All posts by Jennifer Gotrik

‘You’re grown now’: Sex work in Samaná

Samaná, a cruise ship port town on the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic, draws ­thousands of tourists to the island each year. Colorful sarongs, postcards, and Dominican paintings fill souvenir shops along the main road. The locals can lead you to authentic restaurants, idyllic beaches, and, if you can spare a few pesos, girls of all ages.

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“This place is a man’s paradise,” said one tourist. “These girls just love to have sex.”

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Berenice, Yolei and Chabeli – best friends, mothers and sex workers –  will do whatever it takes to feed their children. So in the town of Samaná, where job opportunities are limited, the three women sell their bodies for money.  

Jan. 6 was Dia de los Reyes, a national holiday for Dominicans. To celebrate, the girls packed their bags with bikinis, snacks and orange soda, and headed to the beach with their children.

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With polka dots on her shirt and a light blue bow in her hair, Chabeli looked more like a child than a mother.  The 15-year-old was 13  when she told her parents she was pregnant. She was given three days to pack her things, leave the house and find her own way.

But Berenise, 23, has been a sex worker for almost 10 years. With two children, ages 11 and 4, she knows what it takes to support a family through sex work. She has taken the responsibility of teaching Yolei and Chabeli their lifestyle leaves little time for fun and games.

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“No eres tan pequeña, eres grande ya,” Berenise said to Chabeli at the beach.

“You’re not little anymore, you’re grown now.”

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