The Dominican Republic is rife with Sanky Pankys. The term Sanky Panky is derived from the English expression “hanky panky” (to fool around) and the Spanish expression “saca panty” (takes panty). So just what is a Sanky Panky exactly and why are they best avoided? The short answer: a sanky is a male gigolo who solicits on beaches and other tourist hot spots like shops, restaurants, bars and hotels. The long answer: a sanky is a master manipulator looking to extort as much money as possible from foreign women visiting the DR. They hustle hard and they hustle well. They can be Dominican or Haitian and, in my short experience, vary in age. They are not prostitutes per se as the woman who involves herself does not necessarily know her guy is a gigolo about to take her for ride, both literally and figuratively. There are no open negotiations about exchanging sex for money. Instead, a sanky creates a pseudo-relationship with a foreign woman – or often times, many women simultaneously – using his charms, looks and one-liners. He tells her she is beautiful and unique. He tells her something about her makes him feel alive in a new way. He takes her Bachata dancing. He dotes on her, calls her baby, and says he’s falling madly in love with her. Many women fall for it hook, line and sinker because let’s be honest, Dominican men are gorgeous and rumored to be incredible lovers. She develops real feelings falling head over heels for her amazing, new Dominican “boyfriend” without knowing that he is faking it completely. He may even take her to meet his family. He most likely has several other women (or men) in the wings, numerous cell phones, a Dominican wife or live-in Dominican girlfriend, and numerous children as well. But she knows nothing of this and it’s too late because she’s hooked.
When the woman’s vacation is over, she returns home. The “relationship” with her sanky continues long distance with him hoping she will return to the DR annually to visit. Many do. Meanwhile, the extortion begins. First he loses his phone and can’t talk or chat with his beloved so he asks her to wire him money for a new phone, which she does obligingly. Then his mother falls deathly ill and his family can’t afford the hospital bills. Then he gets arrested and needs bail money. (I’ve heard of one woman wiring $1,000 USD to bail her sanky out and he had shot another woman with a .22!). Then he lost his job and can’t pay his bills. Lather, rinse, repeat. If a sanky has 4 to 10 rotating “girlfriends” wiring him money consistently, visiting him annually with gifts in tow, he’s created a pretty lucrative business for himself which requires a level of skill and tenacity to keep it all afloat and avoid overlap. Love doesn’t factor into it at all for him and he will hustle his girl(s) until she no longer sends money, at which point he leave her abruptly and set out for fresh meat. The woman is left devastated emotionally and oftentimes financially as well.
Some sankys have a larger objective of getting a visa and a one-way ticket out of the Dominican Republic. The DR is a poor nation with most Dominicans earning just $180 USD per month. 40% of Dominicans are living at or below poverty. This creates financial desperation and a longing for a better life elsewhere. If he hustles well, he may eventually marry his foreign woman, obtain a marriage visa, and leave the DR for her native country. He will stay with her until the gettin’s good at which point he will split leaving her in ruin emotionally, and, if he’s had a chance to drain the bank account, she’ll be left in ruin financially too. The whole ordeal was an act of deception, deceit and dishonesty. I’ve heard horror stories ranging from tourist women being impregnated before they return home from their vacation (a sanky’s golden ticket) to women losing their entire life’s savings only to be left to raise their sanky’s children on their own. Dominican women certainly run a similar game as well with love-starved middle-aged gringo men. Some refer to them as “sankiettes.” And yes, there are variations of this type of love scam all over the world, but it seems to have taken a very sophisticated level here in the Dominican.
Lindsay de Feliz is a delightful and insightful woman I met in an Dominican expat Facebook group. She’s been living in the DR for over 10 years, has a delightful Dominican husband (of course not all Dominican men are sankies) has authored a page-turner about her incredible journey entitled What About Your Saucepans and blogs frequently. Check out her article Ten ways to spot a Sanky Panky in the Dominican Republic.
The bottom line is this: When it comes to romance in the Dominican Republic, whether you are male or female, looking for a fling or something serious, you best proceed with ultimate caution. Don’t get sankied! Have fun, use protection, keep your head in the game and don’t get blinded by the Dominican Voodoo.