The greatest thing about Independence Day in the Dominican Republic is simple: fieston! If you have ever found yourself on the island in late February, caught somewhere between a set of ridiculously large speakers, a 50 year old man burying himself in sand and a cold Presidente, you know what I mean.
The DR has always been known for life’s root pleasures; dance, beauty, sunshine and laughter, but there is a new identity surfacing in the Dominican psyche, one that is not a fad…it is an all new Dominican Independence.
Looking as far back as the fall of the Rafael Trujillo military regime, we find that thousands of Dominicans were pushed towards the U.S. in the early 1960s, impelling the Dominican-American self-identity evolution. Although many came looking for opportunity, escaping a life of poverty, a funny thing happened as the years rolled by; a new generation of Dominican-Americans began to reach the summit of both the American and the Dominican dream in almost every area you could imagine!
Today, over 21% of all second-generation Dominican Americans have college degrees, slightly below the average for all Americans (24%). * That is pretty amazing, considering the vast majority of first generation Dominican immigrants lacked a quality education, English in most cases and in many others had to survive their first NYC winter without a North Face jacket (diablo!). It is equally amazing because the Dominican Republic continues to have one of the inadequate education systems in the Western Hemisphere. (The Dominican Republic’s public investment in education is 2.3% of its Gross Domestic Product, ranking 122nd out of 132 countries)** Think of all that potential!
Once that potential is fulfilled we can clearly see the height of success for Dominicans is limitless. Here are some examples potential realized and tell me if you disagree:
- Arts and Literature – Pulitzer Prize winner, Junot Diaz. Really, the Pulitzer! They don’t just dish that out for a great American novel, they dish that out for the American novel.
- Business – Cid Wilson, Forbes ranked #1 financial analyst in Specialty Retailing, 2006.
- Politics – Watch out DC, here they come. Senator Adriano Espaillat, first Dominican elected to the State House.
- Hollywood – How about Celines Toribio, one of People Magazines Top 50 Most Beautiful People 2008? Need more? OK, Michelle Rodriguez (Fast and the Furious, Lost)?
- Sports – I am not sure if I even need to go down this road, but name the best baseball player at each position and I’ll give you a comparable if not better Dominican one. Hecho.
This month as we celebrate Dominican Día de la Independencia, let us also take this opportunity to recognize and honor the amazing strides just one generation of Dominican Americans have made. In doing so, Latin Trends and the DREAM Project warmly invite you to hacer algo por la patria, as our mothers used to say, by joining us in NYC for the Dominican Dream Independence Day Fundraising Celebration; all proceeds benefiting sustainable education programs for at-risk youth in the Dominican Republic.
On this noche de gala, our co-hosts will include the venerable, Junot Diaz, Honorary Chair of The DREAM Project, and the beautiful, Celines Toribio! Very special guests also include Miss República Dominicana U.S., Cid Wilson, and Senator Adrianao Espaillat. Additional invites include NY Giant and Super Bowl Champion Victor Cruz, Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, Pedro Martinez, actress Michelle Rodriguez, Atlanta Hawk’s, Al Horford and many more.
Now, as you consider your donation, think about this, if every child had access to opportunity, if every youth could harness the profound talent that lies beneath—potential— just imagine what we would be celebrating in another 50 years?
Visit their site: dominicandream.org
*Castro, Max J. (2002). The Dominican Diaspora Revisited, Dominicans and Dominican-Americans in a New Century.
**UNESCO UIS Data, UNESCO Institute for Statistics