Teacher María Pérez, an award-winning author, is the mastermind behind the Dominican edubooks “Ernesto Visita”
Teacher María Pérez, an award-winning author, is the mastermind behind the Dominican edubooks “Ernesto Visita” | Credit: María Pérez

Highlighting the Dominican West Region through Environmental Edubooks

USAID supports children’s book author to increase environmental consciousness in the Dominican Republic
By Brenda Silverio

María Pérez, an award-winning Dominican author and teacher, highlights the beauty of the Dominican Republic’s natural environment in her books.

With the support from USAID and the U.S. Forest Service, María authored three new books to raise awareness about environmental issues in three provinces in the Dominican Republic. In her stories, she shared the environmental challenges in the Pedernales, Dajabón, and Santiago Rodríguez provinces. The books were launched in November 2022.

“I noticed people who live in these provinces face difficulties with deforestation. I have seen some rivers that are totally dry because of it,” says María.


María visits the provinces and places she will be highlighting in the books to collect information on their natural environment, as well as environmental issues affecting these places.
María visits the provinces and places she will be highlighting in the books to collect information on their natural environment, as well as environmental issues affecting these places.

Her interest in the changing Dominican landscape and passion for writing is not new. While traveling around the country at a young age, María learned about the environmental challenges the Dominican Republic faced, from deforestation to pollution.

“Growing up, I realized our country needed to develop its national identity and love for protecting the environment through quality education,” she shares.

With over 20 years of experience in education and several years as an eco-educator, María began writing stories highlighting what she saw during her travels. “Since I was little, I liked to write and imagine different stories. With support from my parents, I participated in literature contests,” she reflects.

María’s father, Ernesto Pérez, and her childhood pup, Rocky, were the inspiration behind her award-winning book “Ernesto Visita” (Ernesto Visits in English). In the book, the main character learns and discovers the beauty of the Dominican natural environment and the issues that the country faces regarding its care. The book has since become available at local Dominican stores and on Amazon.

“The main character is inspired by my father Ernesto, who taught us to love and care for our country,” she explains.

“Ernesto Visita” is the first series of stories about ecotourism in the Dominican Republic specifically designed for Dominican children, and has resonated with its young audience. María has sold over 30,000 books, raising awareness on environmental issues among more than 120,000 Dominican children.

The books provide a simple yet comprehensive overview of environmental care and sustainable tourism, underscoring the uniqueness of the distinct communities Ernesto visits, and its contribution to the development of the Dominican national identity.


The author with her books.
The author with her books.

Current environmental challenges in the Dominican Republic have not stopped María from cherishing the beauty of her country: “I have been able to appreciate the landscape, both wet and dry, that this area offers us. From mountains and rivers, and even from the trees that are found there.”

Through her books, María visits the provinces she will be writing about in order to collect information, from iconic cultural and environmental landmarks to key environmental issues that occur in these places, like deforestation and pollution.

USAID and the U.S. Forest Service believe in fostering a sense of environmental responsibility for future generations. USAID, through its work in the Dominican Republic, is also working to prevent and reduce global environmental threats, like reducing the flow of plastic pollution flowing into the ocean. By supporting María’s work, we’re creating awareness about the importance of protecting natural resources and highlighting the rich biodiversity the Dominican landscape has to offer.

For María, educating children about the environment is key to helping them learn the importance of their natural habitat and understand the impact of their actions on the environment.

“In the Northwest region, there are many important protected areas that help generate oxygen and other natural resources necessary to survive. You can also find microclimates and biodiversity where most of the species living there are endemic to those places,” María explains.

“If Dominicans do not know the importance of biodiversity, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, fauna, flora, and protected areas, they will not know why nor how to take care of them,” she says. “Only by knowing the challenges of our country can we find solutions to help the Dominican Republic move forward and raise citizen awareness.”


María during the launch of her books last year.
María during the launch of her books last year.

USAID has been working around the world — and in the Dominican Republic — for more than 61 years to promote a more sustainable future for all. By working with educators like María, USAID is helping to raise awareness about climate change and unsustainable practices. By raising citizen consciousness for the environment, USAID can help reduce climate threats, protect habitats, and work toward a better future with sustainable solutions.

Climate Change, Education

Brenda Silverio

Brenda Silverio is the Social Media Specialist at USAID’s Mission in the Dominican Republic.

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