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December 6, 2011
  • Two memorable Xmas concerts
  • Dominican nativities
  • Salvador Vasallo exhibition
  • Multiple destination marketing is key
  • Protecting the 'showy' whales of the region
  • Religious tourism in Santo Domingo
Two memorable Xmas concerts
Plan on attending the Christmas choir concerts at the National Theater and the Cathedral of Santo Domingo.
The traditional Christmas carol concert, Luz del Mundo (Light of the World) is the first with a recital on Thursday, 8 December at 8pm at the theater esplanade. The 90 voices of the choirs of Banreservas, Edad Dorada and A Voces directed by Mayra Peguero will bring the Christmas spirit alive. The program includes traditional Christmas songs from around the world and many popular Dominican Christmas songs. Soloists include several lyric singers, Maryam de Soto, Pura Tayson, Elvira de Leon, Luis Guillermo Puello and Arturo Lamarche. They will be accompanied by panists Elionai Medina and Anton Fustier and percussionists Rafael Diaz and Jose Luis Urena. Admission is free.
The choir of the Cathedral of Santo Domingo will be singing at 8pm sharp on Christmas Day. But to get into that one, it is essential to arrive around 6:30pm-7pm, because of the small seating capacity of the Cathedral. Giant screens are set up outside for enjoying the music in the ambience of the old city. The concert of the Cathedral includes several traditional religious Christmas songs, world favorites and often also features a world premiere of a Dominican Christmas song. It is part of the Christmas tradition for many Dominican families.
Dominican nativities
Come and see the works of art created by artisans Roosevelt Mendez and Pedro Mendez with their antique wood-carved statues in the style of 1800s woodwork.
Roosevelt Mendez gained international recognition when he won the first prize at the International Nativities Scene Contest, Mostra 100 Presepi, celebrated in Rome in 2010. He is presenting several creations in small and medium-sized formats along with a collection by maestro Pedro Mendez during the Christmas Bazaar organized by the Association of Diplomatic Ladies of the Dominican Republic on Sunday, 11 December starting at 10am at Casa de Espana. More will be available at the Artisan Fair organized by the Ministry of Culture for 14-18 December at the Columbus Park, next to the Cathedral of Santo Domingo in the Colonial City.
Salvador Vasallo exhibition
On Thursday, 8 December at 7:30pm Quinta Dominica will be inaugurating an exhibition of works by Salvador Vassallo at Padre Billini 202 in Santo Domingo's Colonial City. Vasallo studied interior decorating at the UNPHU, but his inclination to the arts came from studying under maestros Gilberto Hernandez Ortega, Candido Bido, Ada Balcacer and Antonio Prats-Ventos. He works in wood, steel, marble, iron and perspex and in his short career has held eight individual exhibitions in the DR and over 20 collective exhibits in the DR and abroad. A monumental sculpture by Vasallo is on display at the University of Lowell, in Massachusetts, USA, and several of his works are in Mexico, Spain and several US states. In this exhibition, Cardumen (School of Fish), Vasallo presents his personal version of the beauty of Caribbean fish with their incredible shapes, colors, lights and designs.
Multiple destination marketing is key
In a recent interview, Demetrius Canton, the director of lodging supply for the Caribbean for Expedia, the leading Internet room booking website, praised the Dominican Republic's marketing campaigns. He pointed to the Dominican Republic as one of the Caribbean destinations that has been able to market itself effectively during tough times and as a result has reaped rewards.
"When I look across the region, the islands that have fared well include the Dominican Republic. Obviously, the all-inclusive is very hot right now as the customer is looking at price point. The airlift is also a significant factor and that island has continued to add lift from international markets and the United States," he said.
"Granted, they are sitting on 70,000 hotel rooms; but they are also not as dependent on US travelers as many other islands are. Around 40 per cent of their arrivals are of American origin, so they are a bit more diversified. It's one of the more expensive lifts but the demand is there", he said.
Canton says for the Caribbean there are definitely opportunities to focus on the Latin American market and that South America is a big market. The Dominican Republic has been successful at penetrating this market, with tourists coming from Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Peru and Ecuador. Canton mentioned that Brazilians have many holidays, and are used to paying high hotel prices.
Protecting the 'showy' whales of the region
Since 2006 the Dominican Republic has had a sister sanctuary agreement to work closely with the US to protect the popular humpback whales in the North Atlantic. The success of the agreement is now leading to others as a way of protecting the showman whales of the region.
The "sister sanctuary" agreement states that marine mammal professionals who are members of the pact will exchange what they know and help each other in research and education to manage the same animals, said Craig MacDonald, superintendent of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.
No money is exchanged in the agreements, said MacDonald. One example of the partnership is joint applications for grant money for new technology for the Caribbean partner, he said. A second example is inviting student interns from the Caribbean to study with US organizations, according to researcher Jooke Robbins of the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies.
The Gulf of Maine in the US supports about 847 humpbacks each feeding season in the North Atlantic, said Robbins. The humpbacks in this region typically feed in the spring and summer before heading south in late fall to the Caribbean Sea to mate and give birth, primarily in the northeastern waters of Marine Mammal Sanctuary of the Dominican Republic, off the coast of the Samana peninsula. The whales travel about 1,500 miles one-way.
"They travel great distances and important parts of their life cycles occur in places far away," said Daniel Basta, director of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. "You really can't think you can sustain them by only looking at them in one place. You have to try to influence their success across their entire life cycle, across their entire range. That's good science."
Humpback whales, also known as "humpies," face many threats throughout the world, such as ship strikes, fishing gear entanglement, whale-watch company harassment, hunting proposals, loss of habitat and noise pollution, according to US government records.
In September 2011, the US signed a new sister sanctuary agreement with France, creating a partnership between Stellwagen Bank and Agoa Marine Mammal Sanctuary in the French Antilles. Earlier this year in June, Stellwagen Bank sanctuary officials signed a letter of intent with Bermuda, which is about 650 miles east of the North Carolina coast and in the humpbacks' migration path. This builds on the oldest of the agreements, the 2006 one signed between the US and the Dominican Republic that paired Stellwagen Bank with the Marine Mammal Sanctuary of the Dominican Republic.
All three pacts follow United Nations guidelines, which have recommended the sister sanctuary concept, MacDonald said.
The US is working now with Dutch Caribbean authorities to come to a similar agreement, he said.
The Center for Coastal Studies hosts at least one intern from the Dominican Republic each year, in cooperation with the Dolphin Fleet of Provincetown whale-watch company in Provincetown, Robbins said.
One intern, Peter Sanchez, has held two internships and upon his return to the Dominican Republic was tapped to be coordinator of operations for the Marine Mammal Sanctuary.
That job included evaluating whale-watch boat permits and monitoring scientific research on the boats, as well as organizing volunteers to collect data about humpbacks seen on the trips, according to records from the Cetacean Society International, which helped fund Sanchez's internships.
Religious tourism in Santo Domingo
Catholic leaders in Santo Domingo want to get the word out about the religious significance of the Colonial City of Santo Domingo that has the earliest cathedral in the Americas, along with several other historic buildings. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo told the Catholic News Service it is trying to attract attention to the area as a key site for 500 years of religious history, as reported in
Working with tourism officials, the archdiocese has developed "religious route" itineraries, taking tourists past 16 churches, convents, monasteries and hospitals that were the foundation of the development of Santo Domingo, the first city in the New World.
A museum dedicated to the area's religious history and that also celebrates the 500-year long history of the founding of the diocese will soon be open to the general public.
Throughout Latin America, Catholic leaders and tourism officials are working to bring more attention to their religious places and events. More than five centuries since Columbus landed in the Caribbean and Catholicism began to spread through the hemisphere, the region is gaining recognition from international tourists, as reported in
"As a destination for faith-based tourism, we're seeing Latin America receive more attention than it has in the past," said Kevin Wright, director of growth markets at NTA, a Kentucky-based travel association. Years ago, Latin America was barely on the radar, but in what Wright called the "new era" of faith-based tourism, the region appeals to younger and more adventurous travelers.
"It offers a diversity of experiences," he said. "It's an emerging market."
The faith-based travel portion of the tourism market is worth an estimated US$18 billion a year around the globe. The most popular destinations for Catholic pilgrimages remain, by far, the Holy Land and Europe.

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