Oh! How exciting! Soon I won't have to leave South Beach. So then what's the point of going to the D.R.
I go to the D.R. for the Dominican Republic and its culture not to a place that is a replica of my home country and sterilized.
What is in your minds, people?
Can't culture exist with progress?
I am often intrigued when people say they go to a place for 'its culture' and yet, the same people reject or, at the very least, feel uneasy when progress begins to take place.
Look at Puerto Rico, very modern and progressive and yet, they still retain much of what makes a Boricua a... well... a Boricua!
Sometimes what people deem as 'culture' in many ways is nothing more than an economically inferior lifestyle compared to the lifestyle of people from the first world and I think many "first world tourists" want for certain places to remain the same forever, for their own enjoyment on their two-weeks vacation.
For many of these foreigners and tourists, the 'real' Dominican culture is manifested in one word: POVERTY. Anything that leads away from poverty is seen as tampering with the 'culture', thus in order to protect the local 'culture', the poverty must be protected as well and that means keeping the huts with thatch roofs, keeping the dirt roads, keeping the deprived people deprived.
Notice how not many tourists regard middle class Dominicans or upper class Dominicans as being part of the 'real culture', it's only the poor Dominicans and many include poor Haitians under the title of the 'real Dominican culture' while excluding Dominicans from the upper classes from such 'real culture'.
Culture is a complex thing that is out there, intangible, fluid, and in constant change. Culture is not manifested through thatch roofs, dirt roads, wooden shacks, and people hanging from pick-up trucks. Culture, real culture goes beyond those visible things.
Thus, the notion that the change Juan Dolio is experiencing is going to be bad because its affecting the local 'culture' I think is a nice way of saying that many tourists/foreigners don't want the area to be affected by progress.
And yes, many do use the excuse that the locals are not being benefitted (despite the construction jobs and the new jobs which will be created). But, I think that even if the locals were given more than their share of such progress, many of these people would still object to such.
Because if the locals were given the attention that would elevate their standards of living to a level where the actions of goodwill from the foreign tourists will no longer "buy their friendship", those locals will become as "normal" as the people from the country where the tourist came from.
Thus, we are back to the same dilemma once again!
Is it really the 'culture' that most tourists are after or perhaps its something else... that notion of a tropical paradise with palm trees, sunshine, and... uncivilized savages which would create the perfect opportunity for the civilized Westerner to do an act of goodwill in order to feel better for him/herself.
I'm sure many foreigners are truly concerned with the well being of the locals (despite the underlying power influence between relatively wealthier foreigner and impoverished local which creates a friendship based on one giving material gifts to the other while the other gives certain emotions of happiness and, perhaps, a validation to the foreigner of being "good").
However, many doesn't mean all and its that double side coin which keeps me wondering everytime I read or hear a non-local claim that they want to protect to the local 'culture'.
Could it be that they want to protect the local poverty? The local conditions which gives the foreigner a chance to feel good about him/herself when he/she gives gifts to the deprived locals? Could that be where much of the so called charm lies?
Food for thought!
BTW: You can follow the debate that may or may not come forth from this at the Debate Forum in the thread titled : "Protecting the culture?".