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Ysamur Flores-Pena: 2004-05 Faculty Development Grant Report


Report: Discovering the Dominican Republic

The Dominican republic occupies two thirds of the island of La Hispaniola. The other one third of the island is Haiti. This past Summer, thanks to the Otis College of Art and Design Faculty Improvement Grant, I traveled to the Dominican Republic to research issues of African folk religions and issues of identity. Haiti and the Dominican Republic have a history of political and cultural tensions dating back to the nineteenth century. After its emancipation from France, Haiti invaded the Dominican Republic and stayed from 1849 to 1850. This invasion not only brought two countries with two distinct colonial histories to a violent encounter it also allowed for the free exchange of traditions and folk practices.

Dominican folk religious practice or Dominican Vudu is a direct result of the geographical and historical closeness. The pantheon and the practices are very similar to Haitian Vodou yet Dominicans have also added their own flavor to the practice. In this context Haiti is both the invader, source of cheap labor, the boggy man, and sacred land at once.

The following images can provide a glimpse of this fascinating country.

 Columbus Lighthouse

The controversial Colombus Lighthouse built to celebrate the 500th. Anniversary of the encounter and to serve as a mausoleum for Colombus' remains.

 Painted column

Representations of Africa are always associated with music and magic.

 Folk dolls

Dominican folk dolls which use Africa as the source of artistic inspiration and national identity.

 Market

A thriving market that offer the practitioners the hosts of heaven for sale.

 Columbus Monument

The Colombus Monument celebrates the Hispaniola as "The land that Colombus loved the most."

 Taino folk carvings

Taíno (Arawak) inspired folk carvings.

 Meninas

The Meninas, folk carvings that reflects the Dominican concept of being the product of two cultures: Spanish and Arawak. (Africa is not mentioned.)

 Folk healer

The folk practices remain very visible with folk healers offering their services.