Batey is what the people living on the sugar cane plantations call the villages or communities where they live. It is sometimes translated into English as ‘Camp’. There are over 100 bateys in the region we visit and perhaps thousands throughout the Dominican Republic. Bateys are where the Haitian families live. I doubt here are ant Dominicans living in bateys. Living conditions in these villages vary from location to location but they start out poor and go downhill from there. Strategically placed at the intersections of large sugar cane fields, few have running water, none have adequate sanitary facilities, and no electricity.
The open trench of raw sewage overflows with each heavy rain shower, flooding the ground with the contents of the trench. With rain the fertile clay becomes a gummy mixture sticking to everything that comes in contact with it. When the sun comes out it dries and becomes the playground for children.
The mixture of fertile clay along with the residue from open trenches combine to create a toxic mix that brings sickness, and sometimes death, to these children. But the bateys don’t exist to provide a place for children. They are there to provide housing for the men that cut and harvest sugar cane. The children arrive when a woman in the batey, many times a teenager barely a woman, needs a place to live, needs food to survive, and with no work for women, finds a man to take her in.
Life for a man is not easy either. To keep his house he is up at first sun and off to the cane fields. He will work all day. Cut about 2 tons of sugar cane, maybe 3 tons if he’s young and strong. For his labor he may earn between $10 and $15 US Dollars. Not a lot of money in a land where gas costs over $4.50 a gallon. Not only is the work back breaking, he also has to be wary of getting cheated at the scales
Almost every team visiting La Romana has a team of doctors, nurses, and other medical technicians that visit the bateyes bring much needed health care with them. For more information about these clinics please visit this link.
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