Before Batey and SonAbril were fusing traditional Dominican rhythms with rock and reggae sounds, attempting to break cultural barriers with their music, there was a collection of Dominican artists who were bringing the DR's cultural history to the forefront. But these cultural educators haven't received the support and recognition needed in order to get their message and music to the masses. Still, the lack of mainstream recognition has never been enough to deter them from their goals. The DR's cultural history, though as brilliant and interesting as that of any other country in the region, or even the world, has remained largely hidden to the very people who have created it and live in it. Dominican culture has been only enjoyed in small bits and pieces by the public at large and it is the lack of cultural, social and personal awareness which has made it difficult for these musics to become part of the overall Dominican identity.

In looking at Dominican cultural history it must be noted that the DR has experienced a large scale cultural repression since the time of the Spanish conquest. The Spanish introduced the now common concept of Eurocentricity and anything that was not in line with this ideology was discarded. Speaking racially, this included discarding any vestige of Africaness and replacing it with Europeanism. But how would Dominicans come to explain their color, their customs and norms, which didn't necessarily fall in line with the Spanish model presented to them? In this sense Dominicans would create an image of themselves contrasting their identities and would discard the image of Africaness. At the same time Dominicans would resurrect the image of the Taino Indian, whose presence was reduced considerably in the first 50 years of the Spanish presence on the island, as their own.

According to social scholar Joyce E. Salisbury "one major way in which people define their identities is in relation to what they are not." And popular author Michele Wucker explains that, "mourning his demise and celebrating his legacy, Dominicans resurrected the past and constructed a Taino-influenced ancestry to explain their color. Today, mulatto and Black Dominicans call themselves, Indio, and they say that their color is dark like that of Indians but different in quality from African skins. They can identify with Enriquillo (a Taino warrior) because he was a Christian." With Wucker's and Salisbury's assertions we can see how Dominicans came to view and define themselves. Wucker also asserts that in Enriquillo the Dominican saw the image of a great man. "A heroic Indian who put peace with Spain above alliance with black slaves, Enriquillo fed the Dominican myth of a Great Man." Though the physical presence of the Indio died out, replaced by the intermixing with Africans and Europeans, the presence of the Indio in the Dominican psyche as a way to understand himself, as Salisbury would explains, as something he is not, is still at the core of the Dominican identity.

But this part of the complex equation that is Dominican identity is not enough to understand the depths of the cultural landscape. In looking at Dominican culture we see the vestiges of African culture that had been tried to be forgotten, but is quietly publicized through music, food and language instead of through educational programs, literature or state sponsored events. It creates a dangerous dynamic when a country's history is tucked away in the backgrounds of time replaced with a created concept, with "truths" carefully chosen, used to sculpt a history that is convenient with the message or "identity" one is trying to create. But it is not all at a loss as there are artists throughout the DR who have made it their personal goal to resurrect these culturally important customs and have used music, or their words, as their vehicle, or tool, to teach the country's citizens about who they are. These artists, knowingly and unknowingly, are exploring the concept of identity, shedding light on parts of Dominican cultural history, which has been largely ignored, introducing new possibilities which people can use to define themselves and in a sense helping carve out who Dominicans can be. In short these artists have been working to help define that defiantly ambiguous term of what in fact is "Dominicaness."

Blas Jimenez
Afro/Dominican poet and essayist Blas Jimenez is one of the few voices in the DR that has continually championed the concept of Afro-Dominicaness. Jimenez speaks of the acceptance of this frame of mind as a way to establish and define Dominicaness, which by all accounts doesn't fully incorporate all facets of Dominican culture, tradition and life. Through his literary work Jimenez has challenged the historical image of white, Spanish, Catholic Dominicans and has tried to plant the seed that Dominicans are none of this. That they, whether they like it or not, recognize it or not, are in fact more African in there make up than they are Taino or Spanish. But the challenges that face Jimenez in literature are many. According to him Dominican literature is still far behind and this is due to the insufficiencies in the educational system of the DR. The education system, he explains is 20 or 30 years behind the rest of the world. Add to this that even in the higher levels of education a diverse curriculum, which would inevitably consists of African related history and cultural classes, are void of these educational opportunities. This creates the issue that the educational system, and the existing literature, is still derived from that European oriented mindset, which champions the idea that even the darkest Dominicans aren't black, they are Spanish.

This lack of creativity in the classroom has lead to Dominican born writers lacking the imagination and strength of self to explore a new concept of African based heritage. Even Jimenez's use of the term Afro-Dominican, a term that has not even registered in Dominican literary or cultural circles, is ahead of the curve and sure to receive criticisms as a term that doesn't "represent" who Dominicans are. The complexities that surround the conversation that Jimenez, and the few writers like him are having, are ones that could potentially deter other writers from continuing on. But there is light at the end of the tunnel and that tunnel, interestingly enough begins in the US. According to Jimenez it is the large number of Dominican migrants to the US that has, and will help change the misguided concept, of how Dominicans view themselves. A Dominican who has recently arrived in the US faces the shock that he/she is considered black, not mulatto, not white. It takes time to adjust to this reality, but once accepted becomes a powerful realization. Previous DR1 articles have focused in detail about how the migration culture has heavily influenced the acceptance of Rap music, once thought of as a genre for the poor and black. The concept of Afro-Domincaness is, according to Jimenez, the movement of the future and once Dominicans have empowered themselves with knowledge of self it is only a matter of time when the society can progress.
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