They invited you to dance merengue and eat mangú. Come, consume us, and believe that you are getting the full package. You will leave satisfy and ignorant because what was sold to you as our culture it is only the surface of the richness that exists in the Dominican Republic.
I am not talking about the beaches in Punta Cana but the Gagá of the Hermanos Guillén in Yamasá. A celebration in where the whole community gets together to commemorate the only black San Antonio de Padua. In here people dance, eat, talk and sing but the party really starts when the Gagá arrives.
Gagá, one of the many cultural traditions we enjoy thanks to the ever-going interaction and relationship between DR and Haiti. Just like the Gagá, there are a variety of rich traditions, carried by communities that despite past and current oppositions by the church and some government officials, it breathes in the hearts of those that still practice them.
Unfortunately, these traditions lack the support from governmental sites in charge of investing in the arts and culture of the country. Making it harder to get recognized and survive and get passed to future generations. Fundación Cultural Cofradía is a non-profit organization that promotes and preserves the afro-Dominicans and Dominico-Haitiana traditions in the Dominican Republic. They work closely between the members of the community in charge of keeping these traditions alive and the Ministerio de Cultura, to create programs, events, and workshops aim to maintain and ensure the passage of these traditions to future generations. At the same time these programs becomes a positive and productive outlet to express the youth in these communities.
My responsibilities vary depending the project I am working on, but generally it is a combination of office and fieldwork. As part of the office work I am in charge of keeping in track with the projects set up for the following months. This means researching and communicating with different companies that could facilitate materials for the workshops or schools, keep files organized and develop a new website and plan to get the organization more active in social media. Then, the field work is where I have the most fun. I get to take pictures to of the celebrations to keep it as records so the organization can have material to present to the Ministerio de Cultura for future projects. I travel to different parts of the country to interview people and gather information about their traditions and how we could provide support.
It is important to point out that on my first week in the organization I was given a series of books and research about the places we would be going to recollect information. I am still flipping the pages and I am grateful to experience with every single part of my senses what I have been reading.
My goal this summer is to acquire a deeper understanding of the afro-Dominicans and Dominico-Haitiana traditions and communities. I want to learn the ways one can provide visibility to these communities and maintain the traditions alive. Furthermore, I want to expand my artistic knowledge and incorporate new elements to my art practice.
- Daniela Marquez ’17