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8 Ways Haitians Have Been Severely Mistreated in the Dominican Republic

Based on the color of their skin and their African heritage, Haitians, and more generally people of African descent, have been stigmatized in the Dominican Republic, as in other countries in the Western Hemisphere, since the arrival of enslaved Africans in the 16th century. This historical stigmatization manifests itself as an ideology called antihaitianismo (anti-Haitianism), whose origins can be linked to the racial prejudices of the Spanish inhabitants of the colony of Santo Domingo, as pointed out by Ernesto Sagás of Colorado State University. Spanish colonization in the 16th century brought sugar, slavery and also racial prejudice to the island. To be sure, it should be stated that there are many Dominicans who proudly identify with their African heritage and treat Dominicans of Haitian descent with respect.

 haitian protest older woman

A Deep-Seated Stigma Against Dark Skin

Dr. Ernesto Sagás, associate professor of Ethnic Studies at Colorado State University, said that through antihaitianismo, whiteness came to be identified with “Dominicanness,” while “blackness” was rejected as alien, Haitian and barbaric. In this (re)definition of “race,” the Black and the mulatto masses had but two choices: to “lighten” themselves by assuming the indio identity and Hispanic culture, or to be ostracized and excluded from the national mainstream. In their development of a Dominican national identity, Dominican elites combined race, nation and religion, creating a marker of difference between Haitians and Dominicans that would pass from generation to generation, LaToya Tavernier of Framingham State University wrote in Socialism and Democracy.

parsley massacre

The Parsley Massacre

This anti-Black, anti-Haitianness was taken to its logical conclusion under the dictatorship of Rafael L. Trujillo. In October 1937, Trujillo ordered the massacre of Haitians living and working in the border areas of the two countries. Over a period of five days, thousands of Haitians [estimates range from 1,000 to 30,000] were brutally killed with guns, machetes, and knives by Dominican troops, civilians and local political authorities, Jemima Pierre wrote on Black Agenda Report. Some were killed while trying to escape across the aptly named “Massacre River” into Haiti. The reasons for this massacre vary, but Trujillo’s anti-Blackness was key. Haitians claim it was so difficult to distinguish the Haitians from the Dominicans that the soldiers seeking Haitians needed to listen for the Haitian accent in the Spanish word “perejil” (parsley) to determine the difference between non-Black “native” and Black “foreigner.”

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One thought on “8 Ways Haitians Have Been Severely Mistreated in the Dominican Republic

  1. The amount of victims of the Parsley Massacre where inflated by the Haitian government. This was because the Haitian president at the time saw an opportunity to charge "indemnification" for each victim. Indemnifications were accorded in the Pact of Gondra signed in Washington DC with the approval of the US. The number was US$750,000 for the family of the victims. Of course, the money went into the pockets of the Haitian political class.

    The reasons for the massacre vary; Haitians never wanted to formalize a border treaty because historically, their main objective has been to claim Domincan territory(reason for over 37 invasions from Haiti to DR). HIstorically, Haiti has never respected the border. After many invasions from Haiti, in 1874 a border treaty was signed, of course, never respected by the Haitians. In 1929, because Dominican bordertowns are overwhelmed by Haitians, where Dominican Pesos were not in use only Haitian Gourdes,Trujillo asked for a sit down with President Stenio Vincent of Haiti to reach a new agreement on the limits of each country. Because DR wanted to solve this problem and was a top priority, DR seceded borderlands to the Haitians. With this "gift", the Haitian territory grew by at least 14%. Once again, the 1929 territorial and migration accords were not respected, the Haitian population continued to grow on DR territory. Trujillo, being a natural dictator sought violence as the only solution for the border problem. This solution was exclusively Trujillo's idea. To insinuate that the Domican people had something to do with this is cynical.

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