Moreover, small things that previous returnees paid no mind to become
bothersome. The almost seemingly endless parade of ‘carros publicos’ swerving
through traffic, reckless ‘motoristas’ causing accidents, the street vendors who
try to sell you cheap sunglasses at every stoplight, the guy throwing a dirty
sponge on your windshield to wash it, or the corrupt nature of the political
system all create moments in which returnees reminisce about the lives they once
The lack of social accountability also becomes a frequent complaint of many new
returnees, for which the only manageable answer is that, ‘that’s the way things
are done here.’ Problems with the phone company cutting off your phone, the
cable company providing you with expensive but bad service, the electricity
company turning off your power, cops stopping you for no reason and then asking
for a handout, or your attorney pulling a fast one on you, slip through the
cracks of the legal and moral system many times, and many returnees are left
wondering what happened to the dream, and the country in that dream that they
had so dearly envisioned for so many years.
Even the children of returnees are found staring at the differences between
their new and old lives. Aside from leaving their friends and the place they
called home for their entire lives, some children of returnees can find
adjusting to life in the Dominican Republic difficult. For the new generation of
Latino/Hispanic children who grew up in the United States, for example, the
language barrier can be an obstacle when they move to the Dominican Republic.
Many of these young people grow up speaking only English, and when they come to
the Dominican Republic where Spanish is the official language, they can struggle
to fit in. Even for those who do speak Spanish, the stylized Spanish of the
Dominican Republic, vastly different from the “Spanglish” (mixture of Spanish
and English spoken by many young people in the United States) they speak in the
US, can be confusing, and serves as another social identifier. Many Dominicans
can quickly tell who is a foreigner by the way they speak, inevitably labeling
the speaker as an “outsider.”
Adding to the language barrier is how the children of returnees prefer to watch
American television as opposed to Dominican programming. Part of this is linked
to the fact that Dominican television is for the most part in Spanish, with few
shows in English, and how many shows make references to Dominican culture that
these children don’t understand.
And though many young Dominicans in the US label themselves “Dominican” the fact
is that they are very Americanized in their ways. Their musical tastes, choice
of television programming, or choice of fashion is, in some cases, is very
different from Dominicans in the country. While children in the US may prefer to
listen to American Pop, Hip-Hop, or R&B, for example, the constant Bachata and
Merengue preferred by their Dominican counterparts highlight the differences in
how they were raised.
Even the foods that they eat, and what they do for entertainment make some
children yearn for their previous lives. The dependence on home cooked “typical”
(criolla) meals, as opposed to the fast food driven gastronomic culture of the
US, and the lack of American fast food chains, can be added difficulties for
It is guaranteed that as time passes things will change. It is almost impossible
for things to stay the same, and that is true for how this country develops.
Dominicans who return realize that they too have changed, and the countless
inconveniences that they encounter when they return, and some initial
difficulties they face, can be a product of how they have changed, but these
challenges become manageable through time.
But it is those little things that never change that make the move to the
Dominican Republic worth it. Yes, public offices are inefficient, traffic is a
nightmare, power is unstable, and accountability is an unknown concept here, but
it is peace of mind, a more peaceful lifestyle, healthier living, and for some,
the accomplishment of actually making it back home that trumps many of the
complaints of everyday living.
The simple fact that after so many years abroad, returnees have actually made it
home to enjoy the fruits of their labor, and enjoy the benefits of their
struggles overseas, is in itself a joy without comparison.
Transition is never easy, but for returnees it makes for good conversation while
sipping a Presidente Beer at the beach or at the local colmadon, or while
playing dominoes with neighbors. It is during these almost commonplace events
that some returnees realize that moving back was worth all the effort.