Tuesday, July 21, 2009
A culture of infidelity
Hello everyone –
This blog is less an update on what is happening with me, and more about some observations about the Dominican culture of infidelity which many of us here have observed and discussed.
(As a slight sidenote, I’m writing this on my balcony overlooking the Bay of Samaná as a thunderstorm rolls in to my right...what a nice blog writing ambiance).
Before I get started, I just wanted to let you know that I’ll be spending this Thursday-Sunday in Haiti with 4 other fellows in Cap Haiten and Trou-du-Nord. We’re going to visit the Esperanza office in Haiti and perhaps hear some stories from Haitians who have been able to benefit from the microfinance loans they have received. I’m quite excited to go – it’ll be a somewhat expensive trip, but well worth it.
Most anyone who has been to the Dominican (outside of just being in a resort in Punta Cana…) quickly becomes aware of how infidelity is completely engrained in the culture. Nearly everyone in the Dominican is aware that their significant other probably has a different significant other. The infidelity goes both ways. Wives know their husbands are cheating and vice versa – and the amazing thing is that people would rather not talk about it than confront the issue. There was a Dominican staff member here at Esperanza named Analin who is just a couple years older than I, and she allowed us interns to pick her brain about the practice of infidelity. She ventured to guess that 90% of Dominicans in a relationship are cheating with someone else. And yet, even though everyone knows this is happening, they would rather ignore it (and have their affair), rather than challenge their partner. To challenge their partner would mean having to admit their own guilt of infidelity. Hence, the cycle just continues, with both parties guilty.
Beyond this, when the spouse knows the name of the other person in the affair, they will not seek a divorce. Analin told us a story about a woman who she knew that was recently given a new car by her husband. She then said she wanted to go drive by this one particular store, in order to show off to the mistress the new car she had been bought! This blew me away – she not only was living with an adulterous husband, but she wanted to show off her husband’s gift to the mistress in order to create a sense of jealousy!
I combine these new stories with my previous experience here in the Dominican in 2007. I came on a missions trip to the local bateyes, which are essentially Haitian refugee camps which the Dominicans created to get cheap labor for sugar cane harvesting. In Barahona, located in the southwest near the Haitian border, these bateyes are extremely poor, as they are throughout much of the country. When I arrived there I was completely taken aback – there were almost zero males in the entire village between the ages of 17 and 70. It was completely full of women with 8, 12, 14 children. It broke my heart. These children were almost all from different fathers, and the boys had no concept of a father figure in their lives. They were all aware that their brothers and sisters were not from the same father. When myself and other guys arrived into the town, the boys immediately clung to us. They just wanted a guy to throw them around, to give them piggy back rides, to give them a hug, to throw a baseball. Anything. It tore me up to see that these boys were “growing up” without a father to help them see how to be a man. And the cycle will continue when they become 20 years old and move out and father children from place to place. The one thing these boys need to set an example is a man – a father – and that’s exactly who is not present.
With no use of contraception and a lack of the males seeing any need to stick around, the women were left, in absolutely destitution, to try and feed a dozen hungry mouths. The culture of infidelity – of men not staying with the women and vice versa – is prevalent in every corner of this country. In fact, in most major towns and along major highways, there are cabañas, which really means “commit adultery here!” These are essentially motel rooms, but are not necessarily designed for stays overnight. Each room has its own garage so that your car is not visible from the street (and, hence, someone can’t know you’re in there due to recognizing your car). You pay for 4-hour blocks of time. The payment method is completely anonymous – there is a spot in the wall where a hand will appear, you give the correct amount of money, and the hand goes away.
In the end, one feels quite powerless to do anything here. Something needs to fundamentally change here, so that young boys and girls have fathers, mothers, mentors and leaders who can show them how to grow into men and women who are faithful to each other in a relationship and respect the other enough to not have affairs on the side. It’s something for you to pray for. I wanted to write this blog to make you aware of an extremely strong cultural subcurrent here – and with the hope that someday it may change.
I’m planning on writing a blog about microfinance soon – of some of the pros which I came in expecting to see, and then what the reality of it is like here in the Dominican. I have some thoughts which have developed through observation and conversations with others here in the Dominican, and I want to share them with you at some point. If I don’t get them up before I leave to Haiti, please pray for us there – and for those living here on the island of Hispanola. A lot of people need Jesus.