Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Town Hall

            Altagracia has decided that, despite my tales of the cold weather in Massachusetts, she would like to visit this summer when I am there working.
            Every resident of the Dominican Republic has a cedula, or I.D. card, with a number that, like a social security number in the States, is linked with one's birth certificate and that one carries for life. But for Altagracia to apply for a passport she must obtain her birth certificate from the city where she was declared. But since she was not declared until she was about 17 and still too young to vote, although she had two children by then, and was declared by an uncle instead of her father and was not given the last name of her father, Mateo, but of her mother, Garcia Poche, or Pochet depending on which document you are reading, and since the birth certificate is evidently not filed by date of birth but by the date of declaration, and none of these records are computerized, it is not so easy. We went to the Junta Electoral of Baní, about 2 hours away by guagua, where Altagracia was declared (even though she was born in Elias Piña), and went upstairs where there was a corridor lined with maybe a dozen unlabeled offices all of which had equally long, stationary lines trailing out through the doors. Altagracia asked a cleaning lady to unlock a bathroom for her and while we, the cleaning lady and I, were waiting for her to come out we chatted and when she did come out the cleaning lady brought us to a friend of hers in one of the Kafkaesque offices who, after much turning of pages of dog-eared registers and much searching through overstuffed grimy manilla folders that were precariously stacked on shelves behind her, and recopying the cedula number a couple of times with the pencil she borrowed from me, announced that it would take a lot more digging and could she call us when she found the record and so we gave her 100 pesos so she could buy a phone card to call us and have a tip left over and thanked her and now are still waiting after three weeks and have not had time to get back there because, in the meantime, Altagracia's father died.

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