Saturday, December 15, 2012

La Frontera: where the Dominican Republic and Haiti mee

La Frontera: Where the Dominican Republic and Haiti Meet
Darrel L. Hammon

Haitian missionaries read to leave MTC with President and Sister Glazier

Every senior missionary should have a day like I did this week. I had the privilege along with Elder and Sister Button, Elder and Sister Ferguson, and Hermano Cuevas of the MTC (CCM) to take the Haitian missionaries to the Haitian and DR border where their mission president and his wife, President Hubermann Bien-Aimé and Sister Maggy Léger Bien-Aimé from the Haiti Port-au-Prince Mission, met us on the DR border at Jimani, fondly known as La Fontera. What a drive and what a place, La Frontera.
On the way to La Frontera. This is a real road
The drive is a long one, through Santo Domingo, San Cristóbal, Bani, Azua, and a host of little cities along the way.

Lake Enriquillo

We drove on the north side of Lake Enriquillo, a large salt water lake that, at its lowest point, is 145 feet below sea level. This side of the island is so different than the other side. It has, according to Wikipedia, “…a hot, semiarid climate with an average annual rainfall of about 24 inches” ( One sees a lot of cacti growing in this area. To me, it reminds me a bit of Arizona. It has its beauty, though. 

Crossing #1
Once we arrived at the border, Hermano Cuevas took the passports and went to complete the proper border crossing paperwork. The rest of us hung around outside, visiting, shooing away the hoards of beggars, and loading the luggage in the mission vehicles. We did give cookies to a few of the young boys who were there. One of the young men who approached us was dressed well and had some cool shades (sunglasses). With a cocky walk and demeanor, he sauntered up to us and stated, rather bluntly in English, “Give me some money.” No please, no nothing. Just “give me some money.” I chatted with him about the virtues of work. He didn’t say a word. For the rest of the time we were there, he just stood around with “that look” and watched us, never cracking a smile or changing his demeanor.

Unloading and loading at the La Frontera
La Frontera is like the wild, wild west. Lots of trucks came into the narrow strip of ground, surrounded by the ever-rising Lake Enriquillo, horns blaring to warn everyone to get out of the way. Other trucks were parked in cramped quarters just across from where we parked our vehicles on top of a pile of dirt that will hold the lake back for a bit more. Dust swirled here and there. Men pushed wheel barrows loaded with flour and other odds and ends toward the border. People loitered around the trucks and cars, some waiting to go across the border; others, just hanging around waiting for something to happen. Little boys, one naked, were swimming in the lake. They had caught some fish and had strung them on a leader line. Periodically, they lifted the fish out of the water, checking to see if they were still there. The young naked boy climbed out of the water, stood on the cement bank, bare for all to see, dried off and began putting back on his meager clothes.

Young man waiting at the border
  There is something mystical, chaotic, and sad at the border town. While it seemed chaotic, I’m sure the people would describe it “as another typical day” on La Frontera. Business continued as usual, both on this side and the Haitian side.

President Hubermann Bien-Aimé and Sister Maggy Léger Bien-Aimé, the Haiti Port-au-Prince Mission
Once the passports had been checked and reviewed, the missionaries were ready to pass from the DR side to the Haitian side. We said teary goodbye to the missionaries, and the young elders and two sisters climbed inside the mission vehicles and off they went. We climbed back into ours and trundled back the way we came, through the little stream, connecting each side of the lake once again. 

Crossing #2

The road is just a raised bed of dirt through the lake to the other side. It won’t be long until it is covered, and the La Frontera will be gone—all the chaos, the trucks, the shacks, the little beggars, all of it, submerged. Or transferred to some other point, perhaps much higher--but still the business of a border town.


Joanne Hammon said...

I am so glad that you made it back home safe.

MomJill said...

We, too, are calling the Western side of the Dominican Republic as the "Wild West" as well, although our adventure was a little different from yours.

Thank you for sharing...