Social Issues

Poverty and abundance coexist uneasily in the Dominican Republic

By Marta Florian

Azua, Dominican Republic, Aug 20 (EFE).- Some 300 km (186 mi) from the bustling resort city of Punta Cana, 53-year-old Josefina D’oleo struggles to survive in forgotten Boqueron, whose hereditary poverty is the other face of the Dominican Republic.

For D’oleo and most of her neighbors in the small town in the southwestern province of Azua, life has become more difficult in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a speech this week to mark the start of his second year in office, President Luis Abinader pointed with pride to the performance of the Dominican economy, which grew 12.3 percent last year, according to figures from the central bank.

But that burgeoning prosperity is not reflected in the one-bedroom house of wood, cardboard and tin that Josefina shares with two daughters and three grandchildren, while the family is bearing the full brunt of inflation running at more than 9 percent.

The economy, Josefina tells Efe with an air of resignation, “is not very good because one doesn’t find much for food. Only with the government aid card (worth roughly $30 a month), or if one takes in laundry.”

The majority in Boqueron subsist from making and selling the artisanal pestles for which Azua is known.

Josefina’s oldest daughter used to work as a domestic, but is now unemployed, while her youngest has a job at a lottery agency.

Living opposite D’oleo is Romulo Terrero, 62, who spent a number of years working in Spain – as have thousands of others from the southern Dominican Republic – before building a home for his family in Boqueron.

Last December, his stepson, Rafelin Martinez, was among the 11 Dominicans who died when a truck carrying more than 160 undocumented migrants crashed on a highway in southern Mexico, resulting in 50 fatalities.

Martinez paid nearly a million pesos ($17,000) in hopes of reaching the United States.

Terrero, wearing a T-shirt emblazed with Rafelin’s face and the words “Te recordaremos siempre” (We Will Remember You Always) said that his stepson, like so many others, was driven to take the risk by poverty and by “the bad government of this country that leads the youth to want to leave to reach their objectives.”

And on top of the tragedy of Martinez’s death, the family had to borrow money to pay the more than $8,000 needed to repatriate the body from Mexico because the Dominican government failed to deliver on a promise to help the victims’ loved ones with expenses, Terrero said.

His neighbor Pascual Alcantara, 53, said that hearing about the fate of Martinez and other migrants makes him prefer to remain in Boqueron, scratching out a living making pestles or raising goats.

EFE mf/dr

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