This past weekend, my program took us on a weekend retreat to the mountains, and it was one of the most reflective and inspirational weekends I’ve had here in the DR. Communities in the countryside often have some agricultural component that employs some of the people who live there. In Bonao, some of the locals work at Rancho Don José, a ranch owned by Esteban Polanco that produces and sells their own coffee. It also contains a bamboo plantation that supplies their custom furniture business.
Bonao is absolutely breathtaking, and everywhere you look is green. I even saw a green butterfly! While hiking through Rancho Don José, it was evident that the land is flourishing and the animals have lots to feed on. However, in neighboring communities, there are lands that have been exploited for their minerals and natural resources by international companies and are no longer able to produce vegetation. This leads to many of the locals being forced to live elsewhere to support their families.
An organization developed by Estaban Polanco and other local farmers called La Asociación de Campesinos hacia el Progreso (Farmer’s Association for Progress) has fought to preserve and protect the community, and its land from mining companies and other businesses that want to exploit what their community has to offer. Their goal is to improve the quality of life in their communities, and that is what they’ve been successfully doing for over 30 years. This has inspired me to fight for what I believe in back in Michigan, and band together with others to make the changes we want to see in our community.