On a typical Thursday night in a strip mall in the capital, the crowd is comprised of young, middle-aged women wearing black shirts, long hair and black mascara.
They are chatting, giggling, laughing and chatting with a couple of strangers.
But this is a different crowd.
The women aren’t laughing and giggling.
They’re standing up and walking towards the stage to perform.
There is a large banner up on the wall, emblazoned with the words: “I’m a comedian.”
It reads: “Hands down, the best women in the comic world.”
They are here to celebrate the 10th anniversary of a very different kind of comic.
In the summer of 2010, a young female comic named Shira Guevara was born in the Dominican Republic and the country’s biggest comic festival, Comic Con, was held there.
It’s the first time in years that the women from the Dominican, who are traditionally less educated and more conservative than the young women from New York City, were allowed to come and perform.
The first day of Comic Con was cancelled in 2014 because of an outbreak of H1N1 coronavirus, and the festival has been forced to cancel its third and final weekend.
In recent years, it’s become a bit of a joke, but it is a way of life for the women here.
The festival has a tradition of presenting comics who are born and raised in the country.
So far, it has produced more than 100 women, and every year it draws more women from outside the Dominican capital, which has about 10,000 people.
Some of them are working in the fields or at universities.
Others are working at local strip malls, and some are working as artists and entertainers.
And of course, there are a few of the women who have won international comics awards, like the 2017 World Press Photo of the Year.
This year’s lineup includes three of the world’s top female comics, including former WWE Superstar and current WWE commentator, Becky Lynch, who also happens to be a Dominican.
The four-day event is held every year at a strip club on a Saturday, with a small group of women who came to get together to perform, while their fellow attendees watch.
“It’s not a show,” said the first-time Comic Con attendee, Lina Pons, who came from the Caribbean and grew up in the United States.
“This is just the best way to enjoy yourself.
I just feel so privileged to be here, and to be able to see these amazing women here, to hear them talk and to feel their voices.
I feel like I’m a part of their family.”
And they are, she said.
There are about 20,000 attendees on a typical Saturday, according to the festival organizers.
There’s also a large audience of men, including two dozen male members of the WWE.
In addition to the men, there’s also the female audience, as well as the children, and they all come to the show to see what it’s like to be part of a woman’s comic.
For the first four days, the women are on stage together, dancing, singing, and doing stand-up.
They have no idea if they’ll get invited back to perform later in the year, but they do know that they’re here to do it.
They know that every time they step on stage, they are participating in a celebration of their gender.
But they also know that the performers and the audience are just as important.
And there’s a certain level of trust that is required.
The performers are allowed to touch the women’s breasts and make jokes.
The audience is allowed to be respectful of them, even if they don’t understand their language.
And when they get on stage to take their clothes off and do their makeup, they don the masks and make-up, too.
“I feel like it’s a part [of] my identity, to show them that there is another side of me,” said Guevaras mother, Maria Gueva.
“So if they come here and they see me, they see a side of my life that’s really different than mine.”
A few years ago, the performers had no idea that their presence in the city of Dominica would have such a huge impact on their lives.
In fact, it was only when a local Dominican journalist, who had heard that there were women who made a living doing stand up in New York, contacted them that they started to think about how their presence could be used to bring positive change.
“That’s how it came to me,” Guevas mother said.
“And I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to get involved in it, and I’m excited.’
So I’ve started working with a group of the performers to help promote this cause.”
They’ve also started putting out awareness materials