A Discussion with a Student from St. Ignatius of Loyola Technical Institute, Dajabón, Dominican Republic
May 25, 2017
Background: As part of the Education and Social Justice Fellowship, in May 2017 undergraduate student Mary Breen interviewed a student from St. Ignatius of Loyola Technical Institute (Instituto Tecnológico San Ignacio de Loyola, ITESIL) in Dajabón, Dominican Republic. Throughout the discussion, the student reflects on how the school setting and the focus on values in Jesuit education have uniquely contributed to his decision to befriend Haitians.
How many years have you attended this school?
This is my third year here.
Have you lived in Dajabón your whole life?
Yes, I was born here and have lived here since.
Can you tell me about your experience living at the border?
Since I was little, I was accustomed to life here—the town, the market, and everything. I always maintained a constant relationship with our brothers on the other side of the border in Haiti because they were always here with us. At my other school I attended, I had a friend of Haitian nationality. The experience is sometimes uncomfortable, because people who live far from the border, when they hear you live at the border, they say things and think about the Haitian people here and that the people who live here are, I don’t know, a little less than them. In my experience, I had the opportunity to know people from the neighboring country, go there, have them come here, and maintain a constant communication with them.
How do you think education played a role in your relationship with the border and the other country?
I had classmates of Haitian nationality. But also, the fact that I live here in the border with them gave me the opportunity to learn a little more about them. The fact that I have always lived in Dajabón means I see more or less the reality that exists. When I speak with my Haitian classmates at the other school, they tell me things and their stories. When you know Haitians, when you go to the market and to the other side of the border, you are able to see their reality. School is a means to connect and to know them; the society in which I live permits this as well.
How would you describe your Jesuit education?
When I entered here, our focus was to love and serve. On various occasions we have seen that Haitians have not found themselves in good positions. The Jesuits have taught us and I have seen with my own eyes, including in the Catholic Church, that the Jesuits do not look at the color of a person’s skin, at the sanitary conditions, or at the conditions in which a person lives. The Jesuits simply work so that if a person needs help, they help him. This is specifically what we learn in school—to not judge based on skin color or discriminate. If this person needs a hand or our help, the Jesuits and this school have taught us to help. More than an education of religion, it is an education in values and in help and service to others. I think a Jesuit education has an important role for us as people, for my formation as a person.
Is there anything else you would like to explain to foreigners trying to understand the reality at the border?
I have always seen and heard from people who had the opportunity to go to Haiti that in Haiti there exists these classes—the very rich and the very poor. They tell me that the education in Haiti is very expensive. Here, many Haitians come to study because their families live here, or they come from Wanament to study here. They are accepted here, and the schools always have an open door for the Haitians. Sometimes there are many videos—posts on social media and YouTube—that do not present the realities of the issues.
For people who are in other countries that have the opportunity to listen to this interview, I invite them to go to the Dominican Republic, come here to Dajabón, and have the opportunity to go to Haiti to see the reality in all. Sometimes people say the Haitians or the people of dark skin are very bad, but their reality is very different from ours. We live with a degree of comfort here and are not affected by all of these diseases and natural catastrophes. Everyone knows that they at certain points have had the earthquake, cholera, and other problems. Their country does not have many trees or anything; these people have a very difficult situation. For this reason, they are a little harder to understand than we are, but in reality they are good people. I went to Haiti; I go all the time to buy things and go to the market, and I have found that there are very good people. I think that you need to take the opportunity to see the reality and get to know them and interact with them in a direct way.