Dominicans have also found success in design rooms and international runways.
Oscar de la Renta, who left the Dominican Republic at the age of 18 to pursue
his career as a designer, is world famous, and is considered by critics to be
one of the most influential fashion creators of the 20th century. Omyrah Mota
and Dania Ramirez, who can both be seen in the movie, “X-Men 3: The Last Stand,”
are making names for themselves in the world of fashion. In the world of beauty
pageants Dominicans have also had success. In 2003 Amelia Vega won the title of
Miss Universe, and in 2004 Claudia Cruz was named first runner up in the Miss
World pageant. Following those performances, in 2005 Renata Sone was named
second runner up in the Miss Universe competition.|
In the field of music the presence of Dominicans is also strong. Bachata group
Aventura, who captured the imaginations of millions of screaming teens with
their international hit, “Obsesion,” proudly embrace their Dominican and mixed
Latino heritages. Hip Hop music, which has been largely dominated by African
Americans, is now reaching out to Dominican youth. Popular rappers like Juelz
Santana, Fabolous, J.R. Writer, Ju-Ju (of Beatnuts fame), AZ, and Joe Buddens,
are expressing the values of urban youth through their hardcore street lyrics.
Others artists such as musician Daniel Cruz Sanchez and bilingual rocker Alih
Jey are also making their mark on the American music scene.
Dominicans have also made their presence felt in sports. More than just baseball
players, Dominicans are proving that they have athletic capabilities beyond the
baseball diamond. Currently there are two players of Dominican descent playing
prominent roles in the NBA. Francisco Garcia, a first round draft pick of the
Sacramento Kings, is a Dominican-born basketball player who is developing into a
potential star in the NBA. Alongside Garcia is Charlie Villanueva, who was also
a first round pick. Villanueva, who plays for the Toronto Raptors, is an
American-born player whose parents where born in the Dominican Republic. Both
players, together with former players Felipe Lopez (retired), and Luis Flores
(Italian Basketball League), have maintained close nationalistic ties to the
Dominican Republic, and have opted to play for the small island nation during
international competitions, further demonstrating their Dominican pride.
In track and field the presence of Dominicans cannot be overlooked. Felix
Sanchez, who specializes in the 400 meter hurdles, blazed a trail to glory in
the 2004 Olympics, on his way winning 44 consecutive matches, and bringing home
the first Olympic gold medal for the Dominican Republic. So much is the success
of Felix Sanchez appreciated in the Dominican Republic that the track stadium,
formerly known as Estadio Juan Pablo Duarte, in which he won the 2003 Pan
American gold medal in the 400 meter hurdles, was renamed in his honor.
Even the NFL, a sport that has rarely been popular in the Dominican Republic, is
now a topic of conversation, due in large part to defensive tackle Luis
Castillo. Castillo, a former first round pick of the San Diego Chargers in the
2005 draft, was born to Dominican parents, and his presence in the NFL leads
many Dominicans to watch him play when they are televised, even if they don’t
exactly understand the game. And though he wasn’t born in the Dominican Republic
he proudly affirms his Dominican heritage.
Historically Dominicans living in the United States have been consistently
devoted to politics in their land of origin, and unlike other Spanish-speaking
ethnic groups, like Cuban Americans, Dominicans have not been functional in U.S.
politics, partly because many hold on to the idea that they will eventually
return to the island. But Dominicans are progressing in the field of politics.
Though political activity is mostly common in areas where there are large
concentrations of Dominicans, the fact that they are moving towards involvement
in the political arena shows a move towards social progression, and integration
into the American community. Though there are no Dominicans in the House of
Representatives there are Dominicans serving in other political capacities such
as council members, county legislators, and state legislatures around the United
States. The many well known Dominican American politicians include Commissioner
of Immigrant Affairs for the City of New York Guillermo Linares, State
Assemblymen Adriano Espaillat and Jose Peralta. Also there are Councilmen Miguel
Martinez and Diana Reyna. In New Jersey one can find Councilman Ramon Rosario
and Councilman Manuel Segura. In Rhode Island there is Senator Juan Pichardo,
and State Representative Grace Diaz. Massachusetts has State Representative
William Lantigua, and Texas Commissioner of State Health Services, Dr. Eduardo
Sanchez, is the highest ranking Dominican appointed to public office in the
The Dominican enclave is taking small steps towards becoming a thriving
community. Though there are many obstacles ahead for Dominican Americans, there
are possibilities which are highlighted by the successes of their fellow
countrymen, and those who share in their heritage. In looking at the future,
Dominicans must look beyond the acts of illegal activity that have tainted their
image, and continue to make strides to integrate fully into American society.