To me an all-inclusive trip down south wouldn’t be a real experience if I didn’t make a side trip to see how local people live in the village.
As we were approaching El Salado village on our jeep, countryside excursion guide was giving us a little insight on the Dominican life.
Many Dominicans left their native land and looking for better life in other countries. Believe it or not but Dominican Republic has its own immigrants coming mainly from Haiti, some from Venezuela and Colombia in search of jobs. Haitians speak French which is beneficial for Hospitality sector jobs. Hospitality and tourism is the main economy sector in this Caribbean destination.
Average salary in Haiti is 80 USD per month while in the D. R. it is 200 to 320 USD per month. Haiti and D.R. used to fight between each other and just like after any fight there is still some tension in the air between these two countries. Haiti was a French colony while Dominican Republic was a Spanish one. Haiti actually got their independence first. Also the first ever slaves revolution was taking place exactly in Haiti after which African slaves got free. Haitians are closer to African descent whereas Dominicans are a mix of Spanish and African descent.
Dominican Republic takes two thirds of an island while Haiti takes one third of it. Socialized health care in D. R. allows its people to have a free health care.
Hospitality workers live in the hotel type of accommodation that is close to the resort where they work. If you are let`s say Sales Manager of the resort – you live at the actual property. Typically they work 11 days straight and then off for 3 days. (So, yes stop complaining about your schedule right now). If you live in the city of Higüey which is 40 min drive from Punta Cana you can drive home every day after work. Alternatively, old school bus that was donated by state of Florida or resort shuttle will provide rides to hospitality workers.
Motorcycles remain the most officiant way for most people here. I saw as scary combinations as one adult and three kids on one bike or two adults and two kids on one bike.
Unusual type of Hibiscus was blooming everywhere.
Punta Cana was a beach area name before city was called Punta Cana. Highest mountains of the entire Caribbean region are concentrated in the D. R. with Pico Duarte Mountain being 3098 meters high.
Colorful houses are spread out on both sides of not paved road. This village is not far from touristic jam of Punta Cana and they didn’t have asphalt roads in the village. Now imagine village somewhere in the middle of the country side.
Electricity is new for this village of El Salado. Not everyone can afford to have fridge. Stove that runs on gas is often not in use to save gas that comes in expansive cylinders. Locals just cook outside on fire wood.
I saw multiple homemade showers where water naturally warms up by sitting all day in a huge plastic container above the roof. In Ukraine we call this kind of shower the Summer Shower because you can heat water like this only in a summer season. Luckily for Dominicans it is always summer.
Laundry is spread out everywhere from classic ropes across the back yard to comfortably sitting on yard bushes and piles of stones.
They built houses slowly as money are coming in slowly. You can see many houses with first floor being coat painted and second floor is on very early stages of being build. Some even have plastic windows and yes, grates on windows are unfortunately necessary in a high crime country.
Usually it is a wooden house with wooden blinds for windows. Brick house that can stand hurricanes costs 35 000 USD and that is a lot around here.
23 families created their cooperative in this village and they work together towards same goals. Producing chocolate and cigars, coffee and cacao, growing sugar cane, making delicious 8 % alcohol Pineapple wine, rum and Mama Juana – drink that is concocted by allowing rum, red wine, and honey to soak in a bottle with tree bark and herbs. The taste is similar to port wine and the color is burgundy. The legend behind this Dominican Drink says that once a female healer was treating everyone with herbs and was like a mother to everyone so her famous drink got called Mama Juana. It is also considered to be the Dominican Viagra.
By the way cigars contain 30 times less nicotine than cigarettes. So you will not only look cool but actually save your health for longer if you switch to cigars.
Do try one of my favourites: Coco Loco cocktail based on coconut milk, rum, vodka and a little bit of magic.
Loteka lottery can be seen on every corner. Just like Canadians, they dream to win lottery and have better life. Music is everywhere. I feel Latin passion in every note and move. There is a discotheque in the village too.
Most of the population is Catholic and that explains church in the village. Protestant are concentrated in Samana region of the Dominican Republic. For tropical hurricane safety reason Dominicans bury their dead in crypts above the ground. Cremation is not popular here.
Little girl was running behind our jeep and so we yelled “Stop!“ to our driver. We already gave our donation bags to school and to the family we visited. My coworkers and I literally had nothing. All of a sudden Heather took her sunglasses out and said:
‘’Here, give it to the kid, they are too big for me anyways’’…
Others were waiving to us and we were waiving back to them. Sometimes all you can give is a smile and some times that is all that is needed anyways.
I find purest souls in poorest countries because these people are not spoiled by wealth, they are very honest and real, they stay true to their roots and to their lives.