This past Spring I had the opportunity to visit and experience the Dominican Republic- in a very non-touristy way.

The first day was in the city of Santiago. Santiago (de los Caballeros) is north of the Dominican Republic. I was really happy to walk the streets of Santiago a little bit, and just enjoy the energy around us.

The day started at 8am.

Our first stop was Hotel Colonial in Santiago. We had breakfast and took a typical tour of the neighborhood- where the corner store was, what the monument meant, the closest place to change money, etc etc. All the things that make us stand out more than we already did.

In relation to the history of Dominican Republic, it's crazy to think I visited one of the towns that experienced The 1937 massacre. Granted, Santiago wasn't the primary area where the murders happened- so I may just be overdramatic- but that kind of had me shook. The details of this massacre are limited but what is recorded is still horrifying in itself. Armed forces, along with armed civilians, used machetes to kill Haitian immigrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent in Santiago and so many other parts in the Dominican Republic.

(After learning and experiencing the Dominican Republic for a week, it wouldn't surprise me if darker-skinned people were murdered all around this part of the island.)

Under the Trujillo regime, people killed any and everybody that didn't fit their own perception of Dominican-ness. The reasoning and execution behind this massacre is boneless, reckless, and full of hate; Trujillo was never held accountable and nobody was ever brought to justice.

After the tour, we visited a small little gallery showcasing Dominican culture via past carnivals. Carnival is very well known in the country and worldwide. To me, this small space highlighted the Santiago culture and history in a very artistic and private way. It was a beautiful depiction of blackness, celebration, family, love and pride.

The small gallery was the perfect preview to what we were going to experience next; the carnival. The carnival was my favorite part of Day 1. We got to relax, (try and) blend in, and just embody the culture of Santiago. Blending in wasn't so hard for me, coming from a Haitian family. But for others... it wasn't so easy. So naturally, it wasn't easy for me either because my internal similarities to my peers outweighed my external similarities to the locals. There was a parade with different costumes, music, tricks, dance routines, etc.

Kennisa Ragland Kennisa Ragland

Kennisa Ragland

Our day ended in a pretty... bizarre way- to say the least. We were chilling, watching the parade, vibing out. Then, some people started running. So, naturally, we started running too. We didn't know why we were running but that didn't stop us. We ran all the way back to familiarity, safety- and called it a night.