Since the devastating earthquake struck Port-au-Prince two weeks ago, I've heard a considerable amount of chatter about the
stark difference between the economies of the Dominican Republic and
Haiti. By way of explanation, I've run across speculation on
differences in colonial legacies, environmental factors (prevailing winds and rainfall patterns), political climate and economic policy.
A few days ago, I read an interesting IMF paper on this subject. I'll present a short summary of the findings below. You'll have to slog through the paper itself to dig out the methods and details of the study.
Given that I'm not an economist, I'm in no position to critique the authors' conclusions. I'm merely presenting their findings in an effort to move beyond some of the shoot from the hip explanations floating around in the post-earthquake net ether.
I haven't commented on the earthquake in Port-au-Prince because I've had little to say that would enlighten my readers. When a tragedy of this magnitude occurs, my tendency is to go quiet. I do, however, try to read anything relevant that I can get my hands on, particularly any material that falls outside the realm of instant analysis offered by political bloggers and talking heads.
Perhaps it's the therapist in me that likes to slow things down. Rules of thumb: don't jump to conclusions; listen and listen some more; weigh multiple hypotheses against the emerging information; float an idea that seems promising, but don't fall in love with it. Be willing to be wrong. Time will tell.
Anyway, in the course of my reading after events that merit investigation and processing time, I stumble across many articles that are fascinating to me, but probably of little interest to my readers (e.g., Oliver Morgan's first responders guide for the management of dead bodies after disasters).
Much of what I end up reading has little or nothing at all to do with what I was looking for, but still I find it interesting enough to post. An article excerpted below falls into that category.
In the next day or two, I will review a more relevant investigation into factors behind disparities in the Haitian and Dominican economies. For now, though, you might be interested in this discussion of race and identity in the Dominican Republic. I expect that my blog friend, Retriever, will also have some recollections and insights from her expat days in South America.
[A] professional Dominican woman just should not have bad hair, she said.
"If you're working in a bank, you don't
want some barrio-looking hair. Straight hair
looks elegant," the bank teller said. "It's not
that as a person of color I want to look white.
I want to look pretty."
And to many in the Dominican Republic,
to look pretty is to look less black.
Dominican hairdressers are internationally known for the best hair-straightening
techniques. Store shelves are lined with rows
of skin whiteners, hair relaxers and extensions...
The only country in the
Americas to be freed from
black colonial rule -- neighboring Haiti -- the Dominican Republic still shows
signs of racial wounds more
than 200 years later. Presidents historically encouraged Dominicans to embrace
Spanish Catholic roots rather
than African ancestry...
Here, as in much of Latin
America -- the "one drop
rule'' works in reverse: One
drop of white blood allows
even very dark-skinned people to be considered white...
A walk down city streets
shows a country where
blacks and dark-skinned people vastly outnumber whites,
and most estimates say that
90 percent of Dominicans are
black or of mixed race. Yet
census figures say only 11
percent of the country's nine
million people are black.
If you're interested in a thoughtful ballplayer's perspective on McGwire, Doug Glanville delivers with an excellent piece for the Times:
McGwire was streaking toward a seemingly unbreakable record, not by merely hitting balls over the fence but by scraping tops of stadiums as the ball left the atmosphere. Major league baseball players were reduced to little boys, tasting our childhood once again as we craned our necks to figure out when he would launch another impossible shot. Never in my experience had so many players who should have been stretching stopped everything just to watch an opponent take batting practice.
At Busch Stadium in St. Louis, there was a section deep beyond left centerfield with the retired numbers from Cardinals history on waving flags. Now, I am not sure how far away from home plate those flags were, but they were nowhere near reachable off any bat I have ever seen swung. Yet McGwire would hit them like he was playing rocket golf, or some twisted form of croquet.