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Articles Home - Living in the barrio
Driving around the center of Santo Domingo on a typical Saturday night is like driving around Manhattan, New York. High end clubs like Praia, LED, or Tonic, blast the latest electronic club music, international DJ’s play into the wee hours of the night and Ferraris, Mercedes and BMW’s roar down the main city drags as if these where the only vehicles allowed to cruise along city streets on weekend nights. The “jevito” crowd in full swing looking as chic as they want to be, wearing their hand made or imported European clothes, expensive shoes, enjoying the night with their “money isn’t an issue” attitudes. On Lincoln Avenue, expensive street racers parade down as on lookers argue as to what car could beat what car in a quarter mile race or which club is better than which club. Looks are at a premium, personality and character, not so much. In this world of “what I have” what you drive, what you wear, who you know and who knows you is more important than what you think and these particular scenes, which are mirrored throughout Santo Domingo’s high end shopping areas and strips, would lead one to believe that the DR isn’t a developing country. Bella Vista Mall or Acropolis are filled with the city’s richest of the richest who spend without a care and distinguish themselves from the country’s popular classes with their cool gadgets and designer ice cream. But, scattered throughout Santo Domingo are numerous barrios where life is completely the opposite. Where BMW’s are replaced with Honda Civics, where electronic music is replaced by the sounds of bitter Bachata and where European clothes are replaced by the look of New York City “Yos.” Barrios in the DR, and around the world, get a bad rap. The drugs, violence, prostitution and negative aspects of society are directed as originating in the barrios of any given town, and though there is some truth to this, it is often overlooked that most barrios are defined by a sense of community, pride and defiance towards the challenges and obstacles that society places on them.

Everything in the barrios is different. Clothing styles, language, hierarchy, gang life and everything in between is defined by a different outlook in these neighborhoods. From the food to the smells the sights and the sounds life can vary significantly from one barrio to another, but what is the same is that these folks, though poor in monetary measures, are rich in their own right.

There are a few defining styles of clothing worn in the barrios. Some men stick with the status quo and feel more comfortable with the “jevito” style. A pair of fitted jeans, accompanied by a nice pair of shined shoes or jevito shoes, like Pumas, topped off with a pastel colored polo is common. The jevito style could be varied with the usage of a pair of “crokies” (Nike Air Force One’s) and a New Era Fitted Cap which could make a jevito more of a barrio type. Another style is that of the Yo, or the hip hop styles. Baggy jeans, with crokies or boots, accompanied by a large designer shirts and New Era Fitted Caps are very common. This look has become increasingly popular in the DR due to the influence of Dominican Americans in the US. Finally, there is the bachatero look. The bachatero look is named so because it is a style common among the nation’s bachata singers. Men wear tight jeans with flashy, crocodile skinned or leather shoes and very eccentric shirts which have designs on them. Beaded necklaces, bracelets or sun glasses are very common accessories. The bachatero look is considered by tacky by some, in and out of the barrio, but it is still very popular. The women in the barrio will sometimes vary within these very same styles though there are no real defining characteristics of clothing styles used by women in the barrios.

A large number of those who make a barrio their home usually have no money to buy a car so public transportation is very common. Large buses, “voladoras,” or public taxis, conchos, wiz up and down very congested barrio streets, usually over filled, getting patrons to their places of choice as quick as possible. For those who have a bit more money at their disposals two wheel transportation could be an option. Scooters or motorbikes are almost an exclusive aspect of barrio transportation and some Dominicans joke that in certain barrios having a scooter, a “pasola,” can make you more popular with the ladies than having a car. For those who have a higher income cars are the ultimate goal, but you won’t see BMW’s and Mercedes parading around the streets. The cars of choice in the barrios are Honda Civics, Honda Accords and Toyota Corollas, especially among younger barrio inhabitants. The Civic and Corolla, partly because of their costs are popular, but like everything in the barrio there is a twist. These cars have become very popular because of their street racer qualities and the ease with which you can “trick out” a vehicle. Large rims, xenon white lights, loud muffler systems, body kits, special paints all add to the “cool” value of a car. Also, sound systems in these cars can make or brake a car. Sub woofers, tweeters radios are all added to “compete” and gives the owner a special standing within the barrio hierarchy. It is almost a known fact that nothing is considered “chopo” in the barrio. Something “chopo” would be putting zebra skinned seats in Hummer or a BMW, but go to a barrio if you want to see this.

The barber shop or hair salon is arguably the center of day life in the barrio. For men the barber shop is where politics, sports, relationships and life all have a forum to be discussed. Barbers are a special breed of men in the barrios as all the neighborhood gossip will pass by his ears. Adding to the personality of the barber is that he is a pseudo psychologist and since he is the man responsible for cutting your hair, and making you look good, he will never be wrong in an argument. A good cut will cost you around RD$100, but it’s the atmosphere that is worth staying for. As the night progresses patrons will buy beers from the local colmado and music will play in the background. For women the salon is just as important and hairdressers play the same role as barbers do. Dominican hairstylists are world renown for their skills and looking good, especially for the weekend, is at a premium in the DR. The quality of barrio stylists is so known that some of the DR’s richest will make their way to the barrios to get their hair done.
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