During the 2017 Assessment Trip we got lucky to be working with an NGO who just got a new drone. We had the inaugural test flight of the drone in La Cuchilla and used it to do some aerial surveys of the community.
There were a lot of mixed reactions when the drone came out. But once we used the drone to do a few fly-bys on some mischievous goats everyone was much more entertained by the drone. Here we got the community together to take a group picture with the drone, which you can see us getting set up for in the video above.
This shot is straight down the main street of La Cuchilla. About twice a day the community moves herds of goats and cattle down this road towards grazing fields. Off of "main street" there are a few different community centers, which include a convenience/grocery store, a community gathering center run built by World Vision,
You can also see the new school, the 2 story concrete building on the left. This school is currently under construction. Due to government hang ups the contractors and engineers who designed the school have not been paid and therefore halted construction, three years ago. Once the school is completed (hopefully soon) it is expected that about 150 students will come back this school and that the school will go from half-days back to full school days. These students currently have to take a bus to another school in a different community.
Here is another angle of "main street" from a little higher up.
And now even higher up!
Here you can see the new school sitting next to the existing school.
The area surrounding La Cuchilla are all sugar cane fields, as far as the eye can see. These sugar cane fields are owned by large companies who currently lease the land from the government in 30 year contracts. These companies have been around on the island going back to the European colonization of the island before the Haitian/Dominican independence movement. These companies have a very controversial history filled with slavery in the 1700 - 1800's and government corruption throughout the 1900's.
Can't talk about the sugar cane companies without talking about the Bateys (pronounced baht-ays). La Cuchilla is a Batey, or a community of people who work in the sugar cane fields. Bateys have been around since the late 1800's and were started as places to house the temporary, seasonal workforce that the sugar cane companies used to work the fields. Over the last century these communities have become much more permanent. Many of the people who live in Bateys today are Haitian refugees who were displaced by the 2010 earthquake.
There is so much more information to learn about the history of the Bateys and the sugar cane companies. It is important to learn about how history has affected the communities we work in, but also challenging to figure out all the political, social, and economic events that have shaped the present.