Love in the Age of Globalized Sex Work, Secrets, and Depression

  • Donette Francis


During the 2006 to 2007 season, the Dominican tourist board ran an ad, “The Inexhaustible Republic of Colors,” shown on airlines and Internet sites (such as YouTube) throughout the global north. The ad opens with a shadow image of what viewers initially believe to be a semi-clothed woman’s body reflected in the sand. When the camera tightens to a close-up, it reveals a preteen girl who picks up a conch shell through which we will hear the sounds of her island. Through music and images the ad narrates the “inexhaustibility” of the Dominican Republic’s “natural resources”: from its various land and seascapes, its numerous cultural activities, and its racially diverse national bodies—all of which are available for the consuming tourist. In the last frame, this young local girl gives the shell to a little (blond haired, blue-eyed) white tourist girl, symbolically inviting her to consume the island republic. This ad, produced by the national tourist board, raises a postcolonial set of questions about how state managers make use of existing visual protocols to compete in the global marketplace. It subtly draws upon popular representations of the Dominican Republic as the Caribbean paradise for sex tourism, an understanding driven by racialized and sexualized image of the light-skinned mulatta, as the dominant object of heterosexual male desire. This construction, Kamala Kempadoo argues, positions Dominican women as light-skinned, hot Latinas “specially trained and groomed to provide sexual pleasure to men and thus being particularly suited to sex work.”1


Immigrant Woman Dominican Republic Emotional Labor Ethnic Enclave Conch Shell 
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© Donette Francis 2010

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  • Donette Francis

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