Friday, December 21, 2007

Last night I watched the documentary "The Price of Sugar" directed by Bill Haney, and featuring several nameless Haitian/Dominicans (any configuration thereof) and Father Christopher Hartley - who is the "hero" and main protagonist of this film. It's an important film, and their website is designed as an action site. Thanks to M.P. & C.M., we were able to project the film on a big white sheet in their living room and then hold a conversation afterwards.

I remember the first time I ever spent time on a batey. I gave up sugar for almost 2 years. Because of what I witnessed. And then I went to work in an ice cream shop and became nearly diabetic from eating so much ice cream (gelato, really - gianduia gelato, mango sorbet, the works). And I drink coffee with sugar - especially if it's office coffee. And when I lived in NYC, I used to be on the J-M-Z line and would watch the billows of smoke coming from the Dominos sugar factory on my way into work in Manhattan.

It always stank to me even though we couldn't smell anything from the train. That's cause I grew up driving past the ingenio in San Pedro de Macorix in the D.R. where they process sugar cane and make it the white stuff. It stinks. Like rotting meat. Makes you wonder, huh? And then when you drive past San Pedro you cross train tracks where all the workers on the plantations (bateyes) load the cane onto boxcars. Crates, really. And then you get to La Romana, and when you drive north of La Romana, all you see is cane. All the way to the mountains. Acres and acres of cane. No people. That's because they're on lockdown inside.

But, you gotta watch the movie to learn more about that. And oh yeah - and remember to watch the film with the critical eye it deserves. For even though Father Hartley's work is important, it's all of the nameless Haitian/Haitian-Dominican/Dominican laborers whose bodies are literally on the line.


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