More than 20,000 Dominicans arrive in New York city each year. They are the city’s fastest growing group of immigrants although Puerto Ricans maintain the largest Latino group. Since the decline of economic security in their homeland in the 1980’s, the wave of immigration has grown. Policies in U.S. immigration laws like the change to legal petitions for family members have also helped with the growth spurt. Most Dominicans live in New York in Washington Heights. Life for them has been difficult, as it has been for other newly arrived immigrants, because of poor neighborhoods and dilapidated buildings. Many strive to change their situations but those dreams fade amidst a bleak reality. Many of the factories that provided jobs to earlier immigrants have left the city. A small middle class exists and many have a hard time faced with studies when they must also support their families. “Many U.S. Dominicans still believe they will eventually return. They remain emotionally tied to their homeland and actively involved in it’s politics.”8
Political parties in the Dominican Republic have representative branches in New York. In 1996 many flew home to their island to vote in the presidential elections.
We will look at the work of Josefina Baez who was born in the Dominican Republic but came to New York when she was 11 years old. She teaches, dance, and writes using cultural aspects of her island for inspiration. Her story of Laciguapa os intriguing because it tells the story of a favorite folkloric character inherited from the original indigenous people, the Taino. The story is romanticized with elements of modern and economic details.
Julia Alvarez was born in New York City but spent part of her childhood on the island. Her book provides enlightening vignettes that provide visual images for this curriculum. How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents has an excellent excerpt called “snow” that describes the authors first reaction and feeling to seeing snow for the first time.
Students will read passages from Caribbean Connections that detail Dominican life in Connecticut. A field trip is planned to Bridgeport, Connecticut to visit the Dominican social and cultural club. Students will also compare music indicative to the clubs members like salsa, balada, and merengue.