Upon hearing 'Dominican Republic', you most likely imagine palm trees, beaches, ripe exotic fruit, rum and tobacco. Unless you've actually been outside the tourist resorts, that is all you know about it. The city of Santo Domingo has much more to offer than a pictoresque scenery and all-inclusive venues: It is a contemporary cultural melting pot not just of Latin America but of the whole world. A place, were the dark continent meets Europe and blends with the heritage of mesoamerican cultures. Everyone here is a huge contradiction and there is no such thing as a typically Dominican person, not even physically. You can see all possible shapes, sizes, colors, beliefs and religions here.
"The picture people should be aware of, are underaged prostitutes and stuff like that. It's a harsh, sad subject. But its much sadder to pretend it doesn't exist," says Adolfo Sesto, the photographer. "It's an uneasy situation. Here you can see the example of a horrible existencial void: those are the things that happen, even when you have access to food, electricity and basic comodities, if you lack education. That is another great problem over here. Some say over 75% people do not finish high school."
"We were bad kids,
now we're shaky adults."
All the people I met in the "barrio", half of them must be dead by now," adds Sesto. That also wouldn't be a so much of a money problem, but an issue of culture and education. People in their 30's with no ambitions other than scoring enough pesos to get crack and pussy fix for the weekend. Some just can't even imagine anything better.
Funny thing is you can sometimes see preppy girls in posh clubs taking a hit of white powder from under their acrylic nails. The "barrio" people share that habit, too, they just do it with an overgrown dirty fingernail. And the Dominican baseball player phenomenon - that's a Hunger Games kind of lottery: how many players actually make it in the end? Five? Six?
"One thing we have that Europe doesn't," says Sesto on a bit brighter note at the end of our tour around Santo Domingo, "is a huge and exhuberant botanical park right inside the city. Sometimes I come with a backpack and take sprouts of plants. So huge, sprawling and thick. That wouldn't be possible in Europe", he grins.
"What I love about analog - it's so vulnerable, it has a chance to be horribly disfugured or get its heart broken and still live on. Much like humans."
Originally published in 2015 in Czech VICE,
Photography and commentary by Adolfo Sesto, written by Tereza Munnighova.