I came to Bani to begin investigating the Hidden Roots of the Banilejos for my thesis. I will be blogging throughout the entire month about some of my findings. Stay tuned. 

Day 1
Discovering the Hidden Roots of the Banilejos
The sun is burning hot. My skinned already tanned 2 shades darker.
I visited two churches: Parroquia de Santa Cruz and Parroquia Nuestra Madre de Regla. At the former, I spoke to Mr. Guerrero Arias (c. 65), who has been in the Church service at as assistant to the priest since his first communion. When I asked him about cousins marrying each other, he said, "Los primos se primen". Any Dominican from the rural parts of the country knows what that means. In sociological lingo, that implies endogamy. I asked him what families were known for this practice, he said, the Arias and the Zapata. He added that the Zapata family in particular is keen about keeping it in the family, lest they mix with "strangers".
I also went to the Nursing home and was granted entry and access. Tomorrow I will be interviewing the elderly of Bani all day.
10-4 over...

Day 2
Discovering the Hidden Roots of the Banilejos
So today, is my second day in Baní and I learned my lesson of not walking so much. I rode on a moped to the Nursing home in Barrancones, Bani. It took about 7 minutes to get there. I was amazed at how the driver maneuvered through the streets at a high speed.
When I arrived, I spoke with Hermana Pilar, the patron of the nursing home. There were about 20 elderly people staying there. However, I was only able to interview two of them because the majority are senile. 
I interviewed Sr. Guerrero Pimentel (85), who veered away from many of my questions because he either did not know how to answer or because he lost track of the interview. His family used burial shrouds to bury their dead, burned all the clothing of the dead family member, and checked eggs for blood. He explained that the young looked for their own partners, but they had to be approved by the parents. They also were accompanied by a chaperon at all times. He also said that his mother always swept towards the inside of the home, never past the door.
He also explained that his family ate meat on the Saturday between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. He made a statement that his mother would prepare "special" foods for Saturday, like Sancocho with rice. The dishes and pots were separated in his house; meat and dairy. His family would go to Church on Saturday and Sunday. I could not continue the interview because he did know key elements necessary to the interview; only a woman would know how to answer.
The other person interviewed (Sra. Mejia Peña 80) laughed the entire time because she was so lost. I had to repeat questions 3 or 4 times in differents way in order to get the answers needed. She did tell me that her mother separated their pots and pans; meat and dairy. She also said that lovers could not be alone, they had to be accompanied at all times. She denied having family members who were cousins married with each other. That was all that I could ask her because she just laughed away in her own little world.
On my way back to the hotel, I took another ride on a moped. This guy whistled at me, saying "Moreno, vámonos". He had to jump start his bike three times and had me chasing him for about 3 minutes.
Finally, we started riding through the heavily congested streets of Bani. One turn away from the hotel, he cut through a truck and a car, and surprise! There was another biker doing the same. It was a businesswomen dressed professionally. My driver said, "tá bien." She replied, "Sí tá bueno eso". I had to laugh at the idiosyncrasies of this town..

Day 2 Part 2
Discovering the Hidden Roots of the Banilejos
So I went on another moped to Villa Sombrero, about 5km west of Bani. I went to the local Catholic Church to get access and entry. There was a huge sign at the office stating, "Office Hours, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, 3pm-6pm, Note: We do not work outside of those hours." Next to that sign, there was another one stating, "We absolutely do not process any documentation here related to cases of judicial nature." 
I waited for a while then went to a corner store to sit in the shade. I learned how to mount 4 people onto one moped. A girl screamed to a friend passing by, "Dame una bola," ie. "give me a ride." She turned around and mounted the friend and her child, along with herself and her child.
I noticed that the people who follow the PLD (Liberal Democratic Party) were gathered in their purple and yellow paraphernalia, dancing to loud Mambo (fast merengue) and Dembow music. As I waited for the secretary, I figured getting a haircut. I paid 100RD (approx 2US dollars) for a haircut that costs me 20US dollars in Miami. Go figure!!!
I walked back to the church and waited for the secretary. It was already 3:11pm. She was 11 minutes late! I introduced myself and she wondered how the culture and history of Bani had reached the United States. I told her that there are some books that allude to this important city that was founded by Canary Islanders. She accepted my response. I gave her a flyer that explains my research and she said that almost all of the surnames that I am searching for a found there, with the exception of Machado. I asked her if her surnames were on that list, she said, "yes! Dias and Peña." I said, "well you qualify for this investigation." She smiled.
As I waited for the priest to arrive, I quickly asked probing questions to find out about her own family and the local customs.
I asked if she knew about marriages between cousins in the family. She said that it happens and that it is normal. I followed up asking if this was a custom any family in particular. She replied saying that some people claim that they do not want to mix their genes with others. I asked if she knew which were those families; she didn't say!
I then asked her about how the animals were killed for consumption. She said that people buy the meat at the supermarket. I then asked if there were any "polleras," i.e. chicken butcher shops. She said "yes!" I asked her how did they kill the chicken. She explained, "they slice the neck." I then asked who are the butchers that did it that way. She said, the majority of butchers slaughter it that way because it's the easiest and fastest way.
Finally, the priest arrived. I introduced myself. He did not grab my hand, rather my forearm. When I told him what I came to do, he agreed to introduce me to the townspeople tomorrow at 7pm after their service. That way the people will not be afraid of letting me in to their homes to interview.

So far, this investigation has been successful. I hope to come back next week and interview at least 30 women...

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  1. If you need additional people to interview, I would suggest my mother. She was born and raised in Matanzas. Her family has deep roots there going back for multiple generations. I have always suspected Jewish ancestry and this blog pretty much confirms it.
    As for myself, how would I go about establishing ancestry via DNA testing? Would 23 and me reveal it? I am eager to find out. It would explain so much.

  2. Los tejedas de Bani nectamente judios !!


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