My parents live on a main thoroughfare in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. Its name is Avenida 27 de Febrero which is the date of our republic’s Independence Day. On this day (the 27th of February) in 1844 the country that is now the Dominican Republic gained autonomy from Haiti. I tend to read history with a grain of salt, because as we all know, to the victor goes the narrative.
In any case, the island is two nations, former colonies of Spain and France, and have a sordid and convoluted creation story. The name on the map for the land is Hispaniola. The indigenous, who were enslaved and decimated by the conquerors, called the land Quisqueya, or Mother of all lands.
Faced with a lack of laborers, enslaved Africans were brought to work the fields. Thus begins the caste system of color gradations. The mentality being that the lighter the skin, the better. The subconscious damage this inflicts on self esteem and identity fulfillment is immeasurable. We still contend with the ravages of slavery today. It is only in very recent years that natural hair for girls and women is not shunned or looked at disapprovingly.
Nevertheless, I still claim my Dominican heritage. I love arriving in Santo Domingo and being greeted by a warm sun, merengue music, and COLOR everywhere! And then there’s family—lots of family. The bottom line is that this IS who I am. I am a descendant of all of these forces which inform everything I imagine and create. It is my hope that with the help of the ancestors perhaps we all can become who we are meant to be.