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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 United States.

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.
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