Vendors selling ice and oranges
Courtesy Mark Salyers
Most small rural neighborhoods and villages were
originally by one or two families. Extensive ties of
intermarriage, and compadrazgo (coparenthood)
among the descendants of the original settlers
(see Dominican Republic - Family and Kin
, this ch.). Most villagers married their near
First cousins frequently married, despite the formal legal
prohibitions against this practice. The social life of the
countryside likewise focused on near neighbors, who were
frequently direct blood relations. The bonds of trust and
cooperation among these relatives formed at an early age.
Children wandered among the households of extended kin at
Peasants distrusted those from beyond their own
and they were therefore leery of economic relations with
outsiders. The development of community-wide activities
organizations was handicapped by this widespread distrust.
commonly assumed deceit in others, in the absence of
incontrovertible proof to the contrary.
Until the latter twentieth century, most joint
were kin-based: a few related extended families joined
for whatever needed attention. The junta was the
traditional cooperative work group. Friends, neighbors,
relatives gathered at a farmer's house for a day's work.
was no strict accounting of days given and received. As
labor became more common, the junta gave way to
cooperative work groups, or it fell into disuse entirely.
In small towns, social life focused on the central
the plaza; in rural neighborhoods most social interaction
non-kin took place in the stores, the bars, and the pool
where men gathered to gossip. Six-day workweeks left
for recreation or socializing. Many farm families came to
Sundays to shop and to attend Mass. The women and children
generally returned home earlier than the men to prepare
dinner; the men stayed to visit, or to enjoy an afternoon
cockfight or an important baseball or volleyball game.
Landholding in the late 1980s was both concentrated
large holders and fragmented at the lower end of the
socioeconomic scale. All but the largest producers faced
constraints in terms of land and money. Indeed, a national
conducted in 1985 found extensive rural poverty. More than
percent of the households surveyed owned no land; another
percent had less than half a hectare. Roughly 70 percent
families relied on wage labor.
Land reform legislation had had little overall impact
landholding both because the reforms contained few
land redistribution and because they were poorly enforced.
Redistribution began in the 1960s with land accumulated by
Trujillo and acquired by the state after his death. By the
1980s, irrigated rice farms, which had been left intact
been farmed collectively, were slated for division into
privately owned plots. All told, by 1980 the Dominican
Institute (Instituto Agrario Dominicano--IAD) had
state land to approximately 67,000 families--less than 15
of the rural population.
Population growth over the past century had virtually
eliminated the land reserves. Parents usually gave
of land as they reached maturity, so that they could marry
begin their own families.Over the generations, the process
led to extreme land fragmentation. Contemporary practices
to these constraints. Educating children, setting them up
business, or bankrolling their emigration limited the
heirs competing for the family holdings and assured that
generation would be able to maintain its standard of
or two siblings (usually the oldest and the youngest)
with the parents and inherited the farm. In other cases,
and their spouses stayed on the parental lands; each
farmed its own plot of land, but they pooled their labor
agricultural and domestic tasks.
Migration served as a safety valve
(see Dominican Republic - Migration
Migrants' remittances represented an essential component
household budgets. These timely infusions of cash
medium-sized landholders to meet expenses during the
before harvest; they also allowed families to purchase
In communities with a history of fifteen to twenty years
levels of emigration, such emigration had an inflationary
on the local land market. For those relying on wage labor
a living, the impact was more ambiguous. In some
increase in migration meant more casual work was available
more family members migrated. In other instances,
families switched to livestock raising to limit labor
requirements, or they hired an overseer to handle the
agricultural work. Both these practices limited the
demand for casual labor.
The vast majority (84 percent) of farm women
the family's earnings. Women devised means of earning
meshed with their domestic tasks: they cultivated garden
raised small livestock, and/or helped to tend the family's
fields. In addition, many rural women worked at diverse
industries and vending. They sold everything from lottery
to home-made sweets.
In the mid-1980s, approximately 20 percent of rural
households were headed by women. The lack of services in
areas increased women's working days with physically
and time-consuming domestic tasks. Single women were
handicapped by the traditional exclusion of women from
or skilled agricultural work. Women worked during the
laborintensive phases of harvesting and processed crops like
coffee, tobacco, and tomatoes. They usually earned piece
rather than daily wages, and their earnings lagged behind
of male agricultural laborers.
Data as of December 1989