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MamimangoBy Led Black

My mom’s house was prettier, bigger and more comfortable than I had imagined.  The outside was painted a very pretty pastel orange.  I think it’s a law or something in the Dominican Republic that all houses must be painted in pastel colors.  Anyway, the house has a large living room, dining room, kitchen, 2 bathrooms and 3 bedrooms.  The backyard is huge with a little mango tree right in its center.  The house also has central air-conditioning and a generator for the daily blackouts.  My mom’s house is nice even when compared to houses in the capital but the fact that it is in Esperanza makes it stand out even more.

My mom was part of that first great wave of Dominicans who migrated to the U.S. in the late sixties and early seventies fleeing poverty and wanting a better life for their children.  My mom was the only one of her 9 brothers and sisters to leave DR for New York.  It takes a really strong minded person to leave all they know behind and search for a brighter tomorrow in an unknown and at times very cold and unwelcoming world.  Along the way, my mom has worked as a live-in nanny, a garment worker in a factory and finally a home attendant.  That she some how managed to save up enough money to pay for the construction and furnishing of this beautiful and ample house is absolutely mind-blowing.  It speaks volumes on the work ethic and single minded determination of immigrants and what they bring to the United States, especially in light of the current brouhaha on immigration.

Being that my mom’s house is one of the nicer homes in town it has become something like the Moronta Family compound.  The day we arrived and everyday we were there it was like a revolving doors of relatives I had never met or couldn’t remember meeting.  Names tags with their names, nick names and relationship to me would have been a great help.  It’s funny because in DR like in Washington Heights or any place where Dominicans reside nick names usually don’t have anything to do with their given names.  For example, a person might be named Jose but his nick-name might be Pepito, Negro or Chuchu.

Another thing I found infinitely humorous and instructive is the way that Dominicans especially in the campos speak in sayings.  I learned a whole bunch of them on this trip.  Even though they don’t always translate well, here are just a few of them.  “No hay más ciego que el que no quiere ver” – There is no blind person like the one that doesn’t want to see.   “A las gallinas no les pesan sus plumas” – Hens are not weighed down by their feathers.  “Dios aprieta pero no aholca” – God squeezes but doesn’t choke.  “El que no bebe se lo beben” – I think I know what this means but it is beyond my powers to try and translate it.  Strange as these folk sayings might sound in English they offer a unique and colorful slice of Dominican wisdom.

One of the things I love about going to DR is the welcome home feast.  The spread on the day we arrived was something else, pernil, rice and beans (of course), tostones, chicken, potato salad, espageti (Dominican version of spaghetti), the works.  After everyone ate, we got down to business.  We started to play Dominoes and that’s when it all went wrong.  I thought I could hang with the big boys but I got my butt whooped like I stole something. 

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