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Articles Home - Living in the barrio
Breakfast in the barrio is typical of what most Dominicans eat. At home you would most likely have some plantains accompanied by fried salami, fired cheese, fried eggs or some other form of meat. Rice pudding, hot chocolate or coffee with buttered bread are also common breakfast meals. For those who don’t have time to eat at home the empanada is the place to go. Empanada stands are scattered through the DR’s barrios. The empanada is a delicious paddy, filled with a variety of ingredients like ham and cheese, mixed vegetables, corn, meat, eggs, salami or vegetarian. The empanada could be accompanied by a cup of juice which could be lemon, passion, tamarind, pineapple or mabi. Empanadas are also popular for lunch and dinner though restaurants that serve typical Dominican foods are scattered in these neighborhoods and serve a plate of the day that will cost between RD$70 and RD$100. These plates will include rice, beans, a salad, fried plantains and a meat. Also, quipes, empanadas amarillas or corn on the cob are sold on corners and by mobile vendors around the neighborhoods always available as a quick snack. At night the chimy is the place to go. The chimy stand is your basic hamburger and hot dog stand with some distinctive changes. The hot dog has ketchup, mustard, cheez whiz, relish, lettuce, and crush chips. The chimy hamburger is cooked on a grill with soy sauce, hot sauce, ketchup, a “special sauce,” lettuce, tomatoes and onions. The chimy business usually opens after 6pm and is open until about 3 or 4am.

A majority of the schools located in the barrios are pubic schools, known as a liceo, though there are parochial schools. There are very few private schools in the barrio as those are found in the country’s higher end neighborhoods. Unfortunately, the education system in the DR is lacking and a majority of the schools are under funded. Some schools don’t have the necessary equipment needed to teach and some schools are also understaffed. Graduation rates are also very low though there are efforts to curve this trend. For those who choose to continue their education they can go to any university they choose, granted they can afford it, but many poorer students can attend the UASD University, at discounted rates.

Sexual activity
Sex among teens is very common in the barrio and a lack of education has lead to a large number of teen pregnancies and an even larger amount of abortions, though the abortions are rarely publicized. It is not common to see older men with teenage girls engaged in consensual sexual activity and statutory rape is virtually non existent. This cycle has led to many homes in the DR being single parent homes with many young, unwed mothers to caring for many children without the presence of the father.

The Colmado and nightlife
In many barrios the colmadon is the center of nightlife. The colmadon is a large store that is dedicated to selling alcohol and will usually have a large music system that will play a variety of musics like salsa and merengue though bachata is most often the music blaring. The colmadon provides plastic chairs so patrons can sit and many times “parking lot pimpin,” hanging out on the streets, takes place near the colmado. Clubs, bars and pool halls are also very popular in the barrios though unfortunately they are plagued by “tigueraje,” making it dangerous for barrio and non barrio inhabitants alike. Club patrons are usually allowed to enter with guns and at the moments notice an argument can explode with gun shots ringing out loud. Once one gun shot sounds off the crowds run for safety and those who have guns bring them out, making getting hit by a stray bullet a real possibility.

Drugs and illegal business
Drugs run rampant through the barrios, though it’s not just barrio inhabitants that purchase, sell or consume the drugs. Marijuana and crack are the most common drugs in the barrios, though cocaine and heroine can be found. To a lesser degree methamphetamines, hallucinogens, ecstasy are found in the barrios though these drugs have yet to fully infiltrate the barrio culture. They are looked upon suspiciously by some and they are yet not as cost effective as other drugs to make drug pushers want to sell them. The large drug pushers in the barrios are known as “capos,” and they will usually have some connection to an American, European or South American drug market. Prostitution, loan sharking, insurance scams are also common illicit activities that take place in the barrios, as well as large scale robbery rings.

Crime and police
Crimes like theft, high jackings, drug dealing or murder are common in the barrio. For those who live outside these neighborhoods it could be a scary experience driving or walking through a barrio, especially at night. But for those who live in the barrio the fear is somewhat reduced because of barrio people will usually not attack a member of their own community usually choosing to commit a crime in someone else’s back yard. Barrio people will usually protect themselves and the lack of police presence makes this more urgent. Some barrios are so dangerous that police choose not to enter and vigilante justice is extremely common. In some cases when a thief is caught in the act he is beaten up on by members of the community as a whole. Though it is not a deterrent for crime barrio members will at times protect themselves. Unfortunately, this willingness to protect is sabotaged by an unwritten rule not to “snitch” on someone. In the barrio everyone could know where a murder is hiding out, but rarely will people go to the police, choosing to keep their mouths shut and their noses clean, this being one of the paradoxes of barrio life.

Housing and utilities
Rarely will you see high rise projects in the barrio rather you will see small cement or wood houses scattered around neighborhoods. These houses will have two maybe three rooms, small kitchen and a very cramped living room. There might be 5 or more people living in these cramped spaces. In some barrios there are actual houses with driveways, fences and maybe lawns but these are rare in poor barrios where more makeshift housing is common. The majority of the houses in the barrios were built without any real planning and it is noticeable. Many of the houses in the barrios have metal bars as a deterrent for thieves though there are no any guarantees. It is rare that people who live in the barrio pay for electricity. A common practice is to steal power, by connecting your source to the source of someone one who pays. This is done with cable and even phone lines. The theft of power is in the process of being regulated with the power companies asking people to pay at least something for the power they consume. Still, the infrastructure in the barrios is deteriorating. Since houses in the barrios were built in restricted areas when it rains flooding is common. Also, many of the wood houses are cover wish a zinc roof, which makes it unbearable to live in during the summer months.

Though the barrio gets a bad rap most people who live there love where they live.
Yes, there are aspects that aren’t that positive about the barrio but there is a sense of community in the barrio that doesn’t exist in some of Santo Domingo’s upper class neighborhoods. Living in a barrio is like living in that small little bar in Boston where you can walk down the street during any given day and everybody knows your name. And think about it like this if you ever need sugar or a plantain for breakfast you can’t scream out the window to ask your neighbor, unless you are in the barrio.
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