Not ten minutes outside of Santo Domingo and you’re already catching glimpses of the infamous beauty of this country. Mountains in the distance and lush green hills dotted with palm trees in the fore ground. All of it increasing in diversity and complexity until you reach the Cibao Valley - banana trees lining the road and rice fields seemingly extending to the mountains. Then as you turn toward the northwest, the landscape grows rockier, dustier, and despite the climb in altitude, hotter. Palm trees give way to pine trees, and town after town covered in orange dust: the border approaches.
About three times a week, all along the border, Haitians flood into the country to pawn off the used clothes and cheap perfumes they receive from U.S. and international aid agencies for items they actually need - food and water. It’s a mad scrambling back-and-forth, wheelbarrows full of clothes coming in, then returning with as many platanos as will fit, four people pushing a vehicle made for oxen, a dozen 6x6 cartons of egg stacked one atop the other, taller than the woman who’s carrying all of it on her head - from morning until the Dominican soldiers get
tired of dealing with smelly Haitians in the burning sun. All of it a rough shoving of bodies throughout a 25 square block market. It’s like a trip out of the hemisphere, complete with a white UN tank resting across the dying river that divides both countries.
People in the D.R. have their hardships like the majority of the human population, but most are not forced to struggle every waking minute just to live into the next day. On the contrary, there’s plenty of leisure regardless of income: dominos, baseball, rum, just sitting around, chatting about the size of mangos. But on market days in Dajabon, you’re surrounded by a different group of humans - by sets of deadened eyes that never see joy in place of survival, by mouths that never smile and bodies that never rest.
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