• New York, New York

Playa Juan Dolio

In the beginning, you still feel foreign but then hits you the dry-salty furnace that leads you to believe that hell might be a beautiful place.

On the drive from Santo Domingo to Boca Chica to Juan Dolio, the palm trees along the highway remind you that this is one people, standing strong, and united but individual in their own survival.

Stopping at a Dell gas station, your car is immediately bombed by young boys looking to make a few pesos. You get irritated. Maybe you offer up a few English curse words, but they are hungry. You see it in their skinny and dry skeletons, in the way their eyes gleam “you have it, but I don’t”. These boys are not drinking, they are not supporting a drug habit… they are feeding a house of ten.

The entrance of Juan Dolio is a stretch, in the constant fear that you may miss your turn, you drive slow as hell making the locals place their gaze upon you and singling out your vehicle for containing foreign- “rich” -superior-paled faces. But it isn’t that, it’s me, but I still reek of raw politics, American Eagle, and crappy food.

I know that I have reached my destination when I am being welcomed by the house staff that will attend to all my needs, and sadly… are at my disposal. Taking a deep breath, swallowing my pride, I say nothing more than “Buenas noches” and all the things I wish to not eat for breakfast. I demand that no one is to touch any of my belongings nor enter my room. The house keeper now has the look of “who does she think she is? I am innocent. I still demand my full pay”. I place my hand on her shoulder for I know this look all too well. This is the same look my house keeper had when I was four and she wiped my room clean off all shiny and “American” things. “No te preocupes”, I smiled at her. Yeah, don’t worry, I will instead be paying you to keep your well-maintained hands off my things.

I wake up with the smell of fried salami and the sound of Marc Anthony, I know that the mangu with red onions will be placed with it. There’s a light knock on my door, signaling that my breakfast is ready. Walking down the spiral staircase I also hear the loud and proud voices of the dark and tall men attending to all things maintenance and I ask my house keeper, Blanca, to remain until the men have finished. My mom imbedded deep within me, the distrust of the men who probably held me when I was born, would have at some point killed for me, but now wouldn’t think twice in disintegrating me.

Walking out the door, towards the gate of my prestigious villa, I hear a “Señorita!”. Looking back is the face of my gatekeeper who is about to suggest that I do not leave and wander alone. As he begins to explain why, I begin to admit to enough, in Spanish, to get him to stay.

Headed down the no-lane road are the persistent motoconchos desperate for my attention. The first one whistles at me, the second yells a compliment that he thinks will win my poor- insecure heart over, and finally the one who always drives to you with his taxi motorcycle without you asking him to. I raised my hand chin level to signal my disapproval. As I turn the curve of the road, I started to feel the peace which I seek but I had forgotten about the women who are now judging and undressing me with their gaze. The little girls run up to me, hugging my knees, asking if there is any clothing that I wish to leave behind. Standing still for a moment, I am released and yelled at as I walk away in silence and in smiles.

Guayacanes. Taking a moment to feel the drips of sweat falling down my forehead, I breathe, aim for my shoes that protect my feet from the burning on this beautiful hell. The sand is hot, but I know that the waters will not betray me. I forget for a moment where I am, and that I am actually now a foreigner to my own lands. Back to reality and I am instantly surrounded by

caramel-peeling-long faced teenage boys, with arms up high holding up fish. They ask me if I wish to be seated. They ask me if I understand the language. Ask me if I need a beer, water, or coffee. That anything that I may need, all I to do is ask.

Taking one last breath before responding, I close my eyes and unswallow my pride. “Yo soy Dominicana, coño”, I snarled. “No me jodas mas”, I said, making eye contact with the boy who seemed the eldest. And at that moment, I couldn’t help but smile. The winds began to blow, the people stared no longer, the hell-hot sand welcomed me, and the begging stopped. I once lived this too, they know this now. They now know that I am simply one of the lucky ones.

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