You may have heard of Rio de Janeiro's City of God favela, through the excellent movie of the same name released in 2002, and co-directed by Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund. What you may not know, however, is that the capital of carnival and samba is not the only latin city that hosts a controversial slum named City of God.

Located in the northeast of Santo Domingo, Gualey, also known as Ciudad de Dios, is just your average Caribbean neighbourhood, with its steadily growing population of very low-income families and alternative economic activities.

Built in the 1940s, Gualey is considered to be one of the most vulnerable barrios in the Dominican Republic. Much like the majority of its social projects, the City of God has long been abandoned by the government, which has instead chosen to focus on more profitable investments, such as the creation of tourist factories in Punta Cana.

Isolated from the "outside world", the inhabitants of Gualey have become accustomed to fending for themselves in order to deal with the extreme levels poverty, high crime rates as well as the lack of sanitary services. But these difficult living conditions have also made people from this community more unified than anywhere else in the country.

Below are photographs of Gualey, its inhabitants and their daily lives.

Waste treatment is almost nonexistent in Gualey. The smell of landfills is an integral part of the daily life of Gualeyanos.

Kids playing in the maze of little houses made of wood and rusty iron sheets.

Like many Gualeyan tigueres (Dominican slang for thug), Scars made by knife/machete are very frequent on their faces.

Group of Tigueres smoking. Drug trafficking and consumption is very present in the City of God. Weed, often from Haiti, is sold at around 0,50€ per gram.

“La poza del chino” is Gualey's natural pool, where residents of the community leave aside their struggles and the hustle and bustle of their daily lives. There, children and adults become one with nature and discover the natural benefits of their surroundings.

Text and photos by Aurélien Ernst.

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