Cultura y conciencia

In a New Poem, Sophie Maríñez Revisits a City and its Heroes

Culture, PoetryESENDOMComment

7 de febrero de 2019

In the 1980s, if you were young (or older), bohemian and rebellious in the Dominican Republic, Drake’s Pub was the place to be. Back then, the iconic spot located in the old zona colonial (colonial city) in Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic was a pole of attraction for misfits, scenesters, sexual dissidents, artists and writers alike. It was, by all means, an explosive and exciting mix. In a new poem recently published in the latest issue of Caribbean Quarterly, Sophie Maríñez revisits Drake's Pub, bringing to life that special place where some patrons would forge long-lasting friendships, collaborate and quarrel. Just the stuff good memories are made of.

Sophie Maríñez

Sophie Maríñez

In “The Drake’s Pub’s Wall”, Sophie Maríñez captures the going-ons around Santo Domingo, a city where young people alongside their older peers in the 80s heroically resisted cultural imposition from above. That resistance had been going on since the 1960s, a time of social strife and revolution. By the 1980s, people in the Dominican Republic were witnessing a cultural flowering in the making due in part to the electoral defeat of the authoritarian Balaguer regime (1966-1978).

ESENDOM presents a brief excerpt of “The Drake’s Pub’s Wall” by Sophie Maríñez. This poem is a travelogue of a city where the past haunts the present:

Those were the eighties in Santo Domingo.

A dictator had long been killed

and his successor sent away;

some of us had known the colour of a gun,

but to most, treason had not yet grown

into hollow trees filled with torn-up ghosts.

Read the full poem here.

Sophie Maríñez explains the genesis of her poem The Drake’s Pub's Wall

I was in a writing class in the Writers Studio, and we had to write an "exercise" in which we focused on a place in the past using a first-person persona narrator. I took several classes there for over two years or so. Every week we had to write "exercises" modeled after poems or short stories we read and discussed in class, identifying the techniques that made the voice of that poem particularly striking. So we would try to write an exercise taking that "voice" as a model, but applying it to an entirely different content, our own content.

The Writers Studio is a "voice-driven" technique school. Other schools such as Gotham's Writers, for instance, focus on either developing characters, plot or the "universe" of a novel. I am not sure what they do in regards to poetry. In any case, the exercise made me think about a place in my past that I was very fond of and that best represented my idea of an alternative dominicanidad, of people who were different from the mold, whose views or lives or activities contested the norm.

They were the most exciting people existing in the city at the time: artists, actors, writers, poets, musicians, bohemians, gays, lesbians...The Drake's had a mysterious aura around it...

At first, it was the place for bohemians to hang out, but soon, it was discovered by the jevitos who wanted to look cool and then it gradually became invaded by these people who came in their cars and flooded the place on weekends. A few years later, local businesses realized there was a market to be had and pushed for the "remodelación" of the zone. They razed the wall down, eliminated the narrow street in front of the pubs and houses there, as well as the lawn that was between the wall and the Alcazar, and they made it all concrete, a big plaza for restaurants and tourists. I hated it. They robbed our Drake's pub, the wall, and the hanging out place we had. The only equivalent place to that today is the Parque Duarte, but there is no Pub.

Also, just as the place changed, the people changed. Some of them are no longer bohemian or contestatarian but support the status quo or are even part of the conservative status quo and have very conservative views. So the disappearance of the Drake's Pub's Wall is also a metaphor for the disappearance of alternative, progressive views.