Written by Rosh Koch
The tour guide looked at us and said “Montellano? Why would you even WANT to go there?”
He had good reason to be nervous at the request. A van full of Gringos had no business in the suburban ghettos of Puerta Plata. But Benjamin is a man of his word and he promised to take us wherever we wanted to go; even if we did want to go to Montellano.
Montellano is a small Dominican Republic town on the outskirts of one of the nation’s most bustling tourist attractions. The resorts were beautiful, with lush lawns, happy workers, safe beaches, and walls to keep the riff raff out.
The walls around our resort, The Riu Bachata, and others were unimposing from within. From the outside, however, the walls were symbols of the Dominican inability to join with Western civility and prosperity. The walls house an unattainable utopia to be enjoyed by foreign visitors only. The walls protect those within from the horrors on the outside.
We traveled in a cramped van towards a gas station the small village where we were to meet our contact. Cara was a young girl of twenty-two years; a short statured Texan with a heart of gold and a smile that could paint a thousand skies. She would then lead us to the school where we would visit with the children and share the books, supplies, and game balls we brought with us from home.
The children we met were an absolute delight. I had my lip pierced, as well as my ears and cartilage. The near dozen tattoos fluttering about my arm were different to these kids. Such excessive living is something that most, if not all, of them will never see.
“EL GIGANTE! EL GIGANTE!” one boy yelled as I approached. The he grabbed my arm, looked at the picture of Jesus laughing and tried to rub the tattoo onto his arm. If only getting inked were so easy.
The children, as we came to find out, were mostly illegal Haitian immigrants. After a certain age, Haitian children are forced out of the public schools, leaving them to remain uneducated and unable to find work.
There are an estimated 1M illegal Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic, a number seemingly small until compared to a general populous of barely 9M.
What we had also come to learn is the hatred for the illegals by the Dominicans. I tried to learn the reasons as to why there is such animosity towards people sharing the island of Hispaniola, but could not find just one reason.
The blatant racism has facilitated over a century of violence and hatred.
But in this little school building, hatred has no home.
Makarios has been educating Haitian children who are unable to attend public schools since Sharla Megilligan began the program in the spring of 2004. The organization is Christ-centric and the staff are young Gringos with a greater hope for a better world for all of God’s children.
The school is not only a place of learning, but a place of healing — as doctors and dentists make routine visits to the children lacking government programs or finances to afford basic health care.
The staff at Makarios also teach the students, who are separated into classrooms by age to facilitate progressive education, to play sports, maintain gardens, and love like Jesus loves — unconditionally.
Life in Montellano isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.
Last week a Dominican mob destroyed at least ten Haitian immigrant dwellings in response to the brutal killing of a Dominican motorcycle courier by three armed thugs. The attackers used machetes in the mugging and murder of 35 year-old Rafael Ventura Tineo.
For many Haitians living in the Dominican, life can be frightening. But even the threat of violence cannot return them to the destitute squalor they live with in Haiti.
Mob violence has been on an upswing. Haitians are being persecuted, often to the point of death, by the resident host Dominicans for infractions and even simple accusations, a scene all to reminiscent of the pre-civil liberties movement in the United States.
Hatred is ugly. The Dominican Republic is pock marked with violent outbursts. One can only hope that the smiles of the children are a beacon of promise to end such travesties
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