Una perspectiva desde el Barrio Palmerito

Aug 6, 2006
In the Barrio Palmerito in Barahona, water and electricity are constant, but inconsistent.. The water usually is turned on around 7:00 AM and goes off at around 10:00. Times are approximate. Sometimes there is enough pressure to fill the tinaco on the roof, other times there is not, and a pump must be used. The sun warms the water in the tinaco, which is black. We have a 35 gallon blue plastic "tanque" filled with a garden hose that also comes in handy. The fact that the tinaco is black means that you can get a warmish bath as long as the water lasts.

The electricity is more problematic. It is usually on by 8:00 AM and goes off around 11:00. Some days, it comes on at 4:00 and stays on until midnight, other days it comes on at midnight and stays on until around dawn.People constantly complain about the cutoffs. However, no one on Avenida Bonifacio Feliz pays for water or electricity. Rarely do people mention that electricity and water are free.

There is good reception on Canal 57, that runs American and Chinese action films all day and all night with no commercials other than ads for movies that would be coming soon to a theatre near us except that there has been no movie theatre in Barahona for decades. Barahona has two real celebrities, other than ballplayers and musicians: Cassandra Damiron was a dancer in the 1950's, and Maria Montez was a Hollywood actress, a sort of Dominican Carmen Miranda, in the 1940's. Montez father was a Spanish Consul. There were posters celebrating a Maria Montez festival at the University auditorium The poster called her "La Reina del Technicolor". The posters were in color, but the photo of Montez was B &W. I like to think someone has a sense of humor.

The tigueres of the nearby Barrio Camboya stage "huelgas" from time to time to protest the lack of electricity. Huelga normally means 'strike', but a strike is usually an agreement of workers not to go to work. Not so in the DR, where it means that some young guys pile rocks and occasionally burn tires in the street to prevent traffic on main roads to prevent traffic by larger vehicles. Motos and pasolas (motorcycles and scooters) can almost always get through. On special occasions, there are skirmishes between the Policia in riot gear, and young hoodlums throwing rocks. The PN shoot off sound grenades and nasty little blue teargas bombs. The tigueres throw rocks, bottles and try to return the teargas grenades, which, by the way, and American made. Normally tire fires do not happen. A typical skirmish will come along around once a year or less. The huelgas seem to be sporadic, perhaps about once every two months,

Huelgas never seem to have any effect on lights or water. Everyone agrees that making all the buses, trucks and guaguas detour around Avenida Cassandra Damiron to protest blackouts is stupid. The Tigueres of Camboya are always blamed. I have never met one, but I did see some in action in February, exchanging rocks and gas bombs with the PN. A couple were wearing flipflops, which seems to me to be inappropriate footwear for running back and forth over rock-strewn streets. One guy was shirtless, which also seems unwise, as teargas burns the skin of sweaty people. There is a rumor that if your skin bruns from the teargass, you should get someone to pee on you. I have not seen this drastic measure put into action, hoiwever, and deem it to be a humorous bit of chisme (gossip).

There has been talk over reaching some sort of agreement over exchanging reliable electricity for payment of electricity bills. About one house in fifteen has an inversor, which is a couple of 12v DC batteries that charge when the electricity is on, and converts it to 110v AV when the lights go out. People who have inversores are less likely to agree with exchanging payment for reliability. I have seen no solar arrangements.

July 26 fell on a Saturday this year. All five colmados in the four block area closed their doors and turned off their loud merengues. Apparently there was a rumor that there would be trouble. Julio 26 is the day that Fidel Castro named his movimiento after. The tigueres in Camboya apparently are not internationally conscious and nothing happened.

In Barahona, there are local guaguas that go all over the place, to Polo, Vicente Noble, Duverge and other towns. Local transport is mostly by motoconcho. One or two adults and varying numbers of children ride on the back and occasionally in the lap of, the driver. Few motoconchos wear the required helmets. The fare downtown is 50 pesos. There are taxis, and you can rent a truck and driver, but washing machines, propane tanks, 70 pounds or more of groceries are hauled around by motorbike, usually 125 cc Chinese Loncins, Suzukis, and other less common brands. It is amazing how much can be carried on a motoconcho. To carry a propane tank, usually the tank which can be almost 5 ft high, is horizontally placed on the seat behind the driver, and a small boy holds onto it. Some look detemined, others terrified, but most seem to have a happy grin for enjoying a free ride.