Is there still hope for the Dominican Republic? Interview with Humberto Vallejo by Judith Esteve

Humberto Vallejo Cunillera, photo taken by Alex Bezdicek Zubeldia.

Humberto Vallejo Cunillera, photo taken by Alex Bezdicek Zubeldia.

Humberto Vallejo is a 22-year-old man who was born in Mexico but who moved, at the age of 13, with his parents and two younger sisters to the Dominican Republic, his mother’s native country.

He has got several poetry blogs. Each blog started with a big change in his writing style, when he felt he had progressed… “It’s curious, but each blog has more or less coincided with each girlfriend I’ve had. That’s why I think that each blog represents a period of my life”. One of them, “El Televisor”, ended up being quite well known by the circle of poets on the island.

When he turned 18, he started thinking about his future and although he was unsure about where he wanted to go or what he wanted to study one idea was clear to him: he wanted to leave the island and go and study abroad. For him, the Dominican Republic has a lot of shortcomings. “Politics, poor management and poverty have sunk the Dominican Republic into a culturally regrettable situation. Indeed few recognizable Dominicans have lived their whole careers on the island”, he said. He ended up jumping to the other side of the ocean and coming to Spain to “La Universidad de Navarra” in Pamplona to take a degree in History and Audiovisual Communication. He’s really passionate about what he is doing. Actually, while studying he is thinking more about art than on being able to be economically self-sufficient in the future. He would like to become a filmmaker although, “no sé cómo ni con qué pretexto” but he knows he will achieve it. He wants to live fully; he wants to become a proper artist. His greatest fear would be look back one day when he is in his 40s and regret every decision he should have taken but did not when he was younger.

We talked about the view people in countries such as Spain have towards Latin American nations like the Dominican Republic or even Mexico. From his viewpoint, it’s true that there is a distorted image of the latter which may be due to any or a combination of the following reasons, namely:

a) The ever-existing feeling of colonization found in both parts, ie, Spain and the Dominican Republic.

b) People’s tendency to exaggerate the more or less well-known precarious situation there is in Latin America.

He went on to say that those could possibly be the reasons why people here in Spain are inclined to think that “if you decide to go and live to the Dominican Republic you will dedicate yourself to collecting coconuts and if you go to Mexico you will be kidnapped by a drug cartel. But reality is very different to that.”

The actual fact is that the Dominican Republic ranks 105 out of 192 countries according to the Global competitiveness 2012/2013 report. This report measures the capacity of a country to use its resources, politics and institutions to ensure welfare and progress for its citizens.

This is reflected by the fact that out of a population of 9,500,000, 40,4% were living under the poverty threshold in 2011 which pushed 140,000 people to emigrate from the Dominican Republic between 2009 and 2013.

Besides, he honestly thinks that Latin America is synonymous with “miscegenation and inequality”. And although people within the Dominican Republic are aware of the situation, they decide to accept that things are and have always been that way; both the highest echelons of society as well as the lowest.

The Dominican Republic is a country that shouts out, “God, Homeland and Freedom”, as its covering letter. However, as far as Humberto is concerned, things are not quite like that. He supports that the “God” part still remains, meaning that the Dominican Republic is a very religious country. “Unlike European countries, new generations aren’t losing their faith. Of the 80 people that were in my class, 77 had their confirmation, myself being one of the three who didn’t.” Nevertheless, the “Homeland” part is totally different. He believes that, given the opportunity, every Dominican would switch their passport for a European Union or a US one. And the “freedom” part is a question of money and power; if you’ve got them, you can be free, as in so many other places.

Right now the president of the Dominican Republic is Danilo Medina. His government is an extension of the former president, Leonel Fernández’s mandate. He dedicated his government to grand construction projects, buying votes and promoting political corruption. Today the vice president of the country is his wife. But the main opposition is currently led by a former president under whose rule the biggest banking fraud in the history of the Dominican Republic took place.

When I asked him about his feeling towards all the promises the president has made, there was no hint of optimism. “The outlook is truly devastating; prosperity and social inclusion have not developed at all and in fact, they are getting worse. The quality of life is worse than it was when I first came to the island”. Nowadays the Dominican Republic has become a geographically strategic point for exporting drugs to Europe and poverty along with crime have increased. In fact today, Santo Domingo (the capital of the Dominican Republic) is militarized.

All these reasons show “the ugly truth”. Humberto has got two younger sisters, Vanessa (19) and Natalia (15), and the reality is that if they remain in the Dominican Republic they will not have the same opportunities as him due to the fact that the Dominican Republic does not provide its citizens with the same opportunities as a country like Spain does. When I asked him if he would switch the Dominican Republic for Spain he stated: “Sadly, yes.” And he added, “I am mad about life here in Spain. I love it”.

Judith Esteve Gúrpide.


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