I rented a car Saturday night in order to drive to Baní this entire week. I had to drive there Sunday morning in order to be presented to the congregation at the Santa Cruz Church on the northern edge of Baní. The people welcomed me with warmth and a loud applause because of my contribution to their history. It was Mother's Day and the mass was unusually long. Therefore, many people left early. When I noticed that many were leaving, I walked towards the entrance and waited for people to approach me. To my dismay, only 5 people demonstrated interest. After analyzing the pre-screening form, only 2 women were eligible for the study.

Today, June 1st, I drove to Baní from Santo Domingo (about 45km) and began taking DNA samples. I drove around the city, from house to house to collect saliva samples. I realized that I had overbooked myself for the day. I had missed one appointment by 30 minutes because I got lost trying to find one of the subject's home. I think that the best method will be to call all of the subjects and summon them for a collective test. My only worries about this is that I do not have a team assisting me and some people may commit mistakes with the DNA kit. 

After taking the three samples, I then drove about 10 km northwest of Baní to a rural urbanization called Arroyo La Angostura. I had to ask the people at least three times for the name, since it was difficult to memorize. I had not heard of this place before. As I drove away from the city of Baní, the scenery changed. It seemed as if I were in a desert. The terrain was arid, and the background was mountainous. I noticed that once upon a time, there were many riverbeds that are now dried up. In fact, there was no rain this May season. 

When arrived at Angostura, Vicky, my contact there, presented me to her family. She briefly presented me as an investigator from the USA, with interest in certain families with Spanish ancestry and their customs. I then continued by explaining the nature of my research. The entire family paid attention to every detail. 

Next, I interviewed Mrs. Pimentel Alcántara, (Vicky's mother). She demonstrated a clear knowledge of family traditions. One tradition that stood out was the use of burial shrouds. They would have a prepared white sheet to wrap the dead family member. She also mentioned that marriages with cousins was normal.

Finally, I interviewed Mrs. Rivera Lara. She had a recent lung operation. I was not sure if I should interview her or not. To my surprise, she consented to the interview despite her condition. I soon found out that Mrs. Rivera Lara was the daughter of two 1st-generation cousins. Her knowledge of family traditions were very clear in her mind. Unfortunately, she apologized for having forgotten the names of her grandparents. When I asked her why her family washed their hands upon leaving the cemetery, she said, because it was bad not to do so. She also added that even though she learned not to eat outside of her home, she would do it because of the extreme poverty. She was very honest. What startled me a bit was that her family killed the chicken by striking it with a stick on its back.

So far, I have discovered three ways that people kill chicken: striking the back with a stick or with one's hands, twisting the neck, or slicing the neck with a sharp knife. 

I wonder if having the tradition of proper shehitah (Jewish butchering) will be the most conclusive proof of Jewish ancestry.

To be continued...

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