As a Peace Corps Volunteer serving in the Dominican Republic, I have struggled with my compulsory exile to the back of the closet. So I naturally jumped at the chance to go to Orgullo (Pride) in Santo Domingo this past Sunday. My friends and I glittered up and marched down to the Colonial Zone where the parade began. Rainbow flags were everywhere, and oh LAWDY were the drag queens beautiful. After about an hour of mingling with all the queer Dominicans, we hopped onto floats and were off!
We drove down the Malecón first, which is the road that parallels the Caribbean. We had just gotten to a park when the police stopped us and took away our Dominican flag. It was fine, they said, for us to go on parade, but we couldn’t wave the nation’s flag. Naturally, we felt this was stupid. “But we’re Dominican!” we protested. The police were unmoved, however, so we had no choice but to put all the floats, cars, and motorcycles into park and wait. We held up traffic for a solid 30 minutes, singing the national anthem and announcing our plight over the loudspeaker to the crowd that had gathered. Finally the police decided to just give us back our flag, so once again we were on our way.
Aside from that mishap, the parade was relatively uneventful. We waved, cheered, and danced our way through many Santo Domingo neighborhoods. A significant portion of our audience applauded us. Some danced along to the music blaring out of our speakers. A few people saw what we were about and ran up to join us. But not everyone was so thrilled to see us. Some teenagers ran away when they saw us approaching. A number of men scowled in our direction. Cars rolled their windows up. Drivers stared straight ahead. Dominican doñas sitting on their porches made faces. Some mothers shielded their children. Fathers chastised them for dancing along. As it was happening, we all laughed it off. Look at the shock on their faces! Look at how we’re provoking them! We can hope that our presence, our numbers, and our pride would start a productive conversation. Looking back, I’m not so sure that’s a realistic hope. One thing was for sure, though: we got a lot more support than I thought we would.
The parade brought us back to the Colonial Zone, where a tent sold overpriced Presidente beer and a stage had been set up to showcase queer talent. Drag queens performed, a DJ spun, and a king and queen were crowned. Looking around the crowd, and watching the show, my friends and I were struck by how underrepresented the lesbian community was. The men and drag queens overwhelmed us. Of all the awards and acknowledgements given, not a single one went to a biological female. I have no idea if that’s indicative of the Dominican LGBT community, or if lesbians here are just homebodies who don’t go out to events like Pride. Regardless, I was grateful to find a fair few women at a club called Click on Calle Vicente Celestino Duarte. I know where I’ll be celebrating my birthday next month.
At about 2am, my friends and I found ourselves in a café, devouring sandwiches and observing all the other queer partygoers as they came straggling in. Overall, I’d say it was a fantastic Pride, and I can’t wait to do it again next year.
Check out the photos (courtesy of Blair Adams) from the parade below, and hear more about Ellen's amazing adventures on her blog.
More on next page...