Growing Up In The Dark


Image: b1ur


Imagine not having electricity during at least 12 hours of the day, every day. Think about how you cannot buy groceries that need refrigeration in large amounts because, of course, you’ll have no electricity. Now picture what would you do if you could not use the computer, play a videogame, watch TV or listen to the radio the whole night. It sounds awful, doesn’t it?

Watching the video “The Danger of a Single Story” by African novelist Chimamanda Adichie, made me think a lot about how people from developing countries, like myself, are perceived by people from developed countries. That’s why I decided to write this post about how one of those “struggles” was not really a big problem for me growing up. After all, you cannot feel deprived if you’ve never experienced anything different, right?

That’s how having power outages in the Dominican Republic for as long as I can remember, became part of an awaited routine my family had.  Every night when the outage happened, we’d get out of the house quickly because the heat was unbearable without a fan. S o, we either climbed up a shaky wood ladder and go to the roof1 of the house with a couple of area rugs and pillows or just stayed in the front porch without being able to actually see each other’s faces.

Once we were out, we would start singing ballads from Latin American singers of the time, or recite popular poetry to entertain ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, power outages are a serious problem in the Dominican Republic, and they have shaped the way people live to this day. But, as a child, I really enjoyed those nights in which we all were together listening to my grandma tell stories of her small southern town, giving us riddles to decipher, or reciting popular poetry.

Looking back, I think that’s where my love for stories comes from, since reading wasn’t big in my family. Consequently, having no electricity had a positive influence in my life; even when the outage happened in the middle of my favorite cartoon and I felt disappointed, it helped me explore and use my imagination with the limited toys I had.

Therefore, stirring away from trying to make this a sugar-coated account of a serious issue my country deals with, and specially since it’s not the only version, I can say this is one of the many stories the people of my generation can tell about growing up in a poor neighborhood without electricity.

Being poor and from a developing country is often seen as being sad. However, having being one of those children I can say that’s not what I remember. And that’s my story of having no power, at least one of them, the positive one, seen through the eyes of a child. Not as terrifying as it seem in the first paragraph, is it?


1 We were lucky enough to have a concrete roof, as opposed of tin, which is more affordable and common in poor neighborhoods in the D.R.



  1. says

    I love this story — just great insight.  I think that those of us in developed nations that have never visited the developing world have a very negative view of everything in those parts of the world.  When in reality while it's different there is a lot of value too.  

    • Dania Santana says

      Thank you Amanda! I know that it's hard to understand for people that live in countries where many things are taken for granted (like water, electricity and garbage removal). Also, the media plays a huge part of it, by only showing the undeserved areas and negative situations. That's why what the African author said hit right home with me, 'the single story' it's what makes it harder for anybody that is not inside the situation to comprehend. 

  2. says

    I'm with Amanda–I love this story! It actually reminds me of an autobiographical story I read with my students, "To be young, gifted and black" by Lorraine Hansberry. She was a playwright who wrote about growing up in Chicago in the 1940s. In the summer when it was hot and they had no air conditioning or fans, her family would sleep in the park and tell each other stories. Her memories of those nights are a lot like yours–very happy! It is interesting to think about the fact that many parts of the U.S. have only become so developed in the last 1-2 generations (and some rural areas are still not as developed as big cities.) When you look back just a short time, you can see that many people in the US have memories that are similar to yours–including my parents and grandparents. You've reminded me of some of their old family stories–thank you!

  3. lafamiliacool says

    That's right Jen! Everything is subject to your own circumstances and while there are many needs for children in the developing world, for the most part if kids have loving parents they'll lead happy lives even while immerse in extreme poverty. Thanks for reading and your comment. :)