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Although the Gonzaga Law Mission: Possible group is focused on serving the University’s mission of community service, the Mission: Possible Board is continuously looking for ways to tie legal education into its international trip. The 2012- 2013 group was fortunate to have the opportunity to not only tour the Dominican Republic Supreme Court, but also to have both the Chief Justice’s (English speaking) clerk give the tour and the opportunity to meet and talk with one of the Justices.

MP Members spend time with the Court of Appeals Justice

After a very tearful and emotional good-bye from our host families in Altagracia, the group traveled 45 minutes by bus to the Dominican Republic’s capital, Santo Domingo. With the exception of the Constitutional Court, all of the various levels of court houses and court systems are housed under one very large roof. The group had the opportunity to see several of the different courtrooms and different divisions, including the Supreme Courtroom, the Labor division and the Criminal Division Courtroom. One of the highlights of each of the different courtrooms was the beautiful murals that were the backsplash to every courtroom. Each mural represented different issues or representations specific to the courtroom for which it was placed. 

The Mural in the Civil and Commercial Courtroom


The group was especially fortunate that one of the Justices was able to spare a few minutes to talk with the group. After a few minutes of Spanish, the group was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Justice had studied in Oregon and he was excited to practice his “rusty” English.

The visit to the Dominican Republic was more than just a chance to see a foreign Supreme Courtroom. It was an invaluable opportunity to hear the personal experiences about life in the Dominican Republic, experiences as a law student, and being a female clerk for a Supreme Court Justice from a current Supreme Court Justice Clerk. It also gave the group a chance to hear about legal issues facing the country, hopes the country hoped to achieve, and open a dialogue about legal issues facing young attorneys in the United States also.

The 2013- 2014 Mission: Possible is hoping to add a visit to a local law school to the agenda in order to open up additional dialogue between law students from the United States and current law students from the Dominican Republic.


Spanish is the official language of the Dominican Republic. The question often comes up from interested potential members: “is Spanish a requirement to go to the Dominican Republic with the Mission: Possible team?” The short answer is no. No, it is not a requirement that members speak Spanish to travel to the Dominican Republic with the Mission: Possible team.

The next question is always, “then how does that work?” Most law students quickly realize that language is almost everything in the legal profession. It is how we make our arguments, draft documents, “rest our case,” and really what we rely upon to make our living. So what happens when we travel to another country, whose official language is Spanish, and the majority of the group does not speak Spanish? In the past few years, the Mission: Possible team has been fortunate enough to have several students who speak Spanish. While the levels of Spanish proficiency varies from a few words or phrases to completely fluent, every Spanish speaking team member is a valuable addition to the group. The 2012- 2013 team consisted of 12 members in total, of which five members spoke some degree of Spanish. In order to help create meaningful connections and make students feel at home, the Mission: Possible Executive Board does everything possible to arrange that each host family has at least one Spanish speaking team member in the house, paired with a non- Spanish speaking member. Carefully pairing students gives the Dominican Republic families the opportunity to be able to connect with their “American children.”

MP Member Katie listens to “la Viejita’s” life story

However, in just a few short minutes after stepping off the bus into the village, the law students quickly realize that spoken language, and Spanish, is not needed to connect with their new families, with the children, with the village. The children of Altagracia are the most eager to demonstrate this point. The children speak a universal language that anyone can understand- they instantly love you, which they show by grabbing your hand and insist by pulling you to play a game of baseball with them. They instantly become your new best friend (especially if you have stickers in your pocket to share). After a few short hours, members no longer rely on their Spanish speaking team member counterparts because he or she is communicating without speaking Spanish. Each team member is making his or her own connection, by making jewelry with his or her new host sister, learning hand games, playing jump rope or baseball with the children. In the evenings, host families teach their “American children” how to dance Bachata, sing traditional songs, and dance.

Though not fluent in Spanish, Jeanne was excellent at teaching 

Although many students leave the Dominican Republic and want to learn a little Spanish in preparation for when they return the next year, Spanish is not a requirement to have a meaningful experience during their time in Altagracia, Dominican Republic.



A Reflection on Altagracia

By Colin (written immediately following our return from Altagracia)

Both times that I have returned from La Altagracia, I have been overwhelmed with feelings that I have never experienced in my entire life.  I am realizing that, at least for me, all of La Altagracia – all the sites, sounds, smells, and tastes  – takes a lot of time to process.

As I slept in the back of Berjica and Moises’ house, well… I could never really sleep.  It’s not the 30 fighting cocks that are housed there that keep me awake (I learned to bring ear plugs); it is the excitement that I feel in this community, doing international service.  This is my absolute passion.

Now that I am home, I still have trouble sleeping.  I wake up in the middle of the night and feel as though, just as in the tiny Dominican village of Altagracia, I am surrounded by tiny smiling faces. Those faces that call out my name everywhere I go…”COLIN! COLIN!” I hear, expecting a question, or a demand, or a complaint.  But no.  That is not how things work.  They just want to let me know that they are there.  They are just excited to see me.  I feel like a celebrity.

The colors of Altagracia

After spending a year fundraising, speaking about our efforts to countless people, initiating drives for school supplies, personal hygiene materials, and sports equipment, we were finally back, and even more so, I felt the cariño of the community.

Quickly I realized how much our return meant to so many people.  The people there remembered every detail of our trip the previous year.  They hung on to every inside joke, every nickname, every story. Every person that was present for our visit last year asked fervently about those members of the group that did not return with us this year.  “Y Kevin? Como esta? Porque no regreso’?”  “Why didn’t CJ come back?”

The work in Altagracia is hard, but with the entire community helping, it makes it so much easier.  After working so many construction type jobs, both for work and for my family, often it seems like the guy who breaks his back the fastest and works the hardest gets the respect.  But, that’s not the case in Altagracia.  Everyone owns a share in the construction of a house, or a school, or whatever it is that is being built.  The point is not to burn yourself out for credit.  It is to work together and accomplish something important for the community.

MP Members team up with Altagracians to deliver food to the elders

When I was growing up in Kirkland, Washington, I don’t think my neighbors could tell you that my brothers, Dad, and I built a retaining wall in our back yard, a drainage ditch,  pulled down trees, or any other of the strenuous projects that we constructed that took years to complete. But in Altagracia, this community is whole.  The paint stains are on every hand, the sweat drenches every shirt, the sand, cement, and water is hauled by every man, woman and child, to create concrete for an elderly woman with one leg, lost in her battle with diabetes, whose wheelchair  just will not navigate a gravel floor.  And as she patiently watches while both visitors and residents construct a carefully, and resourcefully designed concrete floor, each one of her grandchildren, as they arrive home in the afternoon from school, in their bright blue shirts, one by one, greet her with a kiss and embrace.  Thier allegiance and love for their family is built into them, as if never to question family or what it means.  “Hola, mamá! Como está?”

This community heart beats to the rhythm of bachata, merengue, and salsa.  The eloquent moves on the dance floor come so easily to everyone, from the toddler who just learned to walk, to Berjica, the President of the Women’s Association.  Although our steps were unrefined and undoctored, every person in the community was ready to ask us to dance and teach us the steps (uno, doh, treh..) as Frank Reyes asked, “Quien, quien eres tu?”  Who…who are you?

But as side-bursting, laugh-inspiring as Matula’s jokes are, and as good as the arepa tastes, and as fun as the dance is in front of the tienda, this community does face overwhelming issues, from a non-existent access to healthcare to the realization of young Algenis that instead of going to college and becoming an engineer, he has to fight his way to try and make it as a major league pitcher.

Members of our group were devastated when a handful of us went to pass out medical supplies in neighboring Mata Los Indios.  A gentleman was stricken with a crippling, yet treatable leg infection.  What this man had required were antibiotics, maybe amputation, and definitely medical supervision.  What he received from us was a few unqualified law students, armed with hand sanitizer and cotton balls.   Our group members were infuriated to see something like this.  One member, after the incident, as tears of frustration ran down her cheeks, told Victoria and Edi, “I was angry that I saw what I saw, and that I was completely useless and unprepared.”  Edi responded, “I like to see people cry, not because I enjoy that they are sad, but because I like to see the emotion that they are experiencing.”

Laundry dries outside an Altagracia home

Although I was not present for this incident, it was still important for everyone.  Poverty-stricken people, such as those in Monte Plata, face unascertainable difficulty because of their poverty.  I am not happy that this man is suffering, or that our group members saw something inconceivably brutal.  But this situation represents the difficulty of so many people with treatable diseases who only lack the funds, resources and means to attain proper healthcare and medical attention.  This frustration can be a daily occurrence for these people.  The fact that our group member felt that feeling is important. It is truly something that no one should have to feel.  But we can’t ignore it; this problem exists.  I like to see people cry.

Just as Vicky, our Sister Island Project host said, the poverty in Monte Plata is an ECONOMIC poverty.  But the riqueza of culture, of faith, of community, and of family all demonstrate that I have lived my life a poor man.

However, as I left this year, I felt as though progress is being made in Altagracia.  A strong foundation, like the floors that we forged, has been laid there.  Seeds that were planted last year have grown into trees.  Things ARE getting better.  can safely say that I have worked hard to be a part of something so beautiful and rewarding.

This is in part because, for the last two years, I have felt as though I receive more love in 5 days in Altagracia, than I do 360 days in the United States.  For all the time away, I miss my friends and familia in Altagracia.

Si Dios quiere, I want to come back and be a part of the best community/family/culture/love that I have ever been a part of.  I want to come back and see those tiny, beautiful, smiling faces grow into a better community where healthcare, education and other dreams become a reality.


The 2013 Mission: Possible team at the Dominican Republic Supreme Court

Over Spring Break 2013, 12 Mission: Possible members returned to Altagracia, a small, rural village in the Dominican Republic province Monte Plata. After working side by side with the Altagracians over Spring Break 2012, going back to Altagracia felt like going home. This year, our projects focused on assisting the elderly by pouring cement floors, leveling and cleaning out the areas surrounding their homes, and preparing and delivering food and medical supplies. Additionally, Mission: Possible taught English and led craft activities in the school, painted a home, and, of course, danced bachata with the community all night after our long days of work. Please check back soon for more stories and lessons from our time in Altagracia!

The 2013 Team:

Jessica – President
Colin – Vice President
Kali – Fundraising Chair
Jeanne – Fundraising Chair
Katie – Fundraising Chair


Growing Dominican Roots

By Colin “El Gigante” M.

Two typical Altagracia homes

Usually, I don’t wake up to all of God’s creation, including the sound of 30 roosters and a snorting pig to start the day. Nor do I normally sleep in a two “room” shack with a tin roof and a concrete floor.  As the sun rises, I can see in-between the slats that make up the walls of my bedroom. The room heats up and I immediately begin to sweat in the hot, humid, open air of the small town of Altagracia, Monte Plata, Republica Dominicana. But this was how the day started, every day in the D.R. I woke up, got dressed, and walked down the dirt road with my roommate to our group breakfast before starting our first project.

This was my first time to the Dominican Republic. It was also the group’s maiden trip after several years of service work in Honduras. Therefore, none of us really knew what to expect, nor did we know what type of work we would be doing. We finished breakfast as a group and proceeded to the field near there.

Our first task was simple. We were going to build a fence around a big piece of land on the edge of the town. The first step of this process was to obtain the wood that would serve as the fence posts. While we ate breakfast, a number of the men in town began to hack down branches from large trees.

It is very important to note what most of the fences in Altagracia are made of.  Fences are not just made wood slats. The crucial component to the fences was the posts, which were special pieces of wood called “palo vivo,” which roughly means “live stick” or “live branch.” Palo vivo is special because you can chop a branch off of one palo vivo tree, dig a hole, and stick it straight into the ground, where it will then grow roots, branches, and leaves, like a normal tree. As one of the host mothers told us, the locals use palo vivo for many reasons. For one, they use it because it is aesthetically pleasing, with trees all in a row. Also, it is intriguing to see these fences everywhere, with fence posts growing to full size trees. But most importantly, it is a sustainable process. It is a fast growing, sustainable wood, that does not die, but lives on. One post turns into a tree, from which more posts can be cut, to plant more trees, and make more fences.

The first day of building the fences was spent carrying the wood from one end of the village, to the other. Some massive logs required the strength of two or three people.

Carrying a palo vivo to be planted as a fence post

It seemed that everyone in the village was involved. A few men perched in and around the trees, surgically cutting with their axes and machetes. Women, children, and Mission Possible helped to carry the wood to the field. Little kids would direct us where to go, pointing us in the right direction. After a couple of hours of transporting the wood, we were all exhausted and beaten down, but this was only the beginning.

The next couple of days were filled with digging holes, planting the branches into the ground, and tying them together with barbed wire. Digging was not at all easy, especially with the tools that we had. There were no shovels in the town at all. All they had were digging tools, which the people there called “coas,” which were big, heavy, metal, long-handled instruments used to dig holes. They only had a couple, so we gave one of the housefathers money to buy a few more in a town nearby. With more tools, the process was expedited, which allowed more of us to dig holes to complete the fence.

We also had to be careful, as there were several dangers inherent to this work.  Machetes are an easy way to lose a hand. Fire ant hills were everywhere and some of us stepped directly on them, acquiring hundreds of little red bites.  Barbed wire was strewn about, catching on clothing and scratching skin. Razor grass stuck out and clung to us, stinging our legs. Constant digging meant blisters on the hands of some, as the sun blazed all through the day.

MP members plant a large palo vivo to serve as a corner fence post

It seemed as if the entourage of workers never got smaller. This helped because Mission Possible volunteers would often split up; half of us would teach at the local school, while the other half would keep working on the fences. But young children, adolescents, men, and women of all ages would stop by and help us.

Even if locals were busy in their yards or homes, they would stop and waive, yell out our names and say hello. It was easy to do this work, as we were being cheered on by the townspeople. It felt like we were celebrities.

Also, the women of the village would be there with us, working hard (often times harder than the men). While they would be dressed in their most beautiful clothes, they would magically NEVER get dirty.

One of the host mothers, Cenia, was quick to tell me that I had either dug a hole in the wrong place or was not digging properly. I think she was getting frustrated and finally took the coa from me, digging much more efficiently than I could ever imagine.  She smiled and pointed at me, declaring in Spanish, “you owe me a Gatorade later!”

It did not take long before one of us would get tired from digging holes. I would stand there, wiping the sweat from my face. “Hay que terminar!” Deybi said with fervor. He could tell that we were all tired, sweaty, sunburnt, and dehydrated. Deybi was a man with a small frame, who didn’t seem to sweat much in this blistering, humid heat. He continually smiled, joked, and laughed, but you could tell he meant what he said.  “Hay que terminar!” he said again. The phrase doesn’t directly translate into English, but being one of the only members who spoke any Spanish at the time, I had to let everyone know that he said, “We need to finish.” For a man of such small stature and easy-going nature, it was incredible to watch him work; his stamina and work ethic was astounding.

But Deybi was not the only one working hard. The senior of the crew, Don Ramon, was the man in charge. He was directing all of us. We would call him “Don Ramon, El Patron,” which is a Spanish reference to the patriarch of the village. He would say, “Everyone here is my family, all of you, my sons and daughters.” The fact that he was at least 70, and completely running the show, working as hard as anyone else in the group, was a testament to his strength. We all looked up to him, and we were careful to follow his orders, as the wise elder of Altagracia.

MP Members and Altagracia residents work side by side

Everyone helped; townspeople and volunteers, women and men, senior citizens, and young children. We were all making the work lighter for the next person and for the community of Altagracia. We would take shifts to go take water breaks at the small “Calmado,” (store) where they kept Gatorade. Sometimes a truck with a PA system mounted on it would drive by, selling us freshly picked fruit.

After a couple of days of hard work in the sun, the fence was complete around these couple acres of land. The next step was to clear the land of all of the garbage that was layered on top of it.  Plastic bottles, old shoes, doll parts, plastic bags, even hypodermic needles. The land was covered with a layer of all of this garbage.

Garbage disposal is not like it is in the U.S. Sure, the locals can recycle. But the majority of people cannot pay to have their garbage taken away. And garbage trucks and companies certainly do not venture out this far into villages to pick up all that is necessary. I asked one man why there was so much garbage on this particular field. He answered the question in a gruff tone, gasping initially with frustration, “Lots of Dominicans are poorly educated. They don’t understand the effect that this has on the land, and on the people.” No further explanation was needed.

Altagracia relies on burning garbage to dispose of it

The main focus for the next few days was the final stage of our project: to plant trees all around the community. We focused initially on planting on the land that we fenced off, which was now clear of garbage and ready to be utilized. We also planted in various other sites, such as the schoolyard and around the community center.  We were careful to dig the holes, plant the saplings, and water them. A few trees that we planted were pines, which are purely for aesthetic purposes. However, the majority of them were fruit baring trees that the people would use for food.  Fruit bearing trees were everywhere. It seemed like at every moment there was a child from town offering me a coconut, tamarind, star fruit, or sugar cane, as a little treat. Therefore, it was easy to understand how much they actually utilized their land. It is something that they truly depend on to feed themselves.

One of the final days in La Altagracia, late in the afternoon, we gathered with the Women’s Association, which are the women in charge of development in the town. We filed into a small, one-room building, with only the dying light of the sunset dimly illuminating the room. Unlike the normal tone of the small village, which was filled with laughs, jokes, dancing, singing, baseball, and music, this meeting had much more of a serious tone.

These people have a loving, generous, bright, and beautiful way about them. Their attitudes are as warm as the sun that shines in the heat of the day. But their lives are as real as the beautiful little girl with leukemia who could not afford her treatment, or the immobile old man, stuck in bed, paralyzed from the waste down. Or the young man who can’t afford to go to college, so he rides his motorcycle every day to baseball practice, in hopes of one day making it in the big leagues. Their problems are serious ones.

They expressed to us that the whole reason we spent so much time fencing the land and planting on it was because the government owns title to the land, and can take it away from them at any time. For such a small community, so dependent on the fruit of the land, this would be devastating to these loving, generous, and beautiful people. They told us that if they utilize the land and fence it off, as we did, the government is less likely to come and take it away from them.

A finished palo vivo fence 

We were only there for one week, but through our projects and sharing time with the people of Altagracia, we were all truly changed forever. The seeds we planted and the fences we built were more than just the work that we did. It was a reflection of a gracious culture, open doors, and generous, loving hearts. It was an exchange of hopes, struggles and dreams.

On the last day of our stay in La Altagracia, we said goodbye to our new friends, many of us with tears in our eyes. Trees protected by a new fence lined the field that was once covered in garbage and open for the government to take. Little saplings were sprouting all around the schoolyard and community center, enhancing the beauty of the town.

I handed my knife to Deybi because I knew he would be much better at using it than me. He asked me if it was time for us to leave. I told him we had to leave, but that we wanted to come back to see them. He smiled and said, “Si Dios quiere,” meaning, “If God wants.”

La Associación de Mujeres: our mamás and most gracious hosts

Although we were the first set of volunteers to La Altagracia, we left hoping that the presence of Mission: Possible would be as sustainable and resilient as the palo vivo, growing roots and breathing new life into their community. But it is not just the locals who benefited from this trip. The people of La Altagracia breathed new life into our hearts as well. In 2013, we hope to return and continue a fruitful relationship with our new brothers and sisters in La Altagracia, Monte Plata, Republica Dominicana. Si Dios Quiere.


By Katie S.

From the very beginning of our time in Altagracia, we had a special connection with the kids. Almost as soon as we arrived in the village, some of us were playing baseball with the older kids and others found ourselves invited to play “Gato Gato Perro” – the Dominican “Duck Duck Goose” – with some of the little ones. The fun and games turned into a mob of eager kids swarming around me once I revealed to them that I’d brought stickers – CALCOMANIAS!!! – and “silly band” bracelets to hand out.

We all loved having the kiddos constantly at our sides, wanting to accompany us throughout the town and assist us with our work, and they – as is universal to kids around the world – were ecstatic to play with their new group of big brothers and sisters. It was no surprise, therefore, when we went to the school to teach English that the kids were extremely excited to see us.

CJ and his new friends

The school building was nothing more than a small line of four classrooms with a large grassy area in front of it. There was a small pavilion in the grassy area, a small bathroom area, and a place behind the school where the children and teachers threw away their trash from lunch and snack time. No swings, no playground, and definitely no acrid bleach smell like American elementary schools. Nevertheless, in a lot of ways, El Centro Educativo Mata Los Indios was really similar to the schools we know. During recess, the kids chased after each other, swapped candies and toys, and played hand games. Each classroom had small desks, a blackboard, the alphabet posted for consultation, and the children’s artwork hanging on the wall. The kids drank milk (albeit very sugary and non-chilled milk) with their snack. And, as we learned all too well, each class had its teacher’s pets and its class clowns.

Some kiddos outside their classroom ham it up for the camera

For our English lessons, on two different days we sent groups of three into two classrooms, trying to make sure there was at least one Spanish-speaker per group. The comfortable Spanish-speakers, then, were the main teachers. Building off the little English that the kids already knew, for about 45 minutes we tried to teach the kids some basic English expressions (“Hello! How are you?”), numbers, colors, days of the week, months, and – my favorite – the English ABCs (song and all).

Despite these challenges, the kids did learn. In the days that followed, we were frequently greeted with “Hahloh, ower yoo?” by sticker-covered niños eager to tell us what color shirt we were wearing. Furthermore, by our coming into their schools, the kids embraced us even more. For all of the games, songs, and dances they shared with us, it was wonderful to be able to share parts of our culture with them.

Altagracia students listening attentively to their English teachers



One of the days the group went to the school and did arts and crafts with the kids. We had several crafts planned and the children were excited about each of them. We helped them bead necklaces and paint a banner for Mission: Possible. We enjoyed helping kids design necklaces for themselves, their friends, and their family members. We provided beads with letters and some of the kids worked hard to find the right letters to write their name. One girl in particular, Rosi, found all the letters to write her name when the necklace broke. Jessica scrambled to help her find the letters again and make a new necklace.

Jeanne helps the kids make beaded bracelets

Holly and Kali were in charge of helping kids paint the Mission: Possible banner. We showed the kids how to trace their hands and then design them with various paint. The kids were very excited and all had a lot of fun.

Altagracia schoolchildren paint and trace their hands on the MP banner


Before leaving for the Dominican Republic, Mission: Possible was given the privilege of buying different sport supplies to donate to the children of Altagracia thanks to the Sports and Entertainment Law Club!

Altagracia kids with their new sports gear

On the first day we arrived, we went to the local baseball field and took part in a community game with all of the children. Before we left, we donated a set of bases and baseball gloves. Sports are a very important part of the culture in Altagracia. On our second day in the D.R., we donated a football, Frisbee, and a volleyball net and played sports with the children. The majority of the kids had never played volleyball, but were quick to pick it up. Each child was eager to get an opportunity to try a new sport. We taught them how to run football plays and how to properly hit a volleyball. They were so grateful for everything we brought, and the community has many new sports to practice and enjoy.

Kali and Katie C. jump rope with las chicas


The Dominican Republic is a cultural melting pot of Hispanic, Creole, and African traditions. Although the Island was “discovered” by Columbus on his way to the new world, the Dominican Republic did not possess the natural resources that would later entice the Spanish to settle in Mexico and Peru. That said, the island was at one time home to an indigenous group called the Arawak, or Taíno. Also, the Dominican Republic is an island sharing its western border with Haiti.  As a result, there are many Haitian refugees who reside inside the D.R., including a Creole village near the town of Altagracia called Mata Los Indios.

Dominican culture is very lively and if there are two things that its citizens are most proud of, it would most certainly be baseball and Bachata.

Baseball: Baseball is the national past time of the Dominican Republic and was brought from America to the D.R. around 1912 by wealthy American entrepreneurs. The game quickly took off, not only in the D.R. but throughout other Caribbean nations as well. However, the D.R. has established itself as the biggest producer of major league talent to the United States, in large part due to the passion with which the Dominicans play and the establishment of baseball academies in Santo Domingo. Some of the better-known players to come from the humble raices of the D.R. are Alex Rodriguez (born to Dominican padres), David Ortiz, Vladimir Guerrero and Miguel Tejada.

The town of Altagracia and Mission: Possible playing a game of baseball on Day 1

When Mission Possible first arrived in Altagracia, we barely had time to put down our bags before we were invited to play baseball. The town had created a full-size baseball field complete with bases and a pitcher’s mound. Both guys and girls alike had the opportunity to try their hand at the Altagracian version of the game. The locals clearly had the upper hand, as many of the local children could both hit and pitch much better than most of the law students! Altagracia also has a local team called El Patio, which plays in a league with the surrounding villages. We were fortunate enough to watch El Patio crush the neighboring village and Mission: Possible members were involved in a storming of the field to the victory chants of “Aqui venimos… a ganar… El Patio El Patio!” Meaning, “We came to win!”

The El Patio team and Mission: Possible storming the baseball field after an El Patio victory!

Bachata: Bachata is a Dominican style of dance and music that is uniquely rural in nature. It comes from el campo and was, for a long time, viewed as the music of los pobres. Meaning, “the music of the poor.” Looked down upon by upper class Dominicans, Bachata gained popularity with the advent of the radio in the 1950’s and is now seen as uniquely Dominican and a source of national pride.

There wasn’t a night that went by in Altagracia without Bachata dancing. Some group members took to the dancing like a fish in water (Colin R.  was known as La Maquina, or “The Machine”), while others  took a little more time to learn the correct steps. The whole village participated in the dances and even though we were without power most of the time, the local colmado (store) was gracious enough to provide a generator, allowing the festivities to continue well into the night.

One of the most unique cultural experiences the group witnessed was that of the Gaga – and no, I don’t mean Lady Gaga. Gaga is associated with a type of music and comes from Haiti. It is an African/Catholic/Haitian ceremony unique to the Caribbean and the D.R.  It involves a casting out of “dark spirits” and has religious and superstitious value to the Dominicans . The group was warned by some of our host mothers not to take pictures or get too close to the Gaga, and such advice we heeded. Essentially, we watched a group of Dominicans dance, chant, and play music all in an attempt to ward off “evil spirits.”

The Dominican Republic is a truly a culturally diverse place and Mission: Possible was extremely fortunate to have been immersed in the two most important aspects of Quisqueyano (slang for “Dominican”) culture, namely baseball and Bachata.


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