Traveling As A Dominican
I’m Evelyn, a 24 year-old gal from the Dominican Republic. I own the standard passport my country issues. I always told myself that when I finished visiting every province of my own country, only then, I’d start traveling abroad. When I achieved that at age 22, I started to get my visas granted and my suitcases packed to travel abroad to expose myself to different cultures and people.
Human interaction fascinates me. As does nature. And nature, especially the ocean is something I seek. Being a true Caribbean girl, I overly enjoy it to the point I go numb or start crying, there’s no in-between. So a year ago, I decided to document my trips on a different IG account and gave it a name. So with the color blue (my fav) and my name: @_Blueve was born.
It’s important to tell you, I identify as an Afro-Latina. The Dominican culture, as in many other Caribbean countries, is a rich mixture of mostly African and European origins. I’m very proud to represent my African roots. But what’s hard right now for me is having almost no representation, especially in the media. Afro-Latinos are here, but we are purposely ignored. This is either because of White-skin privilege that many Dominicans have, or because some Afro-Latinos in the media get in their own “sunken place” to get near that privilege. The problem in the Caribbean with African heritage dates back centuries and originates mainly from ignorance and media manipulation that has been going on for decades. Being black is associated with poverty and lack of class and education, to mention a few. Most people in the Caribbean still think it’s incorrect to relate to your African heritage and that’s also a topic that I talk about on my Instagram.
Because of this deficit, I want to be an active voice for that group of women that are misunderstood, left behind, not included. The Afro-Latinas. I will not let my followers forget who we are.
Traveling As An Afro-Latina
My African roots have made me love traveling to some countries, like Haiti, where I felt more at home than in my own country. Because in Haiti, having almost a black population in its entirety, I never felt like I was being judged or underestimated because of my skin color. People were so nice and respectful to me there that I was overwhelmed. Also the way they embrace their history was admirable.
I also had a great time in Havana, Cuba. The highlight of my trip was going to Callejón de Hamel, an alley in Centro Habana that–through art, religion and music–shows how the African culture has impacted the Cuban population and behavior in a number of ways. I loved experiencing the recognition.
People have never had a problem with my skin color when I travel that I’ve noticed. I just see confused faces when they ask me where I’m from. Everywhere I go, no one is ever really sure of what I am exactly and just throw out different nationalities.
Afro-Latinas In The Dominican Republic
Ironically, it’s in Latin America or by Latinxs that I have felt treated differently because of my skin color. It started at school when I was bullied and called racial slurs. At the time I didn’t know what was going on, but eventually figured out it was because of my skin color. I tried telling my mom, but the issue here is that nobody will believe you. They’ll dismiss it as nonsense. “People can’t be racist against their own race,” they’ll say.
Yet, it’s still present in the microaggressions. For example, when I’m hanging around lighter-skinned Latinxs, if I say something, they ignore me. Things that I have to ask for at work, are offered–without hesitation–to lighter-skinned Latinxs. At airports or stores, people will grab their things firmly if they’re next to me.
Caribbean people also live in this illusion that the fairer you are, the more worth you have. When I say I’m black, people often reply with the typical colorist comment: “You’re not black, you’re light-skinned.” The fact that I’m light-skinned doesn’t mean that I don’t encounter racism or that I’m less black. Right now it just means that I’m closer to what they think is better according to their skin privilege scale. In the Dominican Republic, you are even encouraged to “act white”.
Through the years, I’ve learned that the best comeback is teaching and educating them on how to properly behave by my example. I accept and respect my own people, first. Unity in our community is what will make us stronger. The fight against white people is a distraction. We must focus on the solutions of our struggles as Dominicans in order to rise. This is what we have to first fix as a community: to accept our own race.