It is said that all times past were better, many Dominicans, grew up in poor environments, marginalized, underdeveloped, with blackouts, but still, we had the best time of our lives.
This is one of those topics that I know is not very newsworthy, but it is highly charged with nostalgia, and it will amuse me to write about it.
When a Dominican tells you that he grew up in a violent neighborhood, or in a poor and backward town, but had the happiest childhood in the world in spite of all the adversities, you have to believe him.
I grew up in one of the most violent neighborhoods in Santo Domingo, in a humble house, but the memories I have of how we entertained ourselves are full of creativity and wonderful things, the best of all was that we didn’t spend any or little money.
This topic is about free games and activities that we did in our childhood for fun and entertainment in the Dominican Republic.
1-Steel wool fireworks
Christmas is still one of the most beautiful times in the Dominican Republic, I remember how expensive fireworks could be for a child.
Back then, our resources to have fun at Christmas were enough for two things, the first was to buy “cebollitas”, the onions were small paper bags filled with some kind of gunpowder, they exploded when crashed with any surface.
For 1 Dominican peso they gave us 4 onions, it was fun but they ran out very fast, the most fun and more economical was our second option, buy steel wool, light it with a match and run like crazy spinning the arm at full speed.
This was a bit dangerous, as sparks would fly off the steel wool which could cause slight burns, but the visual spectacle was impressive with one Dominican peso they gave us a lot of steel wool.
2-A cinema with half a block and a candle
This was not something very common, but I have incredible memories of how on several occasions I made a movie show in the backyard of my house, with half a block of 8 inches, a half-worn candle, a sheet of paper, and some plastic soldiers.
At dusk, I used the paper as a screen covering the front hole of the block, and projected the shadow of the soldiers with the candle making a kind of theater, the effect was so great that I even charged some children for allowing them to “enter the cinema”.
3- “Caman ahí”
Ok, of the night games and classics of the Dominican Republic the variety is so great that the topic would be too long, but among these games, the classic of the classics in the neighborhood where I lived was “camán ahi”.
Don’t ask me what “camán ahi” means (because I don’t know LOL), this was a game of “men” (boys), we all had toy guns, sometimes we used wooden sticks shaped like guns, but they had to be approved before playing.
The game was very simple, we divided into two teams with toy guns, we went out all over the neighborhood and hid, if one of us saw someone from the opposing team, we shouted “camán ahi” and took his gun, until one of the teams was left without a gun.
That game was pure fun, it allowed us to walk all the streets of the neighborhood at night shouting “camán ahi” and running like crazy, the good thing about remembering this game is to notice how healthy and calm the old times were.
Now it is impossible to think that children can run at night in a neighborhood playing, we of my generation were able to live that luxury.
4- Vitillas Game
I don’t know whose idea it was to take the lids of the water bottles to play a kind of ball game, the game of vitilla, it was one of the greatest classics of all the neighborhoods of Santo Domingo.
Initially, the water bottles came with a sturdy plastic lid, the lid could be thrown flat, we would take a broomstick from any house and play the game.
The rules were simple, similar to baseball, but the vitilla was played one on one or in pairs of two or three, outs were made by catching the vitilla in motion after being hit, if the vitilla was picked up without movement it was a run.
As I remember, this game came about in the mid-90s, then they changed the design of the water bottle caps and the vitillas became scarce until the game became so popular that someone began to manufacture the vitillas and sell them.
But the game had lost its charm of being totally free and original, although now it was much easier to get the vitillas.
5- Night games
I remember that in the neighborhood at night there were always blackouts, there was never electricity until a certain time, it was the perfect time for the kids on the block to be out on the street looking for ways to have fun.
We would always get together to play, when we were tired from running around, we would all sit down and play riddles, stories, there were so many games, I would really go on too long.
One of those night games that I remember the most for being sometimes cruel was “hot hands”.
In hot hands, one would stand against the wall without looking and put one of the palms of his hands backward, the others would hit the palm and you had to guess who it was.
The cruelty was that sometimes forbidden objects were used to hit and cheating was done, some even came out crying, that was to die laughing.
When the electricity came on it was the end of the night games, I remember that everyone would make a fuss and run home.
Other memorable games
This was a classic, although I never liked flying chichiguas because I was terribly afraid of them, I thought I would fly away if I held one.
I remember that in the neighborhood many people used to buy a kind of small plastic rhombus called “lanchita” and would race in the ditches when there was a lot of water.
Another great classic game, of which I don’t have good memories because I never learned to master one.
Fufú, from my point of view, was a boring game.
Tirapó and Bazooka
I hated the tirapó and bazooka, these were not games, rather they were instruments that some young people in the neighborhood used to make a lot of noise, I always had a sensitive ear, some people had fun with those things, to me they always seemed terrible.
They say that every past time was better, I really do not know, although I am sure that many of the things we lived before, this generation will not be able to experience, this is not that it is bad, but is sad, there is a satisfaction in doing so much with so little, it is difficult to describe.
Today’s children are not happy without their tablets and the internet.
Despite having few resources we look for ways through creativity to make our lives something good, healthy, and fun.
And yes, I know I’m missing many other fun classic games, this topic is worthy of a long conversation, with laughter.
Childhood in the Dominican Republic was a lot of fun, as was writing this topic.