Sunday, July 15, 2007


Researching for my Ethnobotanical project has provided me the cultural element I was longing for upon arrival to the Dominican Republic. Though the biodiversity, in certain areas, was abundant, there was a definite lack of cultural diversity. However I was able to find an appropriate balance through my research project. After learning Miskitu in Nicaragua, it was fascinating to learn a few Arawakan words such as wanábana, mamey, hiwéra which are now understood in Spanish as guanábana, zapote and higuero.

I am proud to have completed 22 interviews with staff members here in Punta Cana. Many of the people I interviewed took me under their wing and proudly showed me the plants and fruits of my study. I will share with you the stories of Rubio and Leonor.

Rubio is the head of apicultura, beekeeping, at the Biodiversity Center. He was very eager to discuss his wisdom of medicinal plants and our interview lasted many hours because of his extensive knowledge. In addition to the sample set I presented, Rubio informed me of native Taíno plants such as guayiga and alamo, gave me a personal tour of the medicinal gardens, the fruit orchard, and the area where sugarcane and yucca are planted. He also gave me the opportunity to observe the beekeeping process, view the bones of a Taíno Indian, observe iguanas and follow the beautiful braying of Pedro el Burro.

After an interview with Leonor, she took me to the side alley of the hotel where the staff members eat lunch. Alas, traditional Dominican food! Leonor gave me a glass of jugo de chinola and I was able to speak with many staff members in many different positions. When they saw my sample set of fruits and plants, it was a race to the kitchen for them to see who could find the fruits and plants first. It was instructive to see the contrast of eating at the open air, scenic view La Cana, La Choza, Anais and Mama Venezia restaurants to the cafeteria style enclosed back alley staff dining room. The difference is ambiance could not be more disparate. Additionally, there were two separate dining areas for the Dominican employees and the Haitian employees. The segregation was very apparent from the beginning from the difference in uniform and status of job but I was surprised to see the lack of integration during staff mealtime.

Though my enthobotanical research project was a challenging task for the little time we had here, I feel fulfilled in the sense that I was able to learn more about Taíno,Dominican and Haitian culture and language and common uses of medicinal plants.

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