When you think of protests, you automatically think people with pickets standing in front of city hall calmly shouting out their demands. Or candlelight vigils for those fallen in massacres. Or you think historically of the “Hippie” era and anti-war protests in the USA and their sit-ins until they were physically carried away by police. Or the tree huggers chaining themselves to that 500 year old tree to preserve it’s existence. Those, are civilized protests. Ahhhh yes, the peaceful protestors. I suddenly have a vision of John Lennon and Yoko Ono with flowers in their long hair and Forest Gump in front of the Washington Memorial. I think I watch too much TV.
The Dominican Republic is not foreign to the action of protests. Here they are usually fueled by Latino tempers and gasoline. A number of years ago there was a bus strike. In a country where the vast majority have no alternative to public transportation this was very problematic. Tires blazed in the streets holding up traffic and striking a chord of caution in passers by. In a country, and this is all area dependent, where it’s hot, where water runs 2 or 3 times a week to your house, where there is limited electricity, tempers run high. Imagine not being able to sleep because of the heat when you have no electricity for a fan or water to cool yourself off. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Strikes for public transportation are not common place. What is common place and cause for a lot of “discontent,” is the lack of electricity. Discontent is a very mild way of depicting the unrest.
The other night we were driving around “La Capital,” Santo Domingo, looking for a little bit of entertainment and a good chimichanga sandwhich. Rounding a corner on a not-so-busy street our driver came to a stop. I looked out the side window and one of my companions nonchalantly said, “they’re protesting the cuts in electricity.” She shrugged her shoulders while cautiously watching as though it was an everyday occurrence . There was garbage in a pile in the middle of the street with a mattress on top. The protestors must have doused the pile with gasoline before we got there because suddenly it ignited. They went on to throw another mattress on top and the flames grew. We awaited the little bit of traffic going by to make a U-turn and leave the area. As we were waiting in the darkness lit by the fire, we could hear bottles crashing and breaking close to us. Some caught the light of the fire and they were projectiles from multiple directions. This was a protest involving several people.
A little bit of mid-week excitement. There was no disruption of traffic. It’s truly difficult to understand the mindset of a protest when it doesn’t disrupt the status quo. Other than to incite more hostilities against the government and their cuts, this display by delinquents served no purpose. I can’t help but wonder if an organized display with international media attention in front of the Presidential Palace wouldn’t have more of an impact. Not of course that any of the protestors have the money to launch that or get to the palace. Though the government isn’t oppressive, poverty certainly is.
These types of actions in this country never ceases to amaze me. Just another “shake your head” night in La Capital.
Sorry for the quality of the foto. It was a quick shot with my mobile phone, but you get the idea!
Listen to the palms…
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