Growing up I felt a little embarrassed, whether is was the color of my skin or my parents not speaking English, something was just always off. Those insecurities that I felt as a child, as an adult me da orgullo. For the last year, I have actively been trying to revive an association that for many years went silent. Failed attempts, lack of community engagement, and a bunch of other trails led to the most amazing event this past weekend.

The Dominican Association of Lancaster was seen as a powerhouse of young Dominican American adults looking to make a difference in our community. Along with my stories, I will also be sharing reflections of our events! February 27th is Dominican Independence Day, the Association decided to put together an event to honor Dominican owned businesses here in our community. Months of planning and the big day came and went……

Lets start from the beginning….so there’s three of us; Sai, Josh, and I (Leslie)! Together we make up a pretty cool team, we each have different visions, different upbringings, and totally different ways of thinking, but what we do have in common is our love for the Homeland….La Republica Dominicana (insert heart emoji). A year ago we decided that we wanted to put events together on behalf of the Association that would leave an impactful memory to those that were present. We had some bumps along the way, failed events, and we learned from each experience. As a team, we grew stronger and our passion even more!

Sunday, March 1, 2020, The Dominican Association of Lancaster put together Dia De Independencia Dominicana. An event that paid homage to those who were contributing in a big way to our community, and because they did not press pause throughout their careers, were almost unaware of their accomplishments. As the business owners arrived, they were interviewed by a local podcast (The Sassy Vagilante) then greeted by their peers. We opened the discussion with a thank you to them and those who came before us, as a surprise we had the Mayor of Lancaster also speak and acknowledge their work (and I don’t know about you, but Dominican’s are proud folk, so this is a big deal), the Mayor handed out certificates of appreciation to a special group of business owners who would be apart of a panel discussion…

This is where we captivated our audiences, you see they weren’t talking to their kids saying “Tu no sabes el trabajo que pase yo para que tu puedas vivir asi”, they weren’t talking to their friends back home saying “Muchacho no puedo ir pa ya, tengo que estar en el negocio todo el dia”, they were talking to the very community that shopped with them, ate with them, received services from them. They were telling a story…their story…a story of their how, when, why, and where. I stood in disbelief as I asked question after question, holding back tears of appreciation, knowing that something magical was happening. After the panel discussion we had a beautiful Dominican Poet read a few of her poems…they brought smiles or each face in the audience from ear to ear. She spoke in words we knew and trusted, she spoke in a language that only a Dominican would understand.

All in all the night was beyond inspirational, and I cant wait to update you all on all the we have planned…….STAY TUNED!

Author Background

My name is Leslie Nunez and I am a 1st generation Dominican/American mother of two spunky girls, Sophia and Aracely. Growing up I was constantly surrounded by the traditions of my mothers homeland, spoke Spanish as my first language, and could always smell the sweet/savory aromas of my families cooking. I never had a second thought to what life is like outside of a Dominican household, this was what seemed normal to me and my siblings.

As I started to develop into my own person, I picked up “American” customs, began to speak English a little more frequently, traded my curls for soft stands, and pushed away from the annoying family get togethers and parties. I wanted to fit in more with the crowd. I lived out the rest of my teenage and young adult years claiming to be a PROUD DOMINICAN, but not really living in the traditions and customs I was once raised in.

Becoming a wife and mother is where my story line started to change, I wanted my beautiful brown-skinned Dominican angels to be as proud as me! But how? When they watched movies there were no characters that looked like them, when we took them to events there were no kids who looked like them ( you see where I live is predominantly White, we wanted the best, and I grew up thinking White was the best), so then movies and tv shows were being released by some of their favorite TV channels. When I sat with my daughters to watch these shows, most of the traditions that were being displayed on these big screens were of the Mexican culture. The girls LOVED them, I secretly loved them too. My girls wanted to learn Spanish and I was excited, but they wanted to learn Spanish because Princess Elena spoke Spanish, they wanted to learn Spanish because they wanted to go to Mexico were CoCo was from. I had let the traditions and old sayings my mother said to me as a child just disappear.

I started speaking to my mother more about her homeland, asked my grandmother what is was like when she was a child, listening to them speak with a twinkle in their eye about a land they loved so much made me wonder, how can I get the twinkle in my children’s eyes. I sat and the words poured out of me as I wrote a book, starring Sophia and Aracely in a whirl wind of an adventure through the Dominican Republic! These short stories will have historical figures, landmarks, and famous myths of our motherland!

Needless to say that my children are PROUD to be Dominican, and looking forward to their first trip over, and I hope as you read my stories you too fall in love with the beauty of my people, the history that made us, and understand the struggles and sacrifices made for me to stand here as an American citizen!