Today, Dominicans, it is our day to celebrate.
Not that Dominicans need any more reasons to celebrate. We celebrate anything and everything! Dominicans over-celebrate! As anyone that has ever been to a baby shower in the Heights that turns into a full-fledged celebration, replete with delicious food, abundant alcohol and dancing until the wee hours of the morning can attest to, Dominicans know how to celebrate. Seriously, it’s a known fact that whenever there are 2 Dominicans in a room with some merengue and some rum, you have all the ingredients for a proper celebration. Washington Heights in the summer is like one big, season long, neighborhood wide, celebration. But this is different. Today is special.
On February 27th, 1844 a group of Dominican rebels led by Francisco del Rosario Sánchez and Matías Ramón Mella, and inspired by Juan Pablo Duarte, seized the Ozama fortress in Santo Domingo and declared their independence from Haitian rule. It was a bold move that brought an end to 22 years of Haitian hegemony. It is that spirit of resiliency, audacity and sheer determination that we celebrate on this day. It is these very same qualities that are crucial components of our national character, both on the island and in the Diaspora.
My mother, like many other Dominicans of her era, came to this country with nothing but hopes, dreams and an unshakable will to better the lives of their children. Armed with that extraordinary immigrant tenacity as well as the world-renowned Dominican joie de vivre, my parents and the countless and nameless other Dominicans slaved, hustled and toiled to achieve that objective. As a Dominican-American, and now a parent myself, I feel that I have a responsibility to continue striving for excellence to ensure that their struggle wasn’t in vain. Que viva Quisqueya!
That right there, deserves a celebration, and an ice-cold Presidente! Salud!
Pa’lante, Siempre pa’lante!