On the morning of September 2, 2012, one of the most spine-chilling crimes in the last few years took place in the Dominican Republic: the murder of José Carlos Hernández (Chiva), a young, 23-year-old Dominican rock musician residing in Argentina.
The homicide took place at a night club in the National District, only a few days after José Carlos arrived in the country on vacation. The suspects (who had known the victim for years) stabbed him 27 times with a weapon that police identified as a 10-inch rambo-style blade.
Despite the Public Ministry's failure to issue an official explanation of the events, many said that it was, as Public Prosecutor Yeni Berenice — one of the most respected judiciary figures assessed– a hate crime. She defined it on her Twitter account (@YeniBerenice) in the following way:
@YeniBerenice: El crimen de odio se motiva en prejuicios en función de raza, género, religión, nacionalidad, ideología, orientación sexual…
@YeniBerenice: Hate crimes are motivated by prejudices in terms of race, gender, religion, nationality, ideology, sexual orientation…
According to the hypotheses shared by different government authorities, it is believed that the killers murdered the young man because of socio-economic differences, since everyone belonged in the “Heavy Metal sphere,” which had quite a limited audience in the country. But if the cruelty of the homicide weren't enough to torment the victim's family and those close to him, the Dominican press [es] tainted the integrity of José Carlos’ memory by filling different newspapers with value judgements and accusing him of Satanism as well as diabolic ritual practice because he had piercings, long hair, and dressed differently.
The accusations were the order of the day and society's most conservative sectors continued to echo these defamations before they revealed details and testimonies from the case. Nevertheless, a more liberal faction of the population declared their marked disagreement with the situation, which ended up generating heated debates — above all on social networks — about the different taboos and prejudices that still dominate the Dominican national imaginary. Diverse personalities with great influence in the country made their disagreement with the generalized reaction to the crime clear.
For example, Mariana Barrenese, an economist specializing in public policy, share the following via Twitter [es]:
Similarly, figures in show business like the promoter, presenter, and television host Yolanda Martínez, posted on her Twitter @YolandaMart [es]:
@YolandaMart: A mi no me preocupan tatuajes ni piercings. A mí me preocupan el odio y la falta de compasión.
@YolandaMart: Tattoos and piercings do not worry me. What worries me is hate and lack of compassion.
On the other hand, writer and communicator Camilo Venegas positioned his criticism on Twitter towards the poor use of the media and its role in the perpetuation of society's disvalues, saying [es]:
@CamiloVenegas: Los medios de comunicación a veces se convierten en eficaces promotores de prejuicios y antivalores, como el machismo y el racismo.
@CamiloVenegas: The media sometimes become effective advocates of prejudices and anti-values, like machismo and racism.
Nonetheless, the debate was not limited to Twitter, as the majority of Dominican television and radio programming dedicated space to discuss the issue on a more professional and academic level. Different civil society organizations joined the discussion, and even to this day, the youth continues to debate the pros and cons of tattoos, piercings, and prejudices in an overarching sense.
Authorities still have not officially validated any of the versions that attempted to explain the incident nor have they announced any measure focused on easing certain beliefs and considerations that underpin many of the double standards that even now, in the 20th century, Dominicans harbor as universal and irrefutable truths. Meanwhile, research continues and social pressure to clarify the facts intensifies — especially due to the lack of confidence in the Dominican justice system and the various channels of information.