Posted by: Lydia | April 13, 2010

Alcohol and Nationalism; a Recipe for Almost Disaster

Last evening Matthew and I were embroiled (totally against our will) in our first and second of what will probably be many touchy, awkward, and potentially perilous political situations while in the Peace Corps.

At about four in the afternoon we were sitting on the stoop alternately trying to read and talking to some local teenagers when one of the political parties decides to have a campaign parade down our street. We stay to watch (first mistake), and one of the participants takes it upon himself to come up and grill us about why Puerto Rico is still a territory and hasn’t been granted all the rights of a proper U.S. State yet. First off, my knowledge of U.S. – Puerto Rican relations is embarrassingly slim (particularly since I now live within smoke signal distance of the island), so I’m really not qualified to comment. Second (and more importantly), we are expressly forbidden as PCVs from engaging in political discussions with folks with whom we don’t have extreme confianza, PARTICULARLY if they are complete strangers who just showed up on our doorstep as part of a political event. To say this guy was less than thrilled with our explanation that we couldn’t give him an opinion since we work for a U.S. development agency is an understatement, but luckily we had a few of our teenage Dominican buddies there to play diplomatic wingman for us and convince the guy to go back to his rally and leave us be. It’s sometimes extremely awkward being some of the very few gringos here who are neither tourists nor missionaries, but luckily we almost always have a local friend around to help us translate the finer cultural points of our strange positions here to people who haven’t yet encountered PCVs.

Later that night, Matt and I were chilling in our family’s colmado como siempre when a community member we know rolls up, incredibly drunk, just having won a significant amount of money at a cock fight in Santiago.

Quick preface: this guy is the brother of the woman with whom I had the phone card issues, however it turns out both of them are big movers and shakers in the community (leave it to me to piss off the most influential woman in town my first week here), and their mom is good friends with my Doña AND of course they are related to the majority of the town in one way or another, so I decided I have to play nice with their clan, first impressions aside.

Back to the story; so, this guy comes over and pours Matthew a beer to celebrate, since we know each other from a previous evening when I interviewed his mom for my mock community diagnostic. Ok, we think, just another evening with an overly friendly and completely wasted neighbor trying to compartir with us. No problem. Alas, his insistence on reaffirming his friendship with us and regaling us with stories of his long history of hosting volunteers in his home quickly turned into a rant about the U.S. military interventions in the DR (1916 and 1965) and his willingness to lay down his life for the Dominican flag, punctuated with several AMERICA, FUCK YOUs! after his rapid consumption of several more liters of Presidente.

Luckily, like good moms and wise women of a certain age everywhere, my Doña understands that when I say “oh boy am I getting tired” in situations like this it means “help me get the hell out of here without making this guy lose face and pissing him off further,” and summoned me and Matthew to do something or other in the house. Again, as the PC always says, one of the best ways to ensure your personal safety is to be liked by your family and your community, because they will always get your back.

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Responses

  1. Oh boy…lots of eggshells to walk on huh? Love you.

  2. Good job being careful!


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