Written by Jose Kevo on 23 Mar, 2006
Less than 10-years ago, the obscure village of Bayahibe still fostered an undisturbed time vacuum. Preparing to enter the new millennium, this indigent area of the Dominican Republic merely existed with a remoteness usually reserved for National Geographic. Content to be survivors, not much had…Read More
Less than 10-years ago, the obscure village of Bayahibe still fostered an undisturbed time vacuum. Preparing to enter the new millennium, this indigent area of the Dominican Republic merely existed with a remoteness usually reserved for National Geographic. Content to be survivors, not much had changed from when a trio of extended families settled here after U.S. occupation of Puerto Rico. Existence was simple for the few hundred inhabitants. Perhaps legacies of a land and people, with a mezcla heritage of Spaniard, freed-slave, and native islander, had already dictated fate.After a century of unanimity, their whole world was about to get turned upside down thanks to the latest hybrid of antagonists armed with cash and deceit, not artillery. My fleeting decade here, during this zenith of transformation, has been a rare opportunity to witness current events, with grievous outcomes as predestined from significant eras supposedly passed. In the pursuit of progressive life, liberty and happiness, extinction is now lurking for the unpretentious lifestyle; the very least of casualties indicative of when the superior target the inferior, and their worlds collide.Gone With the Tropical WindFascination stems from more than fiction, but who would've suspected that Bayahibe was on the verge of a tale just as classic. It's no surprise that if ever attending a barbecue at the Wilkes', before the nights was over, I'd have slipped out back in favor of the slave quarters. And with all due respect, the village proved to be a brief encounter with the rise and fall of America's grand Old South, and for once seen from the secondary perspective.With crude conditions except for a picture-perfect beach, the occasional traveler looking to drop off the planet had seclusion or inclusion based on desires while staying in the village. Adopted into a local family, tutelage was nurtured into a genteel way of living, where old-school rules preserved an idealistic community. Mutual curiosities spread with each return visit; indebtedness humbling towards these insolvent people practicing such cordial hospitality and generosity with what little they had. Zest of living for the moment, despite obvious hardships, was rejuvenating compared to life as a New Yorker.Whispers were never shared involving construction along distant end of the beach, a brief walk from the village. For a people depending upon the sea as their lifeline, leisureness on the sands was rarely a preference, but misgivings were obvious when a trespassing boundary was drawn at the half-way point. Trade-offs seemed to pacify for opportunities potentially awaiting.Fishermen were already abandoning colorful wooden fishing jolas in favor of motorized speedboats, whisking an occasional busload of Punta Cana tourists to nearby Saona Island. In hopes of keeping revenues within the village, a local proprietor began construction on Hotel Bayahibe. For some, the change was too much; all but punishable in the eye of wrath.September '98, Hurricane Georges unleashed a fury leaving an omen of death and destruction along the DR's southern coast. What wasn't blown away, got swept out to sea from 4-foot tidal surges which submerged the village, and the newly opened Casa del Mar resort. With hardly any food or water during the month that followed, the people began picking up the pieces, determined to weather the latest storm. Enslaved to their naiveté, rebuilding Bayahibe this time would unknowingly be the catalyst as beginning to an end.Once resorts on either side of the village were up and running again, the private utility company resumed work for finally introducing water and electricity to the village. After 100-years of living in a dark age, the natives were fully emancipated to realms beyond; finally able to plug-in to all they'd supposedly been missing. Social classes began to unfold based on which families suddenly had amenities, and ones that didn't. As if seeing things for the first time on a television wasn't enough of a wake-up call, the increase in travelers provoked a major shift in perceptions; just in time for the world to begin showing up at the doorstep.Modern-Day ConquistadorsEven if the indigenous people had been more eager to welcome Columbus on the country's north shore in 1492, eventual outcome would still have been just as detrimental. Beginning Bayahibe's degradation with flip of a switch, 500-plus years of progress were unloaded on the village, which prompted a desperation to adapt that would have unravelled even the most liberal of societies.The genesis of village tourism was embraced, and hardly a family didn't have a sign out front advertising inexpensive cabañas or home-cooked meals. Travelers were still hit-and-miss, and it didn't go unnoticed that most were European, and preferred services from expats of their own kind. The biggest economy boost was coming from busloads of Coconut Coast resort tourists shuttled in daily for day trips through locally-owned excursion companies, providing legitimate employment. Incomes allowed some to abandon the colorful clapboard shacks in favor of hurricane-proof, cinder-block houses, which forgivably altered quaintness.By the time three more resorts had opened south of Bayahibe in '01, word was out that staying within the village was a much cheaper alternative, and opening of the new La Romana International Airport insured seasonal success for those which stayed home to prosper from what they did best; extend hospitality.With opportunities knocking, some of Bayahibe's people were lured away for working in the foreign-owned resorts as indentured servants. Resentments were subtle at first, knowing that any paying job was better than nothing. Utility bills already had most living beyond their means; not to mention all the trappings which followed based on scandalous national buying-on-credit systems which destined most to fail. NYC's 9/11 tragedy impeded global travel, which left resorts and the village abandoned for quite some time. Convinced futures in tourism had been a cruel hoax, locals resumed life as they knew it.However, movement among forming social classes wasn't the only stigma undermining village innocence. Further complicating the once simple life, steadfast elders clinging to traditions were disregarded by impatient youth fully exposed to corruptions of the world. It hadn't taken long to misconstrue that money was the root of all happiness. Rebellion was inevitable, not only from generational gaps, but through rude awakenings of just how impoverished their lives really were.As momentum recovered at resorts, and with growing numbers staying in the village, the hedonistic lifestyle of tourists included opportunities through something Dominicans had long perfected; indiscretions. Not only could a resourceful character earn more for one escapade than from weeks of hard work, it was self-validation and opportunity revolving on a weekly basis. "Booty" was surmounting in more forms than cash; the successful even getting filched away to Europe and Canada on whirlwind romances.Monetary tactics were more subtle than when predecessors first eyed these parts, decided the local population was nonessential, and slaughtered around 7,000 Tainos in 1503. Incorrigible differences, within families and the village, unknowingly provided a decoy for the opposition; first scouting through vacations, then returning to claim their piece of paradise, at a banishing rate proving to be just as archaic.Apocalypse of the Tourism RepublicBayahibe has grown to about 3000 where foreigners equally match nationals. On any given night, the colmado scene has as many tourists and expats as locals, fracturing the once close-knit presence of an inner-related community. Dominicans, from the interior where there are no jobs, are also flocking as resort "plantation" workers; lucky to earn US$50 a week for 60-plus hours of labor, and where discriminations are undeniable. With a housing shortage, tourist cabañas have became viable rental properties producing steady income, and resorts are even contracting homes as warehouse dorms where 25-plus employees rotate bunk-beds around 12-hour shifts.Earnings still aren't enough to keep pace with rising costs of living. A 5-peso/15¢ increase on transportation or basic staples means nothing to the affluent taking over, but when a 10-pound bag of rice costs $7, or monthly electric bills run well over $100, most Dominicans are being priced-out of Bayahibe.Opposition is mounting to no avail; irreconcilable differences in the name of hospitality where all has gone wrong. Survival has long been the forté of local life, but the beast of tourism is an incomparable foe that will ultimately conqueror. It won't be long until the people of Bayahibe will be as white as the resplendent sands they flock to, and anyone that doesn't own property, have a reservation, or wear an employee badge, won't be allowed beyond the gated wall which is sure to come–the ageless token that represents history's legacy for distinguishing between Us and Them.Until that time comes, I'll continue returning to the village, but there's no going home. Progress is a peculiar plight; especially when tangibles begin to compromise wealth of core values and serenity. Nevertheless, I can't deny my people these costly opportunities. When the last of them goes, I'll go with them to start picking up the pieces, again.Close
Written by Jose Kevo on 26 Jan, 2004
The humming of the fan had done little to induce me beyond stages of semi-consciousness. I was restlessly tossing wrapped in the bed sheet with eyes wide shut. Images within my reeling mind became more vivid thanks to a growing illumination and magnifying echoes of…Read More
The humming of the fan had done little to induce me beyond stages of semi-consciousness. I was restlessly tossing wrapped in the bed sheet with eyes wide shut. Images within my reeling mind became more vivid thanks to a growing illumination and magnifying echoes of the tell-tale '70s song, Sultans of Swing. So this was my friends' cue to rejoin the party?
By now, increased presence of light and music had beckoned me from whatever state of passed out I was indulging, but mental haze was all too familiar straining to focus on shadow images dancing across the ceiling. What were they up to out there? I stumbled out of bed to look through the window before truth of the matter slowly began to register in living color.
I wasn't at the lake cabin for a weekend bash with a bunch of high school buddies. Someone had left an SUV parked and running out front of the cabaña, with haunting sounds of Dire Straits all but seducing me out beyond the screens. Years later . . . Bayahibe, Dominican Republic; 10:50pm on a Friday night.
Strangely enough, the paradoxal experience was somewhat defining for this entire trip. What I saw and eventually found that night had become my reality, and all senses of life as I knew it were the fleeting dreams. The more things change, the more they stay the same. If only that were always true.
Rumble in the Emerald VillageWalking around is always somewhat of a mouth-watering experience, thanks to an abundance of papayas, mangos, bananas and "forbidden fruits" ripening on vines everywhere. I'm reminded of the jungle I've tried recreating inside my home, knowing the inferior crop will never be kissed by the Caribbean sun, nor that other flourishing tropicals will grow tall enough outside to provide shade as found here.
Images of paradise would never be complete without swaying palms, but for all the lush vegetation which actualizes the landscape, there's another prospering element seen and also heard; thriving as the village lifeline in form of "the grapevine"!
Even with frequent calls between visits, there's still always so much to catch up on factually beyond the gossip. Usually within a day of arriving, everyone knows I've returned; making my first run to the colmado only speeds up the process. There's nothing like coming back to a place where everybody knows your name and is genuinely anxious to share in your presence. Yet something seemed different this time with eagerness that went beyond usual warm receptions, anticipated hospitality.
I tried to play it off as my own perceptions, but the apparent feelings of change were more than just time and progress. Something unexplainable had taken place that I finally figured out within the first few days; something I never would've even considered or expected. IgoUgo had happened!
With emergence of Internet access in Bayahibe, what started as a prideful announcement from family had mushroomed into a modern-day electronic nightmare that altered simple pleasures from just being here. People may not be able to read/understand English, but they sure understood the web's global expanse, and someone half-way around the world or in the village next door seeing their picture!
People here still have too much class to question my actions or motives, but subtle, hopeful hints of perceived fame weren't just imagination. My earned reputation as an avid shutterbug had everyone posing for pictures. Invitations to stay in others' cabañas or stop by for a meal were suddenly tainted questioning hospitality I'd came to know vs. potential free advertisement they'd maybe came to hope for. The grapevine did little to help restore the foregoing either.
Over time, I've became more than just an outsider or tourist frequently returning. Respect has been earned the way I've embraced my local family and helped them out, undoubtedly with whispered envy. But emergence of Internet access and this very website all but thrust me into a spotlight of epic proportion with legendary knowledge, power, and greater perceived wealth since there was now confirmation I'd gotten around to more than just DR a couple of times a year.
Carefree suddenly took on a whole new level of self-consciousness that I'd never bothered bringing with me before. Obvious embedded "Americanisms" felt to be furling larger than the stars and stripes. To discuss such things with those I am closest too was a mute issue. They may contribute to the grapevine but have learned to pay it no mind when it starts encroaching too close to home. Whatever the truth, they're accepted and sheltered regardless.
If I only had . . .The mid-afternoon sun was sliding towards the sea gradually erasing cool shade under the double front porches. Wrinkles were undoubtedly creasing into freshly pressed shirts collecting in the pile I was too lethargic to hang up. Melted onto the ledge, Junior and I traded silent glances before resuming what had occupied our time.
I was thinking back to the day he came home with a couple of friends and became angered for the way I'd embarrassed him. In trying to relieve some of Mami's workload, I was ironing his clothes for the evening; something a man would or should never do! And now, years later, after the first baseman's Major League dreams came crashing down from health matters, there he stood ironing clothes as part-owner of the village laundromat.
Perpetual readjustment to Bayahibe is a familiar yet unknown means of transformation. It usually takes about a week to get the anticipated being there out of the way, to have nonstop doing-something subside for unwinding, and to be reminded what really keeps me coming back.
Playfully weaving around potholes, Reynaldo sent me into a juggling act with backpack, camera, mini-cooler, and cold beer I'd popped before killing the motorcycle engine in front of the house. My afternoon at Dominicus Beach had lazily came and gone while Junior was still standing where I'd left him hours before. The industrial-size pressing machine had broken down with no replacement expected any time soon regardless how much cash I could potentially shell out. Everything had to be ironed by standard household model.
Junior began detailing the list of people which passed looking for me as well as plans for further occupying my time. He didn't say it, but I felt guilt of neglect towards the only reason I have for being here. Within those moments, shift of priorities from playing-to-staying swept over me.
Brains, Courage and endless HeartOver the next weeks, again best-made plans were traded for spending endless hours on the porch, still puzzling at how time all but creeps by, but measures of days evaporate quicker than afternoon showers on a hot tin roof. But I also couldn't deny differences between previous visits, where doing so was just how the day evolved compared to doing so thanks to obligations of the family business.
I was again reminded how unfair life can seem for people who work so hard, but yet struggle to survive. Pitching in was the least I could do handling customers, washloads and the never-ending ironing -- something my hands ached from after only a couple of hours...little alone all day! Perhaps a heck of a way to squander vacation time, but to share in the smallest of mundane occurences is one thing; to be a willing participant contributing to a much greater cause quite the other.
From the time coffee is served in the morning, the all-day parade of people ensues and Dominican hospitality invites everyone to linger whether for brief greetings or extended gossip sessions amid never ceasing household chores. For such a small village, it still amazes me there can be such a buzz of activity; never overwhelming but only reinforcing the strongest bonds of community.
By workday's end, "Quittin' Time" always came with anticipation. I'd faithfully turn down Junior's offer to join him at the nightly church service; he'd excusably laugh off my preferred choice of revelry at the colmado scene. Of evenings when we didn't reunite, stories were saved for the following day's porch banter...often retold as various participants passed by.
The Wizard of Caribbean OzOver the years, I've sent or left so many possessions there's not much need for packing towards arrival or the always dreaded departure. And then, the longest walk I ever make in Bayahibe is from the house to the center for my ride to the airport. I've learned to do it alone...never looking back.
Now, living only 30 minutes from the Kansas border, processing the entire dream-like experience is always an extended surreal undertaking; how I can appear out of nowhere into this foreign but magical environment, be welcomed in as one of them, provide a needed boost to what or whomever, and then be whisked away, back to where I came from. It doesn't take special powers or knowledge foreseeing I'll basically find everything and everyone right where I left them when returning. Then again, I have became the Wizard of Bayahibe.
Since joining IGOUGO, many have asked, "Why the Dominican Republic" and why I consider this my second home and second family? During my years in NYC as administrator for a Youth Center working with at-risk street kids, the population exposed me to Puerto Ricans…Read More
Since joining IGOUGO, many have asked, "Why the Dominican Republic" and why I consider this my second home and second family? During my years in NYC as administrator for a Youth Center working with at-risk street kids, the population exposed me to Puerto Ricans and Dominicans who relocated to the States in search of a better way of life, and cause to travel to these islands often for either contributing to their success, or resettling them back home when all else failed.
It was such a trip in '97 when meetings fell through with the consulate in Santo Domingo leaving me three extra days to either rebook my flight or stay. I spontaneously decided to visit this village in a part of the country I was unfamiliar with which guidebooks described as what travelers had in mind when looking for the ultimate tropical destination.
I'll never forget that first ride into town as the banged-up publico bounced over potholes sending clouds of dust through the van's open windows. The backwoods appearance and blatant poverty were startling and my usual sense of explorative adventure was cringing. There still were no hotels in town; efforts were underway digging trenches for bringing basic utilities to the village.
I sought immediate retreat in the small, darkened cabaña happy I'd only paid for one night. Eventually I found courage to move beyond peering out the window, and begin exploring this "paradise" called Bayahibe. Quickly skirting through town, the whole orientation took less than 15 minutes.
The village was all but deserted; the few locals milling about keeping to their business. I didn't even feel comfortable to stop for a beer based on potential vulnerability. The only thought running through my head was, "What have you gotten yourself into this time?" Thankfully, that was all about to change.
Ambling along the coastal road, I saw a tall young man coming towards me wearing a Major League baseball jersey and loaded down with bat, glove and basic equipment. He was the first person that even bothered making eye contact, and I must confess my initial reaction was what he was going to ask for. Smiles were traded as were eventual greetings. As our paces slowed, he asked in broken speech if I spoke English. What ensued was a mangled conversation using both languages, but there needed no interpreting this kid's warmth and sincerity that finally put me at ease.
Junior invited me back to his house in what I thought was to prove legitimacy of our discussion -- he was one of those infamous Dominican baseball players! Who would've thought venturing out into the middle of nowhere would have hooked me up with a Major Leaguer? Well, almost.
As he proudly showed me the tattered photo album, it became obvious he'd just finished his first season with one of MLB's Dominican Minor League training camps, and his insistence I take my pick of one of the limited momentos was unknowingly the first gesture towards a mutual adoption within our hearts stronger and more binding than any legal court document.
It was during those first few hours in Bayahibe that something was taking place even I was unaware of. The house became a titter of frenzy as family members and neighbors passed through with what I later found was checking out the American they thought was another baseball scout. Mami served coffee and then insisted I stay for dinner. When returning the following morning to again thank them before I left, there was insistence I not only stay in Bayahibe, but that I do so with the family. Like I said, who knew?
It doesn't matter who you are, where you're from or what you're about -- nothing can permeate to the core of one's heart and spirit quicker than the warmth of genuine hospitality; especially when coming from total strangers. As the ever-skeptical American, I left after my three-day stay glad to have made this excursion, but also prepared to resume life in general.
Several weeks passed and winter was settling in making the harsh streets of Spanish Harlem even colder. With my boys gone for the weekend, I found myself restless and, on a whim, decided to see what was up in Bayahibe. I'll never forget Mami answering the phone and yelling for everyone to come running amid her giddy cordialities.
Once I'd spoken with most the family members and neighbors, Junior and I settled into an extended conversation that had me running to the bodega for another phone card. He was anxious to share all the English he'd been practicing as well as feed my hungering curiosity to anything that had (or hadn't) been happening in the village.
Over time, phone calls became more frequent as did my longing to fulfill the question which overshadowed every conversation, "Cuándo volverás / When will you return?" Within a few "long" months, I was back for a four-day weekend; then again for a week, and so the story goes right up until my five-week stay this last summer.
I've since traded ghetto for the Missouri Ozark's, but I can't deny my heart and mind have stayed in Bayahibe where I'm continually soothed and fed in ways that undoubtedly make me a better person. I was first welcomed into a family by a young man who happened to be the hometown hero and which eventually led to being taken in by an entire village.
There's something to be said about their simple life and perceived poverty compared to the selfish, materialistic standards we live by in the States. Never have I known people who had so little but yet were willing to give someone everything from the wealth of their hearts...even if/when it means they may do without. But even with inspiring levels of generosity, it's their depths of poise and grace surviving daily struggles which have heartened me most.
Even when from a distance, enduring their hardships has repeatedly given purpose to look beyond and share in causes far greater than myself. Through the village's total devastation from Hurricane George in '98, the loss of a brother, major illnesses, periods without sufficient funds for food/basic necessities, and other crises that would break most people, I've been embraced by another world that has blessed me with a double standard in life; the new one constantly challenging the other I currently settle for.
It's through sharing these asperities I've been able to redefine what's really important in life and to confirm the old adage, "what doesn't kill us only makes us stronger"; whether I'm here or there. And without all the materialistic props to get in the way, it only authenticates their formula for happiness -- to value each other . . . as family, friends and neighbors, cause they're the only thing that matters. Easier done than said if/when that's all you've got!
Each time I return to Bayahibe, it truly is a homecoming almost as if being in the States is like some kind of business trip or vacation from hell that has taken me away for too long again. Once initial greetings have taken place and I survey over changes and growth while cuddling the newest members in the ever-expanding families, life resumes as usual and I slide right into my role as an equal part.
Dysfunctional at times? Well when isn't it -- something I've humorously compared to my reoccurring role on the small village's novella/soap opera! And if there's ever any doubt on where I actually stand, there's always Mami to remind me with her incessant scolding . . . never excluding me from anything kindred.
Back in America, my own family doesn't ask anymore since perhaps they can't understand any more than I over this random occurrence. My boys know they've a new brother in Junior; my parents have sought an active supportive role in my extended family, and there's no more convincing people in the village I'll eventually be back. Rather, the question has shifted to, "Te quedaras esta vez / Will you stay this time?" That has yet to be answered beyond "someday"; even if it's for the palm-shaded spot I've already been given in the family plot of the village cemetery along the tranquil Caribbean coast.
As to what relevance any of this may have for the concept of travel, how many times in our global jaunts have we missed opportunities to make initial eye contact which may have led to a warm smile, a trip enhancing local experience . . . or even something far greater or unfathomable? I plead guilty to numerous charges, but am thankful for the day my life changed forever when stopping along a dirt road in a town I'd already written off.
In Bayahibe, I've learned that "all-inclusive" extends beyond nearby resorts to a compound of cinder block houses along a pothole-filled street and throughout an entire village; a bed, meals and access to all the daily activities one can muster; the good and bad, the receptions and experiences that come only with family and home.
For females born in Latin American countries, the Quinceañera is perhaps the most important, anticipated event in a young lady's life. Somewhat comparable to the American celebration of a "Sweet 16", the quinceañera also represents a greater level coming of age when the girl…Read More
For females born in Latin American countries, the Quinceañera is perhaps the most important, anticipated event in a young lady's life. Somewhat comparable to the American celebration of a "Sweet 16", the quinceañera also represents a greater level coming of age when the girl achieves the freedom of womanhood for dating, sex, and marriage.
A girl's worth is determined by the level of celebration the family throws for the quinceañera, an event usually bigger than any eventual wedding. From the day a daughter is born, families begin planning and saving towards this ritual, and often still go in debt to insure their daughter is perceived as worthy.
Obviously, experiencing one of these events is nothing you could actually plan for while on vacation, but I was fortunate enough to be in town when one of Bayahibe's founding and most prominent families was in the midst of staging what I was told would be one of the village's premier extravaganzas.
As one of the families from the block, my immediate invitation upon arrival came as a guest of honor to be joined by a host of the stepfather's relatives flying in from Italy. The week leading up to the grand event was a madness of rehearsals and activities including enough food preparations to feed the entire village which had been invited.
On the evening of the celebration, the 15-year-old along with six of her closest friends and their dates, transformed from care-free teenagers into a regal court of local royalty wearing their white formal ball gowns and black suits/ties. Gathering on the block for pre-ceremony pictures, I couldn't help but notice them standing on the dirt road amid the contrasting near-poverty which still served as a background reminder.
Once photos were finished, they were loaded into decorated dune buggies and paraded through the village before making their way across the back of the bay area to the expansive Big Sur open-air nightclub which had been privately rented out for the night. A hush fell across the crowd as the court unloaded and made their way up the walkway with a pomp and circumstance like none other. Each couple was announced before the grand entrance all had been waiting for - the quinceañera princess straight out of the best told Dominican fairytale!
Formalities which followed were quite intriguing as the couples executed their polished dance skills with a waltz, a traditional bachata and merengue number, and the quinceañera's choice with only her date - something straight off the U.S. Top 40 chart. The crowds were easily a dozen deep hemming in the perimeters of the open-air pavillion which served as the ultimate Caribbean ball room.
What I saw deeply touched me; not only watching the ceremony but looking around at the awe-struck crowd. Whether the oldest of grandmothers present, little girls, or 13/14-year-olds watching with great anticipation for their upcoming quinceañera, I couldn't help but sense the females bonded with pride and perhaps shrouded with envy.
It was very unlikely within the village any of the older females had had a celebration this elaborate . . . nor would any of the younger ones anytime soon. I thought of all the quinceañeras I'd attended in small, cramped NYC apartments for transported Dominicanas -- a very poor second without this natural homeland environment; no matter how much cash had been shelled out.
Eventually, a "coming out" presentation was made by the parents, and to say all hell broke loose after that is perhaps the understatement from my entire trip! The music automatically went up several decibels and spontaneous celebration began erupting across the scattered sand courtyard further lit-up from the chance tropical full moon.
Beers and rums started flowing; ladies began distributing appetizer plates followed by heaping helpings of the traditional stewed goat and boiled plantains, desserts, candies and other party favors. Little did I know, things were just getting started.
As the night wore on, the celebration continued as one might expect with feasting, drinking and dancing; some cooling their frenzies by making the short walk to strip down for a dip in the tranquil Caribbean shimmering under the moon beams.
What I wasn't expecting were the number of people that kept coming up to introduce themselves to me as a guest of honor; residents of the small village which had heard of me, but yet I still hadn't met after all these years of coming here. The invitations to stop by for a visit or dinner were more than I could ever fulfill - as if upstaging the quinceañera princess, but the extended warmth and hospitality only solidified why I consider Bayahibe my second home, and why I'll always keep coming back.
Around 1am, the crowds began thinning with most making their way back to the village center and Mundo Marina disco that was just heating up as usual on the marathon Sunday night into Monday morning tradition. It was one of those magical nights one wishes could have lasted forever; I called it quits around 4:30am.
The following mid-morning, I was sitting on the front porch of the house savoring my first strong cup of Dominican coffee generously laced with sugar. And here she came, the quinceañera princess. She'd traded the white ball gown and tiara for a pair of shorts and T-shirt; pumping the beat-up bicycle while navigating around the potholes in the broken-down dirt street. Just the typical 15-year-old teenager without a care in the world.
I thought back to the night before and how during the evening, my mind kept trailing back to the saying, "It takes an entire village to raise a child", something we often hear but that I had never seen put into action before. Regardless of what the future may hold, how fortunate for these children and people to be so truly blessed as they journey through life together.
There's no holding back time and the inevitable changes it brings in the name of progress; even in a small village like Bayahibe. Here's a list of services travelers can expect to find, as well as links to previous expired journal entries with updates:Computer/Internet…Read More
There's no holding back time and the inevitable changes it brings in the name of progress; even in a small village like Bayahibe. Here's a list of services travelers can expect to find, as well as links to previous expired journal entries with updates:
Computer/Internet & PhoneWith the electronic age, all the signs advertising sudden abundance of village internet access still looked out of place. There's now wide availability, but I recommend Bayahibe Tele.Com since they were the only ones with DSL hook-up and rapid, dependable service. They're located in the cluster of buildings just off the bus parking lot and facing the bay. Internet access costs 2-pesos per minute, faxes 10-pesos per page, and phone calls can be made to the U.S. or Canada for 25-pesos per minute; 40 for Europe. They're open from 8:30am to 7pm. All other internet services run through phone lines, were dreadfully slow, and inconsistent with their availabilities for actual useage.
Currency ExchangeHotels, restaurants, the main colmado and even a new banking office across from the police station are now exchanging foreign currencies for Dominican pesos noted by the daily rates posted on signs out front. Even with value of the Euro higher than the dollar, they were being traded equally for local currency.
Especially budget travelers should plan on using these only as a last resort with better rates offered at official agencies when arriving at the airport or in nearby La Romana. The difference may seem insignificant but with continued devaluation of the peso, the small savings significantly added up since actual prices had not risen for anything. Again, I pulled off this month+ adventure for less than US$500 with the exchange rate of RD35 on the dollar.
The main colmado in the village center was also in the initial stages of accepting foreign currencies for purchases with change returned in pesos based on the daily exchange rate; a growing widespread practice around the country which is hoping to switch to the American money system.
The Lottery Office in the center next to where the publico stand is, was also a key place for breaking RD1000 and RD500 bills which are often obsolete with lacking abilities for making change. Where ever you exchange your foreign currency, insist on at least half the amount in smaller bills.
Laundry ServiceThe New Generation Laundry can be found on the unmarked side street which runs parrallel to Hotel Bayahibe. They'll launder and even press any items for less than $1 alleviating need to pack extra. The sign says one-hour service, but things dropped off early morning likely won't be ready until late afternoon. They're open from 8am to 6pm and closed on Sundays. They can also arrange prebooking of trips to Saona Island and other water excursions through Bayahibe Acuatico Tours.
Village life is all but anchored around the colmado/general store where locals and visitors can easily pick up basic staples and daily necessities as well as catch-up on any/everything going on. The main colmado, located in the village center, sells foods, bottled water, beverages and liquors, film, bug repellents, toiletries, batteries and just about anything you'll need. And of a late afternoon, it's the hotspot for activity around the bar with crowds spilling out onto the streets.
Thomacita Colmado is on the corner where the main road t's into the coastal road with a lot of the same goods, but at a slightly higher cost and definitely less atmosphere and popularity.
Both colmados open at 8am, take noon-to-2pm siesta breaks, and then reopen with the central colmado staying open later until 8pm. In a land where time often doesn't matter, these places are very punctual and thorough when it comes to closing time so plan your purchases accordingly. If you find yourself needing something during the mid-day break, hit the side streets and find one of the smaller stores within the residencial areas which don't close.
Scuba/SnorkelingWith seaside access to some of the best waters in the Caribbean, there are three European-expat owned DIVE SHOPS within the village. When trying to help assist travelers with making trip arrangements, I was shocked to find the actual limited availabilities from the long list of dive excursions listed. Some were only offered one day a week; others only if enough people were interested to make the trip. Potential travelers also commented on how various prices didn't seem so reasonable when adding in the additional boat/transportation charge, lunch and other hidden costs per person.
Based on hearsay and my own perceptions (not experience), Casa Daniel is the better of the three choices if for no other reason than courteous reception and local reputation. In addition to their Dive business, they also have guesthouse rooms for their patrons to additionally book. A full list of prices, dives and services offered can be found at their website. They've a pair of smaller shops clearly marked in town along the coastal road and bay while their main facility and guesthouse is a brief walk south of town beyond the baseball field.
Water ExcursionsBayahibe is departure point for the country's most popular Day Trip to Saona Island , which I highly recommend, as well as Catalina Island, deep-sea fishing, and other water excursions. Independent travelers staying within the village will likely get confused with the onslaught of advertisements for these various trips as well as get taken to the cleaners if using the colorfully painted information kiosk situated next to the parking lot where buses unload for the day. Specific details can be found in the Saona Island link above for maximizing your experiences while greatly minimizing your costs.
Doctor & Medical AssistanceThe Local Clinic still sees their fair share of travelers in need of minor medical assistance where they're charged minimal fees. The new doctor on the premises only speaks Spanish. Also, there's a new private clinic on one of the unmarked side streets off the main road. It's open three days a week, and patients are seen by appointment. Fees are said to be quite expensive.
Wandering the Unmarked StreetsAs you pass along the main road into town, you'll notice numerous side streets with signs advertising cabañas, restaurants and bars, beauty shops, smaller colmados and other key services for guests staying within the village. Most of these are operated out of family compounds, and because of their obscurity, tend to come and go. Once initially settled, travelers need not limit themselves to the obvious. This is especially critical when arriving and village accommodations appear full. I discovered several new places when helping travelers find places to stay. Unfortunately, reservations are next to impossible with the limited contact info. Local shoeshine boys are more than willing to help for a few pesos.
Car/Moped rentalsJust left of where the main road t's into the coastal road is a new office advertising day-trip excursions as well as car and moped rentals. Trouble was, it never appeared to be consistantly open. Currently it is the only place in town offering transportation rentals, but I again caution potential drivers on the extreme risks and costs and encourage to leave the driving to someone else!
Personal Local AssistanceUnfortunately with the local economy crashing, government and private funding was drastically cut and the Bayahibe Continuing Education School was forced to close. I thank readers/travelers who did help support the local youth by hiring them as guides and escorts. The offer still stands for anyone that would like me to help arrange such services independently, or for an authentic Dominican home-cooked meal.
Written by Jose Kevo on 10 Mar, 2002
I'd barely gotten home and dropped my bags, stripped off my jacket and turned up the heat, when my January 2002 issue of Caribbean Travel & Life magazine caught my attention amongst the waiting pile of mail. One of the cover side-bar headlines was…Read More
I'd barely gotten home and dropped my bags, stripped off my jacket and turned up the heat, when my January 2002 issue of Caribbean Travel & Life magazine caught my attention amongst the waiting pile of mail. One of the cover side-bar headlines was titled "The D.R.'s Adventure Coast". Curiosity got the best of me and my already saddened heart sank further when finding the article entitled, "BAYAHIBE - Day-Tripping in the D.R." The photos of where I'd just returned from sparked a jealous envy until the author's copy detailed resort life and times they'd stepped beyond it. Yeh, like what did they know compared to my three weeks worth of mental notes from a potential "real experience" cover story?
With all my travels, I can't think of another place in the entire world that feeds and soothes my entire inner-being like mi pueblo of Bayahibe. As written in the journal highlights, coming here has moved far beyond vacation into a coveted realm of spending quality time with my second family in my second home. That element alone all but erases desires to squander time and money for going anywhere else in the world despite the life-changing pleasures and experiences I've gained through global travel.
Not only was this the longest I'd ever stayed, but it was also the first time I'd taken up my family's offer of actually living at the house rather than a hotel. Little did I know that accepting this Holiday gesture would be one of the greatest gifts I could ever give myself while lavishing new meaning to fully taking part in every moment of their lives. There was no hotel retreat-haven wanted or needed, and in still trying to process all that transpired, I can't understand why I was ever willing to settle for anything less.
Dominican life centers around the family and sharing hospitality with friends and neighbors. More than ever before, I learned to appreciate my time here beyond the village and beach scenes with a new treasured spot I also now yearn returning to - the front/back porches of the family house. Undoubtedly, more time was spent in these places than anywhere else from that first cup of coffee with a "buenas dias" to that last belt of whatever with a "buenas noches". In between were those lengthy, heartfelt conversations with family and anyone else passing by as my long-awaited time here rapidly passed, though the daily segments lingered all but endlessly feeding that Caribbean lure of lazy days with nothing to do...and all day to do it!
In planning this trip for months, there'd been quite the list of possibilities with how we'd spend this much valuable time together. My learning to rethink not wasting a single moment for "going/doing" was replaced by the same...only when it comes to "experiencing". Most of those best-laid plans never made it off the porch in lieu of the simplicity with which they lead everyday lives. And I knew I'd fully succumbed to this treasured fashion when the last few days were passing as fluidly as those final grains of sand through an hourglass...and I hadn't even made it back to nearby Isla de Saona. Nor would I.
Most visitors to Bayahibe, or anywhere in the world for that matter, will not have an inside source which allows them to move beyond the touristic mode within any destination. Likely my personal experiences here will be of little use to the average traveler. Yet, I feel compelled to share them based on enlightening the possibilities without further exploiting the people whose futures are changing before their very eyes...whether they know it or not.
Aside from the booming tourist industry which has more than awakened this coastal area and sleepy fishing village, potential development of the beautiful, age-old waterfront into an upscale marina is more than enough to erase the perceived "Don't worry - Be happy" Caribbean mentality. Whether my hosts felt or showed this, to think of what's to come disheartened and even angered me! How long before I return "home" and the family compound has been eradicated in the name of capitalistic progress? What happens to the simple way of life when it becomes complicated through modernization?
Thankfully, I had the opportunity to live life that "is" before it becomes "was". With so much time spent around the house, I dented a few gender rules helping with laundry and cleaning, and was all to eager to watch how Mami made all those wonderful meals so I could recreate them back home.
It was during these daily chores that my respect and admiration grew, and I went beyond connecting to actually bond with the females of my family; something all but culturally unheard of, whether family or friend, and is further described in my SURVIVOR-DR country journal's "God's Most Beautiful & Intriguing People" free form entry.
When physical exhaustion set in from our uneventful, yet all-day/all-night agendas, more often than not the mental and emotional highs prevented any napping. Daydreams were not in the form of sleep, but in continuing to fully embrace this foreign environment which seemed so naturally embedded within my character.
From the bed, I softly chuckled overhearing Mami's relentless scoldings for all to help keep the house in order, or from listening to the latest tidbits of village gossip whether from a passing friend or from conversations amid all the neighbors from their own backyards. One of the many roosters would seem to be calling my name, I'd reemerge, and coffee was served as if warmly starting the day...and my visit anew.
It was Saturday evening when the 30+-somethings from the block had gathered at the front porch of a neighbor's house. The children had long been put to sleep; the younger crowd off to where ever. For us so-called adults, all the necessary staples were present - the latest Antony Santos cd, Cuban cigars, the Dominican boozes of choice, and most importantly the celebrations of another day of life.
I'm not sure how long I'd been been sitting there quietly soaking up more than the rum, when the fine line between "here and there" blurred into disappearance. It was then I realized my life had changed forever and there was no looking back. Not because I'd been accepted into this tight-knit circle, but because their warmth had melted to the core of my heart allowing me to fully accept becoming a part of them beyond the way I'd always assumed and actually, taken for granted.
The smell from midnight munchie chuletas/pork chops lingered in the air...almost as thickly as the burning desire within me which prevented any sleep that night with intoxication much stronger than from anything drank. I paced the beach and abandoned village streets patiently waiting until daybreak for calling American Airlines with hopes of extending my stay for a fourth week. I can look back now and be grateful there weren't any seats available for two-half more weeks forcing me to make the most of the six days remaining.
It tantalizes yet scares me to think what would've evolved if I'd stayed that extra time? I'm still not sure when...or even if I would've returned to the States! There were any number of legitimate excuses to justify staying. Helping to further hands-on develop the Learning Center while becoming the full-time English teacher. Partnering with my boy and another friend in investment and business opportunities. Helping organize the people against the developers to at least insure they didn't get taken even if they are displaced. But no matter how "official" I try to categorize my intentions, I'm well aware of the bottom-line motive which would cause me to leave everything else behind to embark on this new, enticing way of simple living.
I've since struggled with the ironies of how unselfishly doing the right things for the greatest cause can yield such longing and emptiness as the apparent blockading sources for achieving holisitc happiness and fulfillment. For now, I AM better off in the States with access to useful networking resources and in earning my meager monthly income...which most Dominicans wouldn't see in six months. For even when the needs seem apparently insurmountable, they've shown and proven money CAN NOT buy their wealth of happiness - and this eager student is ready for graduation and prepared to accept invitations for joining their ranks and realm without all the need for succeed through greed we tend to live by in America.
The next tenative visit has been planned around a wedding though I could just as easily return today on the next flight out. Photos, videos, and even memories far too personal to describe in a journal are comforting but no substitution for the real thing in 'Living AS a Local'. And whether that eventually comes with another extended stay...or on a permanent dual-citizenship basis, I can only accept life as they do and hang on dreaming until I'm Barefoot in Bayahibe...Again.
Written by Jose Kevo on 09 Mar, 2002
The trip had been planned for quite some time, but coming back to Bayahibe is never soon enough-and this time, this was even more so. I bypassed the arrival rituals of a La Romana peso run and then catching a publico. I'd willingly…Read More
The trip had been planned for quite some time, but coming back to Bayahibe is never soon enough-and this time, this was even more so. I bypassed the arrival rituals of a La Romana peso run and then catching a publico. I'd willingly pay more for a cab, hoping the driver was recklessly fast as they tend to be.
Quickly dropping off my bags at the hotel, I headed out for that short, familiar walk "home"! The front door to the cinder-block house was open, welcoming the typical parade of afternoon visitors. Walking in, I found Mami in the kitchen busily preparing dinner. She turned to greet and hug me, looking even more exhausted from her faithful "Trabajando mucho siempre/Always working much" statement. The baby was napping. This was not the time for catching up on details. Walking to the baseball field, I realized she'd been so distracted that I didn't even get the familiar "Why do you stay at the hotel" lecture.
Slipping into one of the dug-outs did not help from distracting the youth leagues practicing. All they could wonder was how could I be here and not home for the 2001 Subway Series? Was I a Yankees or Mets fan? I warmly kidded, honestly wishing they'd get back to practice so it would end quicker. The sun was melting into the sea behind the make-shift batting cages and coconut groves; a sight more stirring than any of America's multi-million-dollar stadiums. Smiles and gestures while coaching the outfields couldn't suffice finally being close enough to mi compadre to lock eyes and see the truths that needed no explanations. There was no denying the awkwardness of the inevitable awaiting.
Walking back towards the village, we lagged behind the group. Wanting to be alone, patience was in order knowing players habitually stopped for antics, cooling off in the water before heading home. I eternally wait to be reunited back in Bayahibe, sharing any and everything about our lives without Ma Bell interceding. Obviously, we were both strangely thankful that post-season play-offs fell short, sending him back not a day too soon to the village and people that made him into the fine human character that he is.
Bayahibe has a way of making you feel at home-no matter how long you've been away, it’s like you never left. Walking further along the coastal road heading towards the bay, we were greeted by an older brother. His big toothy smiles and gut-rattling hugs were postponed for now. He knew what our agenda held. But rather than heading on toward Bayahibe beach, we stopped short entering the small village cemetery. I didn't even have to ask where, seeing the clumps of dirt, rock, and sugary white sand minced into a small mound covering the remains of another brother who'd been buried only days before.
The story slowly, painfully began to unfold-living on the coconut coast and working as a Bavaro boat capitan, he was finishing work to spend the evening with a girlfriend, riding around on a motorcycle after dark, and was not seen by the driver or a large truck. Apparently, both died immediately and the fact that Dominicans never wear helmets wouldn't have helped or been enough.
Is anyone ever prepared for the tragic loss of life, especially when happening to someone so young- a 21-year-old who had his future before him?
Happy Hour was on for the mosquitoes feasting on fresh white meat. The sun had slid below the horizon, stubborn about painting me a "welcome back" sunset. My eyes kept trailing the tranquil sea waters beyond the palms and sands of Bayahibe beach to back around the shabby, overgrown village cemetery. A make-shift cross had been impaled into the broken ground. I remember thinking it couldn't withstand a good breeze, let alone countless hurricanes that have and will sweep through here. I'm not sure how long we'd been there; both our 6-foot, 4-inch frames rising from the ground eye-to-eye to look through the windows into each other's hearts. For now, nothing more need be said. The pain of loss was deeply shared . . .
Time slowly heals as it quickly passes. We'd returned from a morning baseball scrimmage in nearby Chavon. I was looking forward to a frosty protein-mix shake laden with fresh pineapple juice. It was just after high noon, sweat dripping down our necks and torsos. They say if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen-we were under the roof made with sheets of tin metal. Hence, the microwave effect is anywhere inside during mid-day. We were puzzled when Mami rushed in from her Saturday shopping trip to La Romana carrying nothing.
A young player for the Houston Astros had been killed the night before near Casa de Campo while riding a motorcycle-less than two weeks ago, two days since my arrival. The news was like bathing open wounds with salty sea water. There was no discussion. Mami stayed in the bedroom. A player agent was waiting to be seen in San Pedro de Macoris. The best I could hope for was there'd be enough people at the beach to distract me, once I passed the cemetery to get there.
Music from the bar could be heard through the screened windows as I dressed for a Saturday night out in Bayahibe. Heading for the house, the front door was closed when I got there so I naturally came around to the patio navigating my way through lines of laundry swaying in the gentle breeze. The baby, dragging a toy truck I'd brought, dropped the string throwing his arms wide open for me to pick him up and toss him in the air.
Mami stepped out from the kitchen, seeming a bit more composed. Our small talk hadn't gone far when realizing this was the first chance I'd had alone with her this visit. She went back into the kitchen; I assumed to bring something to drink. I wasn't expecting what she brought in addition to the coffee. There was an official identification card and a rather dog-eared, wrinkled 5 by 7 picture of him; likely the only two tangible pieces of evidence that this young man ever existed.
I forced myself to look, trying to remember this family member who I'd known the least. Ah, mi hermano del Corazon(my brother of the heart), such a tragic waste of life. Mami took the picture sadly repeating, "Ve mi nino. Es tu papa(Look my child. It’s your papa)". Thankfully the rambunctious toddler wasn't overly interested, too young to know what the misty eyes were about.
The evening seemed to restlessly drag on until sound of the front door opening caused Mami's and my anxious eyes to meet. A split-second of panic collapsed into the unspoken relief we'd both been consciously waiting for. The publico connection in La Romana from San Pedro had safely made it back to Bayahibe.
PEOPLE OF ALL AGES PERISH DAILY ACROSS THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC FROM TRANSPORTATION-RELATED ACCIDENTS! So what's a person, local or tourist, to do? Please read my Transportation Advisory Free Forms in my DR-SURVIVOR journal for information you need to know before you go.
The only thing certain about Bayahibe is that it can no longer be considered a budget travel destination even for brief visits; little alone for extended stays I used to indulge. Prices are steadily rising across the board, and that seems to be fine for…Read More
The only thing certain about Bayahibe is that it can no longer be considered a budget travel destination even for brief visits; little alone for extended stays I used to indulge. Prices are steadily rising across the board, and that seems to be fine for the new crowd in town. With upscale apartments, condos and villas gaining momentum as preferred lodging options, travelers may want to think twice, and follow crowds to a nearby resort.Truth be told, I loathe all-inclusives; catering to segregated tourists in lieu of cross-cultural exchanges that await independent travelers at economical prices. However, the DR's growing popularity is based on some of the most reasonable packages in the Caribbean. Ongoing development has competitively driven costs down even during high-season. With seven resorts along Bayahibe's coast, and with plans for building more, travel packages providing air, accommodation, meals, and activities are yielding more than trying to stay within the village, paying for everything seperately.The greatest resource for resort travel within the country is this with information links, resort reviews, and Message Boards championed by frequent visitors impassioned about their new-found paradise. From the US, popular deals are coming through package tour companies, such as Apple Vacations. If nothing else, it's a sure thing based on what you'll questionably find in the village.Googled availabilities for lodgings are second only to overnight developments; hopeful travelers continuing to write, asking about places I've never even heard of. When vision for Bayahibe was first shared in '01, by a well-established European business owner, plans called for waterfront development to extend inland to the village center, which would eradicate the majority of basic accommodations and Dining opportunities. Who knows what will eventually happen, but here's what's still available you'll never find on the Internet.Hotel Bayahibe, and Llaves del Mar are the pair of locally-owned hotels, reservations now recommended year-round. Rates vary on season and length of stay. If you're good at bartering, you might get $35 a night during low-season. Rooms are basic with a pair of double beds and private bath. Unless you like frigid, paying extra for air-conditioning isn't necessary as even summer nights cool down where only fans are needed. Biggest complaints involve screened windows, and noise filtered in. Especially during major holidays, don't expect peace and quiet!Inexpensive cabañas near the waterfront are slowly disappearing, and the majority now provide housing for growing numbers of resort employees. Trip Town and Francisca are still the most visible next to Hotel Bayahibe, but negotiable prices aren't much better than hotels.
If inclined to experience the Dominican Republic beyond the village, all of my Dominican journals have been accomplished as inexpensive day trips from Bayahibe, except for Santo Domingo which included over-night stays. Specific details on what to see, and for getting around using public transportation,…Read More
If inclined to experience the Dominican Republic beyond the village, all of my Dominican journals have been accomplished as inexpensive day trips from Bayahibe, except for Santo Domingo which included over-night stays. Specific details on what to see, and for getting around using public transportation, are listed within entries, differences likely with increases on fares.Otherwise, growing trend is to have these same experiences accompanied through land excursion companies that are popping-up everywhere. The majority of offices, for booking tours, are clustered around the motor-coach parking lot. Numerous others are scattered throughout the village. If this is a preferred method, I've no clue on which to suggest but highly recommend shopping around for best prices. Fifty dollars is a base- rate for half-day excursions including private transport and usually a meal.It's hard to walk anywhere within the village without ongoing trip solicitation from student-types versed in the European languages, or English-speaking Haitians. If you speak any Spanish, you might find better deals from the locals, especially involving water-related excursions, and self-demeanor carries a lot of weight for determining prices these days.Bayahibe is the water sports epicenter for this entire region. Aside from popular day trips to Saona Island, scuba diving has emerged as the number one reason for coming here. Casa Daniel has the best reputation, and comparable prices with other expat-owned companies. Their new "can't miss" location along the village waterfront, also sells packages for other types of water excursions.Snorkeling is best around Catalina Island through excursions, but do-it-yourself opportunities still await 200 yards off the beach for strong swimmers. Any number of places rent gear if you don't bring your own. Unfortunately, coastal reef systems are slowly being damaged as development and water traffic increase.Based on demand, the internationally-acclaimed Golf Courses, designed by Pete Dye at the nearby Casa de Compo complex, are now available for tourists that aren't guests or members. Tee-times and green fees must be reserved in advance. Also, plans call for a new 18-hole course to sprawl across the valley between Highway 815 and the Casa del Mar resort coast.The area's other main attraction is still Altos de Chavón. Trips available may also include snorkeling at Catalina. Be advised that most excursions from Bayahibe involve a speedboat ride up Río Chavón, before making a strenuous climb to the cliff-top complex. If you've physical limitations, the above link has information on independently getting there by land.Mini-van taxis cluster around the village center. Fares are often negotiable, and more economical for larger numbers splitting costs. If wanting freedom/flexibility visiting nearby cities, a lump-rate runs about what an excursion costs per person. La Romana has developed into a tourist magnet with upgraded shopping and sight-seeing. Higuey has also experienced a growth-boom, but retains more local flavor, safeguarded by inland positioning.Close
Written by Jose Kevo on 08 Mar, 2002
What has made Bayahibe a unique, cultural Caribbean travel destination and experience I fear might quickly becoming a thing of the past. The village is obviously enduring growing pains while rapidly developing as the Tourist Mecca for DR's southeast Caribbean coast. Progress is…Read More
What has made Bayahibe a unique, cultural Caribbean travel destination and experience I fear might quickly becoming a thing of the past. The village is obviously enduring growing pains while rapidly developing as the Tourist Mecca for DR's southeast Caribbean coast. Progress is inevitable, but how quickly forgotten that too much of one good thing can often displace another!
This was my first trip back in 13 months and there were more obvious growth-related changes over the last year that there's been in all the other times here put together. Standard "grotesque blue" tourist friendly directive signs now line ALL the country's roadways. Three more all-inclusive resorts have opened within 15-20 minutes of Bayahibe bringing the number to six. Turning off for the village, a huge mansion built by Russians crowns the hill with a white dome that can be seen from about anywhere all but rebelling against the scenic, natural vistas.
In town, locals have tried to keep pace with foreign investors opening more restaurants, eateries, and excursion companies. How much was holiday/seasonal or general progress related, I'm not sure but it wasn't the overall peaceful atmosphere I'd came to crave, appreciate. While increased tourism benefits all with greater, needed cash flow, I'm afraid its coming at an even great cost.
There's a quiet restlessness stirring the village with talks of investors developing the picturesque waterfront over the next couple of years with hotels/condos, shops/restaurants, and a gigantic marina to compete with the newly opened one at Casa de Campo just up the coast. "Supposedly", only the first couple of blocks within the village will be eradicated but I've all too often seen how capitalistic projects mushroom...not to mention immediate efforts to segregate the wealthy tourists from the local poor. There's talks of extending the village eastward and relocating the displaced locals - provided they can "afford" the sky-rocketing land prices based on whatever they're paid for the prime real estate they ALREADY own and will be expected to surrender.
Bayahibe was founded in the early 1900's by an extended family of Puerto Ricans named Brito who left their island after U.S. acquisition in 1898. Until about 10-15 years ago, Bayahibe had peacefully evolved as a sleepy, seaside fishing village creating the perfect authentic tropical destination that vacation dreams are made of. Those looking for more, Bayahibe provided a haven into a different world and way of living. You can still find most of the same...but for how long? You better make travel plans to enjoy what's left while you can.