William Durán will commemorate the Dominican Republic Independence Day away from home for the first time in his life.
While his compatriots across the Caribbean island take Monday off to flood the streets and raise the national flag in town squares, Durán, 24, will be hard at work in North Philadelphia, a neighborhood he is still getting used to.
Durán left the tropics for Philadelphia in December, wanting to "become acquainted with another culture" and in search of better pay. A mutual friend landed him an administrative position at a Dominican-owned "multi-service" office, a staple in North Philadelphia. These sorts of shops offer their clients, mostly Latinos, help with taxes, legal affairs, and remittances.
"It's like a little Dominican Republic here in the U.S.," Durán said in Spanish. "Wherever I go — a bodega, a supermarket, a restaurant — I bump into people I know from back home who I had no clue were in Philadelphia."
As a result, he won't be the only one in Philadelphia paying tribute to the Dominican Republic's independence from Haiti 173 years ago.
The Dominican population in the city is at a record high, having almost tripled in the last decade, from 7,688 in 2005 to 23,974 in 2015, according to data from the Census Bureau. Dominicans, or Quisqueyanos, surpassed Mexicans in 2010 as the second-largest Hispanic group in the city, trailing only Puerto Ricans, who account for 65 percent of the total Hispanic population.
Like Durán, many recent Dominicans leave their beloved island for higher wages and to join family and friends already settled in Philadelphia. As the community grows in numbers, so does its influence. First- and even second-generation Dominican leaders have emerged, community organizations have expanded, and Dominican-owned businesses continue to boom.
Victor Vazquez-Hernandez, the department chair of social sciences at Miami Dade College, said the Dominican boom in Philadelphia began in the 1990s as thousands of Dominicans left New York City in search of more-affordable housing.
"As more Dominicans got established in Philadelphia, more came directly from the Dominican Republic," said Vazquez-Hernandez, who used to teach at Temple University. "And they branched out to places like Allentown and Reading. That chain migration really took off."
Luisa Hernandez, 48, arrived in Philadelphia in 2000 after leaving the Dominican Republic and living two years in Puerto Rico and New York City. She chose Philly for its affordability and economic growth.
Like many Dominican women in Philadelphia, the mother of two is a hair stylist and has owned Ashley Beauty Salon on Sixth Street and Erie Avenue since 2006. She also called the Dominican boom in Philadelphia a "chain migration."
"For example, I came here because of a friend, and because of me, about ten other Dominicans have moved to Philadelphia," Hernandez said of Northeast Philly. "For years, I never met anyone here from my hometown, Mao. Now, there are so many people from Mao."
Danilo Burgos, a cofounder of Philadelphia's Dominican Grocers Association, has his own theory regarding the uptick of Dominicans' arriving from the island.
"Philadelphia, maybe 10 years ago, started having direct flights to the Dominican Republic," said the American-born Burgos. "Now we're starting to see Dominicans that come directly to the city before going through New York or Miami."
And first-generation Dominicans in Philadelphia continue to outnumber American-born Dominicans, according to an Inquirer analysis of 2014 Census Bureau data using IPUMS-USA, a census research project at the University of Minnesota.
While 42 percent of the Philadelphia-Dominican population is U.S.-born, 57 percent is foreign-born, presumably in the Dominican Republic. Additionally, 63 percent of Dominicans in Philadelphia are U.S. citizens (either naturalized or U.S.-born), and 34 percent are not U.S. citizens (either visa- and green-card-holders, or here illegally).
Diojenes — who preferred not to give his last name — is emblematic of an unknown number of Dominicans who are in Philadelphia illegally.
Diojenes, 40, fled the Dominican Republic in 2010 to Mexico. Guided by armed smugglers — they were children, 8 to 10 years old, he said — Diojenes crossed the Rio Grande into McAllen, Texas.
He was detained by the border patrol and jailed for seven days. His wife, who was in Philadelphia on a visa, helped him post the $7,500 bail and hired an immigration lawyer. Diojenes was released and traveled to Philadelphia as his court case dragged on for years. He stopped appearing in court after two years, fearing the possibility of deportation.
"Look, the U.S. is looking primarily for illegal immigrants with criminal records," Diojenes said. "I have a clean record. I came here to work."
In 2013, he scraped together $95,000 from relatives to open a bodega in North Philadelphia, which now has two employees. Diojenes, a father of three, said his "honest work" has borne fruit.
"You know, everyone has a dream," said Diojenes, speaking over the quintessential bachata music blasting in his bodega. "My dream is to own something that can sustain my family."
Dominicans in the city traditionally have been known for opening bodegas and hair salons.
"In the '80s, you started seeing a few bodegas," said José Joaquín Mota, a co-founder of the Dominican Grocers Association and vice-consul in Philadelphia. "Now, you have over 2,000 bodegas owned by Dominicans."
Mota believes that the Census Bureau numbers underestimate the size of the Dominican community in the city, which he estimates is 50,000.
At a political level, Dominicans in Philadelphia have yet to elect one of their own into office.
Burgos, who has worked on the staff of Council members María D. Quiñones-Sánchez and Allan Domb, said he planned to run again, in 2018.
Dominican Republic Independence Day, a day of festivities on the island, is lightly celebrated by some Dominicans in Philadelphia, and even forgotten by others.
Hernandez, who has been styling hair in Philadelphia for the last 17 years, said she would have overlooked the national holiday Monday if not reminded. "All these years here, you lose a bit of the culture."
But bodega-owner Diojenes and his wife, Thania, 36, said they always commemorated the national holiday, even if they didn't take the day off.
Back home, "the president will address the nation, and businesses will close for the day," said Thania, beaming from behind the bodega counter. "Everything is jubilation and parties, and a lot of acts of patriotism are performed."