Portraits of Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone, home to the oldest European settlement in the Americas, reminded me a lot of my native country of Spain. First you have the churches from the 1500s and whitewashed facades. It’s as if you were strolling a village in Andalucía or Extremadura. Then you have the friendly character of Spanish-speaking Dominicans. I felt right at home during the Symposium in this beautiful city of the Caribbean.

Here are some of the people I sketched:

Tomás Reyes (lead sketch), 63, sells mangoes at Calle Colón, a colorful pedestrian boulevard in the heart of the Colonial Zone. He said he can earn up to 600 pesos (about $15) daily if he manages to sell 100 mangoes.

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Dicanes Monestime, 28, said he’s been selling avocadoes for 10 years. He transports the produce using a three-wheeled bicycle that doubles as a fruit stand. Each avocado sells for 25 pesos (about 65 cents.)

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Taxi driver Máximo Cabrera, 43, said he spent a couple of years living in Madrid, but Spain’s soaring unemployment rate made him come back to the Dominican Republic last February.

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Jacqueline Perrero, 44, runs “El Palacio” gift shop inside Mercado Modelo, a lively arts and crafts market where I attended one of the Symposium sketching workshops. She had noticed the group of sketchers roaming the market and when I approached her shop she insisted that I do a sketch of her. I couldn’t say no. She quickly sat down and struck a pose, undoing her pony tail to let her hair flow over her shoulders. Talk about pressure! She liked the sketch and showed it to other vendors. I ended up buying two t-shirts for my kids here and we exchanged business cards. Perhaps she’ll read this post!

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Carslos Manuel, 17, said he has worked as a shoeshine boy since he was 7. He also attends high school and likes architecture, and when he saw a group of us sketching he wanted to know what we were doing. He seemed surprised when we told him we like to sketch for fun. “You could be a millionaire selling your drawings,” he said.

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