In this week’s ‘Memories of Casa de Campo’ post, Carol Burke recalls a visit to one of the Bateys in the La Romana region. ‘Batey’ is the name given to the town where the workers of the sugar cane fields live – as the main industry in La Romana and much of the Dominican Republic is sugar there are many ‘Bateys’ in the countryside.
On St Luke’s Day – The oxen had leave to play.
English traditional proverb. St Luke is the patron saint of artists and his emblem is a winged ox.
After walking around La Romana quite a bit, showing my brother-in-law the sights, we stopped by H-M Supermarket to buy some groceries.
There was a colorful Jorge Silvestre mural across the front of the market.
I took photos of the mural in five parts because it was so big and I wanted to preserve the details.
The mural is a celebration of sugar cane, the sugar workers, and all that the cane produces.
At the end of the mural Silvestre paints a small market selling sugar, watermelons, mangoes and platanos, all the food that makes life sweet in the Dominican Republic.
After viewing this magnificent mural, my visitor wanted to visit the source. I asked people where the sugar cane grows and I found out that it all starts in the Batey.
We drove out from La Romana and found our way to a Batay community. There the countryside was refreshing and full of interesting sights.
Children were there to greet us.
The Batey was a quiet and prospering place. People were working and children were at play. There was a solar-powered telephone for the residents.
We saw a beautiful blue Dominican house next to a towering, twisting tree.
Then we saw the oxen. They are magnificent and impressive animals. In art, the ox symbolizes strength, power, service and humility.
Oxen pull heavy tanks to the field to help in sugar production.
And when the sugar cane is ready to go to the factory, the oxen pull the full carts of cane to the railroad landing.
At the railroad landing the sugar cane is loaded into railcars to be transported to La Romana.
Oxen are so big and strong – and beautiful at the same time – my guest snapped some photos of them to take back with him.
At that time in 1997, I was interested in the Chinese Lunar Calendar. Each year is named after an animal who, legend has it, came to say good-bye to Buddha as he was leaving. The lunar years revolve in a twelve-year cycle and the oxen is honored in the second year of the cycle. I decided that from that year onwards I would look for a painting with the lunar year animal as the main subject.
I found a painting by Domingo Dominguez J. of a landscape with oxen at Eduardo’s Gallery in La Romana.
Later that year, I met Jorge Silvestre and bought one of his paintings reflecting back on the scene of the H-M mural.
THANK YOU to Carol for another wonderful article!