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Far from the drug dealer portrayals in Hollywood, Dominican Americans have been making strides towards the advancement of their community for many years. Dominican Americans publicly recognize their heritage and champion the fight for equality in the United States, and their mere affiliation to the Dominican community is seen as a source of pride for a group of people that hasn’t had much to cheer about. At the same time, with their status, Dominican Americans are raising awareness of this large ethnic community in the United States, making it imperative to recognize Dominicans as a cultural group to be reckoned with. Moreover, the presence of Dominicans beyond the playing fields has the power to inspire a new generation of Dominicans to be more than just baseball players. People who in some way or another have a connection to the small Caribbean nation, are, unknowingly, providing a voice for a generation of youth who are stuck in a cultural void. As the new generations of Dominicans grow up they will ultimately need role models that represent them, and that they can relate to, in order for them feel fully incorporated into society. These newer generations are neither Dominican, nor American, they are in fact both, with neither side weighing more than the other.

The presence of Dominicans in the United States ranges far across the cultural spectrum. Dominicans have found success in all walks of life, and can be credited with a variety of achievements in many fields. These Dominicans are considered champions within this community, and their individual successes are viewed as communal successes that aid in the progress of this population.

Most people might not be aware, but there are a few prominent actors of Dominican descent in Hollywood. Miguel A. Nunez Jr., who stars in the NBC comedy “Joey,” is of Dominican descent; though in most of his roles he portrays African-Americans. This is also true in the case of Alfonso Ribeiro, whose parents immigrated to the United States, where he was born. Most of us know Ribeiro as Will Smith’s ultra conservative cousin “Carlton,” on the long running NBC comedy, “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”

American born actress ZoŽ Saldana, who starred in the hit movie, “Guess Who,” is also of Dominican descent, as is the late actor Merlin Santana. Santana was a regular on the hit series “The Cosby Show” and a cast member of the long running series, “The Steve Harvey Show,” where he played the role of a Dominican high school student in Chicago, “Romeo Santana.” Victor Rasuk, a young method actor seen in such movies as “Raising Victor Vargas,” and “Five Feet High and Rising,” is also Dominican.

Along with these performers, there are actors in Hollywood of mixed Hispanic/Latino origins. Actress Michelle Rodriguez, formerly seen on the show “Lost,” is of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent, as is up and coming actor Rick Gonzales, who can be seen in the basketball drama, “Coach Carter.” Dominican actors also come in all sizes, and actor Nelson de la Rosa is a testament to that. De la Rosa, who is said to be 28 inches tall, is considered the inspiration for the Austin Powers character, “Mini- Me.” De la Rosa can also be seen in the movie, “The Island of Doctor Monroe,” exchanging dialogue with Marlin Brando.

More than just actors, Dominicans have begun to make their mark in other ways. Julia Alvarez, author of the hugely popular books, “Yo!”, “How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents,” and “In the Time of the Butterflies,” mixes her Dominican ancestry into the pages of her novels. Along with Alvarez there is author Junot Diaz. Diaz, author of the book, “Drown,” has been considered one of the most important and influential authors in recent history, and was listed by the New Yorker Magazine as one of the top 20 writers of the 21st century.
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