Most of you have heard the story of the goose that laid the golden egg, and the sad moral to the story. This is a tale of two islands, or a tale of one island, Cuba, and two-thirds of another, the Dominican Republic, on the island of Hispaniola.
To be fair, this is mostly a story of my experiences with both Cuba and the DR. But compare and contrast is my favourite writing technique as a writer and former college teacher.
Let’s begin at my beginning:
I had the privilege to enjoy the north coast of the Dominican Republic before 1989, when it was invaded by all-inclusives, Eastern European KGB with suitcases full of stolen national treasuries, sex-seeking Americans, and casinos. Not only are the small hotels gone, so are the coral reefs (victims of sewage from mega hotels). Male and female prostitutes control the streets of Sosua, founded by Jewish refugees from Hitler. Children are kept in condos for the pleasure of old men. The Haitian-Dominicans are especially vulnerable, since organized crime is an equal-opportunity employer.
Most of the North Coast tourists are now gone. Huge hotels are soon replaced by bigger and newer ones on “virgin” beaches, like those in Punta Cana. When tourists tire of those, they move on to entirely new countries. I like the metaphor that the Dominican Republic itself became a whore that opened its legs to Pepsi Cola American culture for the right price. But like all old whores, there is little future for a tourism-based economy.
Organized crime has increased its global stranglehold since the collapse of the USSR in 1989. The Italian mafia now has to share the spoils with the Blue-Eyed Eastern Europeans (and if Toronto is any example, Asian and African crime families also). Huge sums of money can be electronically transported in a blink of an eye, especially with online gambling. The real world casino fronts can be quickly assembled near the new all inclusives as they pop up. Groups of enslaved women and children are also quite portable.
Not a pretty picture. I suggest that the American blockade of Cuba has saved the island from the worst abuses of global capitalism and unfettered organized crime. The huge cash flows freed up by the collapse of the Eastern Bloc in 1989 allowed powerful crime families to purchase countries like the Dominican Republic. (This has been documented by international bodies, I’ll try and find the source for confirmation. But, trust me, I’ve seen it in action in the DR, where the aging, blind Balaguer was propped up for years while organized crime established its DR base.)
If you visit the DR, you can see the future for Cuba if the Americans get control of the island: Pizza Huts, Golden Arches from coast to coast, the death of Cuban culture as it is replaced by American popular culture. I’m going to Cuba in March with the group, even though I’ve been to Cuba 5 times already. I fear that no island can resist the siren call of Yankee dollars, even if they buy a only a short-term fling.
How is Cuba different from the DR under the Castros? Visit this amazing website, which captures the beautiful experience that is still Cuban.