This was my third trip to the Dominican Republic, this time it was to a city called La Romana. It was booked as normal 7-8 days at a fancy resort. I always make it a priority to go to the city and meet the locals. With about two days left to spare in my vacation an uncontrollable force came upon me to get out of the resort and go to the city to meet the locals. So the family and I got on a 2 dollar van that the locals take to the city of La Romana which is about 35min away.
While exiting the van at our drop off a young boy approached me and asked to shine my shoes, I was wearing sneakers at the time and I declined. He didn’t continue to ask me like his two companions did but he just stopped and stared at my children in admiration. With my horrible Spanish and a little translation I asked if he was hungry, he stated “yes I haven’t eaten since yesterday, I didn't make any money.” I was dying for food that was not from the resort so I asked him to show me a good place to eat. He gathered his tools and belongings ( his yellow book bag, a tote bag with his shoe shining products and a empty paint can used for sitting while shining shoes.) While walking a few blocks thru heavy and dangerous DR traffic, Ramón stopped and pointed us to a restaurant that was down some stairs a bit secluded near a bus station. I told him to come along and eat with us. As we sat down to some simple food: fried chicken, platano and yucca I had to initiate a conversation. I learned that he was from Haiti, it was just him and his mother and she was very sick. His father left, he has a brother that is somewhere in the streets so it just leaves him to provide for him and his mother. It seemed as if every answer had to be pulled out of him by a question. He told me how he was robbed of his shoes and he was just left with the sandals he had on his feet, which were not in good shape. So that explained when I handed him some money he quickly put it in his pocket and looked around to see if anybody had seen the transaction. Ramón was 13yrs old but only a few inches taller than my 8yr old son. I admired his role as a young man trying to take care of his family but I was angered by his current conditions and this being the story of so many in this beautiful country. That may be opinionative but I met some beautiful spirited people in these poverty stricken communities. With so many foreign investors that capitalize off of the land and people why isn’t there more suitable living conditions, work, training, education, programs and awareness that can combat these conditions. The fancy resorts, tourist attractions and rich lifestyle is right next to the poor. Tourist areas are guarded by security 24/7. Foreign Investors don’t care about the people, the culture and the land they only care about their investments. I saw this with my own eyes and spoke with the Dominican people (everyday locals away from the resort). Back to Ramón
I didn’t want to treat my time with Ramón like he was the subject to an interview so I just relaxed and continued to eat with him like he was one of my children. My heart was angered so I don’t know if a smile came across my face naturally, I believe I forced a few. I felt helpless as I gave him more money and asked him if he was ok. He stated yes, I rubbed his head as I do my son’s and we parted ways as he finished his meal. If you’re in La Romana, Dominican Republic and you get off the bus stop near a grocery store ( I believe its called Jumbo or la plaza) look for a short young man with hopefulness in his eyes carrying his tools and a yellow book bag, that’s Ramón. He’ll show you around and share his story with you, only if you ask. Oh yea give him my email/website info or get his information, not getting his is my only regret.