Culture and Identity

The Pontificating Dominican

Mural by Dister Rondon, Photo by Arleen Santana

“Mira, yo le digo a la gente que no hay nadie en este mundo como el ser Dominicano…”
“Nadie sabe hacer un mangú de tres golpes como el Dominicano, y pa’ la comida ya tu sabes” “La bandera… eso si es un banquete…”
“Y un sancochito para llevar pal rio de La Jaguita, escopetaaa…”
“Coger pa’ la discoteca Mambuiche en Santiago a baliar una bachatica y perico ripiao con la jevita…”
“No hay sonido como el de la tambora dominicana, vacano…”
“Y jugar domino con los tigueres en el colmado…”
“Y si eres político robarte todo el dinero del pueblo…sin vergüenza…coñaso”
“La mujer Dominican, esa es única…es que esto es una ciencia mi pana…”
“Y ahi le va…Mis hermanos los quieros pila…”.

Dominicans have a self-styled wisdom, brilliant speech patterns, and mannerisms that are unique to them. The way Black and Brown peoples express dynamic vernacular, facial and bodily movements to reflect their social reality is based on a variety of markers, most related to how Black culture developed in a specific area.  It is how non-white people shape and develop their speech for communication and articulation that can be summarized by my enlightener Suñez Allah’s comment, “Yo, ya niggas like to embellish everything. Ya love to give these long pseudo-scientific explanations for everything. This is the act of pontificating.”  Pontificating comes from the Latin root “pontificates” and as a verb it means “to speak in a pompous or dogmatic manner.”

The “Pontificating Dominican” develops out of the natural limitless that is our Black culture labeled as Native American/Aboriginal/Indigenous, African and Asian.  A parte de eso, se le dice tener ritmo, sazón y sabor.  These ethnic backgrounds make us a diverse Black people, the modern day Latin@-Dominican.  Pontificating is an original expression that shows the internalized and dormant oppressive ideas through the unique experiences of the people. For Dominicans, pontification is molded and constructed to reflect both the status quo of the dominant overseeing oppressor culture mixed with African-Indigenous folkloric wisdom. This is especially true when Dominicans engage in dialogues of self perception. They are expressing ideas they’ve been taught by the dominant system, but are speaking in speech patterns that sound more like West African dialect than the slow Spaniard based Latin-derived Spanish.  Even Spanish itself, already containing Arabic words, is transformed when our messages are spoken.  Thus, pontificating is undoubtedly another aspect of our Black expression uniquely evoking our colonized minds.

Man: “Es que nosotros no podemos cargar con los problemas de los haitianos…Ay que ver la situación entera…somos un país bien chiquito y pobre; ni tenemo pa’ nosotros menos pa’ ellos…E’ que en nuestra historia, cuando lo de las devastaciones, eso fue lo que permitió que Francia tomara su parte del filete…Ellos trajeron todos esos esclavos negros..

Woman: …”Tu quiere ‘tar con los haitianos, pues vete pa’ Haiti.  y cuidao alla, por que ello comen gente y especialmente a los ninos.  La hija mía tenía un novio y me dijo que era haitiano y pa’ que fue eso? Yo le dije que ni se le ocurra traerlo porque me va manchar los muebles..”

In her classic book, “Black Behind the Ears,” Dominican scholar Ginetta Candelario, explains, “I am also concerned to determine how Dominican race ideology frames everyday practices of perception, as well as to analyze how identity is displayed through what Marcel Mauss has termed ‘techniques of the body'(32.)” Adding the act of pontification, which is the verbal component, accentuates and adds a deeper dimension to how Dominicans show their ideas about themselves.

Dominicans have internalized Eurocentric views and internal propaganda that feeds them the rationale on how they view themselves. Unlike any other group, Dominicans have been fed the most bullshit about who they are through history books, dictatorship and an imposed separation by Spanish interests and foreigners who helped forged the differences between sides of the island. They literally have been given a wrong knowledge of self.

Embedded in this narrative is the idea that Dominicans are different from their neighboring Haitians. While there are obvious differences, they are not sufficient to promote hatred and separation. Ample evidence brought to light by Dominican scholars has shown that separation was never an option for Dominicans.  However, the differences have been enough that the government, backed by U.S. interests, developed a narrative of an “anti-Black identity” that is oddly pontificated in a unique Blackness. The “Pontificating Dominican” is simply a reflection of this ability to embellish, justify and provide complex explanations so that we can continue being other than our true selves.

Part of Ginetta Candelario’s research focuses on how travel narratives by U.S. officials became a part of the propagandized narrative. As A. Hyatt Verrill, an archeologist and explorer, wrote, “whereas the population of Haiti is nine-tenths black and the country is backward and retrogressive, the people of the Dominican Republic are progressive and keenly alive to the importance of sanitation, improvements, and development, and less than one third of the population are Negroes…the Dominican Republic…in most places…the coloured races…is far lighter than in most of the West Indies and to a superficial observer, a large portion of them would pass for white” (64).

Thought to think of themselves as other than Black, defining their phenotypes in degrees of adjectives showing an affinity to whiteness, as well as perceiving themselves to be the favorites of American and European interests, these ideas funnel down to the people and this fuels their ego-driven speech and behavioral patterns.  And you find it in all sectors of Dominican society. Mostly in the many intense conversations that take place about numerous subjects or topics. These range from music, culture, women, race and politics.

Oigan esto. A esto si se le llama música de verdad. Es que esto e’ música clásica dominicana. Ni e’ ruidoso, ni dicen baba mi gente….e’to es revolución musical. La melodía, la lírica, Diablo que jevi… Pero e’perate, es que cuando el mete ese cántico inflecionando ala canción… ¡Romeo ese es el Verdugo!

Here we have the case of pseudo-musicologist lecturing on the musical significance and innovation of the Bachata pop group Aventura.  Aventura is far from a classical Bachata group. Aventura brought Bachata to mainstream American society appealing to the children of first generation Dominicans. By fusing in R&B, Reggaeton and diluted Hip Hop, they found the select commercialized blend.   The musical authenticity of the Dominican Blues, where the singer expresses his feelings of loss, sadness and setbacks in love with the wailing voice and gritty guitar sounds, is replaced by stories that are capitalist driven and savagery-induced with happy notes in orchestration not typical of the Bachata sound.  This is Aventura’s actual role in the legacy of Bachata.

Dejame decirte…E’ que tu no sabe bien lo que esta pasando…tenias que llamarme antes…No es que el floche te dañao, si no que se va necesitar desarmar el toilet entero para poder ponerle una pieza llamada flushometer…Esto e’ importante poique si no se arregla haci esta vaina va seguir decojonao…Pero ustedes la mujeres no saben mucho de eso y yo entiendo…Tu entiendes verdad mi amor?  (insert smile here)  

Machismo is an intrinsic part of Dominican culture.  It is a part of the legacy of oppression we experienced during colonization.  With Dominican men, it is exhibited not only in the practice and celebration behind being a mujeriego, but also through how they speak to women.  It is assumed that women really don’t know much about anything that doesn’t pertain to cooking or rearing the children. There’s a certain dismissive smile Dominican men often give women which signals their thoughts on assumed inferiority of the Dominican women’s intellect.  And so we have the case of my building Super. Privándosela, con aire of an engineer, el Súper leaves the toilet broken, unable to properly funnel the waste. He wastes time leaving me with a dissertation of the properties of a toilet and the wonders of the flushometer.

Mira coño, quítate de ahí….Chequea eto si tu coje la carrera de Pujols el ha hecho mejor cada año aumentando lo suficiente….el mantiene su porcentaje ahi estable… No el pariguayo ese de Alex Rodriguez que ni se sabe cuando el comenzó hacei trampa…Compai mira la estatisticas de Alex que aunque van subiendo no reflejan un aumento suave…Eso aumentó van como brincando…Pujols, si demuestra una carrera…Cual es el afán con la pelota? Señores, cuando se habla de pelota no hay hombre más fiel que el dominicano.

Baseball is extremely important to the fabric of the Dominican nation.   As one of the leading countries from which scouts recruit talent, films as Sugar (2008) detail the reality of the Major League Baseball camps in Quisqueya that exist for young men to escape poverty.   The young talents devote their entire lives to them, often in massive debt, hoping to make it. Many have a passion for the sport but most just want to make money to get themselves and their families out of poverty.   Dominican commentators, that include women too, have turned into scientists of the sport engaging in heated discussions and conversations that often ignore and/or gloss over the harsher reality of it all.

Ese ladronazo el Danilo ese, pero si to’ el mundo sabe que todo esos son un corruptos….pal de pariguayos dique llamándose líderes de la constitución…Mire primo hay que coger el partido que nos represente mejor…El PRD ese si era partido cuando estába nuestro querido Peña Gomez…eso si era progreso de verdad…. No estos vende patria….

You will always hear Dominicans arguing about the different parties or current leaders in the country. Dominicans are extremely aware of the corruption of many of the leaders of the varying political parties within the island.  When Dominicans discuss politics beyond the corruption issue, it’s merely an exercise of argumentation because the points are more a reflection of the interests of those in power and foreign influences who profit economically with the alliance.  These types of conversations are where we get to see pontification the most.

The “Pontificating Dominican” is exclusive in his/her expression with the emphasizing of certain vowels, the fast paced talk, and the mannerisms that go with it.  Words like “diache,” verdugo,” “cuco,” cocotaso” “tolete,” all add richness to the verbal aesthetic of expressing one’s identity through methods of the body. Pontification gives us the spoken details of how we see ourselves and view our environment and nation. With Dominicans, it is evident that we have innovated styles of speech particular to our experience of oppression with all the right and wrong that arises out of that.




Earth Izayaa Allat
Carmen J. Espinal known as Earth Izayaa Allat is a columnist for La Galería Magazine. She is a writer, Secondary Education Educator and Birth & Postpartum Doula born in the Dominican Republic. After graduating from Brown University, her experience includes creating and designing curriculum whether for homeschooling curriculum, formal instruction, program-based learning or gender-specific concepts related to Black, Latina, Native American and Asian women/girls. She currently serves as a Volunteer Doula while completing her certification. She also runs a Vegan foods take-out service off her apartment. In addition, she is a Staff Writer for the Mecca Mission, a newspaper of the Nation of Gods and Earths.

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