Fighter, Musician, Murder Witness: Hudson Valley Student Tells His Story

Many years after going from rags to riches in the tropics, Dennis Dominguez still searches for peace in the northeast. I had a chance to interview Dominguez and hear his story.

Born on Nov. 18, 1995, Dominguez’s parents divorced when he was young in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. He would spend the weekend with his father and the weekdays with his mother on opposite sides of Santo Domingo, a city which he described as “very dangerous.”

The apartment in front of his father’s apartment was one of the biggest drug dealing centers in Santo Domingo. Growing up in poverty, he often had to travel miles away to obtain clean drinking water.

The moment his life “changed forever,” Dominguez was at the third level of the five-story apartment building where his father lived. At 11 p.m., he heard a man pleading for his life before he was stabbed to death. He recalled, “I literally heard and I keep hearing knives going in and out of him. I remember him crying, ‘Why are you doing this? I’m already dead!’”

Shortly after the stabbing, Dominguez was arranged to fight other children for entertainment by local gangsters. He said that his life started to go from “crazy” to “f*cking insane.”

His favorite genres of music were introduced to him by his brother, Willy – hard rock and heavy metal, then considered to be “sinful and unpopular.” He added, “I remember walking by people, even wearing a Beatles T-Shirt and getting sh*t from people of the church screaming that I was the Anti-Christ.’”

Dominguez joined an unnamed pop punk band as a vocalist at the age of 12, a decision which he credits with saving his life. “If I never decided to join a band with my friends I would be dead by now because I would’ve been into bad things.”

“Me and my friends knew that Iron Maiden or Rise Against wasn’t going to have a concert [in the Dominican Republic] so we decided to make our own concert and we started making a bunch of punk rock covers,” he said, “from there it just kept growing.”

Dominguez said, “We didn’t have a name. It was f*cking crazy. We just played music and people came.”

Dominguez laughed, “We were only practicing at my friends house and there were like, 100 or 200 people just f*cking staring at us and at that point I knew we had to move to a bigger place.”

He said his success started to grow after hitting the airwaves in the Dominican Republic. At the height of its success, the band would attract hundreds weekly.

“I was in the music scene but I avoided the culture behind it. I can say my only addiction is Doritos,” Dominguez laughed.

“I was making money that a person here might not even make in a week and I never cared about it. I just didn’t care”, he said. Dominguez still writes music but has never performed in the United States.

He first visited the United States at the age of 11 where his step-father worked in Miami, Florida.

“I moved to the United States after travelling back and forth between my step fathers house in Florida and his family in Manhattan. I eventually wanted to settle here.” Dominguez arrived in the United States in 2011. “When I first got here, I didn’t talk to nobody. I was forced to make friends but at least I didn’t have friends for my money.”

He has started a vlog on Youtube, sharing his life experiences and coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. “I just want to motivate people with the same issues that I have to tell their story,” said Dominguez, pointing to all the students in the Siek Campus Center, “every single person here has experienced something amazing that nobody else has experienced before.”

Dominguez gives credit to music, meditation and art in coping with PTSD and anxiety. Practicing meditation in his backyard or bedroom, he claims that he can “dream while being awake.”

“In the beginning it was weird because I felt like someone shined a flashlight in my eyes. I was like, ‘what the f*ck is going on?’ so I did what every human being does,” he laughed, “I went to Google.” There, he found WILD.

Wake Induced Lucid Dreaming (WILD) is a meditation practice used in Tibetan Buddhism that allows the human body to fall into a state of dreaming while giving to sensation of full consciousness. “If you start thinking about the dream, you wake up. It sucks,” said Dominguez.

Dominguez is now majoring in Human Services at Hudson Valley. His overall goal in Human Services is to treat patients more effectively than other social workers. “When I was taking therapy many people were like ‘what do you have?’ and ‘how do you feel?’ while writing things down but I just didn’t feel the connection.”

“They don’t know about my friends getting killed. They don’t know about me,” he said, claiming he has been independent since the age of 12. “I want to take my pain alone. I don’t want my family involved.”

“In my mind there’s no violence at all [in the United States],” said Dominguez, comparing the quality of life in the Dominican Republic to the United States. “I came here to live a normal life.”

Dominguez mentioned that he enjoys walking at night at Washington Park in Albany. “I couldn’t walk anywhere at night in the DR without fear of getting killed.”

He travelled back to the Dominican Republic in January of this year. “Many of my friends are in jail or dead. I didn’t go to the places where I almost got killed or the place where I had my car accident and am no longer allowed to drive because of it,” said Dominguez, “Someday I’ll get the balls to experience it again and not do it just for family.”

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