SEATTLE — Punta Cana has become the fastest-growing resort area in the Dominican Republic; once occupied by jungles in the ’70s, the district is now mostly surrounded by hotels that accommodate guests from all over the world. The beaches have become sought-after tourist attractions that employ thousands of Dominicans from all across the country and even from neighboring Haiti and Venezuela.
The U.N. Development Program (UNDP) has stated that tourism in the Dominican Republic “hasn’t generated a development that involves the community so that it contributes to invigorate the productive apparatus.” But it has given opportunities to many, including Julio Rodriguez, who works in the gym of one of these new resort hotels.
Half of Dominicans under age 18 live in poverty, struggling to get enough food, access to safe drinking water and adequate housing. The Borgen Project had the chance to speak with Rodriguez, who shared his thoughts on the future of his country and its ability to advance education to get more Dominicans out of poverty.
Rodriguez: My name is Julio Rodriguez, known as “B-boy” in the break dance scene; I am a B-boy. I pertain here to the department of animation for the hotel Grand Bahia Principe, I work here in the gym, and I am 37 years old.
The Borgen Project: What is the job market like here in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic? It seems like most people work in the tourist business, particularly hotels, is that true?
Rodriguez: The tourism business here in the Dominican Republic is very productive, there are a lot of employees that come from all over the world, people that work here come from different countries, for example, people from Venezuela and Haiti, and like that we share a lot of the job market at an international level.
TBP: So you moved here from the capital because there are more jobs and more opportunities outside of the capital, where all the tourists vacation?
Rodriguez: Yes, yes, the thing is the job market in the capital is a bit low and in reality there are much more opportunities outside of the capital and evidently people who migrate from different countries go to where the hotel business is in order to be in the agricultural area, which is now a bit difficult to get employed.
TBP: And if someone doesn’t work in the hotel or tourist business what else is there to do here in the Dominican Republic in terms of employment?
Rodriguez: Well speaking for myself, I fulfill various areas of labor; in terms of profession, like I said I am a B-boy, I do break dance, I also handle lift trucks, I am a chauffeur, I have previously been in charge of transportation of a national newspaper called Diario Libre, I’ve worked in various businesses, also stores as sales, and now I am working in the hotel business.
TBP: How do you view the poverty in this country in the last few years? Do you think it’s improving, in terms of the employment lessening poverty? How do you view it within the last 10-15 years?
Rodriguez: Well currently with the presidency that we’ve had in the last few years, two periods, in terms of levels of poverty we’re moving forward, in other words we’re leaving a little bit of poverty behind because the people are empowering themselves more; there is much more levels of education available, more opportunity for the individual to study, and the more the people study, the less poverty we have. So that’s what we want, more people enabling more schools, so the people empower themselves so there could be less poverty, and that we are advancing! There are fewer people who are illiterate; if there are less illiterate the poverty lessens.
According to the UNDP, there is a need now for new industries to involve communities where they already live, rather than creating opportunities that require people to move away from “the reality of their social surroundings.” With increased social services and continued growth in new areas, the people of the Dominican Republic will have new avenues for fulfillment and economic independence.
– Marcelo Guadiana