Sunday, December 09, 2007

Dominican Republic: Is it possible to live with gays and Haitians?

The ongoing screenwriter's strike might not be affecting television shows in the Dominican Republic, but the island's main television station (aptly named Supercanal) is certainly banking on reality shows to attract big ratings as well - just like the big networks in the US.

The newest entry into the DR reality show universe is called "The Guagua is My Home" (guagua being a word used in the Caribbean for bus). The premise? Well, take a big bus, plant it in the middle of a public street, let ten contestants go in and, um, watch them sit inside the bus and bicker for the next 45 days as viewers eliminate them one by one based on popularity. The winner gets a million pesos (U$30K). Talk about excitement! Not to mention the big production values! (unfortunately, this is for real and not a smart send-up of Dominican television in the vein of that infamous Belky's Salon ad).

Jan de Bont's "Speed" it ain't so you need to throw in a couple of curveballs as well: According to a Nov. 13 article published in 7 Dias "There are no serious data that proves that a person with a different sexual option or who belongs to another race or nationality can be 'contagious' to others if they share a living space for some time - unless they suffer leprosy."

That's the 7 Dias journalist's classy intro to the news that the producers of "Guagua" (pronounced 'gwah-gwah') decided to include a Haitian man and a "gay" among the ten participants to demonstrate that Dominicans are not racist and can live with a homosexual (it might surprise some people but for an island that is shared by both countries, there is some deep antagonism and racism among lots of Dominicans and Haitians).

The 'gay' actually turned out to be 19 year old drag queen performer Alfonso a/k/a Dominic Figueroa who doesn't quite call himself transgender but says that he also has "another me" who is feminine and calls herself Pocahontas (his casting tape is available on YouTube).

Also among the list of contestants was New York City radio personality Ramón Sierra (a/k/a Papalote from where else but "El Vacilón de la Mañana" on La Mega) who was rumored to have felt up the legs of Pocahontas and another woman on one of the nights he spent in the bus in the hour-long recap I saw Thursday morning on Time Warner cable (which carries Supercanal here in New York).

OK, let's say the set up isn't as homophobic and racist as it seems to me. The presence of Pocahontas in the reality show actually drew a Dominican transgender rights group called Trans Siempre Amigas (or TRANSSA) to the site of the taping to do some HIV and STD prevention demonstrations and they were actually featured on the Nov. 23rd live show demonstrating to the Dominican public how to properly use a condom according to their blog.

As for whether Dominicans can live in close quarters with Haitians and gays, in the re-cap show that I saw this week Pocahontas tried to scratch the Haitians face in an altercation and by week's end they had been both eliminated from the show as well as Papalote according to today's Diario Libre.

I swear, sometimes you can't even make all this sh*t up! Can't wait for the US version.


Unbeached said...


Lord. Just as I get back into the writing and researching, Latino-Creole-Afro-game I am shocked into a cultural beat down of the first degree.

I need a BC powder and a Spanish Dictionary before I tackle that.


Luis Jerez said...


It seems that now dominicans have learned to profit from throwing in the token queer guy together with the haitian to boost ratings. Talk about being tolerant, that is somehow a step. Sideways to my criteria but a step nonetheless.

Un saludo.