Updated: Apr 14, 2022
I was born and raised on the island. My parents are Dominican. My grandparents were Dominican. My great grandparents were also Dominican. No grandfather from Germany or Italy. No abuela castiza from Spain1 to brag about to my friends. No absent parent living and working in the States. I am, what you would call, una dominicana de pura cepa.
A typical poor, middle-class Dominican.
The middle class is a beast of its own, in a mostly poor country, with insanely rich families. The dichotomy between being poor or rich is simple: when you’re poor, you’re poor; when you’re podrío en cuarto, you’re rich; That’s it, as simple as that.
Class on that godforsaken island is so complex that even saying the middle-class has three main levels or categories is an oversimplification, which I feel obliged to use for the sake of brevity:
First, you’ve got the rich middle class. These people think they’re rich and would do anything to prove it, but deep down they know they aren’t. Imagine your high-school crush, José Armando; Rubio, although not necessarily blond; cabellito bueno slickly combed backwards, with skin lighter than most, crisply tanned like a fresh cinnamon roll out of the oven. You would always see him wearing his lucky black Callaway cap, the one that helped him win his last golf tournament, a fitted polo shirt, pressed jeans, a shiny pair of moccasins and a self-sufficient smile completed his everyday look; A natural leader. He was the first in the pack to get a brand new car at sixteen and to go to Paris to improve his nonexistent French, even if it meant taking another mortgage out on that beautiful house in Los Cerros. H was the incarnation of the perfect chambelán for the Quinceañera party you never had or never were invited to.
Then, you’ve got the middle-middle class; The back and bone of the Dominican economy. Hard-working people for the most, blessed with a sheer of good luck for the rest. Remember that girl you met at la PUCMM3 during your freshman year, who smelled of vanilla and vervain? Carolina. She was always friendly to you and seemed to have lots of acquaintances. She was the perfect size, petite. She once mentioned that she used to be a ballerina when she was younger. Her long, dyed hair is always blow-dried straight, and her bright cherry nails are properly done—the fruit of her weekly pilgrimage to the salón. You’ve never seen her sweat or say something out of place. Although she doesn’t have a car yet, her dad, a lawyer or a doctor, fills in as the de facto chauffeur, taking her everywhere.
Excerpt from Ni De Aqui Ni de Alla Anthology