Photo Essay

Rolling with the punches

No fear

Rolling with the Punches...

That's what is best to learn early in life. The punches sooner or later will come and they'll keep coming. It is wise to figure out how to survive them and possibly, how to punch back.

That is what these kids do in a God-forsaken gymnasium of San Juan de la Maguana, the last Far West of the Dominican Republic.

Most of them come from poverty stricken families and grow up with an inner anger, which is hard to dissimulate. All the temptations of the modern world are right there, just a few blocks away from the zinc roofed shack they share with a large extended family.

The latest cell-phones, the Internet, fancy cars, plasma TVs and colorful scooters are their dreams, but they soon turn into nightmares, due to their inaccessibility. And the lack of these goods, make them feel even more discriminated against and fuels their desperation and their rage.

There are no jobs out there, there's no hope to honestly earn what you desire trough legitimate work, besides, most of the rich people they observe in the streets have gained their position through political corruption, nepotism and illicit activities.

This rage fueled by lack of hope often leads them towards becoming first petty thieves and then full-blown criminals dabbling in robberies, drug dealing and prostitution.

Boxing represents a theoretical chance, a possibility of being discovered by a foreign agent, travel, earn money, but mostly it seems to me to be an opportunity for these kids to punch life back in the face, that life that deceived them, defrauded them of what they wanted, voided their hopes.

Boxing is letting them try to open a path, with their fists, out of the otherwise terminal social isolation and captivity they were born in.

And at the same time, discharge their rage.

So they fight.

Despite the old rotting gloves they wear, the lack of shoes, the stench of sweat and urine from the overflowed restrooms in the gymnasium, every day, when the sun is strongest, at three in the afternoon, they gather to train with an uncommon determination. Every day.

And periodically, often during "fiestas patronales" or political rallies, they fight each other in boxing tournaments, an eye to the adversary's fist and the other to the crowd, hoping to spot a talent scout, an agent, a foreign face looking at them.

On the ring, some of them win, some others loose.... But the sad truth is that talent scouts mostly comb through Dominican athletes in the Baseball fields, not on the boxing ring.

There'll be a rematch, another day, in some similar place and hopefully someone will finally notice them and give them that chance, they all pursue, of bettering their life.

But in the meantime, all they can do is spit, sweat, ignore the pain and keep rolling with the punches.

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4 responses

  • Dwayne John

    Dwayne John gave props (9 Aug 2010):

    Great story.

  • Megan Green

    Megan Green gave props (9 Aug 2010):

    Great photo essay.

  • Sheryl Estrada

    Sheryl Estrada gave props (9 Aug 2010):

    Well done.

  • Brian Ach

    Brian Ach said (11 Aug 2010):

    Good job. Watch your composition, sometimes we lose a head or arm. But good job for following the story and selecting different shots to illustrate it. Watch being too involved in the perspective of the story--is the gym really "godforsaken?" Some of the kids might disagree--it takes us out of the story and prevents us from forming our own opinion. If it is that bad, show us! But good job.

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