What Does it Mean to be Dominican?


Danya Firestone is a student at the College of Charleston and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Santiago, Dominican Republic.

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My first impression of the Dominican Republic is most easily characterized by the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes I’ve experienced while I’ve been here. I remember first noticing how vivid the colors are here. While flying into Santiago, and into the beginning of my study abroad experience, I was overwhelmed by how green the landscape was, and how striking the colors of the houses, buildings, and even tiny-looking people were. These colors were complemented by a rainbow peering through the clouds, which protects Santiago from the intense sun I would become quickly and personally acquainted with. As the plane began to descend, I felt the anxieties (I was clenching my teeth and my shoulders) dissolve, and a sense of safety and comfort in my travels arrived; an ease which has remained with me throughout my short but already eventful time here.

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Beyond sliding airport exit doors came true Dominican-hospitality, which welcomed me immediately with a kiss on the cheek and a rush of powerful Dominican noises. In the following weeks, I came to appreciate the many sounds of the Dominican Republic: the roosters that announce each day’s awakening, each honking concho that passes me by hoping to hail me as a passenger, the blaring calls from mobile vendors selling fresh plantains, and finally, the people and their unique Dominican Spanish, who speak close enough, loud enough and with such exaggerated hand motions and vocal inflections that they can be sure you understand just how passionate they are about whatever they are talking about.

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My initial observations have led me to a potentially premature but certain conclusion: Dominicans live life out loud. They are loud in the culture they express, whether through emotional storytelling, sensual bachata rhythms, or creation of traditional Dominican cuisine, whose smells permeate through buildings to reach watering mouths. All Dominicans, even the crying cats at night, seem to have a rich story to tell, and each vibrant moment of a story colors the cultural flag of the Dominican Republic.


The world awaits…discover it.

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