M: Where did this idea of bringing murals to Cabarete come from?
T: Well, for the same reason as the carnaval, and the same reason to introduce a new sport to the people. Because these are activities that bring vision, that bring inspiration, move the economy. Arts and sports are two of the biggest things that human beings have created. In the town, art and sports, it’s strange to have to say that it lacks sports when it is the capital of water sports, but this is recent. In fact, no water sports are taught at the public schools. Yes there are sports schools but the state is not in charge, these are individuals that thanks to our mother nature, are dedicated to these and have businesses that grow with that base but we don’t even teach swimming in the public schools. From my part, as a human being, I consider the arts and sports to be the best, two of the greatnesses of the world. I have the tools to be involved, or participate, collaborate on the logistics, the permits or whatever it is to be involved in that. It is good for the people to have another schedule, to have other tools to bring more people. It is also positive, beautiful and brings joy.
M: I imagine that it brings everyone together because if the locals are not surfing or kite surfing, it’s only for one type of person—
M: —So there’s a separation there—
T: —Exactly, art, carnaval and the muralization brings everyone together. Cute, ugly, black, white, yellow, everybody. It’s also about being more sensitive. There are many social tensions and so with the carnaval we can see that for example in our country, the participation of men and women does not have to necessarily have to be about men and women. Many men dress up as women and women dress up as men…and so it’s that social integration that the world needs more of…every time that a mural is being painted, every time that there is an artist doing a mural, children approach, oh lend me something, I want to paint and it starts that way. People approach and sit down to enjoy a bit of that and later it becomes a cleaner area because of the biggest impacts of these murals, apart from the beauty, is that where trash was thrown, where a mural is put up, less or no trash is thrown. Sometimes the owner of the place where the mural was made, or the mayor will install a light or will be more interested because now it has become an attractive area. It’s a phenomenal empowerment.
M: What challenges have you had with the Academy?
T: We are in the Dominican Republic. The economical challenges are always there and I also think that the challenges we have had here from a community level are normal when one is bringing or showing something new. Nothing out of the ordinary. Whether it is a resistance from people who don’t understand that what we are doing is correct, until they realize—
M: How come? Do you have an example?
T: Well, since the academy promotes the arts, the carnaval and that type of activity so much, our country tends to be very religious. These topics are delicate. Of course, when you have a tradition in place, something that is here before us and we come with something like this, that well women will be thrown on the floor and will put men in between their legs or vice versa. Jiu Jitsu is like this, you should take a class. That type of feminine empowerment, for example, a woman on top of a man holding on, that hits a nerve. It has hit several times and it tends to me misinterpreted until time passes and we fill that hole of ignorance with the facts. Now we have a good image but these are normal challenges. I imagine that with every new discovery or big movement, revolution has had this at the beginning. A resistance group—
M: Yes, anything new or that innovates—
T: That innovates in our present. Because maybe somebody did it a hundred years ago but it got lost in the times and then someone else comes and says I am innovating. That is the matter with our country, there’s a lack of education…we don’t study our history. When I moved here I found a lot of people who lead Karate classes, or did, many years before. There were many martial artists, that I met at 50 or 60 years old. But there was always talk of not one, nor two but many. But with time there was no record, nothing—
M: —They didn’t have a space—
T: Exactly, it also wasn’t known that in the world of Cabarete these things were done, in the country it wasn’t that popular. This is what the academy has achieved. Social media, helps a lot, with photos and information.
M: What’s next?
T: Continuing with the Academy, continuing to teach Jiu Jitsu until the body can handle it. We will continue to see how we can be involved with all these cultural activities that we are doing, see how it goes with time. We will include other activities, other types of art, other sports. The Academy is in the process of introducing skate. There is a space, that has been created, and we have the various equipment needed for that —
T: —Skateboarding, yes, this is a sport that has become an olympic sport and in the Dominican Republic there are many spaces where skate is popping up. The skate community is growing and skateboard is a practical sport, boys like it a lot. It’s an activity that attracts boys from the neighborhoods, attracts boys that don’t fit in with basketball or baseball.
M: Yes, something different. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me.
La Academia de la Costa offers daily classes in Jiu Jitsu, Boxing/Kickboxing open to all levels, as well private lessons and kid friendly programs. Check out their pages for the updated schedule.
This interview was translated from its original format in Spanish and condensed for clarity.