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Dominicans in Des Moines unite to help Haiti

Rosie Perez, Des Moines resident interviewed for this post.
Rosie Perez, Des Moines resident interviewed for this post.
Photo from her personal collection

Since the January 12th earthquake that struck Haiti, the world has come together to help raise money, food and supplies for the victims. Because Haiti and the Dominican Republic share an island, there is a lot of attention on the efforts of the Dominican people coming to the aid of their neighboring country. At a local level, there is much being done to let the Haitian people know that their eastern neighbors are with them and working towards their restructure, even those who have made their way from the middle of the Caribbean to the middle of Iowa.

Rosie Pérez, a 23 year-old Dominican American originally from the Bronx, NY has called Central Iowa home for the last six years. She currently works at a technology/software company in the East Village, after graduating from Grinnell College in 2008. She loves how cost effective it is to live in Des Moines and enjoy the cultural scene such as live music, dancing, and theater- especially those she can walk to within the downtown area. While she wishes the city had a better public transportation system, she continues to battle the harsh winter conditions while doing her part to contribute to the relief efforts in Haiti.

Examiner. com caught up with Rosie to get a local Latina's perspective on how we all have a role to play in helping the Haitian people overcome this horrible tragedy.

How was the DR affected by the earthquake that struck Haiti?

The Dominican community has come together full-force to help Haiti in this desperate time of need. The Red Cross has designated Santo Domingo's international airport (SDQ) as the main point of entry for resources, medical aid, and emergency care coming from all corners of the globe. There have been several hundred trucks full of supplies, doctors, and volunteers coming into Haiti from the Dominican Republic's ports, roads and airways.

Several community centers and museums (including El Centro Leon, a natural and cultural historical museum located in Santiago, DR co-run by my aunt), have put together large-scale resource and supply collection events, so that the entire Dominican community can donate anything and everything they can to the cause. As reported from the Listin Diario, one of the D.R.'s major newspapers, shortly after the earthquake, Dominican President Leonel Fernandez met with US President Barack Obama and leaders from all over the world to put together a short and long-term contingency plan to aid Haiti. The latest reports also reveal that in hospitals throughout the major cities in the Dominican Republic, patients who are not in critical condition were given medical leave in order to make room for the incoming earthquake victims.

Given that relations between Haiti and the DR have historically been volatile, how do you think this event will shape that relationship moving forward?

If by "historically", you are referring to the Dominican Republic having gained independence from Haiti on February 27th, 1844...Well, that was more than 150 years ago. History is history. Contrary to popular belief, the Dominican Republic and Haiti do get along and share numerous cultural traditions both old and new. There is collaboration and cooperation between both countries. Taking a walk through the capital, Santo Domingo reveals a slew of Haitian cultural centers and businesses; this is only one of several examples of the integration and assimilation of Haitian culture to the D.R.

How has the local Dominican community come together to provide aid to those affected by the quake?

Dominicans all over the US have contributed on many levels, whether donating to charities, organizing collection events, and following the lead of Dominican leadership on the island in aiding our Caribbean neighbor. I've donated to the Hope for Haiti charity event and have been spreading the word about various charities through social networks and word of mouth. I do hope that everyone's contributions continue to come in, to help bring Haiti up from the rubble.

As America looks to join efforts with the rest of the world in rebuilding Haiti, we can look at Rosie as an example of using what you have and know to make a difference.


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