Thursday, March 6, 2014
Day 6 - Our Last Day at Abreu School
In the morning we toured Playa Grande, a resort that is under construction. Playa means beach, and playa grande is one of the nicest beaches in the Dominican Republic. For years, locals have been going on the weekends. There is a very interesting cross section of interests between American investors from New York, who are building a 6 star resort, and locals. The investors want to make a profit, but would like to do so in a responsible way, creating jobs and allowing tourist dollars to flow into the local community. For this reason, they have chosen to not make the resort an all-inclusive, like many of the resorts in the DR. In places like Punta Cana, for example, where tourists fly to the airport and then are bussed directly to a resort, spending their vacation on resort proprperty, all of the money generated by tourism is captured by the resort. While the employees are local and paid, the vast majority of the money goes to the foreign owners. Allowing tourists to leave the hotel for meals and shopping, playa grande will have a much larger economic impact on the surrounding communities.
Right now, playa grande has just built a small boutique hotel that is not yet open to the public. They will eventually create jobs, but it is not yet fully understood quite how the local community feels. Playa grande says that they will allow local vendors to continue operating on the beach and keep the beach open for locals. (Quick history fact, the former dictator Trujillio enacted a law in the 1960s that made the first 60 feet of beach public throughout the Dominican Republic because he wanted to ensure a Bay of Pigs style invasion could not happen here.) While it seems playa grande's intentions are good, some local vendors have had their licenses bought out and asked to leave. Playa grande wants to cater to tourists who want to share a beach with local Dominicans and eat local Dominican food. Hopefully they can develop the resort sustainably and responsibly.
We continued to paint and interact with students. After lunch the Dominican students and New Hampton students each performed for each other.