Isel: “I can’t live under anyone’s rules”
In BOP faces we talk to local legends: the people of Punta Cana that make this place so special. In this edition: Isel Arias, who has her own real estate company and who is a professional race car driver too. BOP spoke to her about stereotypes, beauty standards, and working on your free time.
“You don’t feel anything because adrenaline takes over. You do not even feel how warm you are. Imagine that you are wearing fire proof underwear, a fire proof suit and a helmet in the hot sun. The car you are in is metal on the inside because most of the things are stripped away to make it more lighter for racing. It gets really hot. But as soon as the traffic light says go, there is no other place you want to be.”
Isel Arias (39) eyes light up as she describes the feeling she gets when she is in a car race. She sits up straight as she relives the moment of being in her race car. Isel Arias is one of the only women who partakes in race tournaments in the Dominican Republic. “There is another girl now that also participates. We are the only two.”
I do not sugarcoat things
There are people that take life as it comes, follow the ‘rules’, assimilate to societies standards and stay in their comfort zone. Then there are the ones that choose their own path and do what their heart tells them.
Isel Arias is the latter. As the owner of her own real estate agency Caribe Connection Real Estate she lives by her own rules. “I work in my free time! You understand what I mean?” Isel smiles as she looks at her dog Marley who is lying on the floor. He looks up while she pats him softly on his head.
“I can’t live under anyone’s rules. When you are born poor that does not mean you have to stay poor. It is a message I want to give to the people in the Dominican Republic. There are a lot of social differences. The fact that you were not born in a space of opportunities like other people it does not mean you cannot make it. I want to motivate people to be able to believe in themselves. Especially women need to believe in that. For me it is important to be able to relate to people in my work as a real estate agent, because if I cannot relate to someone, how do I know what they are looking for? I think that is one of the things that makes me successful in my business. I like the clients I work with. In addition to that I am also super straight. I do not sugarcoat things.”
“Here in the Dominican Republic I feel that women are too obsessed with certain beauty standards. Bigger boobs, bigger but, heavy make-up. It almost seems like it is the most important thing. Everything gets so flat there is no deeper connection and everyone looks alike. I myself do not like wearing foundation on my face. It makes me feel dirty. I do not believe in those stereotypical roles where the woman only has to be pretty, cook, and clean when her man comes home.”
Defying stereotypes is something Isel Arias has been doing from a young age. Growing up in Cabarete and Santo Domingo with a lot of people from different cultures she chose her own path at 17. “I have been to a lot of places all over the world but a place like Cabarete I never encountered anywhere. Despite of it being a small beach town it has a multicultural feeling and a feeling of total freedom. There are Dominicans, French, Canadians, and Italians. I loved growing up there, but when I was 17 I moved to Germany. My parents could not tell me anything, because I already decided to go. I worked in a cocktail bar until I learned German and after that I worked as a tour guide during my studies in Business Administration. After 8 years I decided to move to Barcelona. Just like Germany I had never been to Barcelona before, but I have a radar for places that I know I am going to like. I literally came there without having an apartment or anything. So the first thing I did when I arrived was go to an internet café to search for an apartment. I loved Barcelona. I partied a lot. No regrets!”
After living in Barcelona for 5 years, Isel moved to Mallorca where she got into working in real estate. Only to move to the Dominican Republic years later.
From real estate to racing
“I used to race with a group of Mini Cooper owners from Santo Domingo to Bonao. Most of the time I always ended up in the top 4 position. One of the guys that participated was an ex race car driver and asked me if I wanted to race on a race track. He showed me how to get into that.”
When Isel Arias started racing professionally two years ago she had to deal with some macho men that were not so welcoming to having a woman on the race track. “It was interesting. They said: ‘ah she can’t make it.’ Others made fun of me. Others wanted to show me everything in a way of ‘come on let me do that, because you are a girl. But I am also very thankful for each and everyone that helped me and were always there for me.”
“My first race was a disaster. The car was not ready. So when I participated in the race it was the first time I drove it. I came in last, but I did not care. I had fun! Once I felt what it was like to race, it was totally addictive and I could not live without it.”
After this first race, Isel participated in more races where she once came in 7th place from 28 participants. She always races in a Honda car.
“I am only scared of a cockroach. I am not a person who is scared easily, that is why I don’t understand what people are often scared about.”
Future plans? “Racing is an extremely expensive sport and I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep paying all this. But I’ll enjoy it as long as I can!”
Isel Arias has been living in Punta Cana for years. BOP was curious what her favourite spot was in between her race car driving and working as real estate agent.
“My favorite spot in Punta Cana is Macao Surf Camp! It is a place where people are real, and I love surfing, so the combination of both makes it perfect for me.
Keep on reading about other people living in Punta Cana on BOP faces. Harolis who helps communities in Punta Cana, or artist Tiano Solana who uses his wife as muse in all his paintings, or Juan Bautista who was born in Bavaro when it was still a jungle.