Columbus brought the first sugarcane to the new world, and, shortly after, the first sugar cane plantation, worked by slaves, was begun in the New World in the Dominican Republic. A trade route was begun with Europe bringing African slaves to the America’s, trading them for rum, tobacco, cotton and other resources to take back to Europe. A rich European merchant class was built on people working under a hot sun having someone else tell them when they could stop.
Rum is said to increase good cholesterol, combat artery blockages to help prevent heart attacks and disease. Rum is low calorie, strengthens bones,promotes heart health,combats muscle pain,fights the common cold, acts as a sleep aid, extends longevity, reduces the risk of alzheimer’s disease.
Sir Francis Drake gave his sailors a daily shot of rum and pirates drank the stuff instead of water, which was not always available, especially in the middle of an ocean.
The Museo of Rum in the Zona Colonia makes rum on its premises and has a free tasting bar.
I buy myself some coffee flavored rum I hope I can get through Customs and back home, and I plan to implement a daily regimen of rum for all the health benefits that accrue from drinking it.
I will , though, never become a Los Angeles Raider football fan.
Pirates, even Jack Sparrow, are too shady for my taste,
This little restaurant is one street north of the D’Beatrice Comida Criolla, another local eating place near my Santo Domingo guesthouse just outside the Zona Colonia.
At lunch yesterday, there was a line backing almost out the front door and all the tables inside were occupied.This morning, its doors are open for breakfast and it is early enough to get a table. It is quiet inside ,at this moment ,and a cool breeze rushes through the room, coming from the Caribbean Sea, a few blocks to our south.
Regulars are just finishing, joking, getting ready to go to work, all men in their forties and fifties going to jobs to support their families.
The beauty of the Zona Colonia is that you find new twists every day. As a traveler, everything begins new, and, by the time it stops being new, it is time to board a plane and fly home. When you get home, the travel spirit is still burning inside you and you see your own home with new eyes and a new heart, fall back in love with the little table you sit at in the morning for breakfast as sparrows squabble on tree branches within your line of sight.
Keeping our spirit alive is a daily responsibility.
I’m not one who wants a dead spirit in my live body and a live spirit in a dead body is a matter for higher authorities than we have on this Earth.
Tobacco farms and factories are actually located closer to the city of Santiago, in the Dominican Republic but you can get a whiff of the industry in Santo Domingo.
The Arturo Fuentes Cigar Club, in Santo Domingo, is a retail smoke shop, but it is also a gathering place for those who love to smoke their cigars and talk about the experience. It is a place, later in the evening, for anyone who wants to shop for fine cigars and accessories, have a drink, book one of the private smoking rooms for a personal party, or just sit in the bar and share cigar stories with people who love to hear them.
Alan, my cigar loving brother, tells me he met Carlito Fuentes at a cigar exposition in Las Vegas, Nevada a few years back and has a photo of Carlito and himself with Carlito’s sister. Alan likes the “858” Maduro’s and appreciates the civic works of the Fuentes family.
This morning the store has just opened. The cleaning staff is still at work dusting and vacuuming and the receptionist is kind enough to show me the club’s premier cigar vault, answer my questions, wait for me to call my brother to see what cigars he wants, if any, and show me some of the Club’s perks.
One of the coolest areas is a little room, off the main lobby, that has individual lockers stocked with their owners own personal stash of cigars so they can have one any time they are in the Club, without waiting. One of the lockers is owned by Angel Jimeniz, a professional golfer you see on television in major international tournaments. His name is written on a nice little card in a slot on the door of one of the lockers.
The sales girl finds me a nice box for the cigars I buy for Alan, rings up my sale and packs Alan’s cigars nicely, calls me a cab, and advises me that the cab ride is ” not more than two hundred pesos ” which turns out to be 100% correct.
Next time back here, I’ll dress nicer,spend more money. and leave her a bigger tip.
People on this island are exceedingly gracious.
If they had this store, in the Zona Colonia, I would be there every evening, cradling a cigar, still in its wrapper, in my right hand, listening to patrons rambling about their cigars, their love life, politics and their latest business victories.
I can think of better addictions to acquire and cultivate than smoking, but I would never talk bad about someone pursuing vices that only hurt themselves.
The little cigar making room, entered through a small corner tobacco shop in the Zona Colonia, has four men inside. One is reading the paper, another is watching the cigars being made, two men are working – making cigars, by hand, one at a time.
” He is muy rapidio, ” I remark.
” He can do 300 in a day if we don’t talk to him, ” one of the non-workers says.
By the look on both men’s faces, who are working, they must be paid by the cigar. They are intent on what they are doing, responsible for making cigars so people that smoke them won’t smoke any flaws.
This workplace smells like tobacco.Tobacco leaves, dry and thin, are clumped around a press on the floor. There are pieces of leaves on the desk of the man in the gold colored shirt, and more on the work table of the man in the blue shirt.. It appears the two workers make a team. One man makes the rough cigars, stores them in a wood sleeve that the other man pulls to his table and finishs. The tools both men use are simple and not any different from what either might have used a hundred years ago to do the same job.
I watch the finish man pick several cigars up from his finished stack to check the smoking end to make sure, once lit, the cigar will draw air and keep its combustion.
These men take pride in their work.
If I was a cigar smoker, I would like to smoke the ones they are making this day I am watching them.
Men will turn themselves into machines if it profits them, but men, bottom line, were never made to be machines.
Just off Colon Plaza, straight east past the Pizzerella pizza parlor, Juan shows up to work every day.
He says he has been an artist since he was a little boy, teaches at the college just behind his little outdoor work space, and makes his living as a full time artist. He works deliberate. Watercolors demand precision, a good sense not to let the brush stay too long in one place, be too wet or have too much color in the bristles. Watercolors can be quirky, like water itself.
Juan’s items for sale include originals, but, also popular, are postcards he runs off in series of 100 and sells three for $10.00 U.S. His prints are of scenes one sees in the Zona Colonia – the Cathedral, the Plaza Espana, the Parque Colon, the Alcazar de Don Colon.
Juan remembers me from an earlier conversation and takes the time to make me a special carrying pocket for my postcards, carefully recording his name and instagram gallery url on the outside.
I remember the studios of Carlos Paez Valario, the Uruguay artist ,and Roberto Ibarra, in Montevideo, and Ann’s studio in Granada, Nicaragua.
I remember the Cerulean Gallery in Amarillo, Texas and mother’s art on the walls of our home growing up.
I remember street art in Columbia, Ecuador, Uruguay and the Dominican Republic, among a few of the countries Scotttreks has traveled.
Juan’s works are a combination of creative spirit tempered by the hands of a craftsman..
The medium you work in makes demands on you and determines your process and product.
Scotttreks postcards average two hundred words each.
You can’t say too much in two hundred words but you never want to say too little.
Every time I pass, I see customers at this little empanada stand – ordering, sitting in these plastic lawn chairs,visiting, stopping a moment in life, standing, moving away, replaced in moments by someone else.
It is all very random. The process is like those parts of the atom scrawled on our high school Biology board – the protons, electrons, neutrons and all the things not up there that we still don’t know about, and may never know about.
The empanada menu here is extensive and all are less than one U.S. dollar apiece. This morning, for breakfast, my order is a ham and cheese empanada, a pollo empanada and two orders of pineapple juice naturale, served with ice in a dixie cup.
I should have tried these empanadas earlier in the trip but stuff always crowds you on trips, distractions and diversions, side trips and just plain not getting around to it. The point is, there are always places to get a quick bite within walking distance of where you are staying, if you look.
I appreciate fine dining with exquisite tastes and beautifully designed plates served on white tablecloths with a candle and the best silverware, but I always regret having to pay for a meal and then having to go buy more food to feel full.
If I lived here, I would be a regular and D would give me the local price, like anyone else.
At night, when it is cool, Santo Domingo neighborhood people, in the Colonial District, congregate in front of the local mini market and watch sports on a big screen television.
This group of grown men and women, on the closest corner to the the LaPuerta Roja Guesthouse, are watching an American basketball game on television this evening. Some grown men are on their cell phones, others are talking about something other than the game, the rest are watching equally grown men in under- shorts running up and down a court, tossing a ball into a basket, and getting paid millions.
Anything that gets people out of their house and visiting their neighbors can’t be all bad.
Sports and competition run deep within all cultures.
We all like to be entertained and mildly challenged.
When things get too serious and/or too hard, many take their ball and go home.
Spectator sports is one of the world’s biggest enjoyments.