Following some recent threads (e.g.’Change’) I thought this discussion would be timely. I mentioned this topic to some friends over a couple of beers last night and as a result today we all went
to visit a town called ‘Fundación’ near the city of Baní in the South West, about 1 hr 30 mins drive from the capital. Apparently it is quite well known and a friend of my husband’s made a documentary about it some years back.
Fundación is a small town, off the beaten track, but it is strikingly
well-manicured, without being anything near opulent. I have seen towns like Jánico (near Santiago) and Tenares (near Salcedo) which are famous for existing almost exclusively on remittance money from the US, and consequently many of the houses there are new and flashy (not to mention tacky with a capital T), in contrast to almost zero economic activity.
In Fundación there were very few houses like this. The majority were of the very simple palm wood with palm leaf roof type house common in the SW. The difference being that all the houses were freshly painted. All the streets were spotless. The community facilities – main square, schools, hospitals, children’s park, playing fields were good quality, well-maintained and again, immaculate.
People were out and about, and many were busy sweeping the pavements and streets outside their houses.
So, what makes it different? According to the friends I went with the ‘secret’ there apparently is good community organisation and little more. There is no showy stuff like luxury SUVs hinting at drug money or anything of the sort. Although the SW is the DR’s
poorest region, Baní province is fairly prosperous – coffee, agriculture being the main activities. People from Baní are reputed to be very businesslike and many if not most colmadoes in the capital are run by Banilejos.
I am very curious to find out more about Fundación, because it is a genuine ‘model’ town. In case you are wondering, it’s not peopled by some austere religious sect, there were bars and music blasting out on the main square just like anywhere else in the DR. In a way it was encouraging – see what can be done with relatively little money and good community mobilisation, but also — if it’s that simple why can’t the whole country be more like this???
MaineGirl 03-16-2003 02:24 PM
This sounds like a fascinating town–I too would like to know more about how it is so.
Pib 03-16-2003 02:29 PM
Count me too as another future visitor of that town…
In a trip to the southwest with a friend I commented that the wealthiest towns in the DR are those with a strong community sense. Baní, Barahona, Constanza, La Vega, Santiago and San Francisco de M. are good example. I wish I knew what exactly makes them different, I could bring a trainload of that to my hometown.
mondongo 03-16-2003 03:16 PM
DRtechie mentioned that his hometown is Bani….don’t want to speak for him…but he mentioned that a group of towners took matters into their own hands and used its own time and resources to fix up part of the town…my whole mother’s family is originally from Bani…very,very industrious lot, if I can say so myself…that is really the way to go…use your own money and time…under no circumstances should you count on the government….the less they know the better
Hillbilly 03-16-2003 03:20 PM
An observation on Baní
This is not racist.
Did you happen to notice the color of the people in Fundación?
However, amongst most Dominicans, the people from Baní are notoriously racist . They are lighter than most people in that region that has been so often invaded from Haití.
There is a Baní mafia in Santo Domingo and many of the major intelectuals are from Baní: Miguel Gil Mejía( the ATM boss), Hector Incháustegui, among others. At the PUCMM, in Santo Domingo, the boss is Radhamés Mejía, banilejo….and it goes on and on…
I am sure it is the cultural composition of the population, mostly Spanish, immigrant, and close knit. The stores in Baní are predominently owned by people of Spanish origin.
You can maybe count me in on that trip there, too…
DR 1 descends on Fundación!!
mondongo 03-16-2003 03:31 PM
HB, I don’t personally know any others from Bani outside my family…but on my mother’s father’s side, you can definitely see that they are very light…almost pure Spanish…..
PS There are plenty of people on this board with the capacity,willingness and means to do something substantive and lasting for some of the poor DR folk….
Pib 03-16-2003 05:01 PM
There’s an old family friend from Bani…
His surname is Franjul (I am sure you’ve heard of them HB). One of the best human beings I’ve had the pleasure to meet. There’s also a side of my family that comes from Bani.
I visited the town when I was a kid and even back then it was called “the cleanest town in DR”. One thing that I’ve noticed about Bani is that wealthy “banilejos” do invest in Bani.
I don’t know, maybe Chiri, our resident anthropologist can analyse it better.
CorletoLovesDR 03-16-2003 05:51 PM
I know that a lot of immigrants from the Canary Islands, mostly traders, settled in Bani in the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. Maybe the people in this town that you mentioned are direct descendants of these people, inherited the entrepreneurial skills and passed them from generation to generation. Maybe that’s the secret, I don’t know…
Chirimoya 03-17-2003 01:11 AM
an important point…
…I forgot to mention was the trees – all the streets and squares were planted with trees and the air was fresh and cool, in a semi-arid area. The SW is practically desert, and the mountains in the background are totally deforested. Villa Fundación is said to have a temperature of 2 or 3 degrees C lower than the surrounding area, thanks to all the trees that have been planted.
On the question of race, yes, whites/lighter skinned people seemed to be over-represented in comparison to their proportion in the general Dominican population, but this is not unique to the Baní area.
Good idea for a DR1 daytrip: the dunes and Las Salinas beach are nearby.
Edited to add – I think the Franjuls must be of Middle Eastern origin.
Robert 03-17-2003 01:23 AM
It seems very much like community spirit and the fact that they are proud of their community.
My father has been active in this area for 25 years, it’s amazing with the right person, how easy it is to mobilize a community and make it a better place to live.
It just needs that initial effort and push and it snowballs, I’m sure this is the case in some DR towns. As long as it’s very obvious that it’s not done for political or monetary gain, it’s possible.
Power to the people!
Jon S. 03-17-2003 02:01 PM
My cousin married a girl from that town and everyone on my mom’s side of the family is from Bani or the Peravia province. I went to Fundacion a few years ago and it seems like a very clean organized town. Banilejos are very business-oriented and they also have the process of coming into the US down. They’re pretty slick when it comes to that. As a whole, the people in Bani are pretty light-skinned, I was born light-skinned myself but as the years went on I started getting a “tan” hehe……….
By the way those girls are fine as hell out there!
DRtechie 03-17-2003 07:39 PM
that’s my hometown!!!
I was born in Bani but grew up in Fundacion as that’s where my father is from. I have mentioned the town a few times on this board but few took notice…Thanks Mondongo & Chiri.
Everything that you see in that town is there because the people took charge and with no help from the government. When people started leaving the town and coming to the US a lot of them settled in NY. In order to help those back home they founded ADEFU which not only raised money for public works back in Fundacion but in many ways acted as an outside government for the town. Chapters of ADEFU have also been founded in Santo Domingo, Boston and Fundacion itself.
Each year in October the town if flooded with people from NY. ADEFU has a softball league here and the team that wins the championships at the end of the summer will go and play the Fundacion team. The best time to visit though is in late June when Fundacion has it’s “fiestas pratonales”.
For those of you interested in visiting I will be there in late June. Limited accomodations are available for those of interested as well.
Porfio_Rubirosa 03-17-2003 07:58 PM
Bani is relatively wealthy, white and well-kept. But there are plenty of “less white” towns that are very pretty and well-kept, though perhaps not as wealthy. Many are in the Southwest, like San Juan, Tamayo-Vicente Noble, Ocoa, Cabral and, on Lago Enriquillo, Los Rios (gingerbread architecture lovers, eat your hearts out).
I think that being off of the Santo Domingo – Santiago – SFco de Macoris drug pipeline helps.
Chirimoya 03-17-2003 08:50 PM
DRtechie – pity I won’t be here in June. Do you know anything about the documentary? ADEFU sounds like a very effective body in that the benefits appear to be going towards the community rather than individuals. Any more information? What are the town’s main sources of income, where do remittances figure in all this?
Porfio, the towns you listed are worth mentioning but Fundación is truly in a class of its own. Go and see for yourself!
Dolores 03-17-2003 09:04 PM
My vote for Villa Fundacion, too. Coincidentally, just passed through there this Sunday. Was staying at a beach house in Palmar de Ocoa, son needed some medicine, so husband went out to find a pharmacy and was referred to Villa Fundacion and came back commenting on how good the town looked. So for the return trip, decided to go this way, instead of the way through Quija Quieta and Sombrero. Now, after Villa Fundacion the road is pretty bad up to the main highway to Bani, but that’s another matter.
Regarding Villa Fundacion itself, from the moment one enters that town, one gets the feeling there is something different to it. The many trees in this otherwise very dry part of the country, not a speck of garbage anywhere, wide streets, you don’t see the blasting colmadones, people seem to have something to do. Looks like a good place to live. The high school looks prosperous, there is a large grade school. The hospital is as good as they get in a town of its size, no chaos in this place, missing were the hordes of motorcycle taxis, at least that’s the impression from the outside.
By the way, it’s hard to beat the delicious fish one can buy fresh from the fishermen in the Palmar de Ocoa fish stores.
My own comment passing by this town, was this was a place where I could live.
Chirimoya 03-17-2003 09:09 PM
Good point about the road, Dolores: if anyone is planning to visit take the Salinas road from Baní and turn right after Quija Quieta (great name!)
Ditto about the absence of swarms of motoconchos, but the day we went there was a loud and discordant ‘bachata war’ between two colmadoes on the main square.
rafael 03-18-2003 12:25 PM
I’d be interested in hearing about the Documentary as well. Heck, maybe if a documentary on how the people of Fundacion cleaned the place up and made these improvements was aired on TV, or played for Civic leaders in other parts of the country, there would be a snowball effect?
Chirimoya 03-18-2003 03:22 PM
I definitely want to go back, I regret not having spoken to people while I was there. For example, I didn’t see whether there were hotels. It would be a good place to stay for the weekend, combining with a visit to the nearby beaches and the Baní dunes. They could develop ecotourism, domestic tourism on the strength of the place’s beauty and peace. Done in the right way they would attract the right sort of visitor.
I would suggest they run a practical training course for all newly-elected municipal officials in the country: this could also be a source of income!
I’ll try to find out about the documentary. My husband says he knows the person who made it.
DRtechie 03-18-2003 08:04 PM
I wasn’t aware of any documentary but I will ask my father since hie’s very involved in the organization. I know they publish a quaterly newsletter but it’s in spanish. I could foward you a copy of the most recent one if you would like.
There’s no hotels in Fundacion. The closest one I know of is about 20 minutes away in Salinas. It’s a very nice and small hotel located right on the beach. I think the owner might be a foreigner but I am not sure. I am sure there’s also a number of hotels in Bani but I would have to look more into that.
As for municipal officials….there are none. Well technically there is but he doesn’t get involved in the towns politics because he has nothing to gain out of it. The towns $$$ is controlled mainly by the NY chapter so there’s nothing for him to steal from.
The towns main source of income is from remittance from relatives in the U.S. Fundacion used to be a big farming community but that’s been slowing down over the years. The towns youth is also leaving in droves as there are no opportunities in the town past secondary school. It’s sad but more and more the town is being left empty. There’s also been a surge of Haitian immigrants on the outskirts of the town.
Chirimoya 03-18-2003 08:43 PM
DRtechie, it’s a bit disappointing to hear that the town owes its apparent success to external support. It would be good if some of the investment was being directed at supporting sustainable local initiatives and industries to prevent migration if at all possible.
mondongo 03-19-2003 12:16 AM
Techie, if you don’t mind my intrusion, I would also like to read the newsletter.
Rafael, I don’t know if you want to pubicize this and attract the government sharks.
MaineGirl 03-19-2003 01:44 PM
“sustainable local initiatives”–any ideas? I have never been to this part of the DR. What are its strengths and resources?
Chirimoya 03-19-2003 02:02 PM
mondongo, you make a good point there about the govt. They could easily hijack the whole thing and ruin it.
MaineGirl, with just a superficial knowledge of the area I can only speculate about possible initiatives. Some sort of study would have to be carried out, involving the local people.
Off the top of my head the ideas could include eco-tourism including guest houses, campsites, restaurants, tour guides, horse riding, cycling trips. It is an attractive and varied area to visit, only an hour and a half from the capital.
As I mentioned before, why not a study centre that could host civic leaders and instruct them on good practice using Villa Fundación as a model? Such a centre could also be a venue with a difference for conferences and meetings, training courses etc.
It’s especially important to involve the younger generation as they are the ones who are leaving for the cities/overseas.
Other ideas would include to help revitalise the area’s traditional economic bases like cultivation of crops that have a secure market nationally or internationally (organics?), develop small industries/businesses like artesania, sweets (Baní is famous for them). To offer advice and help with marketing these products.
But — any of this would have to be guided by what the people there want, not by some outsider like me superimposing what I think the solution could be.
MaineGirl 03-19-2003 02:44 PM
Chiri, I understand your point about being an outsider. The town seems to have something that works for them and the proof is in the pudding, as they say. Your ideas sound good. I was just wondering because I am sure the basic principles of revitalizing (make a study of community strengths and resources, and going from there) could be used in other communities. This sounds like Peace corps type work. Are there any PC volunteers on the board who could make a comparison?
Chirimoya 03-19-2003 02:52 PM
Precisely that – the way to go about it would be to channel the very energy and resources that have made the town so successful, into making it self-sufficient as well. Otherwise the achievements are mainly aesthetic. A volunteer (PC or anyone with relevant experience) could be taken on by ADEFU to attempt this? A very important aspect would be to ensure replication of the experience in other communities.
Petaka 03-19-2003 03:03 PM
Originally posted by Chirimoya
why not a study centre that could host civic leaders and instruct them on good practice using Villa Fundación as a model? Such a centre could also be a venue with a difference for conferences and meetings, training courses etc.
Good point, chiri . The only problem is that Fundación is based on a system of trust and brotherhood.
Banilejos form a very close knit, hence the allegations of racism.
From where we stand and with a good system of check and balances we could do things like: Adopt a Town.
We could provide the collective assistance necessary to take care of the most basic needs of those towns.Town after town in the republic modeled after Fundación until they became self sufficient.
Chirimoya 03-19-2003 03:08 PM
Yes Petaka, perhaps we’re getting a little carried away but many good things started with a dream.
Trust and brotherhood are positive qualities but solidarity beyond one’s community should also enter the equation. As well as being proud Banilejos I imagine they are also proud Dominicans and would want their compatriots to prosper and flourish wherever they may be.
Chirimoya 03-24-2003 12:59 PM
I met the documentary maker, Guillermo Ricart Calventi, yesterday. He agreed to send me a copy of the video about Villa Fundación. In the meantime, anyone interested in viewing it please contact me (PM) and I’ll go about arranging for a screening here in Santo Domingo once I have the video.
DrMatatan 02-05-2005 05:48 AM
Im from Villa Fundacion
Im from villa fundacion and i know a lot about my it. I was born there and my family are part of the organization that helps “Maintain” fundacion in its goos state. If You have any questions are just want to know about Villa Fundacion just let me know.
Buzzard 02-05-2005 03:54 PM
I realize that I’m coming rather late to this thread but I noticed that the description of Foundation (sp?) is quite similar to that of Miraflores, a town described in Peggy Levitt’s book “The Transnational Villagers” (2001). This town is very heavily tied to remittances from Dominicans in the Jamaica Plain area of Boston. Does anyone know if Miraflores is the real name of the town, as it’s not listed in my DR maps. Levitt does not suggest that the name is “made up”, and the book places it near/on the coast, south of Bani. The similarities between the two towns are quite amazing. perhaps there are more towns similar to these two.
Thanks for any help.
DrMatatan 02-05-2005 05:37 PM
I asked my mom as soon as i read the letter. She said that she has heard of such a place in bani but doesnt exactly know much about it. Im going to ask some of my families over there in bani and surely they should know about such a place and maybe tell me a little more about it.
Chirimoya 02-05-2005 07:05 PM
Janico and Tenares in the Cibao are other towns that I’ve seen described as ‘remittance economies’.
BTW I never heard back from Ricart Calventi, despite following up with a couple of e-mails.
I recently saw that there was a project based in Villa Fundacion where women dry tropical fruit like banana, pineapple, mango and papaya, for sale in local health food shops. I remarked that I had visited Villa Fundacion and what an exceptionally nice place it was, and the person, who worked with the project, though I’m not sure in which capacity, mentioned a less positive aspect of the town’s peculiar circumstances. She said that the youth, particularly the young women, had no incentive whatsoever to study or get qualifications, other than those aimed at landing a husband visiting from the US during the fiestas patronales.
What do our VF posters say about that? Is it a fair depiction?
Don Juan 02-05-2005 09:58 PM
…..what the absence of garbage and lots of trees can do for the environment. It’s very apparent that certain people of influence did what was right and showed the advantage of a clean city. There’s an old adage that many folks live up to: “Seremos pobre pero somos limpio”, “We may be poor but we’re clean” and if every Dominican were to practice that mindset, we’d have us a beautiful nation that the rest of the world would want to come visit, if not move to. If some of the money the government flushes were to be used educating people to put garbage in its place and plant a tree in their front yard, we’d have us a place of beauty,bliss and delight. In other words: PARADISE.
DrMatatan 02-06-2005 10:10 PM
What do our VF posters say about that? Is it a fair depiction?[/quote]
Im 17 and I have been going to my hometown Villa Fndacion since very little. I agree with you that the females there dont really care about education and just depend on meeting a guy during the famous Villa Fundacion Patronales. But thats not all of them. Sometimes they just fall in the same cycle that some of their parents fell into. I have a lot of friends over thre that are very committed in school. And also Villa Fundacion appreciates school alot. Sometimes teenagers arent able to continue school because they have to help their families. Villa Fundacion cares alot about those that actually makes it to graduation, they have a very big party every year which i always attend in honor of those that graduated. The party is very well known, and famous artist go there to sing. What im trying to say is that sometimes is not the teens fault that they cant continue or go to school, sometimes its just a economic family problem, or sometimes its just that they see no future in continuing their poor educational system. The whole country has to do something about this. I have alot of friends over there that would love to continue school but they cant. They are not inspired enough, or just not inspired by anything at all exept coming to the U.S for a better chance.
bochinche 02-11-2005 12:46 AM
this is the first time i have read this thread and most has already been said…..but for many years i was surprised by the cleanliness, ambience, etc. of fundación. it was much more noticeable, before they improved the road leading to las salinas…..noticeable in that it was some kind of oasis in the usual dust tracks.
it is surprising that, as well as the inchausteguis, herreras and franjuls, how many of the best colmado workers in the capital are from baní, and even more specifically fundación….i know it’s true i’ve seen them there.
if i remember, while writing this, drtechie mentioned the association with the dominicans in new york. i am not sure how that works, but something good is coming out of it. i am surprised though that no-one in this thread has actually mentioned the big sign on the side of the road before you enter the town that actually mentions this association…….am i right in thinking there is also some big link to the reformista party as well in this association?
the place definitely did not seem to do as well during hipolito’s reign (perhaps because of the prsc stuff), but what place in the dr did?
FuegoAzul21 02-11-2005 01:32 AM
I used to know a girl from Bani , she was sexxy as hell !!!!!!!!!!!! ,blues eyes light-skinned, curly brown hair,curves in all the right places,a true Dime piece, but she was into older HARD CORE Dominican guys and i was just an immature freshmen . She was really adorable though ,i LOVED being with her,but the she moved to Boston ,theres alot of people from Bani there(from what i hear) .Now I hear she had a kid with some bum (typical Dominican girl) .They say she lost her figure y esta pasando trabajo. Its a shame, a true shame (actually i dont know if he is a bum or not ,but the odds are that he is a bum).so,Thats all i can say about Bani,LOL.
A Fuegillo !!!!!!
Oakland 02-23-2005 09:56 PM
good job, Matatan
I was born in Fundacion and i would like to thank you for supporting our beautiful and unique hometown. i just want to let you know that i am a passive member of Adefu, which is the most powerful organization of our community. i just went to visit my family last year and there was a huge projet going on. I am sure, you know about all the mago trees that have been plated aroung the besaball field. i was very exuberant when i saw the mango tree thriving during my short trip.
On the other hand, i honestly, feel very proud about fundacion and as fundacioneros will all need to be unite. It is a priviledge to be born in fundacion. Our community is a epitome of a great town.
Originally Posted by DrMatatan
Im from villa fundacion and i know a lot about my it. I was born there and my family are part of the organization that helps “Maintain” fundacion in its goos state. If You have any questions are just want to know about Villa Fundacion just let me know.
this is all Good………….I was borned there and raised there!.( Banilejo)..all the good people have left or migrated to US or to the capital!,, we need to go back and tell all that your land is your land where you’re known and repected, and let’s change the horroble situation that’s arrising with the young people there that have no direccion with their life! it’s not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country! (JFKennedy). the future of our land is in our hands! people I tell you stop being naive! it’s not all for yourselves,greed will kill us all! Nature does not work that way and we and everything under the sun are all connected! I see other people from other country’s settleting there and yet we are running from it! it’s a different world now, so let’s get moving! life moves on and before you know it it’s too late and you’re old!
stop living for the money…but to help each other and then you’ll see the miracle in your life!
saludos a todos los Banilejos and all it’s surrounding towns!