Tag Archives: Dominican Republic

Grown In Dominican Republic Page 1

Grown In Dominican Republic Page 1

Some of the many fruits and vegetables that grow in the Dominican Republic and their descriptions. Try a ripe yellow banana, a sweet, juicy pineapple or a tree-ripened mango. All are just too wonderful.

Lechosa/Papaya | Mavi | Aguacate/Avocado | Guineo/Banana | Piña/Pineapple | Mango

Lechosa/Papaya

Very ripe and juicy Lechosa / Papaya being sold in the streets.
Very ripe and juicy Lechosa / Papaya being sold in the streets.

Lechosa / Papaya is a fruit grown on large trees in tropical climates. There are male and female trees and their offspring are the sweet fruit papaya. Here in the Dominican Republic it is called lechosa.

Sweet Papaya, known as Lechosa in Dominican Republic, cut showing the black seeds inside
Sweet Papaya, known as Lechosa in Dominican Republic, cut showing the black seeds inside

It is a large fruit green when unripe. When the fruit is ripe and ready for eating it is soft and yellow with some darker spots here and there. It is best eaten plain and is quite juicy. One of the best ways to serve it is to blend it with some milk or carnation and ice. This is really tasty. The little black seeds inside are sometimes eaten, they have a little of a spicy taste. They are used as a substitute for pepper when dried and ground.

Mavi

Dominican Republic Mabi de Bejuco Indio
Dominican Republic Mabi de Bejuco Indio

Mavi also spelled Mabi (pronounced Ma-Vee or sometimes Ma-Bee), is a staple in the Caribbean. This drink is made from the bark of the Mabi tree is also known as mabetree, soldierwood or seaside buckthorn. This bark is rich in glucosides (what is that you may ask? Wikipedia definition here) The bark is removed from the tree and boiled to make a tea. Sugar, usually raw or turbinado sugar is best as it has a little hint of molasses flavor to it. Many make this tea into the fermented drink by adding some yeast and letting it sit for a few days uncovered. It can also be made into a non-fermented drink as well. It is said to lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and to make men more potent.

In Dominican Republic Mabi de Bejuco Indio is usually made locally and can be purchased in the Colmados and corner markets. It can be found in almost any type of bottle as the maker uses what is available. It is very refreshing and can be sometimes potent so beware.

Aguacate/Avocado

Ripe aguacates / avocados ready to be eaten
Ripe aguacates / avocados ready to be eaten.

The Avocado of Dominican Republic has a variety of types and flavors. It is one of our most imported fruits. We import both organic and non-organic versions of the fruit.

Some avocados are dry and not as sweet and others have a much different taste than the ones on the grocery shelves that most people are accustomed to eating. When this creamy, nutty-flavored fruit (yes it is a fruit, not a vegetable) is in season it can be found in abundance in every market, on the streets and in most restaurants at a very reasonable price.

Avocado trees in Salcedo, Republica Dominicana
Avocado trees in Salcedo, Republica Dominicana

Dominicans use this beautiful green colored fruit on salads or just eaten plain with a little límon/ lime-lemon to accompany any meal, soup or stew. Make a sandwich using this fruit on some pan de agua and you will be quite pleased. Aguacate is also used in many cosmetic preparations. Just remember, it is fattening (about 75% of an avocado’s calories come from fat) so don’t over indulge. Avocados have more potassium than bananas, have the highest fiber content of any fruit and are rich in B, E and K vitamins. They are also known to lower the bad cholesterol and help with the good HDL levels.

Guineo/Banana

Beautifil and prefectly ripened Guineos / Bananas
Beautifil and prefectly ripened Guineos / Bananas.

Guineo / Banana (the sweet type of fruit you can eat raw) – Platano/ Plantain (the hard fruit that is very starchy and needs to be cooked) are some of the most recognizable fruits of the world.

A truck full of Platano/ Plantain in the market.
A truck full of Platano/ Plantain in the market.

Here in Dominican Republic we love our bananas. They can be purchased in almost every corner store (Colmado) and in the streets. A sweet banana is a very nice fruit to refresh yourself and get some of the sugar your body might need on a hot day.

Rulo, another type of Plantain
Rulo, another type of Plantain

These large, big leaved plants can produce many fruits. They taste better here in the Dominican Republic because they are ripened right on the plant and not picked green like the ones shipped to other destinations. Choose a red, yellow or green banana/ guineo that can be eaten without cooking. Try a green to yellow platano that needs to be cooked to be eaten either plain or served in many imaginative forms. A fresh sweet yellow banana, nothing tastes or smells better.

Baby young bananas growing on a tree
Baby young bananas growing on a tree

For platano cooking information check out our recipes page.

Piña/Pineapple

A beautiful ripe pineapple, known as piña here in Dominican Republic
A beautiful ripe pineapple, known as piña here in Dominican Republic

The pineapple, simply called piña here, can be found growing in Dominican Republic. The ones sold in the streets here are usually vine ripened. This makes the piña taste so much better than ones you get outside of the country.

A truck full of pineapples /  piñas
A truck full of pineapples / piñas

They can be purchased in almost any spot in the country, especially when they are in season. Vendors always have them either whole or cut for you to enjoy right on the spot. Some vendors cut them in a spiral way that you can hold like a lollypop. Do not be afraid to eat the core as it is soft and sweet just like the outside fruit.

A pineapple / piña, sweet and juicy, ready for eating.
A pineapple / piña, sweet and juicy, ready for eating.

Mango

Ripe Mangos being sold in the street.
Ripe Mangos being sold in the street.

The Mango is a well-known fruit that grows on a tall tree. The tree makes lots of fruits that are very sweet and juicy. There are many different varieties of mangos grown in DR.

My favorite type of mango, Banilejo. Very large, sweet and juicy.
My favorite type of mango, Banilejo. Very large, sweet and juicy.

The mango makes for some messy eating and it is well worth the mess. I suggest eating it with a knife instead of just biting into the fruit. This way you get all the juice in your mouth and not down the arm. Also, the pulp is very stringy and if you don’t have dental floss or a toothpick handy you will be digging at your teeth all day trying to remove the little fibers from between and this can get annoying. Another way to enjoy an overly ripe mango is biting through the skin and just sucking out the juice. It may sound strange but you should try it. It is very satisfying.

Mangos ripening in a tree
Mangos ripening in a tree

Mango fruits are wonderful and refreshing so please do not pass them up. They make a wonderful juice with some ice, milk or carnation, and a little sugar in a blender. I love to freeze this milkshake type drink for a freshening icy treat.

Helpful Hints – Driving Public Transportation

Driving and Using Public Transportation

Some helpful hints and ideas when traveling that could make your time in The Dominican Republic more enjoyable. I highly advise that you do not drive until you know the ways of the road. Taking public transportation or a taxi is much easier than trying to drive yourself.

Morning rush hour traffic crossing the Puente Flotante / Floating Bridge coming into Santo Domingo.
Morning rush hour traffic crossing the Puente Flotante / Floating Bridge coming into Santo Domingo.

Driving is done on the right side of the road.

Right turn on red is permitted.

Most Dominicans do not drive at night, especially outside of the city. Most roads are not well lit so you cannot see the obstacles. Many roads are bad. Some are very good then they suddenly will have a giant rut or change in an instant to a dirt road. You must always be alert. Also, headlights do not function the best here. Many cars do not have lights, they do not use lights or they always have the high beams on. Many Motor Cycles do not have lights at all and are very difficult to see.

A dark highway without and street lights on the return to Santo Domingo.
A dark highway without and street lights on the return to Santo Domingo.

Fill up the gas tank of your car if you are driving and keep an eye on it, especially if leaving the city or going out at night. Gas stations are few and far between in rural areas. The stations are not self serve. Be alert and keep an eye on the attendants pumping your gas to be sure that no adds-ons are happening to your bill. Many of these attendants are good at deceiving. Some will charge for gas they did not put into your tank giving them a little extra money in their pockets.

An unwritten rule of the road. The bigger your vehicle the more rights you have. Little guys get out of the way for the big boys.

Traffic on the streets of Santo Domingo.
Traffic on the streets of Santo Domingo.

Speed limit signs are in KM’s, not miles, so be aware of this. Even if the speed is posted it is not USUALLY enforced. It all just depends on the mood of the officer that day or the officer might need a little extra cash in his pocket.

If you are driving keep some change handy in the car. This way you will not have to reach into your pocket to give money. The person that helped you park, the attendant, the passing beggar, the guy that just washed your windshield (even if you did not want it), all want a handout. Also, many of the toll roads are the type where you throw change into the bin. It is always easier to have change handy instead of having to make change at the booth.

A toll booth in Santo Domingo.
A toll booth in Santo Domingo.

Someone most likely will approach you when you park your car. They will offer to watch your car for a price. Give them a small amount and tell them you’ll give them more when you return. This way they MIGHT pay more attention to your vehicle to make sure it is safe in the street.

Pare / Stop and other directional road signs on the road to La Romana.
Pare / Stop and other directional road signs on the road to La Romana.

Traffic laws are similar to those in the United States. In Dominican Republic drivers, in general, do not pay attention to the driving laws. Turns are made from opposite sides of the roads and turn signals are just pretty lights. Cars are known to stop without any warning and in the center of the road. So when driving always watch closely to what is going on around you. People drive aggressively. They do not yield or give right-of-way. Stop signs (Pare) are a rare sight and even if you do see them not many pay attention to them. *Note: They are starting to watch more for traffic violations. If you have a large violation or crash you could have your car taken or go to jail, even if you are a tourist.

Try and practice the word no or better yet the “I don’t see you or hear you” look. If you are not good at either of these make sure your window is wound up when you are at a stoplight. There are many vendors trying to sell items to people at stop lights or any place where cars are stopped on the streets. If you purchase anything be sure to get the item in your hand before you give the cash. There are also beggars at street stops asking for a handout. If you wish to give a little change that’s ok, if not don’t make eye contact or acknowledge their presence.

Traffic can be very chaotic on the city streets.
Traffic can be very chaotic on the city streets.

Seat belts are the law here. Many laws are not enforced but this law is one of the few that they are very strict about. Using a cell phone while driving..DON’T! This is another thing that WILL get you in trouble if the police see you. Going through a stop sign you might and might not get a ticket. Talking on a cell phone when driving WILL get you a ticket. Use a hands free device.

Pedestrians tend to step out into traffic and do not pay attention to cross walks, corners, or traffic signals even though they DO NOT have the right-of-way. People cross everywhere. Even on the busy highways and interstate roads. Be cautious, you do not want to hit someone or even bump into them.

Traffic jam in Santa Barbara with pedestrians trying to direct the traffic.
Traffic jam in Santa Barbara with pedestrians trying to direct the traffic.

Motorcycles and motor scooters outnumber the cars in the Dominican Republic. The drivers are supposed to wear helmets. Sometimes this law is enforced and other times it is ignored. Motor drivers will work their way through traffic while everyone is stopped at an intersection to get to the front of the line. They drive on the sides of the road and even on sidewalks. Many do not have lights. They drive the wrong way on the roads. This is not true for all motorcycle drivers just most. You need to remember that a motorbike could be anywhere at any time and at any place.

Do not leave your purse or belongings on the seat near you if your windows are down. Keep them on the floor between your feet with the strap held or wrapped around your leg. Grab and runs are very common.

When talking on your cell phone use caution if the window is down. I know many people that have had their phones torn from their hands while talking from someone in the street or a motorbike passing by.

A dirt road in the campo. Little girls are rolling tired down the street.
A dirt road in the campo. Little girls are rolling tired down the street.

Watch when you open your car door. There may be a motorcycle driver coming up the side of the road.

Watch out for Horse carts. They move slow and are found in many of the streets. They also cross in front of cars with no regard for their surroundings.

Goats taking a stroll down the street near Lago Enriquillo.
Goats taking a stroll down the street near Lago Enriquillo.

There are no large wild animals in Dominican Republic. No deer or skunks to watch out for in the street. There are goats, horses, pigs and cows that do like to hang out in the streets. Even in the cities. Be aware!

A vehicle crash on the street going to Barahona. People usually gather around to see what is happening.
A vehicle crash on the street going to Barahona. People usually gather around to see what is happening.

If you do have a wreck try and resolve the incident without police help if possible. Give the other driver some cash and get out of there unless it is a serious crash with injuries. Remember, if you have a wreck you may not be able to leave the island if there are any problems. You could end up in jail until it is resolved.

Driving while drinking is not permitted. The country has been cracking down on drinking and driving so be aware. If you are in a wreck or do a traffic no-no drunk you’ll be in big trouble. Even though they say no drinking and driving, many people do and the police really do not pay much attention unless you look like you are doing something wrong or make a mistake.

Public Transportation

The larger tour busses are quite comfortable and clean. They have air conditioning that can get VERY COLD. Remember to take a jacket or wrap with you. Most likely you will need it.

When riding a bus some can get very noisy. Dominicans do like to listen to their music loud and they think everyone likes it that way also.

Loading up the guagua from San Jose de Ocoa to Rancho Arriba.
Loading up the guagua from San Jose de Ocoa to Rancho Arriba.

When riding a local bus or Guagua they can get loud and are many times dirty and crowded. Many of the smaller guaguas or busses do not have air conditioning so you have to open the windows. They can make many stops along the route. You could even be riding with a box of chickens in the back! So relax and try and enjoy the experience. Nothing much else you can do except getting upset (which does not help) or you can get off the bus. Remember, when stops are made watch for a might-be thief putting his hand into the window to take what you have when you are not paying attention and cannot make chase. It happens often so be aware.

Motor transport can come in many forms. Be careful.
Motor transport can come in many forms. Be careful.

I strongly suggest, especially if you are not familiar with the country, get a taxi or use public transportation. Do Not rent a car to travel around the country. Driving is not easy here. If you get in any type of accident you may not be able to leave the country until it is resolved. Remember, the police do not get paid much money (in general, basic pay can be less than $200 US Dollars a month). This is not enough to raise a family so many of the police do look for tips (regalas). Some spot a tourist and will pull them over and ask for money or they will give you a ticket or take you to jail. It is up to you, but I suggest try not to give money or give a small amount just to get out of the problem. Do not let them see how much money you have. Do not get too aggressive in your argument with them (a little arguing is expected). Many say to make a copy of your drivers license and give this to them instead of the original. Again I suggest, just to be safe, use a taxi. *note- I do not know about the police asking for a tip first hand. This is only what I have been told by other Expats and Dominicans alike. I have never had a problem with this in my years in the country. I do always use a taxi or public transportation.

When taking a taxi always ask before hand what the fare will be. This way you can decide then whether to take that car or not. Once you have taken the ride you have no choice but to pay what he asks. I used to make them write down the price so they could not change it later.

Driving through the tunnel in Santo Domingo.
Driving through the tunnel in Santo Domingo.

When using public transportation be aware of your surroundings. Watch who is close to you, bumping into you or making loud noises can be to distract you into not paying attention to the hand reaching into your pocket or worse.

The Public cars are convenient and inexpensive. I strongly suggest that you do not use Public cars at night. Best to take a taxi. Official registered public cars will have an ID badge in the car with the drivers picture and their identity number.

Have the money to pay the driver or bus attendant in your hand or in a convenient place away from your other monies. This way you will not be showing how much money you have to all the passengers.

The highway to Miches. Sometimes the road just is not there any longer.
The highway to Miches. Sometimes the road just is not there any longer.

Always try and smile and be nice to the driver. Tell them thank you. If possible, in a public car, say the drivers name when speaking to him. This way they know you know who they are.

Look in the car first. If you don’t like the look of the driver or passengers (most likely you won’t like the look of the car, but this is normal. Can’t be too choosy with this point) don’t get it. Wait for the next car to pass. The Dominicans do this so you can also. It is better to be safe than sorry. Follow your feelings and instincts.

Tradition – Marriage, Funeral

Marriage and Funeral Traditions in Dominican Republic

The Marriage and Funeral traditions in Dominican Republic are passed down from generation to generation. Marriage and Wedding traditions are very important. Starting with asking for the hand in marriage, the service and giving of gifts. The same with Funeral traditions. Many traditions, such as the wearing of black, have changed for many. Even though nowadays many modern traditions have seeped into the culture, the old traditions and ways are still honored.

Marriage and Preparing For Marriage Traditions | Funeral Traditions

Marriage/ Matrimoniales Traditions in Dominican Republic

Taking some pre-wedding pictures at Plazolita Padre Billing in the Colonial Zone.
Taking some pre-wedding pictures at Plazolita Padre Billing in the Colonial Zone.

The man usually proposes.

If the couple decides to have a church wedding/ boda and reception then the bride’s family does most of the preparations.

Weddings can be expensive and so some people choose to have smaller gatherings or just marry in civil court.

As of January 2012 The Central Electoral Board (JCE) has trained pastors representing non-Catholic religious denominations to celebrate weddings including the Iglesia Asamblea de Dios, Asamblea de Iglesia Pentecostal, Concilio Cristiano, Iglesia Apostolica Misionera, Iglesia Adventista del Septimo Dia, Concilio Menonita, Iglesia Metodista Libre, Dios de la Profecia and Asamblea Cristiana. In the past, only a Catholic Church priest could marry a couple. Followers of other Christian religions had to go through a civil marriage process with a Justice of Peace. In the past, anyone wanting to marry outside of the Catholic faith had to marry in a Civil Court or Judges Chamber so they can have all the necessary legal documents. The couple would marry in civil court or in a judge’s chamber the morning of the wedding or even the day before the actual church wedding. Then they could have their ceremony in their chosen religion.

Bridesmaids and large wedding parties are not the norm here. Having a cute little ring bearer and flower girl is. Many times the little ones dress the same as the bride and groom, in smaller scale.

Having “padrinos and madrinas” (godparents of the wedding) is very traditional. The godparents are usually the mother of the groom and the father of the bride and their role is to serve as witnesses. Along with the couple, the godparents also sign the marriage certificate.

Another tradition is to have a child (usually a boy) carry the “arras” or coins on a silver tray. The boy would have 13 coins (they are usually 10 cent coins) that at some point during the ceremony will be passed to the priest. The priest will pass them to the groom and he in turn will pass them to the bride. This exchange signifies that the couple pledges to provide for each other and that material goods are to be shared equally. The whole thing is very symbolic and is quite romantic.

In addition to the flower girl, the ring bearer and the coins bearer, the ceremony also has a child that carries a fancy white bible.

The mother of the groom, escorted by the groom, enters the church first. The mother of the bride then enters escorted by the father of the groom. The wedding party enters next including the children, usually entering in pairs.

Another Dominican tradition is to have what is called a “ceremonia cantada” meaning that every piece of music was actually sung, instead of being just instrumental.

It used to be that Dominican wedding receptions consisted mostly of cake and champagne, along with light appetizers at best. Today, sit down dinners or a party are the style.

There is usually a bachelor party / despedida de soltero and bachelorette party / despedida de soltera. The bridal shower is another tradition.

The vast majority of Dominicans deliver their gifts to the bride’s home before the wedding day. Never take a gift with you to the wedding ceremony or reception.

Taking wedding pictures at the Ruinas del Monistario San Francisco under dark skies.
Taking wedding pictures at the Ruinas del Monistario San Francisco under dark skies.

The church is usually not divided into “bride’s” and “groom’s” sides. So you can sit where you would like.

At the end of the liturgy, a large number of people go to the altar. These are witnesses, and there could be dozens. Asking someone to be a witness is a way of honoring them as a special guest. Family members and friends will be included.

The newly married couple will be the first to exit the church. Do not try to greet them outside. Instead, proceed directly to the reception.

The bride and her father have the first dance. The groom and the bride’s mother join them. Then the entire wedding party and family enter the dance floor. After this then the guests can start dancing.

Most newlywed couples will stay until the end of their party, which could last til 3 AM or later. They are never the first to leave. If you want to leave do not hesitate to leave before the bride and groom. Any time after the meal is socially acceptable, although you are likely to miss quite a party.

There is no tradition about the Groom not seeing the Bride before the wedding. This is when most of the wedding party photographs are taken.

Many of the best locations for picture taking is in the Colonial Zone with all it’s beautiful old buildings, parks and monuments.

Funeral Traditions/ Tradiciones Funerarias

Dominicans show much respect for their dead. A funeral is an event that will gather people together, including family members, who may not have seen each other for a number of years. Inside the chapel it is sedated and reverent, but outside, it is livelier almost reminiscent of a normal social occasion.

A cemetery in the town of Nizao
A cemetery in the town of Nizao

The Wake will continue until 12 noon the next day, followed by burial at the cemetery. It is the family’s choice, some decide to retire at midnight and return the next day around 7AM for the burial.

Many families follow on with a series of memorial masses held for nine (9) consecutive days. This is known as los nueves dias, novenario, or la vela. When and where these masses are to be held will be announced. It is not necessary to go to these masses unless you were a close friend of the person or family, especially if you attended the funeral. One is never expected to attend all the masses unless you want to do so. If you were not able to attend the funeral you should go to one of the masses. You might choose to go to the last one that usually will be announced in the press. This marks the end of the mourning period ceremonies.

The nine days of mourning usually consist of three days of grieving (crying and reminiscing). 3 days of silence (thinking and reverence). The last 3 days are for release (accepting and separating).

To “cumplir” is to act in accordance with the standard social procedures. A person will go to a funeral whether or not it is his desire; it is his duty. To “cumplir” is important in this society. It signifies respect and caring.

Wreaths on graves in Bayahibe.
Wreaths on graves in Bayahibe.

Many of the poorer people are only laid out for 1 day in the home. This is because of the heat and fast decomposition of the body. Also, the caskets usually have a window for viewing. Maybe this is to keep the smell in and bugs out.

Flowers are not expected.

Only good friends and family are expected at the burial.

A picture slide show of the Cementerio Nacional de la Avenida Independencia/ National Cemetery on Avenue Independencia, Santo Domingo.