This Juan Rodriguez riding his donkey to the market alongside his fathers truck. One can see the look of trust and concentration is his young eyes as he guides the barrio along the path, careful to steer clear of his father. This image collage is from a collection of photos I took while on a Medical Mission to the Dominican Republic. These images are of the Rodriguez family, quite a large family that we had a lot of contact with in our travels. They inhabit 6 villages within a 25 mile area, and are flourishing within each village and subset of the family.
Pablo Rodriguez, uncle of Juan and village butcher for the tiny enclave of Batata’. He looks out intensely from the inside of his shop, proud of his mornings work of butchering and cutting an entire pig by hand. His wife is behind him cutting the day’s pork rinds.
Pablo’s children play with some bubble wrap that we brought to the clinic with us. The brother and sister plotting the theft together, sneaking into the back of the clinic and quietly snatching the wrap. I observed them playing after and was amazed at the technique they used (depicted) to both share the wrap, and smash the bubbles efficiently.
Juan’s sister looks on from outside their house. Children are frequently left to their own devices in the DR, and seem to understand responsibility at a younger age. This may be because many girls have children of their own by the time they are 13 or 14. DR parents are the opposite of Helicopter Parents.
Juan’s sister and her cousins play in a ditch with some Tonka trucks. These kids have no video games our Iphones, and they take pleasure in the simple things. They’re all smiling, and content with each other and their toys.
Twin Rodriguez sisters in the town of Pueblo Neuvo. Some say that twins have a special tacit connection. Maybe this is evident in the photo by the posture of the girls and their obvious interest in looking exactly alike.
The Patriarch of the Pueblo Neuvo Rodriguez family, Eduardo. He seems content to sit in his doorway and watch the world go buy while his wife cleans vegetables for dinner. The DR is a matriarchal society, and women do almost all the work as well as fill leadership roles.
Mariah Rodriguez teaches her younger sister some cleaning techniques. Her deep affection for the little girl is obvious in her relaxed, foolish posture complete with a kiss as the younger girl concentrates on sweeping.
Cousins horsing around in a makeshift ballpark. Baseball is the thing to do in the DR and it seems to be mostly a boys activity. Francisco Rodriguez teaches his two younger brothers and their friend how to properly swing a bat. The youngest looks a bit apprehensive, thumb in mouth and eyes averted, while his brother looks on keenly.
Eduardo and his wife in their store. Years of togetherness have made them comfortable in their posture and confident in their expression.
Romeo takes his youngest child, Rita, on her first mule ride. He looks into her eyes as if she was his most precious possession and holds her close.
The Rodriguez men head down to the colmada (store) to get purified water. They laugh and joke as they walk, and the young boy looks at his older brothers to see how he should walk to look “cool”.
Carlita holds her younger brother Carlos’s shoulder in a protective stance as she stares out shyly. Young girls are often left in charge of all of their younger siblings and do most of the raising of the children.
The Rodriguez boys hang out, laughing, joking, playing dominos under a roof to get out of the rain. As they smile and hang out in such close proximity, its obvious that they share a familial bond.
Anna holds her younger sister Mariah in a tight, protective embrace. Her smile shows that she is not scared, just giving affection to the little one and showing into the clinic. Her parents trusted her to make the 15 mile round trip by herself, walking and safeguarding her sister. Mariah is apprehensive and unsure, but comfortable in the arms of her sister. This collection of images demonstrates the interdependent nature of familial relationships in the DR, something that rings true in much of the rest of Latin America. The important role of the pre-teen female in child raising cannot be overstated. None of these pictures depict what we would consider a middle-aged woman taking care of children. Their idea of parenting is very different than our own. Also, In all of these pictures, everyone is smiling, because these families remain very close their whole lives and retain the benefits of this. These pictures do not reflect the forced family images found in some of our own homes of stiff family members looking uncomfortable. Dominicans place greater value on the idea of family, and we can learn from this and give it a role in the dynamics of our own families.