The Decision to Leave La Romana

“She didn’t take us with her—no one really knew what was going to happen and there was a great deal of uncertainty at that time.”

Home in La Romana circa 1955.

Home in La Romana circa 1955.

It was after that whole visit from the military that my mother made the decision to leave La Romana. She took our house apart, sold everything, and took off for New York City. She had friends in New York City who had agreed to help. (To everyone in my country, New York City is this wonderful place, where everything is easy and you can find work easily.) But she didn’t take us with her—no one really knew what was going to happen and there was a great deal of uncertainty at that time.

As a result, she sent me to live with her brother’s family in Cotui and my two brothers were sent to live with their father’s family. They were dirt poor, but those were the people she trusted. When I lived in the subsistence village between 1962 and 1964, the DR entered a period of civil strife and warfare. But in Cotui you didn’t notice it very much even though you knew what was going on in the country because it was a quieter environment. La Romana was much more progressive and much more touch with the politics of the country; therefore, it was also more dangerous. I was 12 years old at the time I moved.

There was a lot going on in my mother’s planning of the trip of which I had no awareness. By the time my mother was preparing for her trip, I wasn’t with her anymore. In that intervening year and a half, there was a lot in terms of my mother’s planning and communicating by letter, since that was the only form of communication. We didn’t have a phone in my home nor did we have TV. I had no awareness of what she was planning or what she was doing.

She may have purchased an illegal visa because she didn’t go through a complete immigration process, but I don’t know the details of that. I just remember something about photos of her in Halifax, Canada, so she may have came in from there and taken a bus to the US. All I know was that a point came when she said that she was going to leave and she was sending me to Cotui. That’s all I know. While I was there, she would keep sending money to make sure that I was fed and to ensure that I would get my visa to come to the United States, so it was that kind of exchange. After a year or a year and a half, she got her green card, which allowed her to send for us. That had been her goal upon leaving. Yet at that time, it was just hard for me to retain when and how and how long I would be in Cotui.