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.
Forgot that today was a holiday. Driving around this morning and there is no traffic. None. Today is Three Kings Day. It is usually on January 6. But the Dominican government will move the date of the holiday to have a longer weekend. Hope everyone had a safe, and happy new year. And here's to 2016 being a great year.
The new InterContinental Hotel being built from scratch.
This photo is of the old Jay-Dee's Disco Bar. Many buildings in the colonial zone are being given a facelift.
Here is a great article in the New York Times about a hair salon in the colonial zone:
At a Santo Domingo Hair Salon, Rethinking an Ideal Look
On my first trip back to the Dominican Republic in 10 years, as I wandered down the streets of La Zona Colonial, I noticed how their names were weighted with history. Calle de las Damas, a street made specifically for the wives and daughters of noblemen from colonial times to walk down. Calle José Gabriel García, named for a Dominican historian and journalist, among other things, who shares a first and last name with my father and made me think of him while I was there. Calle Isabel La Católica where I felt a connection to my paternal grandmother, Isabel Mireya Garcia. Born in Bani, she lived and died on the right side of Hispaniola and raised my father in Santo Domingo.
During my trip I would text my father pictures of the streets, and he would always text me back a story from his youth that occurred close to or near the street I was on.
“That’s the street where I shook Pope John Paul II’s hand in 1979,” he texted me, referring to Calle Padre Billini.
He likened La Zona Colonial to Times Square, but to me it resembled too much of the Old World.
The cobblestones, the colonial-style houses that were more like haciendas, Christopher and Diego Columbus’s house-turned museum — this all reminded me of the Spanish who once lived here and the continuing reverence for their influence in a country whose residents have African, European and Asian ancestry.
Before I knew it, I was standing in front of the Miss Rizos Salon on Calle Isabel La Católica. This was a departure from that reverence.
Long hair that hangs down your back has so long been the prevalent beauty ideal in the Dominican Republic that many residents who mastered hair-straightening on the island emigrated to the United States and opened successful salons throughout the country.
There is a new pharmacy on El Conde now. When I went in, she said it was open 7 days-a-week, 24 hours a day. But, online it says it is open until 11 pm. Whichever it is, it is great to have a national pharmacy on El Conde. It is next door (to the left) to the Pizzarelli restaurant.
C/ El Conde #101, Zona Colonial 8:00 am a 11:00 pm (809) 807-8204
JARABACOA, Dominican Republic—The Dominican Republic is the Western hemisphere’s most dangerous place to drive, and 15th worst in the world, according to the World Health Organization. Each year, 29 out of every 100,000 people in this Caribbean nation die in road accidents, according to the 2015 Global Status Report on Road Safety.
In 2013, the Dominican Republic saw more roads deaths per capita than any other country in the world, but it has since been eclipsed by nations including Libya, Thailand and several African nations. But that doesn’t mean things are improving: in fact, the death rate is still on the rise, up from 21.6 per 100,000 people in 2010.
The vast majority of the fatalities—63 percent—involved 2 and 3-wheeled vehicles, ie. motorcycles.
Francis Ortiz, a paramedic at the public hospital in the small mountain city of Jarabacoa, says hardly a night goes by that he doesn’t see at least one patient in the hospital for a motorcycle accident, and on the weekends he says the numbers become hard to fathom.
“Just last night a moto driver crashed into an older man,” said Ortiz one day in December. “The driver’s entire face was cut open. He had to have intensive surgery.” Although Jarabacoa has a population of 70,000 people, like most Dominican cities, it has no intensive care unit. Those seriously injured in road accidents must be ferried an hour north to the city of Santiago for surgery.
When accidents are fatal, Ortiz says it’s almost always because riders weren’t wearing helmets. According to the WHO report, on average, wearing a helmet reduces the risk of death by 40 percent and the risk of serious injury by 70 percent.
Their heads exposed, riders die from “hemorrhages, cranial damage, blood loss—and sometimes trauma to your internal organs that you don’t immediately see,” says Ortiz.
In the Dominican Republic, the high number of motorcycle accidents is in part a reflection of economic trends. In a nation with a rapidly growing economy and a rising middle class, cheap, foreign-built motorcycles and scooters offer a convenient way of avoiding traffic in cities and traversing unpaved roads and paths in rural areas.
In 2013 there were 1.7 million motorcycles in the country among a population of just 10.4 million people—more motorcycles than cars. In small towns and rural areas, motorcycles are everywhere, Kids as young as 10 can be seen driving mopeds, while teenage boys regularly zoom up single-lane roads doing wheelies.
Indeed, many here blame road accidents on pure recklessness: Most can be attributed to “alcohol, and young people,” in Ortiz’s words.
But some say the police are also to blame for failing to enforce helmet laws for motorcycle riders.
WHO’s report gives the country just 3 points out of 10 on a scale rating police enforcement of speed limits and just 2 out of 10 for enforcement of drunk driving laws. While federal law requires the use of motorcycle helmets, outside the nation’s largest cities, the vast majority of riders seem to go without one, with little fear from getting stopped by police.
“If the police took this more seriously—if they would fine people for not wearing a helmet, or if they took away their motorcycle, which they have the power to do—if they did that, everyone would wear a helmet,” says Ortiz.
Man 'stuck' in Dominican Republic hospital due to outstanding medical bills
The Foreign Office says it is trying to assist a man from Port Talbot who's currently 'stuck' in a hospital on the Dominican Republic due to outstanding hospital bills.
Allan Cox was visiting his wife on the Caribbean island when he fell ill with gallstones, but he hadn't disclosed that he had them on his health insurance before travelling.
Allan says he is unable to get home from the hospital where he is currently being treated until he pays a medical bill of more than £45,000.
His family are trying to raise the money to allow him to come home and receive hospital treatment back in the UK. They say that he's been in hospital for around three weeks but it costs them an extra £400 for every day that Allan has to stay there.
We thought that we could sort out the rest of the payments to the hospital when we got him home but we can't.
It has got to be paid before they release his passport to him and there's no way that I can get the money quick enough to get my son home and I'm frightened that I'm going to lose him.
– Ceinwen Cox, Allan's mother
We have offered assistance to a British national who is hospitalised in La Romana, Dominican Republic and are in regular contact with their family to provide support.
We understand the difficulties in these cases and are ready to assist in any way we can. However, we are unable to provide financial assistance to British nationals overseas, including for medical bills.
Everyone agrees that corruption is rampant here in the Dominican Republic. But the last couple of weeks have seen many scandals being made public. It started when an architect committed suicide in a government office. He was heavily in debt. And his suicide note names people he says are responsible. Who are connected with the government agency where he killed himself. And the flood gates opened. Next, there have been these major corruption (along with drug) cases where judges seemingly just let people go. And now, many judges have been suspended, and accusations have started flying. And the accusations are being made against many high-ranking and powerful people. Then last Wednesday, as part of the Thanksgiving luncheon at the American Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Ambassador to the D.R., James "Wally" Brewster, gave a speech that made a lot of people very angry. And one of those people who is very angry, is none other than Cardinal Rodriguez.
Now, most people agreed with the ambassador when he talked about corruption. What many people didn't like is that he said that if people disagreed with him, and didn't like what he was saying, they could return their visas for travel to the U.S. As you can imagine, this didn't go down so well. And yesterday, the cardinal finally responded. And he responded in a way that only he can. He basically told the ambassador to mind his own business. And that he should be concerned with being a "wife" to his husband. And he was only here to spread the "gay agenda." The ambassador is now being attacked from many sectors. Whew, this is getting ugly.
Meanwhile, the corruption continues.
Santo Domingo.- Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez on Sunday suggested that US ambassador James W. Brewster leave the Dominican Republic and desist from spreading his “queerness.”.
Visibly angry, the prelate said what the diplomat should do is go home and reiterated that Brewster wants to introduce his "gayness" in the country.
Quoted by acento.com.do, Lopez was asked about his ongoing flap with the US envoy, who on Thursday called the cardinal´s accusations as “noise” which stirs hatred.
"With an ambassador who is a faggot, why should we be doing so much, no way, he should go home; he doesn’t have to come to place anything here... "
Seemingly weary of the row, the Cardinal said "I don’t talk to queers," among other things.
Over the last several weeks, we have gotten a LOT of rain. And when it isn't raining, the sky is just overcast and foreboding. I feel bad for those coming looking for the heat and sun. Right now it is raining buckets. And this past weekend it was rainy, cloudy and dark the entire weekend. God knows we need the water.
The Don Juan Resort in Boca Chica, has been given a two million dollar facelift. For years, it was essentially a dump. But now it looks very nice. Thanks to F.W. who sent me an email after recently staying there.
While in the U.S., most people are ordering their Black Friday purchases online. The opposit is in effect in the Dominican Republic. Black Friday has been heavily promoted, and there are some deals. But the prices are STILL more than they should be.
There is much to do in the colonial zone. But there is no one place to find out what's going on. Here are some things I found. Years ago, the restaurant at the Mercure had the best steaks in Santo Domingo. They have revamped their kitchen, I'm told. We can only hope.
Ballet in the colonial zone.
Antica Pizza has 50% off pizza on Monday's, starting at 6 p.m.
A nice pool hall on El Conde. That used to have strippers.
A new seafood restaurant has opened on the malecon, Nautilus.
SegaZona has specials every night of the week. Monday: Happy Hour 2x1 5 pm to midnight Tuesday: Martini Night 9 pm to midnight Wednesday: Mojito Specials 5 to 8 pm & food specials from 5 pm Thursday: Happy Hour 5 to 8 pm & Half-price pizza from 8 pm Friday: 2x1 Sangria Specials 3 pm to 1 am
Movie made in the Dominican Republic, with Geraldine Chaplin. It has been called the best movie to come out of the Dominican Republic. It has been submitted to the Academy Awards for best foreign-language film for next year. And has won several awards at internation film festivals. The N.Y. Times (below) has a glowing review, posted just a few days ago. I have seen a couple of snippets and now I desperately want to see it. The characters could be interchanged with a gay man, and his love interest..
I know this has nothing to do with the Dominican Republic. But, I am soooooo proud of President Obama. He is the first sitting president to be photographed for the cover of a gay publication. And to think, just ten years ago, George W. Bush won the presidency by scaring folks abut gay marriage. And here we are today, and everyone can get married in any state of the union. Now, President Obama isn't perfect. No human being is. But he has definitely been an ally, hero and icon to the gay community of not just the United States, but to the world. Again, I am very proud.
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.