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Life on the Malecón

Children and Youth on the Streets of Santo Domingo

Jon M. Wolseth

Publication Year: 2013

Life on the Malecón is a narrative ethnography of the lives of street children and youth living in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and the non-governmental organizations that provide social services for them. Writing from the perspective of an anthropologist working as a street educator with a child welfare organization, Jon M. Wolseth follows the intersecting lives of children, the institutions they come into contact with, and the relationships they have with each other, their families, and organization workers.

Often socioeconomic conditions push these children to move from their homes to the streets, but sometimes they themselves may choose the allure of the perceived freedoms and opportunities that street life has to offer. What they find, instead, is violence, disease, and exploitation—the daily reality through which they learn to maneuver and survive. Wolseth describes the stresses, rewards, and failures of the organizations and educators who devote their resources to working with this population.

The portrait of Santo Domingo’s street children and youth population that emerges is of a diverse community with variations that may be partly related to skin color, gender, and class. The conditions for these youth are changing as the economy of the Dominican Republic changes. Although the children at the core of this book live and sleep on avenues and plazas and in abandoned city buildings, they are not necessarily glue- and solvent-sniffing beggars or petty thieves on the margins of society. Instead, they hold a key position in the service sector of an economy centered on tourism.

Life on the Malecón offers a window into the complex relationships children and youth construct in the course of mapping out their social environment. Using a child-centered approach, Wolseth focuses on the social lives of the children by relating the stories that they themselves tell as well as the activities he observes.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Series: Series in Childhood Studies

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xiv

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pp. 1-19

This book is an ethnographic exploration of life on the streets of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, as told through my personal interactions with the children and youth who have chosen to make the street their home. For over two years I served as a Peace Corps volunteer with a Dominican ...

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Chapter 1: Outreach Work

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pp. 20-80

The jukebox in the corner of the colmado (corner shop) blasted out the greatest hits of the 1980s—Air Supply, REO Speedwagon, Journey. In their best campy English, Eli and Núria sang along, the words coming out of their mouths in twisted variations. They didn’t speak English, but they knew all the mangled words to “All Out of Love.” Just seeing them ...

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Chapter 2: Structural Conditions

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pp. 81-142

The word on the street is always garbled, mangled, never pure and unadulterated news. In a climate of suspicion and scarcity even the most basic of information—for example, when someone changes territory—is wrapped in double-talk and deliberate misinformation.1 There tends to be a kernel of truth, a tiny seed of real events, in every piece of gossip that circulates, but...

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Chapter 3: Friendship and Everyday Violence on the Street

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pp. 143-182

In the evenings, after going through a round of the day’s visits, I would normally still be restless, needing some help to decompress. My neighborhood had punctual, daily blackouts from five at night until two in the morning— a consequence of most of my neighbors not paying their bills and having...

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pp. 183-200

Even as I was preparing to leave Santo Domingo in late fall 2006, things were beginning to change. In the last month of my Peace Corps service, the city government had begun a clean-up project of the Malecón, selfconscious of the fact that the public areas needed a facelift to match the recent investment of private developers in the area. They started with Plaza Güibia....


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pp. 201-206


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pp. 207-212


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pp. 213-216

About the Author

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pp. 217-218

E-ISBN-13: 9780813562896
E-ISBN-10: 0813562899
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813562889

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Series in Childhood Studies
Series Editor Byline: Edited by Myra Bluebond-Langner, Ph.D., Founder of Rutgers University Center for Children and Childhood Studies See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 867741877
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Life on the Malecón

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Social work with youth -- Dominican Republic -- Santo Domingo.
  • Street children -- Dominican Republic -- Santo Domingo.
  • Child welfare -- Dominican Republic -- Santo Domingo.
  • Street youth -- Dominican Republic -- Santo Domingo.
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