Tranquilo Quieto, by Oro Solo III
Oil on canvas, 43 x 47 cm
Ofir Hirsh, 2007

Siesta time is one of the sacred rituals in the countryside of the Dominican Republic. Everyone; Men, women, children and elders take a break after lunch. Alone, or together with family and friends. On the side of the road, in the houses and balconies, and most of all under the shade of the big trees. While it is not entirely illegal, conducting any kind of work right after lunch will definitely raise many eyebrows. If you observe well, you will find some people having a chat, or children playing, however, most people during the siesta are just silent, and their favorite activity is staring. They stare at the road, the mountains, or at the ocean, if it’s near by.
During one of my trips to Barahona, a province in the South West coast of the DR, I visited a few villages and towns, and on a sunny afternoon I came across a little beach town called “Paraiso”.  As I drove slowly through the quiet main road, I passed by the same bar-cafe 3 times during 2 hours. I was quite amused to find the same men sitting in the balcony, on the same chairs and at the exact same posture. They kept staring at the ocean, and no one spoke with each other. They did move their heads a little whenever they saw a car passing, but not more than that. They all wore baseball hats and looked like farmers and fishermen. They didn’t discuss the news, and didn’t seem to have the urge of impressing anyone. They definitely didn’t seem to be bothered by any earthly problem. They were in a “Tranquilo Quieto” state of mind, the expression that Dominicans use to describe a complete relaxation. I must admit though, that in the first few times I saw those scenes, I felt some kind of discomfort; “…Don’t they have anything important to do? Why aren’t they speaking to each other? Are they all just imbeciles and that’s the reason behind their empty faces? etc…” But the more I saw those silent gatherings, I learned to appreciate their natural state of being relaxed. I even appreciated it more, when I learned how poor most of these campesinos were. We, in the modern world, do Yoga, eat organic food and take Vitamins. We go to psychologists, and must take a vacation every once in a while, in order to balance the high levels of stress we live in. Will these Dominicans ever achieve greatness? Will they receive recognition for any special contribution to humanity? Probably not. But they are relaxed. We are not.