Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Trash

Back home again in Santo Domingo, which is noticeably cleaner than it was when I first arrived here three years ago. There has been a concerted effort to pick up the trash on the streets, and along the roads. When I first came here, I assumed that Dominicans were very dirty people, considering the state of their public spaces. Then I discovered that they were, in fact, rather impeccably clean and neat but had a distinct idea that they did not somehow own the common spaces. Once outside of their doors, they felt it was someone else's responsibility to clean it up. I can only speculate as to the origins of this habit.

Last year, I was up on the border, in Dajabon, at a bi-national ecotourism fair. This was held in a field where pavilions and a main stage had been erected. During the two week event, a troop of cleaners had been hired to clean up the area. Yet by the middle of the afternoon, the site was awash in trash - Styrofoam plates, empty bottles, plastic of all sorts. I made an effort to enlist a small army of children in helping to clean the place up. I stopped in front of one of the vendors, a young (18?) Dominican selling imported apples from Washington State, to ask him to help pick up the trash in front of his stall. He sat back in his chair and refused, saying "it is not my garbage.'

So I went around with the troop of children and picked up all the trash until I had an armload of it. Then I walked over to and dropped it on his feet, saying "Now it is."

This difficulty that the people here have in picking up for themselves, I attribute to having too many maids (who are generally paid less than the minimum wage) and too much mothering. It will be a great day for this country when the women are a bit more liberated. But since the Catholic Church (with lots of help now from the American born-against) upholds a rigid ban on abortion, under any and all circumstances (including rape, and incest), that day will not arrive anytime soon.

(I fixed the link on the last article - sorry about that)

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