Within the first few weeks of our arrival to Santo Domingo, a neighbor down stairs had a party.
For the love of God, I’m 8 months uncomfortably pregnant and I just want to sleep. They want to have a party now?! On a Friday? At night? Don’t they know that someone living in their radius is about to give birth, is about to push a large fruit out of her hoo-ha and that these were the last few nights of precious sleep she would ever in her life have again?
I guess they did not know this.
It doesn’t matter if it is an intimate gathering or a rocked out, all nighter – Dominicans do not know how to do small. They certainly don’t know how to do simple. And quiet? I’m pretty sure if you looked up the word quiet in a Dominican dictionary, it wouldn’t be there – instead you’d find a big gaping space where the word should be. Or it would be there with a question mark behind it as if no one could find the definition to such an absurd word.
But, and I laugh as I say this, it is also the thing that now makes me love them. It’s like that partner question you’re asked at an interview: What’s a weakness? What’s a strength? Is it me or don’t you usually want to answer that it’s the same thing, that what makes me strong also makes me weak. (I’m smart. Like wicked smart. But sometimes being this smart is a weakness because I’m so much smarter than everyone else.) If Dominican Republic were interviewed they might have a similar response; their weakness is making everything so grand and big and loud and finding a reason to celebrate everything and there strength is making everything so grand and big and loud and finding a reason to celebrate everything.
It’s all in the way you say it, isn’t it? The way you choose to look at it.
The end of February is always a reminder for me to say it with optimism and look at it with gratitude. I love Dominican culture because it is so grand and big and loud and everything is reason for celebration. February is Dominican month. And this is serious here. Not to be taken lightly.
In the states we honor our independence for one day. With a BBQ. Delicious, I’ll give you that. But do we really celebrate the reason we are independent? Do we remember what makes our country great or do we shuck some corn, grill some burgers, drink kegs upon kegs of beer and then watch fireworks and pass out? I’ll be honest, that’s my celebration for our Independence Day. But shouldn’t we maybe celebrate this monumentous day in our history in a way that is big and embracing and consuming like a hug from your proverbial Big Aunt Bertha?
Dominicans do… for a month.
And at the end of February, el 27 de Febrero to be exact, it all comes to a head at CMS in Comparsas. All month long, the kids in elementary school practice choreographed dances that encompass some part of Dominican culture: the baseball players and the love of baseball, the farmers and the beautiful flowers they grow, the Taíno Indians of Quisqueya, the bachata dancing and merengue shaking, the soldiers who fought for the country’s independence. The costumes are incredible: headpieces with 3 foot long feathers, enough glitter to choke on and sequence to blind you. So much work goes into this that sometimes I wonder how they have had time during their days in February to do anything else. This is no makeshift event. And at these moments I think to myself I love Dominican culture because it is so grand and big and loud and everything is reason for celebration.
And really why shouldn’t it be? Why shouldn’t life be celebrated? Why shouldn’t we find grand, big, and loud celebration in all of our moments?
Even the Pre-K gets involved with a parade for el 27 de Febrero