Alllllllllll the feels. Standing on the lawn of the vast space that is the Hard Rock Punta Cana Resort’s concert venue, drinking a Presidente, and swaying to DR’s *King of Bachata, Romeo, gave me all the feels. It was not lost on me that I was at the Romeo Santos concert in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. There was a feeling among the audience that would be impossible to create anywhere else in the world. A certain sense of ownership floated about for this kid born in the Bronx to a Puerto Rican mom and Dominican dad like This is our little island and Romeo is ours. The only thing I can compare it to is being from New Jersey and attending a Bruce Springsteen concert at the Meadowlands. In New Jersey, a small state that people constantly dismiss, when The Boss plays, no one can touch us; Bruce is us. And Romeo Santos was that at the Hard Rock on Saturday, which I’m sure is why he chose to end his World Tour here. I’m not from the Dominican Republic. My parents are Cuban and I was born in New Jersey; I have no official connection to this island, yet, standing amongst a sea of Dominicans whose pride was wafting off of them like Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen at the beach, I couldn’t help but let it seep in.
When we got here in 2011, I couldn’t imagine staying here longer than our contracted 2 years. Being that I spoke Spanish and understood the Latin / Caribbean culture, it was a place that should have felt familiar to me, but, plain and simple, it didn’t. It was very foreign and very scary. People’s stories of robberies and lawlessness had me on edge for longer than I care to mention. When Husband would walk the dogs at night, I would press my head against our barred windows to keep both eyes on my tall, blue-eyed obvious gringo. Driving here was like playing Russian Roulette – good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor. Now, 6 years in, I hustle with the best of ’em and I drive like I know which chamber the bullet is in. I’ve got this. But still, I’m not Dominican.
When we found ourselves stuck in traffic to get into the Hard Rock, I took no issue with Husband pulling off the highway and parking the car on the median. Here, it’s totally normal to make your own “adjustments.” To avoid other cars blocking us in, we tried to park our car in front of our friends’ car. Since they were trying to discourage others from parking double file, the unofficial attendant told use we couldn’t do that. I had no problem politely arguing with said unofficial attendant because, here, politely arguing is an accepted form of communication. Eventually, we came to an understanding. I looked into his soul and told him in so many words that I had his “number.” He pretty much pinky promised that he would not let anyone else block us in. I was *un tigre but in girl form. So, una tigresa? We got to the Hard Rock by foot, though we debated catching a ride by motoconcho. Walking through the traffic like we owned the highway, we drank from our clear plastic, Presidente filled cups. It was all very Dominican. Yet, I’m not Dominican.
And then this happened:
My son has a passport; his self-proclaimed favorite song is a Juan Luis Guerra classic. (Featuring none other than Mr. Romeo Santos himself with his sweet honey voice.) My daughter’s got some serious hip action in her dance moves. She talks with more facial expressions and hand movements than even me. They walk around like they own the joint. They are Dominican. Like all of those people in the audience, they are Dominican. They will forever be a part of this place, no matter where we go. They have Dominican dirt under their bare feet when they play and Dominican warmth in their hearts when they greet people. Most importantly, they have the Dominican finger wag down cold. I realized in that moment of Romeo-induced Dominican pride that my family was born here, so that means I was too.
- The Dominican King, in my humble opinion, will always be Juan Luis Guerra.
- Literally, un tigre is a tiger but in DR un tigre refers to guys that are hustlers – not necessarily in a bad way. For an extended definition check out my Dominican Dictionary.
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