Dominican Republic–A gunfight at La Canita bar in Puerto Plata last Saturday resulted in three dead and five seriously injured, according to local newspaper Diario.
As a result of the shoot-out, 15 persons have been detained for questioning and the bar, rumored to be one of the biggest drug distribution points in town, has been closed. Now this might be just another news story. But La Canita was one of my favorite haunts during my travels to the DR. I’ve enjoyed many good times with friends there. I was informed of this incident by a friend living in the DR who had been at the bar the night before the fatal gunfight. He was obviously grateful he was there Friday and not Saturday.
This hits home. I’ve traveled to the DR many times and, even though I know it’s dangerous, keep coming back. Call me insane, but I’m in the midst of planning another six-month hiatus there, as I have friends from around the world who will soon be arriving to escape the Canadian winter.
I’ve heard travelers call the DR the most dangerous culture they’ve ever experienced. According to website dominicanwatchdog.org, in the last three years 39 foreigners have been murdered, and that’s just the reported cases. Often these murders go unsolved.
During my last trip to the DR, at least two foreigners were murdered while another Canadian sustained multiple gunshots during a robbery and barely escaped with his life. During my last visit to La Canita, not that long ago, I almost ended up on that fatality list. I was drinking with four friends when suddenly a fist-fight erupted. Before I knew it, tables and chairs, bottles and other dangerous projectiles were whizzing through the air. Our table became airborne and drinks went flying everywhere. In an instant, I was pinned against a wall while panicked patrons fled en masse. To survive, I held a broken chair up as a shield to protect myself against flying beer bottles. At least three crashed off the improvised shield, before the bar cleared and we waded through piles of broken glass and made our escape. Fortunately, none of us were injured or killed.
So why do I keep coming back? As Henry David Thoreau once said, ” How vain is it to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live?” As a horror writer, I’m of the opinion my stories are a lot grittier and real because I’ve lived many of the horrors I write about. I wrote Nightmare’s Edge while living in the DR and witnessing many terrifying tragedies. Nightmare’s Edge journeys deep into the underbelly of local culture and exposes the need for money that is often the underlying motivation behind Dominican friendliness. It strips away the idyllic veneer, revealing the dark and predatory nature of many of this country’s people. One reviewer called it, “A horror story that will scare the hell out of you and open your eyes to the harsh reality of life in paradise.”
Half of new release Blood Curse was written earlier this year while I lived in the DR and experienced or saw many of its horrors first-hand. In Blood Curse, lead protagonist MacKenzie Adamson spirals down a deadly abyss of debauchery trying to escape from dangerous natural and supernatural forces hell-bent on his demise, while simultaneously struggling to find himself and his sanity. A roller-coaster horror ride that documents many gritty and real elements of danger that exist in this so-called idyllic island paradise.
But, alas it’s not all doom and gloom. Living on a secluded acreage in the country, I don’t get a lot of social stimulation here. Most times I find myself talking to plants or animals. Since most of my close friends migrate to the DR annually, that is where I find my social stimulation. And although I need human companionship to inspire story ideas and characters, it’s not all about that. When I can, I like to surround myself with people who love me. And, yes, love them back.
And like any culture, the DR is not all bad. There is something exciting and infectious about the lifestyle that gets into your blood (and I’m not talking about a Blood Curse). I actually have some good Dominican friends and when I’m there I feel like I’m really living instead of just going through the motions. Maybe it’s because when you are aware your life may be snatched away at any minute, you tend to want to live it to the fullest.
And I’m sure, as it does without fail, this year’s trip will inspire another story idea. I don’t have to invent it. Truth is often scarier than fiction. The story will find me. Like Stephen King once said, the trick with fiction is finding the truth that lies within. Why not read Nightmare’s Edge or Blood Curse and see if you can decipher fact from fiction? I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.