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Elites deny African roots of Dominican Republic culture

Within the configuration of the Dominican identity, the dominant elites have all the time tried to exclude the Afro-descendant characteristics to spotlight only the Hispanic heritage, which represents a discriminatory Eurocentrism and denial of essential roots of the national culture, said anthropologist Tahira Vargas.

“There was an eagerness to disclaim us, that’s the reason we now have no identity, because in the event that they haven’t forged you an identity based on the Afro-descendant presence, but sell you simply the Hispanic roots, then you definitely cannot speak of identity.

“Then is available in the contempt towards the favored since it is barrial, chopo, wawawa, there’s all the time a term to say that you simply usually are not a part of that group because they’re bullosos, beben….but the opposite group does it too, what happens is that they don’t go to a colmadón or to a corner, they go to a bar.”

Interview with Ms. Tahira Vargas, Anthropologist.

Vargas explains that this prejudice towards blackness persists because political and economic power strata have strengthened it for a long time.

“Our elites are of foreign origin, Europeans, Arabs, but they got here to the country with no penny and irregularly. These elites didn’t arrive with money or documents, but they’ve all the time strived to sell a Hispanicized Dominicanity, as was done in the course of the regime of the dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo.”

On this sense, Vargas affirms that they’ve gone up to now in constructing an identity without Afro-descendant traits that they’ve tried to extract from historical events that dismantle this purpose.

“Now we have been sold that our independence was from Haiti, but 17 years later, we were occupied or annexed to Spain, the true independence is within the Restoration, but we cannot present it that way since it was against Spain, and secondly, since the heroes of the Restoration were all black, starting with Gregorio Luperón, who was the son of a Haitian woman.”

Intellectuals and the Afro-descendant denial
The diffusion of identity criteria passes through the yardstick of intellectuals. From that perspective, Vargas considers that, specifically within the Trujillo era, they forged a national history loaded with distortions.

“Intellectuals affiliated with the Trujillo regime were the forgers of a history that was not, written stuffed with distortions, absences and gaps, because even the Taino culture itself is taught little or no. “There isn’t any mention of what exploitation meant, the rape of ladies, the connection between the Taino population and the African population that arrived, the kids of that relationship….es a history stuffed with fragmentations and ruptures.

“Then it is clear that we cannot have a transparent identity construction after we do not need a transparent historical construction, but a confusing one stuffed with ambiguities, contradictions, negations,” Vargas expressed.

A divorce with reality
Vargas considers that denying the African presence within the Dominican culture has caused a divorce between the dominant elites and the favored sectors.

That denial, she says, makes popular culture be seen as something negative, despicable, that mustn’t be strengthened.

“Because popular culture is completely Afro-descendant in all its expressions, in food practices, in magic-religious beliefs, in music, and even in the way in which of speaking,” she said.

The role of the college
Vargas questions that, being the college the environment during which social and cultural cohesion must be fostered, it has turned its back on this process within the context of African roots.

In her opinion, the Dominican school has not dedicated itself to integrating this culture within the classroom, “how will you pretend to have a powerful cultural identity in case you don’t work on strengthening your Afro-descendant roots.”

“The Dominican school doesn’t accept a stick dance, the artisan of the community to show the kids how he makes crafts, you may not play drums, dance, or disclose what people do with home remedies.

“In the college there is no such thing as a dialogue of data, as there must be. If you’ve a rustic that has had dictatorial regimes and a vertical type of doing politics, and vertical schools, how do you recreate identity, from where are you going to spread it,” Vargas said.

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