“Every native of every place is a potential tourist, and every tourist is a native of somewhere. But some natives—most natives in the world—cannot go anywhere. They are too poor. They are too poor to go anywhere.”
-Jamaica Kincaid, the Caribbean writer of “In a Small Place”
Tourism exacerbates the already high tensions seen in society. The economic disparities seen here cause inequalities and high social tensions throughout the DR that highlight the already existing disparities seen throughout the social hierarchy. Tourism is the DR marginalizes Dominican workers, sexualizes Dominican workers, and forces gendered employment patterns for Dominican workers.
Many resorts and hotels try their hardest to separate their guests from the local population. This exclusion has led to a separation between the visitors and the inhibitors of the DR. Most tourist destinations keep Dominicans out of their secluded community with security measures and personnel. They even go so far as to require guests to wear wrist-bands during their stay so that outsiders can be even more easily identified. “Treated like outsiders, Dominicans are turned away at the front gate unless they come as workers” (Cabezas, Tropical Blues).
Although this statement by Cabezas is true, often times Dominicans are displaced and excluded from employment and meaningful participation in the tourism industry. Dominicans are seen as the “other” and companies even recruit workers from North America or Europe to work in their tourist accommodations.
There are many factors that play a role in the sexualizing of Caribbean labor. History, race, and separation are a few contributing factors. Cabezas continues her thoughts on the divisions of labor with the region’s colonial past. She explains that sexual context and exploitation were an integral part of European colonization as they raped and looted their way throughout the Americas (Cabezas, Between Love and Money, 987). Additionally, Cabezas comments that, “Early on, sex was tied into economic and social processes, from the breeding of slaves, trafficking in women, and hiring of wet nurses to the use of concubines and prostitutes” (Cabezas, Between Love and Money, 987). Colonizers continued their sexual oppression for hundreds of years and sexual labor became a part of the normal operations of politics and economics throughout the Caribbean.
In today’s world, the Dominican Republic offers an exotic destination to many tourists interested in escaping reality. With this vacation fantasy tourists also have accompanying sexual fantasies they also wish to have fulfilled. “Identified as the most significant ‘social impact’ of tourism, tourist-oriented prostitution, known as sex tourism, is a growing phenomenon with far-reaching social, political, and economic implications for countries that depend heavily on tourism,” Cabeza explains (Cabezas, Between Love and Money, 992).
When there is a demand such as this, Dominicans become interested in supplying this service and providing sex tourism. This is because they have been marginalized and often don’t have many other viable options then to turn to the sex industry.
Sex tourism has become an accepted part of Dominican culture because it is not only about sex and money. There are many other opportunities that are also associated with sex tourism. Local Dominicans that are connected with tours can get ahead by having their low wages supplemented, procuring opportunities for recreation, consumption, travel, migration, and even marriage (Cabezas, Between Love and Money, 993).
Many tourist and hospitality work around the world experience gender discrimination in the workforce and expected employment roles for each gender. The United Nations Human Development Report for the Dominican Republic indicates that the tourism labor force is primarily made up of young women. Additionally, the salary for tourism workers is below the national average, with women earning approximately 68 percent of a man’s salary (Cabezas, Tropical Blues, 30). Women are nearly absent from supervisory and management positions and reserved to roles of hospitality and domesticity. Dominican men are also often excluded from management opportunities, but have gendered roles that grant them access to gratuities such as being a bartender or a bellhop.