Violence in the Dominican Republic must come to a stop, and Francina Hungria is determined to be a part of that.
On November 23, Hungria, 28, was driving through the streets of Santo Domingo running some errands for work, when she was suddenly attacked by two strangers who wanted to take her car. They shot her and threw her out into the street, driving off in her car. A bullet took her eyesight.
In a country where violence is on the rise, more and more innocent people have been caught in the crossfire. One of the greatest causes of rising violence is the rising drug trade. Just cocaine trafficking through the Caribbean has risen 800 percent in the past two years, with the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico playing a huge role in the trade. In fact, the rising violence in Puerto Rico has also been attributed to the drug issue, with some comparing the U.S. territory to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
“Honestly, when one watches the news sometimes one looks at it coldly and from afar,” Hungria told VOXXI. “When you face such a violent situation, face to face… I wouldn’t want anyone to go through the same thing.”
Change of pace
Before her life changed it was a little bit hectic, with a lot of physical activity at the construction projects she was working on as engineer. A normal day used to be getting out of the house by 8 a.m. and arriving back home around 9 p.m., once she had been to the gym.
“Thank God I have a lot of friends, so I could spend time with them, go out to restaurants around the city,” she said.
But these days, Hungria’s life has been divided between medical appointments and going to Lighthouse for the Blind, an institution in Miami for the blind and seeing impaired. At Lighthouse, she has been taking classes such as labeling, to help her identify things.
Hungria arrived in Miami shortly after the carjacking took place, a few days after she started being treated in the Dominican Republic, and on Tuesday she had another surgery to restore pressure to her left eye. She has already lost her right eye and her doctor, Dr. Salomon Melgen, is doing everything he can to save and perhaps restore some sight to her remaining eye, with which she has been able to perceive light and movement.
Moving forward with the support of those around her
“The situation [in the Dominican Republic] is really tough,” Hungria said. “And it is all tied to the fact that so many people have access to firearms, and there is no control. And the fact that there are so many drugs right now going into the country… it is a mess what we are living these days.”
Officials from U.S. and European Union have emphasized that the lack of control the in the seaports of Dominican Republic poses a major threat to the national security interests as the country has emerged as the center of drug trafficking in the Caribbean.
The current system in place to control the shipments through the Dominican Republic is inadequate and as a result it has generated a lot of criticism from the U.S. Congress and European countries.
But in this time of need, the support she has gotten from the people has been great, especially now that Hungria and her parents have had to stay in Miami while she is treated.
“We have been all right, thank God,” said Frank Hungria, Francina’s father. “We have had invitations to spend time with friends and people here in Miami that have identified with the case, along with many prayers for her recuperation.” An Indiegogo fundraiser has been started in order to help ease the burden of medical bills and living expenses, as well as provide funds for things she needs in this transition, although Dr. Melgen is working pro-bono.
Although the situation is frustrating, Francina said she gets strength from God. The key, she says, is constant prayer to keep herself strong.
“Through prayer, many things can be achieved,” Francina said. She added that the serenity with which she has faced the situation was a gift from God to deal with the load. Her mother, Iluminada Hernandez, is constantly at her side as well, helping to lift that load.
“She is my right eye and Dad is the left one,” Francina said, laughing.
Working towards a better Dominican Republic
Now, as she keeps receiving treatment and support, she is planning ahead to figure out what can be done about terrible situation in her country.
“I want to take advantage of the fact that so many people have identified themselves with my case to get something positive out of it,” Francina told VOXXI. “What better satisfaction than to get something positive to happen from all this suffering my family and myself have been through?”
“There has been talk about starting a foundation to help come up with strategies and ideas to fight the social insecurity in the Dominican Republic right now,” she continued. “It’s a very violent situation that would make anyone afraid.”
“People need to realize that we need to fight, to speak out in order to achieve a general well-being,” she said. “This is our daily life and action must be taken.”