Waiting to go into Haiti, I had my second opportunity to visit the Dominican Republic. I had three days to kill before my mission team arrived, so I figured I'd check out a new side of the island. Whereas my first trip was to the "pretty neighborhood" of Punta Cana on the far eastern side of the island, where resorts and clean beaches abound, this last trip was more of a true cultural experience.
I didn't know when I made my reservations at Boca Chica, the little town on the south (Caribbean) side of the island near Santo Domingo, that it is actually the prostitution capital of DR. Prostitution is legal in the DR, and even though Boca Chica is hardly more than a village, prostitutes flock the beaches and streets looking for rich tourists, especially the European men who often come to this location for that very purpose.
Unfortunately, the prostitutes are very young, starting at around age seven, both boys or girls, and it's not uncommon to see a young girl in her teens doting over a 60+ man on the beach. Some of the young girls make a business of marrying old rich men and waiting for them to die, so they can take the money and build a better life. Then they look for another similar opportunity, and repeat the cycle.
Many parents actually sell their kids as prostitutes for the income. Even when offered money to send their kids to school, they will turn down the offer because if their kids isn't out there working the streets, they don't eat. It's a vicious and tragic cycle. In that country, it's also a bit cultural, which seems to make it an acceptable practice.
The town is a mishmash of old rundown hovels and cheerful, tidy hotels. Food, gas, and goods are about twice what you would pay in the US, even for locals. Roads are nothing more than big muddy potholes, and most of the young men I saw carried guns and rode motorcycles.
Now for the light side. I did have a little mishap with pepper spray at the quaint, family owned motel where I stayed. Since it's not like I make a regular practice of using it, I didn't realize how permeating it could be. Testing it one night before going to dinner to see if the safety latch was on, I accidentally sprayed a tiny, tiny poof of the yellow mist in my room. Wow, that was a mistake. Before it was over, everyone in the hotel was hacking and coughing, running out the doors for fresh air. We had to open windows and turn on fans for at least an hour before we could go back in. Needless to say, it was a bit embarrassing to cause such a uproar for everyone. Oops.
Stay tuned for more of the adventure and pictures, including the trip into Haiti.