Recently, a Democratic club in Washington Heights held a meeting to endorse candidates in the local Congressional race. Afterwards, a group of reporters and some campaign staffers went out for beers at a nearby diner, Tu Sabor Latino. Once inside, they ran into a table full of volunteers working on the other major political campaign in the neighborhood—the race for a president of the Dominican Republic, between Danilo Medina and Hipólito Mejía, better known as Papá to his supporters.
Outside the diner, sirens flashed as the police escorted a motorcade carrying one of the Dominican presidential candidates up Broadway. It was a physical manifestation of a phenomenon that has long been familiar to Uptown politicos, in the upper reaches of Manhattan, local politicians can’t avoid bumping into the Dominican campaigns. (There is even a seat in the Dominican congress for a representative
from the U.S., such is the size of the ex-pat community.).
Every four years, the Dominican elections play out on the streets of Washington Heights and Inwood—with colorful signs, flags, trucks with speakers blasting Spanish songs and campaign slogans and personal appearances by the candidates. According to a 2005 study by CUNY’s Center for Latin American, Caribbean & Latino Studies, Dominicans make up over 53 percent of the population in the area, and many of the residents are dual citizens who also vote in their home country.
It turns out, this unique political landscape is riddled with potential landmines for local politicians. Read More