January 13, 2007 Polluted Playa

Photo Caption: Below the fortified colonial walls of the capital, far from the tourist-filled seaside resorts, piles of plastic containers pollute a neglected city beach.

History: When ordering a large bottle of Presidente beer, the nation’s favorite, it is customary to ask for two small plastic cups in order to share the cold brew with a friend. Unfortunately, thousands of cups find their way onto the streets and beaches. Litter pales in comparison to the sewage spoiling the shores of Santo Domingo. My host family must purchase water because the city water is not drinkable. A few miles west, one of the earth’s most polluted towns takes the toxic cake. Ironically, in Paraíso de Dios (God’s Paradise), a suburb of Bajos de Haina, two children must cope with feet pointing the wrong way. Their birth defects, as well as those of others, were caused by lead poisoning coming from a battery recycling plant that had operated in this industrialized port for two decades as it freely broke all environmental rules.

Journal Entry: As I sit in the employment agency break room at a fold-out table I eat the traditional daily meal of chicken, beans, and rice. They call it La Bandera Dominicana, or the Dominican flag, and Dominicans of all economic levels eat the same thing almost every day. It’s good food, but I’m a spoiled American who is used to variety. I love pizza but I wouldn’t want to eat it everyday.

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