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.
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.
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.