An important and (albeit controversial) theme in the Dominican-American community is bi-nationalism and transnationalism in which Dominican-Americans continue to show great pride in their homeland as you can see with the flags hanging from their fire escapes, or the habichuela con dulce lady on burnside. And and maintain strong ties to the Dominican Republic, and at the same time embrace and engage the United States. This is well known anecdotally when having a conversation or interacting with Dominican Americans, but the survey that we commissioned was able to quantify it. It looked at the extent to which these transnational ties remain as well as to assess how a sense of transnational connection may serve as a bridge to further engagement in politics in America. Dominicans are beating the stereotype and proving to the general public that the Kardashians are not the only public figures they follow they also follow political figures. We can observe a pattern of higher levels of interest and engagement in politics in the U.S. among those with the higher levels of engagement with homeland issues.
To start, those with higher levels of transnational engagement have higher levels of following politics in the U.S. Among those with higher DR-engagement, 45% say they read/watch 4 or more news stories about issues and politics in the U.S. compared to just 26% who read/watch 4 or more in the lower DR- engagement category. This means that those with high transnationalism are also much more likely to reject the cynical view that “voting is just not for me” or “you voto basura” with 79% of those with high DR-ties rejecting that view compared to 57% among those with low DR-ties. Respondents with higher DR‐engagement are more likely to be persuaded by a chance to elect more Dominican Americans to office.
Not surprisingly, they are very likely to be motivated by Dominican advocacy groups and events that stress both Dominican Republic and Dominican American issues. Fully 91% of those with high DR-ties said they would be interested in participating in such transnational events in their city. However, we should note that even among those with lower DR-ties, the survey still finds that 71% are interested in participating in such transnational events, suggesting that even for those who may not be as actively engaged with homeland issues, there remains a powerful draw for transnational and homeland politics, especially if it is coupled with a focus on Dominican American issues.
Unfortunately, New York has been suffering with very poor voting laws and has fallen behind other states in terms of voting reform. However, we are one step closer of that being a thing of the past! On January 14th, a series of bills were passed by the New York State Legislature that would make voting easier for every New York citizen. The bills include:
- Early voting (up to 10 days before Election Day)
- Pre-registration of 16 and 17 year-olds
- Same day registration
- Same day federal and state primaries
- Portable voter registration (allows voters who move within the same state to transfer their registration and vote on Election Day at their new poll site)
- No excuse absentee voting (allows voters to request an absentee ballot without requiring that the voter state a reason)
As a result of these bills, long lines and crowding at polling sites will hopefully decrease which could help increase voter turnout.
DUSA has proudly been at the forefront along with other civic groups fighting for better voting laws in New York. Since 2015, we have gone to Albany every year to speak with New York legislators to advocate for these bills. We are excited to finally see our efforts reflected in the passing of these bills.
This a step closer to our goal in making sure that every Dominican-American, as well as every U.S. citizen, can freely exercise their right to vote. Nevertheless, there is still much work to be done.
Join us in continuing the fight for voter reform! It is because of you that we are able to do what we do, donate here: https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/dominicanos-usa-1
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“Only once I moved to New York had I experienced the privilege of knowing another language. I learned that there are so many countries, cultures, and traditions that make up Latin America. I appreciate DUSA staff because they are patient with me.”
I was extremely nervous when I walked up to the Dominicanos USA table at Catholic Charities. I didn’t know anything about the job. But the most important thing was to be employed. I wanted to get a taste of adulthood. I was excited to register people to vote and surprised to learn how easy filling out the form was. But the hardest thing was to get clients. I never realized how difficult it is to make people care about an integral part of society. Sometimes they just don’t know certain information. Citizens who have lived in America for decades don’t know what state primaries are. I don’t remember many clients only how hard I worked to get them.
One of my biggest challenges is being monolingual. I moved from Georgia to New York the summer before freshman year. Most of the kids in my old school were black or white. There were about 10 Latinos that I knew. I knew learning Spanish would be a good skill to have but didn’t think it would be necessary. One summer I read a book about a girl whose parents were undocumented. The book opened my eyes to the fact that not all Latinos are Mexican. I was ignorant because we only learned about America, the Middle East, and Europe in Social Studies. Only once I moved to New York had I experienced the privilege of knowing another language. I learned that there are so many countries, cultures, and traditions that make up Latin America. I appreciate DUSA staff because they are patient with me. Especially Darleny, Rocio, and Austine. Everyday I come home from work, I’m very exhausted but I still love my job. I love contributing to social change, helping people, and earning money.
***This is a guest post by one of Summer 2018’s Young Voices, Joyce Allen Marks. Interested in donating to Dominicanos USA? Click here!
“Reinvent yourself” – Mariano Diaz
On May 18th, 2018, DUSA held its 3rd Annual Interchange with UNIBE, one of the most prestigious universities in the Dominican Republic. Entrepreneur Mariano Diaz was invited as a special guest speaker for this event. During his visit, he was kind enough to sit down with me for an interview. We discussed the many stories and experiences that made him the successful man he is today, ranging from his study abroad experience in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and study of Romance languages, to his role as founder and former president of the National Supermarket Association.
Mariano Diaz emigrated from the Dominican Republic at just twenty years old. He settled in New York City where he then went on to major in Romance Languages at CUNY. When asked how his language studies impacted his career, he stated that “it made him more analytical.” He asserted that his studies in Latin, for example, helped him become more detailed in his work. After graduating college, Mariano Diaz decided to go into the food industry, subsequently becoming founder of the National Supermarket Association. When asked what piece of advice he’d give his younger self, he said, “to listen more and be more patient.”
It was an honor to have Mariano Diaz visit the DUSA office. He is just one example of the many creative minds and innovators that, from humble beginnings, have flourished in our community. The Dominican-American community in the United States is one that is constantly growing and evolving. I am sure this is only the beginning for many of our leaders.
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