Two American middle school teachers offer an inside look at the Dominican Republic—one not revealed in travel brochures.
“Imagine being a cocoa picker but never getting to enjoy a chocolate bar,” teachers Santos and D’Amato write. “Picture yourself working for a posh hotel where staying for just one night costs more than two months’ salary.” In this behind-the-scenes account of their experiences leading students on “social justice” trips to the Dominican Republic, Santos and D’Amato present a travelogue of the developing Caribbean nation and its people, a starkly contrasting image of a country filled with natural beauty and plentiful resources as well as unseemly human struggles and extreme poverty. The book goes beyond the pristine beaches of a tourist guide to reveal life there as it really is. Difficult realities are exposed: the sex workers trade and the prevalence of HIV and other diseases; the scarcity of clean water and lack of access to public education; strong attitudes of discrimination against Haitians and women; and the prevalence of sweat shops in “free trade zones,” where earning a living wage is but a dream. With richly detailed descriptions, the writing is exceptionally crisp and likely to pull readers in as the students witness a voodoo ritual or spend a day working with garbage dump pickers. The authors’ method of teaching social studies through cultural immersion will undoubtedly help students become aware of, and engaged in, matters of social justice.
An intelligent, revealing look at uncharmed lives in the Dominican Republic.