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03/23/2011

Footprints of colonization

Here's a look at some of the cultural daytrips we've been taking, both as a part of classes and as program offerings. Re: the second cultural daytrip, who said you can't mix a bit of culture with a bit of beachtime!?

Submitted by Gabriella

My Political and Socioeconomic Processes class has proved to be more interesting than expected. We took a field trip to a “Zona Franca” or Free Trade Zone in Santiago. Free Trade Zones exist around the world and are characterized by special regulations relating to the taxes that multinational companies pay to import and export products produced in factories in these zones. In the Dominican Republic, the factories are owned by Dominicans and employ Dominicans but produce goods for international companies. We visited a factory that produces shoes for Timberland. It was incredibly interesting to tour the factory and talk to the manager and workers. Most of the employees said that they didn’t love their job but they also didn’t hate it. They appreciated the stability and benefits that the employment provided but complained about the repetitive nature of the work. I had imagined an oppressive, hot environment with everyone in isolated sections not able to talk for 8 hours per day. I was pleasantly surprised to find a large open room with music over the speakers and lots of conversations. The building was divided into sections where each part of the shoe-making process took place. We toured through and saw each step, it was very interesting to see a loafer-type shoe made from start to finish. With the visit came a lecture on the economy of the Dominican Republic. It was originally an agriculture-based economy but now it draws the largest incomes from zona francas, tourism, and remittances. It went from a self-sustaining economy producing for Dominicans and exportation to an economy almost completely dependent on foreign money and production for exportation. Interesting to consider if this is the reason for the economic situation that the country now faces.

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We took a day trip to Parque Nacional Isabela which was where the first colony in the Americas was built. Unfortunately, when Trujillo was in power he ordered a General to “clean the site up” because a European group of archeologists wanted to come and excavate it. The General interpreted “clean it up” as bulldoze all of the ruins from the original buildings into the ocean! So now, there is not much left but a few foundational pieces and a small museum with some artifacts that were salvaged. We also learned a lot about the history of Columbus’ trips and the information lines up really well with what I’m learning in my Caribbean History class. After the national park, we spent the afternoon on the beach! We visited the first beach that Columbus swam in and then another beach that houses an all-inclusive resort.

Isabela 1

Beach 1


Group isabela

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