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“The Other Side of the Tracks: The Lines we Draw in the Sand”

March 11, 2013
Author: Lillian Holloway, UIC Family-Med Resident

Today was a busy day, marked by contrasts and transitions. Earlier in the day we roamed the bustling Santo Domingo streets, running errands. First stop: cell phone store, then to the super market, later to change money, now back to the cell phone store and again to the super market. Indeed, Santo Domingo residents’ hearts beat to the rhythm of the clock, not unlike Chicago residents. On our way to the Peace Care headquarters, the streets were filled with taxis, motorcycles making pizza deliveries, and crowded buses. Businessmen and women walked to and from the offices in the medical district, where our hotel was located. We passed a school, where children in starched khaki pants and neat baby blue polo shirts were dropped off in shiny SUV’s.

Three buses and approximately three hours later we arrived in Guaymate. On the way, progressively less and less cars marked the streets and the houses became more and more humble. Women carrying baskets of fruit on their heads replaced the businessmen and women of Santo Domingo. Just as the sun was stretching out its arms in it’s final yawn at dusk we arrived at a bus stop with no signs of being a bus stop other than a small light that hung on a porch across the street.

We received a warm welcome by the PCV and a local family, who would introduce us to Guaymate. We discussed how the town was founded, its history, its culture and the things we will see tomorrow on the tour. The town’s largest employer is a sugar cane plantation and the length of the town is divided by train tracks utilized by the large plantation. On one side are houses built by the sugar cane company. They are all uniformly painted green with neat metal roofing. On the other side the houses vary in size, shape, color and conditions. Some have indoor plumbing and electricity and others do not.  Many of the original Guaymate residents have moved out and been replaced by Haitian immigrants, who work the fields on the sugar cane plantation. Tonight everything is black.  The distinctions in houses and residents and conditions are all just shadows to me. I can’t wait to see what it looks like during the day and to discover what makes Guaymate’s heart beat…

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