(9/24/15) The Dominican Republic definitely has it’s share of national holidays! Today’s holiday  is called “Our Lady of Mercies” (La Virgen de las Mercedes). 400 years ago she was proclaimed as the patron saint of the Dominican Republic and the whole island of Hispaniola.

What this usually means is much more drinking and partying on the streets. For this reason it would be a good idea to limit travel if you can and try to stay off the main highways as much as possible. The death count on the highways frequently raises considerable during “Dias de Fiesta” or holidays.

Our Lady of Mercies” is a catholic celebration and a national holiday. Many banks, government institutions and other businesses will be closed today to observe the festival.

As with many of the Catholic saints, this saint is said to have (more…)

(1/6/14) Well, if you haven’t noticed there is another holiday today in the DR. Today is part of the way Dominican celebrate Christmas. While celebrators in the United States give gifts on Christmas Day, Dominican give gifts a week later on “”El día de los tres reyes magos” or “Three Kings Day”. Today you will find many of the larger businesses closed although many of the smaller colmados and tiendas will be open in the morning.

I find it interesting that the  Spanish name of the celebration includes the word “mago” meaning Magician, wizard, conjurer or prestidigitator (or astrologers). Usually this term isn’t used in English translations (more…)

In the past people wanting to get married in the Dominican Republic outside of the Catholic Church could only get married at the civil registry. For this reason there were often two weddings performed in the Dominican Republic for each couple. The Legal wedding at the registry and a second religious wedding ceremony by a minister at some other location.

A new law now allows other religions to perform the legal marriage ceremony. The first non-Catholic religious marriage ceremony that is also counted as a legal marriage ceremony was held in Santo Domingo for a Jehovah’s Witness couple. While the couple still chose to have the marriage held at the Civil Registry this allowed the ceremony to be to be done by an Elder instead of (more…)

Likely Jazz isn’t one of the first things that come to mind when you think of the Caribbean and the Dominican Republic. However for that last 17 years the Dominican Ministry of Tourism has held an annual Jazz Festival on the island.

The event will be held over 4 consecutive days from October 31, 2013 through November 3, 2013 in three separate locations along the North Coast of the Dominican Republic. The venue will be moved each day from one location to the next.

Oct 31, 2013 Dominican Jazz Festival, Puerto Plata Independence Park, Puerta Plato, Dominican Republic Puerto Plata
Nov 1, 2013 Dominican Jazz Festival, Sosua Hotel Casa Marina Amphitheater, Sosua, Dominican Republic Sosua
Nov 2, 2013 Dominican Jazz Festival, Cabarete Cabarete Beach Town Center, Cabarete, Dominican Republic Cabarete

2013 Dominican Jazz Festival

All three of these locations have a heavy tourist influence with a large number of foreign residents. If you are planning to visit the DR this would probably be an interesting time to plan your visit giving you a good reason to take a break from the beach and get to know a few of the locals!

As part of an international beauty contest and the International Tourism Film Festival the Dominican Republic will be choosing a “Miss Dominican Nature” who will compete for the Miss Nature Crown. The new Miss Nature International will be an international ambassador in environmental protection campaigns and will be part of fund raising efforts for environmental protection.

Candidates will need to be single, at least 5’5’’ in height and between 18 and 26 years old. The candidate will also need to be well versed in the culture of the country they represent. While one of the other requirements is that the candidate be physically fit, there is no ward yet as to whether there will be a “Miss Nature swim suit competition” as part of the contest. (more…)

One of the things that surprised me when I first moved to the Dominican Republic is the openly gay community that you find here. While politically the Dominican Republic appears to be rather neutral, the predominant religion of the country Catholicism has historically been, at least publically, against same sex couples. Even with this pressure against this sexual orientation, homosexuality is more prevalent in the D.R than in any other country in the Caribbean.

While in the United States the more showy gay men (flamers) are usually only seen in the larger cities, it is not uncommon to see men in traditionally women’s clothing even in the smaller towns of the D.R. For the most part Dominicans are tolerant of this culture (either locals or foreign visitors), although there is frequent reports of “Gay Bashing”, either verbal or physical, reported in the news. It is not uncommon to meet younger men (15-20 years old) that are obviously experimenting with “alternate lifestyles”, even in the smaller towns.

Like the U.S. homosexuality is even more frequently observed in the larger cities, especially the ones that receive large amounts of tourist traffic. Prostitution, both straight and gay is open and readily accessible in most of the beach and tourist towns. (more…)

Fa La La La La (and snort boom burp!)As Christmas approaches so does the Christmas music and x-mas traditions. Dominican love to copy Los Americanos (the Americans) and Christmas traditions are no exception, as usual though Dominicans have their own take on things. And so, the birth of Dominican Christmas caroling.

I’m sure everyone can picture it from the movies, a group of people bundled up, walking through the snow and stopping at houses to sing a song and spread “x-mas cheer”. Well, the Dominican version does include a group of people and stopping at houses, but the similarity pretty much ends there.

The traditional Dominican Caroling starts around the 15th of December (when school lets out for a couple weeks) and continues every night through the end of the year. It consists of a group of kids 7 – 20 years old with drums, and other percussion instruments (more…)

Cows heading Home in Fantino

Cows heading Home in Fantino

Something you have to get used to while driving the rural streets of the Dominican Republic and sometimes even the streets of the larger towns, is sharing the streets with livestock. The term “when the cows come home” refers to the way a cow (usually) just ambles along at a slow pace, and really takes meaning when you find yourself coming up to a herd in the street that is completely unaffected by your desire to pass.
In most cases the owner of the herd is nearby and will try to get the animals to move to one side of the road so you can pass, this has various degrees of success depending on what is distracting the cows at the time. So, this often means weaving through the cows if you’re on a motorcycle or waiting till they pass if you’re in a car.

Weaving through a herd of cattle can be a little nerve wracking at first. Some of the bulls are very large and as you sit on your bike, you find yourself looking up to the head of the Bull or at best eye to eye with a set of horns. Considering that he might take offence to you getting between him and his harem this isn’t exactly the most comfortable place to be.

Really though, the animals are quite used to people and motorcycles and if you don’t do anything to startle them, you are usually pretty safe. I just try to take it slow and anticipate which direction the individual cows might decide to take.

Accident Laws

Accidents are frequently caused by animals in the streets, especially at night. With few street lights in the rural areas you often don’t see the animal until you are very close. While the speeds people travel here are relatively slow compared to the States (usually 20 – 40 mph), this can mean a lot of damage and at times death when there is a motorcycle accident.

One typical case that recently happened in my area was a motorcyclist traveling at night who hit a horse in the street. This accident left him paralyzed from the neck down. (more…)

Something to be aware of if you are planning on traveling to the Dominican Republic over the next few months. Those fireworks that you find for sale on the streets are illegal to use here. While it is probably pretty unlikely that you would get caught, it is usually a good idea to obey the laws in countries you visit.

Haitian Fireworks for the Holidays

Over the next few months the smuggling of fireworks from Haiti into the Dominican Republic increases and they becoming easier and easier to find. Often they are used as part of the various celebrations in the upcoming months.

Carbide and Water bombs

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There have been more reports of ongoing protests at the entrance of the Barrick mine near Cotui. The march was called “peaceful” however if you have ever tried navigating a road anywhere near protests (locally called a “huelga” pronounced wel-ga) you probably know that peaceful is a matter of opinion.

Police with tear gas and shotguns have been stationed all the way to Cotui at many of the intersections. Needless to say if you have business that takes you out of Cotui in the direction of the mines it might be a good idea to hold off until the demonstrations are wrapped up.

Even if you are not near the actual protest, during these times people have a tendency to start getting worked up and small skirmishes and arguments can happen anywhere in the area and in nearby towns (like Cotui), when you start to hear yelling and screaming pay attention to what is happening hear you. (It can be tough at times to tell the difference between a friendly domino game and an argument here at times)

Dominican Republic Huelga

(more…)

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