed cultures, I couldn’t help but reflect on the true reality of the situation, the backgrounds in which each local was from, and the reason why they lived at the batey. After hearing the story of how Samuel (a documented, Dominican of Haitian descent) was stripped of his pride and identity by military personnel, I could not help but harbor negative feelings. I am an American. An American is not defined as a single specific race or culture, and it should be the exact same for Dominicans, with Haitian roots or not. In the end we are human beings, we have the right to identify ourselves as we please, undocumented or not. After Samuel shared his story of being accused of having false documents, being stripped, robbed, and made to sing a song, I thanked him. I thanked him for having the courage to continue on trying to build a life, for sharing his story, and for being such a strong individual. I also told him that I have so much respect for him, and I hope that one day, this country gives him and others like him the respect that they deserve, that we all deserve. Afterall, at the end of the day, we are one.