Essay: Immigration Experience From the Dominican

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[. . .] The solid Dominican culture, though good in many ways, creates a type of a ghetto which keeps this population isolated and slows assimilation into American culture, which would then afford this community with a wider range of opportunity. The attitude of separation is perpetuated from within the culture. AU.S. born Dominican, for example, would typically not refer to himself as a "Dominican-American," in the way a Cuban living in the United States would call himself a Cuban-American. The later reflects a joint identity with both cultures, whereas the first is indicative of strong nationalism. Many Dominicans believe that they will return to the Dominican Republic, where they ultimately have their cultural roots.

The difficulties, however, did not stem solely from within the Dominican culture. Americans, at large, have not given the Dominican population a very warm welcome. According to sociologists, the group is one of the most stigmatized of any Caribbean, South American, Central American or Mexican minority groups. Dominicans are widely considered as poor, violent, and lawless. Their only virtue, from this stereotyped view, is their success at baseball. The attitude is reminiscent of prejudices once aimed at the African-American community when the American public thought, "they are good for entertainment, but beyond that better keep an eye on them." This criminalization is perpetuated by media bias which is quick to identify drug traffickers, money launderer, and fraud rings as Dominican without offering the public a wider view of Dominican culture or progress.

The criminal stereotype of the Dominican Immigrants may have begun in the late 1980's when predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, Washington Heights, was severely affected by crack epidemic when "gangs of Dominican immigrants established the area as the nation's largest wholesale drug market."[footnoteRef:1] The situation caused an aggressive police response which brought with it heightened racial profile, and charges of police brutality. The tensions between police and Washington Heights' residence continued for over a decade. A well-known case involving police shooting death of a Dominican man named Jose Garcia in 1992 brought these tensions to national awareness. The Hispanic community responded in various ways. Some organized well planned demonstrations and sought to educate the public of underline issues such as racial discrimination and poverty. Others, chose to riot. In the end officer, Michael O'Keefe, was exonerated, and "pathologists, including one hired by the Garcia family, found cocaine in the victim's system at the time of his death.[footnoteRef:2]" Still, the case brought forth numerous issues that illustrate the difficulties that Dominican Immigrants face both within and outside their own culture. By 2007 crime fell by a remarkable 65.47%; a remarkable testimony to the strength of character of Washington Heights residents and business owners. [1: New York Times, "In Washington Heights, Drug War Survivors Reclaim Their Stoops," May 18, 1998, http://www.wellesley.edu/Chemistry/Chem101/war/html%20pages/ny-heights-crime.html] [2: New York Times, "The Lesson of Washington Heights," September 13, 19992, http://www.nytimes.com/1992/09/13/opinion/the-lesson-of-washington-heights.html?ref=jose_garcia]

The situation for Dominicans in the United States is changing slowly. Second and third generation Dominican-Americans are increasing their education and becoming more bi-cultural. The younger generations are having an influence on both American and Dominican cultures, which is helping to bridge the gap and overcome stereotypes. For example, The Dominican Youth Union, created in 1987 at the City College of New York, has aided Dominican youth in speaking out against issues that affect them, such as education funding cuts and police harassment. Meanwhile, the benefits of integration are being promoted from within the Dominican culture and more and more immigrates are seeking work and living outside of localized culture. Bright spots bring hope; such as, the case of the revitalization of the once troubled Washington Heights in Manhattan's Upper West Side by Dominican immigrants. Dominican immigrants are adjusting to life in American and show much resilience to hardship and have shown their commitment to fighting oppression and discrimination.

Works Cited

Gonzalez, Juan. (2001). Harvest of Empire: a History of Latinos in America. New York, NY: Penguin Group USA.

Hope, Elizabeth. (2002). Skilled Labour Migration from Developing Countries: study on the Caribbean region. Geneva Introduction to the Dominican Republic. Embassy of the Dominican Republic. Retrieved December 7, 2010, from http://www.domrep.org/gen_info.html

Rumbaut, R.G. (2008). The Americans: Latin American… [END OF PREVIEW]

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