DR TRAVELOGUE | PART 3 | ESPERANZA: THE ARRIVAL
By Led Black
One of the coolest things about the Santiago airport is that being a smaller airport the passengers exit the plane right on to the tarmac. In essence, once the plane door opens you’re greeted by the sight, smell and energy of the Dominican Republic. All of a sudden, all the drama and frustration just melt away. Armed with the knowledge and sensation that you’re now on Dominican soil you can tackle customs and all the pushy, dollar-hungry baggage handlers with ease. Being that I’m traveling with my entourage, my pregnant wife and 2 kids, the customs people don’t even go through our stuff. Believe me, that is a major hassle. I saw 2 chicks that were on our plane, that who by the way were wearing clothes several sizes too small and not in a good way, fighting and cursing out the baggage inspectors. Before we go any further, it’s imperative that I shed a little light on Dominicans traveling to DR, especially those that were raised there and are returning for a visit. It is vitally important for these folks to look, and I emphasize look not be, better off than they were when they left. Hence the excessive jewelry, extra-long fake nails, just-did hair do etc. This phenomenon is not limited by gender and extends to all age groups. For example, the lady that pulled out the salchichon and mangu out of her bag was about 65 with cornrows, painted on jeans and a shirt that exposed her stretch mark ravaged mid-riff.
My mom sporting a banging tan and my cousin Uri, who I never met before, picked us up from the airport. On our way to Esperanza, my family’s hometown, we stopped at the closest parada and ordered a few ice-cold, frost covered Presidentes, as they say in DR
“con vestido de novia”. There’s something to be said about drinking a perfectly cold Presidente in the DR. Presidentes just don’t taste the same in New York. It’s funny because while they don’t always have electricity in DR, they always have insanely cold beer, at least we have our priorities straight.
The Dominican Republic is divided into 31 provinces, Esperanza just happens to be in the 31st, Valverde. Esperanza shares that distinction with 2 other towns, the much larger town of Mao and a little pueblo I never heard of called Laguna Salada (Salty Lagoon). Esperanza gets its name from a fort that Columbus built in 1494. Esperanza is a typical small Dominican rural town in the fertile Cibao region. To say that Esperanza is countrified is a massive understatement.
The last time I visited Esperanza was in 2003 and my mom’s house was not yet completely built, so we stayed in a room that my mom had built that was attached to my uncle’s house. My uncle’s house is situated near the cruce, which is the Esperanza equivalent of a main street. The first night we stayed there, my wife and I didn’t get any sleep. Firstly, the mosquito net we had sucked and did not serve its intended purpose and secondly the Bachata blaring from the nearby discotecas could wake the dead. We ended up with the mosquitoes dancing Bachata on our foreheads the entire night. I can still hear the Alex Bueno catch phrase that was popular that year “Ay Dios mio”.