Role of Mother, Father, Grandparents, and Siblings
Language and Speech Patterns
Religion and Attitudes towards It
Marriage and Courtship
Drugs and/or Alcohol Use
Health Practices including Folk Medicine and Attitudes
Education and Employment
My Cultural Heritage
Brief History of the "Old Country"
Generations upon generations of Americans do not really consider the United States as their "true home country" because they came here in search of a better life and future not only for themselves but for their loved ones. Despite their reasons for living their native homelands, they still have fond memories of the "old country." I for one am no different since I originated from the Dominican Republic, an island paradise in the Caribbean that occupies almost 70% of the island of Hispaniola. Hispaniola actually comprises of two nations, Haiti to the west and the Dominican Republic on the eastern side. I have wonderful memories as I recall the stories about my family's home country. Whenever I listen to them, I cannot help but feel nostalgic especially when they talk about the family gatherings during special occasions and how everyone knew each other in our the neighborhood where my parents and grandparents lived.
The Dominican Republic is the second largest country occupying the Caribbean; Cuba being the first. Like most countries in the Caribbean and Latin America, the Dominican Republic was settled in and colonized by Spanish conquistadors during the 15th century. When Christopher Columbus first discovered the island in 1492, he named it La Isla Espanola, which became Hispaniola. A few years later the city of Santo Domingo became the Spanish capital of the New World, and because of its location in the trade winds, it was the gateway to the Caribbean. (Van Eps Garlo 2006) The Dominican Republic then, as it is now, was indeed a strategic jump off point for the European conquerors particularly when they prepare for their voyages into the American homeland. Spain ruled the country for about three hundred years but by 1795, Spain ceded the entire island to France (Van Eps Garlo 2006). Thereafter, the slave trade was at its turning point and several African slaves sold in Hispaniola took roots and formed part of the nation's population. Hence, the Dominican Republic's cultural and ethnic identities comprise of a blend of French, Spanish, African and the native Tainos.
By the mid to late 1800s when several European colonies around the world began fighting for their independence, the Dominican Republic was no exception. The nation "finally attained independence as the Dominican Republic in 1844. In 1861, the Dominicans voluntarily returned to the Spanish Empire, but two years later they launched a war that restored independence in 1865. (CIA 2011)." From then on, the nation enjoyed autonomy; however, it has faced several challenges internal problems due to various elements who wanted to rule the country. During much of its history the Dominican Republic has been governed by strong-arm dictators who have denied human rights to their citizens, particularly darker-skinned people (Van Eps Garlo 2006). By 1965, a civil war broke that truly divided the nation. Eventually, democracy was restored a year later through a general election and "since then, regular competitive elections have been held in which opposition candidates have won the presidency (CIA 2011)." Like most nations, the Dominican Republic has its own constitution and the latest amendments thereto occurred in 2004.
B. Behaviors and Values
With several centuries of Spanish rule, there is no doubt that behaviors and values of the people of the Dominican Republic center on Spanish norms, behavior and beliefs with particular influence by the Roman Catholic Church. The family as the basic unit of the Dominican Republic society is very important and is critical in imparting the values, behaviors and attitudes from parents to children. A proud aggressive attitude is admired in sports, business, and politics. Machismo permeates society, especially among rural and low income groups, with males enjoying privileges not accorded to females. (Van Eps Garlo 2006) Relationships, social networking and personal contacts are also important and Dominicans are known to be friendly, helpful and hospitable. They exhibit the joie de vivre often through their smiles and the warmth on their faces. Dominicans pride themselves on their hospitality. When someone visits, Dominicans go out of their way to make guests feel welcome and comfortable. (Kwintessential 2008)
C. Food Preferences
Food for the Dominicans is an expression of their love of life and some of the best gastronomical fares can be had in the country. There is a blend of the French, Spanish, African and native cuisine. A staple food in the country is la bandera composed of white rice and red beans. There is also the "favorite dish called sancocho, a meat, plantain, and vegetable stew. On the coast, fish and conch are enjoyed, and coconut is used to sweeten many seafood dishes. Root vegetables include sweet potatoes, yams, cassava, and potatoes. Small quantities of chicken, beef, pork, or goat are eaten with a meal. Food is generally not spicy. (Van Eps Garlo 2006) During meals, Dominicans take their time eating and often is considered a social occasion because people can talk and keep abreast of the latest happenings around as well as on the lives of people.
D. Dress Styles
Dominicans are savvy dressers and it is not surprising to see the younger generation and those belonging to the middle and upper classes sporting the latest in fashion. Appearance means a lot to the Dominicans and one of the manifestations of the important of how one looks is the way they dress. Professional men wear business suits or the traditional chacabana, a white shirt worn over dark trousers. Rural women wear skirts or dresses, but in urban areas jeans and short skirts are acceptable. Bright colors and shiny fabrics are favored. (Van Eps Garlo 2006) Indeed, Dominicans tend to judge a person's worth by the way he or she dresses up; hence, it is important to look at one's best especially in view of the fact that Dominicans are very particular with neatness and cleanliness.
E. Child Rearing Patterns and Discipline
Since the family is a very important aspect in the life of Dominicans, it would be evident that children are loved and dotted on. Dominican mothers are responsible for the rearing of their children with the fathers acting as the disciplinarian and provider for the family. Most Dominican families are extended families where relatives such as grandparents live in one roof. Thus, the grandparents also help out in child rearing and often spoil their grandchildren. Much of the culture and tradition of the Dominican Republic are learned by the children through their parents and grandparents. Those belonging to the Catholic faith, which most Dominicans do, take their children to attend regular church services and Catholic education, these are part of a child's rearing and discipline.
F. Sexual Identity
As a result of the Spanish and French influences, the Dominican Republic has a male-oriented and macho culture. Machismo permeates society, especially among rural and low income groups, with males enjoying privileges not accorded to females (Van Eps Garlo 2006). At the earliest age, Dominican children are made aware of their sexual identities and they are made familiar with their future roles in life especially when they start raising their own families. Despite the macho culture though, some Dominican females have made headways in society especially those who have garnered higher education and hold important positions in the government and private corporations.
G. Role of Mother, Father, Grandparents, and Siblings
The Dominican Republic family structure is mostly patriarchal with the father as head, decision-maker and breadwinner. The mother takes the role of rearing and looking after children while the grandparents, as part of the extended family help out. Siblings are expected to obey their elders without questions and when they chose not to do so, they not only become pariahs of the family but the society as well. Although family roles are defined in the Dominican society, there have been changes in the last several decades due to the influence of American culture and women taking on professional roles in business and industry. Thus, grandparents are often left looking after the children while their parents are at work. Older siblings are also expected to lend a hand in ensuring that younger siblings are cared for.
H. Language and Speech Patterns
The official language of the Dominican Republic is Spanish. Dominicans pride themselves on the purity of their Spanish and it is considered by some to be the most classical Castilian spoken in Latin America. Nevertheless, Dominican Spanish has a distinctive accent and incorporates numerous African and Taino (native) expressions. (Van Eps Garlo 2006) Some Creoles are also spoken in the country particular those that live near the border with Haiti. English is also spoken especially by the middle and upper classes. Several…