Discovering Love in a New Land – Chapter 5 in The Chronicles of Heritage
Continued from Chapter 4 in “The Chronicles of Heritage“…
I enjoy a good love story. Thing is, they’re not always pretty or easy, but they sure can be powerful. They demonstrate how people can break free of the current society and rules of their time. The story of my grandparents is no exception. Living in the conservative Dominican, dictator-ruled culture of the 1940’s, they knew that not only were the odds against their love for each other, it also placed their very lives in danger.
Finding Love After War
After surviving the Spanish Civil War and imprisonment in a Francoist concentration camp, my abuelito (grandfather) was familiar with danger and taking risks in his life. It was primarily his life that was in danger if he acted on the love he had for my abuelita (grandmother).
Their love was first expressed through love letters they wrote to each other and occasional weekly visits my abuelito would make to her home. Then somehow, my abuelita’s father and older brother discovered that they loved each other. Their response? They armed themselves with their rifles and spread the word that they would shoot and kill my abuelito if he tried to ever see Dinorah again.
Standing by Love
My abuelita, Dinorah Abreu, was perhaps not as familiar with danger. Having grown up in this small mountain town of Jarabacoa in the heart of the Dominican Republic, she really only knew the people of her family and town. Yet there is an immensely courageous and strong spirit within her. For her young twenty-three years, she trusted that the love she felt for Don Pepe was a powerful and rare gift. She had chosen him and for all my life, I have known my abuelita to stand by her choices.
Together, they ran away to the far end of the island, leaving her family and the town’s people unaware as to where they could be. In those times, the mountainous terrain of the island was dense and untraveled. Few good roads connected the opposite sides of the country.
So in Punta Cana, they lived for the first year of their lives together. Today, this area is famous for its all-inclusive resorts that attract foreign visitors from around the world. But when my grandparents started their new life together there, it was miles of deserted beaches and it belonged to them. This area of land had been purchased by my abuelito shortly after he arrived in the Dominican Republic from Spain. This untouched paradise was truly their home.
Then Versus Now
I have been to Punta Cana in recent years and it was disheartening to say the least. For someone such as myself, who has grown up with the people of the island, eating the authentic food and learning to dance salsa and merengue in the streets, the all-inclusive resorts seem now like litter on the beaches.
The staff were the only locals I encountered and they seemed unhappy and were rude. The food and drinks were horrible. It represented nothing to me of the true culture of the Dominican Republic and the heart and energy of the Dominican people.
When I asked a local there about “Los Ojos de Don Pepe”, beautiful fresh water springs in the area that were named after my abuelito, he knew of them. Yet he sadly informed me that they had dried up over the years and no longer existed except among the older generations who remembered the area as it was before. Two nights there was enough for me and I quickly left to return to less conquered beaches on different shores of the island.
Even Paradise Changes
Even paradises change and places that were once home and safe for us can be taken away. My grandparents decided to not remain in Punta Cana, living right on the glorious beach and feeding on fresh tropical fruits and that day’s catch of fish. It was not because the Dominican dictator Trujillo stole the land from my abuelito… that would happen years later. No, it was another reason and one of their own choice. You know… that reason that usually brings families back together and heals strife, even more powerfully than time can… to be continued!
Return soon or subscribe to my weekly digest to read what happens next in my blog series “The Chronicles of Heritage”.
One of the lovely beaches of Samana, Dominican Republic.
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