Recently, two criminal incidents on highways have come to the attention of the Embassy.
In one case, two persons were pulled over on Carretera Sanchez just west of San Cristobal by a vehicle with “police” markings and nine armed men in police and military-style uniforms. The victims were forced into the back seat of their car and taken to an isolated area where they were robbed of their valuables (money, jewels, computers, cameras). Although they were threatened with harm, they were not injured. According to the Dominican National Police, the men were not actual police officers, but imposters.
In another case, two persons stopped to purchase souvenirs along Autopista Duarte near La Vega when three armed men took their rental car and drove away. Again, they were threatened with harm, but were not injured. The car was later recovered, but all their personal items were missing.
The Embassy provides the following highway safety tips:
• Drive on highways only during daylight hours.
• Limit the amount of valuables you take with you.
• Limit your stops along the highway to well-known and well populated locations.
• If you are urged to pull over by armed people, try to do so in a public place. But DO NOT keep driving; stop.
• Do not resist and comply with all requests. Your life is more important than your possessions!
• Contact local law enforcement and the U.S. Embassy as soon as it is safe to do so.
Regularly monitor the State Department's website, where you can find current Travel Warnings, (including the Travel Warning for the Dominican Republic), Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution. Read the Country Specific Information for the Dominican Republic. For additional information, refer to “A Safe Trip Abroad” on the State Department’s website.
Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate for up-to-date information on travel restrictions. You can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to have travel information at your fingertips.
For all emergencies involving U.S. citizens, contact the American Citizen Services (ACS) unit of the U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section, located at:
It's that time of year again. Election rally today. And that means that I have to leave my home because the noise is soooooo fucking incredibly loud. It is so loud that the glasses in the cabinet are vibrating. For the last few weeks, the weather has been crazy. It has been raining a lot. Especially over the last couple of days. I mean sky-opening rain. I wish it would rain now! Thank God the election is on Sunday.
For the last several weeks the weather has been overcast, and ranging between cool and humid. I've been walking around and looking at some of the new buildings and spaces. A lot of buildings have been renovated in the zone, or at least the facades have. This one above has always peaked my interest. I would always pass it, and comment on what a beautiful job that was done with with the restoration. And then I find out it is a museum. It is owned by a local Dominican artist, who lives in Jarabacoa. And the museum is dedicated to his art.
A local desingn store where you can find things to purchase from local artisans. From fashion, jewelry and art. They have events where you can meet local artists. They also have live music. Very bohemian/artistic vibe with a creative clientele. If you're looking for a unique gift, this is the place to check out.
Mercado Colón calls themselves a fusion restaurant. I see it more as a tapas restaurant. Can be pretty busy on the weekends, but very nice during the week. Have only had the pizza and the sliders, and it was very good. Offers a really great wine selection. Here is their menu: http://www.menu.com.do/#!/n/mercado_colon/
I have been meaning to write about this for a long time. Deivis Ventura, is the first openly gay candidate for congress in the Dominican Republic. There is also an openly gay candidate for mayor of La Romana.
42-year-old Deivis Ventura is the first openly gay man running for a seat as a diputado, or representative in the Dominican Republic's equivalent of the House of Representatives. His candidacy comes with the support of Ciudadanos Más, an initiative to position leaders from traditionally excluded minorities in the political field.
Ventura says he suffered bullying in school and was also fired for being gay. He can relate to the initial distrust of many Dominicans in his circle who felt alienated from the political process, but he believes that only through participation can true changes come to the country. Although he faced rejection when he came out, his family now stands beside him and is supporting his campaign.
"I've traveled a long path that has brought me to affirm and love myself fully as I am: a black man, a gay man, a son of a poor family, a person of deep faith and above all a being who believes that a better world is possible when the basis for peaceful co-existence is built on the premise of respecting differences and accepting human diversity."
"LGBT Dominicans face a range of human rights concerns including violence, discrimination, hate crimes, lack of access to justice, impunity for perpetrators, and societal homophobia and transphobia."
The report goes on to detail some of the challenges which include reports of police harassment and complicity with violence, lack of anti-discrimination laws and some outspoken religious leaders that regularly make homophobic comments.
The hopeful tone of the report is based on the activists working for change in the country (Ventura is a member of REVASA, a network of gay and lesbian activists. They have a sister organization called TRANSSA for trans women and men. These are two of the groups active amongst others). Ventura says the press has been respectful in covering his candidacy, and the opposition comes mostly from people from the conservative religious groups.
Throughout the region both in the US and internationally LGBT candidates have sought to address issues of equality by running for the chance to make the laws themselves. There have been victories in Peru, Colombia and most recently Venezuela in the past. In May we will be able to report whether we can add Ventura to the list of successful LGBT candidates.
Ventura champions the environment, poor workers, and women. He hopes to pass a gender identity law, a non-discrimination law and a hate crimes law amongst other priorities.
Several new places have opened in the colonial zone. The biggest just had their grand-opening. It is called Buche' Perico, and is owned by the people behind El Conuco. It is on El Conde, down the street from Denny's and across from SegaZona Cafe. It had a soft-opening for the last couple of weeks. And I stopped by to have a look-see. The space is absolutely amazing. They have been renovating this building for the last 9 months, and I have to say they have done a spectacular job. It is really beautiful. Don't know about the food as yet. When I stopped by, they just had a buffet setup for lunch. But if the food at El Conuco is any guide, it should be very good.
I have been lazy lately about posting. And soooo much is going on. For the longest I have been complaining about the state of affairs in the colonial zone. Well, I am starting to think that things may be looking up. And being a die-hard pessimistic New Yorker, that's saying something. I'm starting to see some signs of progress. And there are definitely people who are putting their money into projects who obviously have some faith. So many new restaurants have opened lately in the colonial zone. Along with some new galleries and other little out of the way spots. And another luxury hotel is near completion. That's not to say there aren't still problems. Many of the commercial spaces on El Conde are vacant. And at night most of the side streets are dark. But many building facades are being rehabbed. And it helps the area take on a new "shine." So I'm a hopefully optimistic.
This past weekend I checked out the gay nightlife in the colonial zone. It's been about 6 months since I went to the Fogoo/G Lounge. Started off the night by having a drink (or I should say a couple of drinks) at Esedeku. And fell in love with their Sangria (good and strong!) and the doorman!. Then went over to Fogoo/G Lounge. And it's me, I'm old. The music is too loud and I don't like the hookah smoke. But honestly, I could put up with all that if there was some beautiful MASCULINE men about. Nothing wrong with drag queens, or skinny feminine gay men who appear to be in half-drag. They just don't entice me to want to come out. But as I was reminded, the music has ALWAYS been loud, and they used to smoke cigarettes in the clubs. And that's true. I just know where to go now to see beautiful men. I just wish it were in a gay setting.
Promise to post again tonight or tomorrow with some of the new stuff happening in the zone.
Nineteen families were forcibly removed from their homes in the colonial zone. The space in question is across the street from the Hodelpa Caribe Colonial. According to news reports, the property is owned by the owner of the Hodelpa hotel chain. And they want it back. As can be imagined. The evictions did not go well.
The ambassador was also at the launching of the new LGBT Chamber of Commerce, here in Santo Domingo a few days ago. Coupled with the visit to the school with his husband, well, to say that he has worn out his welcome would be putting it mildly. Many in the gay community here are speaking out in support of the ambassador. A counter petition has been launched at the White House website (see below). You can click on the photo below to sign.
Got the news earlier today. Just wanted to be sure the family knew before I posted this. Herman Gaines, Jr., better known to his friends as Gee, was found dead in his Santo Domingo rental apartment today. A heart-attack is suspected. He just arrived a couple of days ago, and was planning to stay a couple of months. Just saw him the other day. One of the nicest people you could ever meet. Shocked. You just never know when it is your time. Rest in Peace, Gee.
Tonight is the grand-opening for the new restaurant in the old space where the Hard Rock Cafe used to be on El Conde. It is now a restaurant, with dancing and live music. One of the owners is also the owner of Lulu's and Pat'e Palo. And he is single-handedly helping bring back the colonial zone dining options. The restaurant is called Jalao.
Uber is now growing in leaps and bounds. When they started, they didn't want people who were already taxi drivers. And the drivers stayed concentrated in the business/money area of Santo Domingo. Now, there are drivers all over the city, and you can even find several in the colonial zone, even at 6 a.m. And now, they are offering flat fares to different cities outside of Santo Domingo. Including the airport, for a flat fare of DOP$1,300 (about $28.50 U.S.). They also now offer vans. Uber has really gotten it together. And the app works great. You can see the driver, his photo, and his car online. Here are some other prices:
Airport to Greater Santo Domingo is DOP$1,300 ($28.50 dollars) (same for Santo Domingo to airport)
Santo Domingo to Boca Chica is DOP$1,500 ($33 dollars)
Santo Domingo to San Cristobal DOP$1,500 ($33 dollars) (for those who like to visit Narciso!)
Santo Domingo to Juan Dolio DOP$3,000 ($66 dollars) (this price is STUPID & ridiculous - can get a taxi cheaper)
Santo Domingo to San Pedro DOP$3,200 ($70 dollars)
Santo Domingo to Santiago DOP$4,000 ($88 dollars)
Santo Domingo to La Vega DOP$4,500 (about $100 dollars)
Santo Domingo to Punta Cana DOP$7,000 ($154 dollars)
Santo Domingo to Cabarete DOP$7,800 ($172 dollars)
Santo Domingo to Puerta Plata DOP$7,800 ($172 dollars)
For the last couple of months I have been hearing some distressing stories about the bugarron scene in the colonial zone. From being tied up in their hotel rooms, to being given knockout drugs. I thought I had heard it all. And I must admit, that many of the stories have the same theme running through them. The person who was a victim of the crime, was also at fault.
Let me explain. If you meet someone you don't know off the street. And he has no identification. And you bring hm back to your hotel, and either pay a "bribe" to get him in, or sign a waiver form saying you are going to be responsible. And then said guy pulls out a knife/gun, and you are tied up and robbed. YES, IT'S YOUR FAULT!!!!!!
I don't think anyone deserves to be robbed (or killed!). But, you have to take responsiblility for your actions. Sometimes you HAVE to look past what someone looks like. And go with your gut. Is it worth it to be tied up, assaulted, robbed and potentially have your life taken because of a trick? Sadly, for some, it seems that answer is yes.
Now, when I write these type of posts I get the response that I am trying to be a scare-monger. Or, that I am trying to damage people's businesses. I'm not. I know many people who visit and have a great time without incident. I have been hearing stories here and there for months. But, someone I know has experienced something recently, and I decided to write this warning. Many times, I don't know if the stories are true. You just hear them from someone who knows them. Or someone contacts me to show a photo and ask if I know the alleged criminal. And I have no idea who they are. As I don't hang out on the Conde anymore. It's been many years. I'm completely out of the loop as to who the hottest guy is, or the worst criminal.
I know someone that I would correspond with by email from time-to-time. He wanted to get a place here where he would spend the winter and run his online business. He rented an apartment and spent a ton of money fixing it up and and starting "dating" this guy. They went out for a year, and long story short, the guy gave him some type of drug. When he woke up 18 hours later, the entire apartment was cleaned out. And you may think, well, didn't someone seem him with the moving truck and taking out furniture, televisons, etc. Yes, they did. And they knew it was his boyfriend. And he told anyone who asked, that his boyfriend was moving to another apartment. What was the mistake here? He never saw his idenitifcation. EVER! When he would send money, the guy would tell him to send it in his "mother's" name. He basically didn't now anything about the guy he had been dating a year.
And then last week, I met some guys I had been corresponding with. And one of them told me a story about meeting a guy. Thought he was nice. The guy invited him to his neighborhood for Karaoke Night. As they were about to leave, the foreigner started feeling lightheaded. All he remembers is waking up in his hotel bed with all his belongings missing.
And the moral of this story is that you can come here and have a really good time. You really can. But you cannot leave your common sense at home.
An Unknown Latino Tuskegee Airman Has Been Discovered
The Dominican Studies Institute has unveiled the first known Dominican soldier to serve in the famous squad during World War II.
An exhibit that opened Wednesday at the City College of New York pays tribute to Dominicans who served in the U.S. armed forces during World War II. Among the honorees will be Esteban Hotesse, a Dominican native who immigrated to the country as a child, enlisted during World War II, and served in the lauded Tuskegee Airmen brigade. A determined academic, Edward De Jesus, made the discovery during a three-year research mission into the role of Dominican servicemen and women “who made significant contributions to the war effort or who made significant contributions to society” says De Jesus, a research associate at the Dominican Studies Institute at CUNY.
“It’s exciting. It’s been rewarding for me to find out something that is not known to the public, to show people something that they’ve never seen before, that they’ve never heard before,” De Jesus says of the discovery.
While poring over hundreds of military records, De Jesus came across an Army Enlistment Record with all the names of those who served in the Army and were born in the Dominican Republic. Hotesse’s name was among them, but it was misspelled in the database (with the last name missing the last "e"). De Jesus followed the paper trail and eventually discovered that Hotesse’s unit was a bombardment group made up of black soldiers. He was a Tuskegee Airman. Though his team was scheduled to go into battle, they never saw combat abroad. The trail led De Jesus to a naturalization record, a Census form, and a marriage certificate. He was even able to learn that Hotesse had been registered in the armed services as having a “semi-skilled construction occupation.”
Carlos Gonzalez already had noticed the growing number of empty chairs and increasingly quiet slot machines at the Puerto Rico casino where he worked as he mulled a job offer in the Dominican Republic.
It was 2013, and Puerto Rico’s economy had been in a downward slide for nearly a decade. Gonzalez didn’t know it at the time, but the once-popular casino where he worked as a marketing manager would soon close.
He thought of his family and friends and the reasons he moved back to Puerto Rico in the first place after spending more than 20 years in New Jersey. It took him several months to make a decision — “It’s not easy to leave your land,” the Puerto Rico native said — but he finally did.
“I never imagined it. Never!” Gonzalez said with a laugh. “I even asked myself 2,000 times whether I really was moving to the Dominican Republic. I told myself it was crazy.”
The flow of migrants through the 80 miles (130 kilometers) of churning waters that separate Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic has typically moved in one direction for more than half a century: toward the U.S. territory. But the island’s deep economic crisis is reversing this trend, with a growing number of financially strapped Puerto Ricans moving to the neighboring Caribbean country to open businesses and escape economic chaos that has scared away even many Dominican migrants.
Officials say it’s hard to quantify exactly how many Puerto Ricans have moved to the Dominican Republic in recent years because they fall under the general category of U.S. citizens, but they say the trend is undeniable.
“It used to be extremely rare for a Puerto Rican to stop by and seek a work visa,” said Franklin Grullon, the Dominican consul in the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan. “There’s been a surge in all types of visas, and we believe this flow will only increase.”
The majority of Puerto Ricans seeking business visas are young to middle-aged men, and many request permission to work in the tourism sector because they speak English and find it easy to get a job, Grullon said. They are drawn by the Dominican Republic’s robust economy, which grew 7 percent in 2015 for the second consecutive year, making it the strongest in the Latin American and Caribbean region. The government has credited vigorous performances in banking, construction and tourism, noting that a record 5.6 million tourists visited the Dominican Republic last year.
There is no longer a Hilton Santo Domingo hotel. It has now been taken over by the Catalonia Hotels & Resorts Co., based in Spain. It's a shame what has happened to the Malecon Center. The apartments are still nice. But the commercial area is a ghost town. Even the movie theater has closed. And now Hilton is gone. I think it is not a good sign when a major multi-national corporation decides to pack it in.
Well, if it's not one thing, it's another. Zika, is the latest mosquito-borne illness to scare the world. Many places in the tropics are experiencing outbreaks. The Center for Disease Control (based in the U.S.) is now recommending that pregnant women don't travel to places that have confirmed cases of the disease. Because this disease causes birth defects, specifically microcephaly, a rare condition associated with incomplete brain development. The Dominican Republic hasn't had any confirmed cases, as yet. But Haiti has had a few cases. So, it is just a matter of time. There is no cure or treatment. Brazil is experiencing an outbreak. And 350 children have been born there with birth defects in the last year. Cases are now being confirmed in the U.S. The moral of this story. Do everything you can to prevent mosquito bites.
I was going to meet a friend that was visiting, and he asked me to meet him at the "chocolate place." I confessed that I don't know where that is. When I got there, I have passed it before, but never paid it much attention. Well, there is a chocolate museum located in the colonial zone. Who knew? The Dominican Republican has gained a reputation for it's organic chocolate. And now I know why.
I worked hard this weekend. Extremely hard. I was the "oil" man for this photoshoot this past weekend. Shot near the waterfalls of Charco Prieto, in Bonao.Ernest Montgomery is turning in the new images for his next book about men on the Dominican Republic. This is really hard work, but I don't mind.
Former New Yorker (Harlem!) living in Santo Domingo since January 2004. The person I was when I arrived is a totally different person today. I still love living in the D.R. Even with all its obvious contradictions. This blog is where I write about things I find interesting with the gay community, news, gossip, culture, and of course, men. Strictly from my point-of-view.