IOM DR: A Bilingual, Tropical Song to Combat COVID-19 and Unite Two Peoples

Santo Domingo – These days you can hear a catchy, Afro-Caribbean tune being shared on social media and playing on cell phones across the Dominican Republic. “Al Coronavirus, sácale los pies… súbele los vidrios… al Coronavirus…” (“Ditch the coronavirus… close the curtain on coronavirus…”), turning two popular Dominican expressions into the chorus of a song enjoyed both in Spanish and in Haitian Creole. 

Watch video 

Xiomara Fortuna is a well-known singer-songwriter in the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean. It is not the first time she has incorporated Creole into her music. But, she explains, “It’s the first time I’ve written a whole song in Creole,” adding that until now, she’s only included a few verses of Creole in a few songs.  

So why the change now? “I’m looking to connect with this population in the Caribbean, as we are brothers and sisters from the same archipelago and the same reality.” 

A pioneer in Afro-Caribbean fusion, Xiomara Fortuna has received many awards and acknowledgements throughout her career, including the UNESCO Gandhi Medal and the Medal of Merit in the Arts from the Office of the President of the Dominican Republic and the Ministry for Women. In 2019, she received three nominations for the country’s prestigious Soberano Awards and has been named Alternative Artist of the Year. 

According to the 2017 National Survey of Immigrants (ENI), run by the National Office for Statistics (ONE) here, there are 497,825 Haitian migrants living in the Dominican Republic, representing 87.2 per cent of the immigrant population.  

“For us, translating all prevention materials and information about COVID-19 into Creole is a fundamental part of our response to the pandemic,” explained Josué Gastelbondo, IOM’s Chief of Mission in the Dominican Republic, “and when they asked us to support this song that’s intercultural as well as optimistic, from a very respected artist, we didn’t hesitate to support the campaign.” 

The song is a joint message from IOM, the National Institute for Migration (a governmental institution) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and it is now being shared on alternative radio stations and proliferating on social media.  

“With an awareness of the current context, one day I went into my studio, picked up my drum, and as usually I started playing a plena (a musical genre) and I came up with this chorus ‘to coronavirus move your feet, raise the windows.’ I posted it on Instagram, and it went viral,” explained Fortuna. 

“I thought about singing the song in Creole from the beginning. I told the National Institute for Migration about my idea, and I proposed it to the International Organization for Migration as well. I asked a Dominican-Haitian friend to translate the song for me, and I asked her to write it down how you would pronounce it. I spent two days learning the song and went back to my cell phone on Monday to record it in Creole.” The song was for the crisis, so it needed to be recorded quickly. 

Haitians, she continues, “are part of us. They’re here in this country and I think they should have access to information, and it’s even better if they can get it in their own language… They can’t be excluded from reality, they can get infected, they can infect others… so the campaign needs to be broad and needs to reach everyone who lives in our country and beyond… it’s a problem that affects the whole world, COVID-19 has no borders, so there should be no borders for the messaging, either.” 

For more information, please contact Zinnia Martínez at IOM Dominican Republic. Tel: +1 809 688 8174, Email: