© Copyright 2012
June 1, 2012
Some historians, scholars and writers always tend to describe the cause of the animosity the Dominican Republic has felt toward Haiti on the 22 years Haitian occupation (1822—1844). The cause of the existing animosity between these two neighboring countries, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, has a profounder root than the occupation. The main factors are poverty and race—especially race. The occupation is one of the factors, nonetheless, it is not the primary factor.
Of course, any country would never want to be occupied by another country for whatever circumstances. But sometimes, on one hand, circumstances make it unavoidable. At the time, slavery was still being practiced in the Dominican Republic—the Eastern side of the island of Hispaniola. And the Dominican Republic was not military strong and powerful to fight against its former colonizer, Spain, in order to cease slavery in its territory. And the Western side of the island of Hispaniola, Haiti, had already gained and taken its independence.
So, as at that time Haiti was the most powerful nation militarily and economically in the Caribbean as well as most powerful black nation in the world, and shared/shares the same island (i.e., Hispaniola), with the Dominican Republic, therefore Haiti had to carry out any course of essential action to prevent a re-establishment of slavery on the entire island, particularly the western side, Haiti. This was for the main reason Haiti invaded and occupied the Dominican Republic for 22 years (i.e., 1822—1844).
Another important reason for the Haitian occupation: Haiti had always seen the Dominican Republic as a part of its territory that had been split off. This was why during the post-Haitian occupation many Haitian governments had made numerous attempts to re-annex the Eastern part, the Dominican Republic, so as to make it and Haiti became one single nation, those attempts unfortunately had never been successful….
However, according to Moya Pons, at the time the Dominican lower classes had seen egalitarian in the Haitian’s government. Therefore, due to this justification, the Dominican lower classes greeted the Haitian troops and supported the Haitian occupation 100%. The President of Haiti, Jean Pierre Boyer, during the period of possession, gave free lands to the Dominican lower classes and abolished slavery in the Dominican Republic (cited in Sagás 1994).
Some historians, furthermore, have always described, then and now, the Haitian occupation, i.e., 1822—1844, as one of the modestly economical growth and overall steadiness in the Dominican Republic. Nevertheless, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, the former dictator and also the most influential pioneer of the (Antihaitianismo) anti-Haitianism ideology along with other racist-nationalist Dominicans, distorted the history and versioned it as the paramount cause of all Dominicans’ calamities (Baud 2002). Although the anti-Haitianism (Antihaitianismo) ideology rooted during the period of colonization, but more likely during the period of Haitian occupation, however, Trujillo emphasized it as a national doctrine and ordered Dominican people to perpetrate it against Haitians.
In addition, during the period of post-occupation, Haiti had already lost interest in invading the Dominican Republic. So in 1861, when Pedro Santana reannexed the Dominican Republic to Spain, the Haitian authorities gave sanctuaries, securities and supplies of all sorts to the Dominican revolutionaries to fight against the Spanish until the Dominican Republic’s independence was restored in 1865 (Sagás 1994).
As stated earlier: the Haitian occupation in the Dominican Republic from 1822—1844 is not the main factor that creates hostilities between these two neighboring nations, all of these resentments and animosities the Dominican Republic feels toward Haiti, for the most part, lie on two folds: poverty and race—especially race.
E.g., If Haiti was a country of European origin and economically powerful, the Dominican Republic would not hold any resentment toward Haiti due to the occupation from the years 1822—1844. Dominican Republic finds it the norm to pridefully and respectfully accept and embrace Spain as its former colonist (and the Dominicans, then and now, admit it all the time). Why? Spain is a European country and historically was one of the most powerful colonists in the world, past centuries ago. And today, Spain is one of the most economically powerful countries in the world.
Another example: most Dominicans always want to be with Puerto Ricans and also are always ready to pridefully identify themselves as Puerto Ricans, especially the Dominican migrants that live in the United States. Again, why? Puerto Rico is a United States’ territory and most Puerto Ricans’ features are close to European’s features.
Racially and ethnically, the Dominican people are mixtures of Spanish (of Spain), African and Indian, the Natives (Taino/s) —but mostly Spanish and African because most of the native Indians were already exterminated by the colonists during slavery society in less than a century, thereafter substituted by the Africans— Therefore, based upon the mixtures of these three races, this is why there is a seemingly endless variety featured Dominicans. There are cassatra Dominicans (people who resemble White/European), Marabou Dominicans (people who resemble South East Asian Indian types and the Native Indians—Taino types), brown, mulatto and black Dominicans and so on… However, the majority Dominicans are mulattoes. Mulatto Dominicans make up about 77% of the population.
All of these mixtures of skinned complexions create a color wheel classification and a pseudo-race in the Dominican society. Most Dominicans embrace European’s influences and reject their African roots. If most Dominicans could declare themselves as members of the white race, they would do so. Since apparently it is impossible to do, it is as though they oblige to create their own race, from which has nothing to do with any African links. The mulatto and black Dominicans don’t want to be identified or identify themselves as mulatto or black Dominicans.
The reason to these ancestral refusals, most Dominicans find blackness is authentic African or African descent and mulatto has a link to African descent—a mixture of Black and White. So, anything that links to the black race or African background that mulatto, dark and black Dominicans are related to or identified with, they deny and reject it. This is to say, they have nothing to do with the black race or African background.
Due to this terminological concept, the mulatto, dark and black Dominicans are always searching for a racial identity to fit themselves—of course not the black race. As Depestre argues, in such a manner most mulatto, dark and black Dominicans despise their African background and refuse to identify themselves with it, they prefer to be identified or identify themselves as Indio rather than African-Dominicans or black Dominicans. This means, Haitians are black, but Dominicans are not black (cited in Sagás 1994).
Since the word Indio is officially institutionalized in the Dominican society as a racial category, most Dominicans (i.e., black, dark and mulatto) are classified as Indio/s. It is only a few Dominicans who are identified as black or African Dominicans due to the term’s deprecatory insinuation and those with darker skinned complexion fall in the category Moreno (Sagás 2006). In fact, all these negations of African descents and the invention of categorically pseudo races in the Dominican society are due to a rejection and detachment from the black race.
It is from this ideology of racism, i.e., hatred the black race and Haitians as members of the black race, that caused, in 1937, the former dictator of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, massacred cold-bloodedly more than 25,000 innocent Haitians. It was clearly evident that such slaughter was purely based upon race matter (and President Trujillo himself had always admitted that he was a racist). This slaughter was to prevent the Dominican population from being Africanized. To support his demonic act after the slaughter, he banned black immigrants, especially Haitians, to prevent them from coming into the Dominican Republic and encouraged Asians, white Americans and Europeans to come to live in the Dominican Republic just to mate with Dominican men and women in order to breed Dominican light skins and features close to that of European.
A Thoroughly Juxtapositional Analysis
Nevertheless, a thorough analysis on racism and racial stereotypes in the Dominican Republic need to be contrastingly discussed in a similar scheme term. The Dominican Republic is worldwide known as a racist country. Lots of scholars, historians and writers always tend to focus and stress the most on the racism and racial stereotypes that exist inside the Dominican Republic and tactfully address (or even ignore) the same problems of racism and racial stereotypes that obscurely exist in all former colonial countries. Haiti is one of the examples.
While most Dominicans hate the black race, refuse to embrace their African’s background and prefer to be identified or identify themselves as Indio (those with darker skin Moreno), meantime most mulatto and black-skinned Haitians seemingly embrace their African background. Nonetheless, in the core of that embracement there are a negation and an aversion to blackness—black-skinned color. Most mulatto Haitians think their light-skinned color makes them superior to the black-skinned Haitians. And most black-skinned Haitians always have the envy to be in the circles of light-skinned or mulatto Haitians, or to be with light-skinned or mulatto lovers, or marry light-skinned or mulatto lovers in order to breed light-skinned or marabou children (this skinned-colored stereotype is based upon a mentality, i.e., black skin is a curse).
For instances, there are lots of beautifully blue-collar, professional and highly professional mulatto, dark-skinned and black-skinned Haitian women who would rather choose Dominican men, regardless their social status, over authentically educated African men and African-Haitian men. Why? These particular Haitian women would find those Dominican men attractive due to their light-skinned complexion and meantime find those authentically educated African men and African-Haitian men unattractive (ugly).
The same tenets go as well to certain Haitian men. There are lots of blue-collar, professional and highly professional mulatto, dark-skinned and black-skinned Haitian men that have been spending a lot of money on Dominican women, regardless the status of these women. Why? Because these women are light-skinned complexion or feature close to the white race, thereby those particular Haitian men find these Dominican women attractive. Meantime, more likely, these Haitian men would neither spend money on native African women and African-Haitian women nor find native African women and African-Haitian women attractive, due to their black-skinned complexion (true love is colorless, as the proverb says: love is blind. It matters when it is not based upon content of character, rather skinned color stereotypes). Mr. Steele (1990: 43) argues that, ‘beside race problems that exist, black skinned folks are stereotyped the most more than any other skinned colors in America, if it is not in the whole world.’
However, the difference between the Dominican Republic with the rest of the former colonial countries in the world is that racism and racial stereotypes emphatically pervade the Dominican Society. To hate, to classify and to denigrate the black race are being culturally taught in every social aspect, from generation to generation. Therefore, to hate blackness it is something that is embedded in the mind of most Dominicans (Sagás 2006). Certainly, it is not going to be easy to convert a long time corrupt ideology into rationality. David Howard reports, there are even some Dominicans that claim their African roots and also sympathize with the poor Haitian sugarcane cutters-workers (Batayes) that have been inhumanly treated in the Dominican Republic; as a result, most racist Dominicans see these particular Dominican sympathizers as traitors (cited in Baud 2002).
This is truly where the unlikeness of the Dominican Republic’s genres of practicing racism and racial stereotypes stands when comparing it with the rest of the former colonial countries. The Dominicans stress without prevarication on their ideology anti-Haitians and anti-blackness (African descent), whereas in the rest of the former colonial countries (and Haiti) anti-blackness obscurely exists and people evasively perpetrate it. Therefore, in a sense, in reality within the countries where pseudo-race and racial stereotype problems obscurely exist, these problems are more subtle and complex to resolve….
Today, some members of the new Haitian and Dominican generations are heading toward a pragmatic approach about the Haitian and Dominican relations. They are more active in engaging in activism and coalition organizations, such as Dominican Coalition of Solidarity with the Haitian Community in New York City, The Haitian League, Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees in Brooklyn and Fundacion Zile in the Dominican Republic and many more….
The main objective of these organizations is to put an end in the existing antagonism between Haiti and the Dominican Republic and also to combat the unjust, violence, human’s right violations and inhuman treatments the Haitian migrants are experiencing in the Dominican Republic. They organize meetings, where Dominicans interact with Haitians; and from time to time they organize fund raising activities and the profits are donated to humanitarian aids in order to help the poor Haitians and Dominicans, especially the poor Haitians. This is a very optimistic sign because previous Dominican generations were far beyond to such approach of pragmatism.
For instance, the 1996 Presidential Campaign in the Dominican Republic, between the populist, José Francisco Peña Gómez and the extreme conservative, Leonel Fernández, demonstrated a very good sign of how the new Dominican generation was / is orienting towards pragmatism. Mr. Gómez was an African-Dominican ([with supposed a Haitian ancestry…]). Despite the racist conservative Joaquín Balaguer, a veritable follower of Trujillo, an exaggerative nationalist, a former President of the Dominican Republic and also a genuine supporter of Leonel Fernández, had launched a series of dirty and nasty ads based upon racial stereotypes and anti-Haitian propaganda against Gómez on television, radio and in anonymous flyers, on the election day, almost half of Dominican people voted for Peña Gómez—46%. And the elected President, Leonel Fernández, more likely by fraud and adroit manipulation, won 51.25% of the votes. Almost 55% of Dominicans saw black-skinned color was (is) a problem. This is why they didn’t vote for José Francisco Peña Gómez (Baud 2002).
Although on one hand the 1996 Presidential Campaign in the Dominican Republic depicted some sign of progress on anti-Haitian and anti-blackness (anti-African descent) ideology, on the other hand, racism and racial stereotypes are still at large in the Dominican society. To this day, most Dominicans still see and believe that the black race and Haitians, as members of the black race, are inferior to them.
Clearly, antihaitianismo is far from over. New generations of Dominican intellectuals keep it alive by reproducing the same old myths and prejudiced arguments in slightly altered forms (Sagás 2006).
In consequence, it is very subtle so as to make Haiti and the Dominican Republic establish successfully diplomatic, politic and racial relations, since the antagonism most Dominicans feel toward Haitians lies on poverty and race—for the most part on race. And when it comes to racism and skinned-colored stereotypes that exist in the human race, thereby diplomacy, hypocrisy and politics have always been the major factors in humans’ race relations. And this is the most challenging and worst frontier of racism.
David Howard, in his hypothesis on Dominican Anti-Haitian Ideology, he finds that anti-Haitian ideology is embedded in Dominican racial identity. He observes, in the United States, many Dominican migrants are racially identified as Black and establish a more Afrocentric racial identity. Nevertheless, he finds that when those Dominican migrants return back to the Dominican Republic, they re-adopt and re-claim the same old-pseudo-racial identity bias. Also, he finds that the Dominican New Yorkers tend to use Spanish skills to distance themselves from African Americans. He adds: As many Dominicans in the U.S. are identified as Blacks, so this racial identification propels them to embrace black American hip-hop culture. However, by embracing African American hip-hop culture does not necessarily mean their negative ideas about blackness and own pseudo-racial identity have changed (cited in Tavernier 2001 and Journal of the Research Group on Socialism and Democracy 2011).
Having been discussed previously: in the realm of racism, hypocrisy and opportunism are the biggest challenges. Some racists tend to get alone well with black-skinned people under social circumstances. Meaning, when they are enduring the same hardship as most black-skinned people accustomed to, thereby circumstances of life make those racists get alone well superficially with black-skinned people; but, this does not mean their negative mind concepts about the black race are faded. Therefore, whenever opportunities luckily come forth to those racists, the racial gap between them and black people is reinstated.
E.g., during the period of the Haitian Revolution (at the time the entire island of Hispaniola was not yet divided between Haiti and the Dominican Republic), the Eastern part, which is now the Dominican Republic, had always allied with the Western part, which is now Haiti, in order to fight against their colonists. Once thereafter a retreat was made from either the colonists or the aggressors, the Eastern part distanced itself from the Western part.
Moreover, there was even a division among the slaves in the Western side. And this division was based upon a superior-skinned color ideology. In the South of the Western side, the majority of the slaves were mulattoes and light skins. The light-skinned slaves believed they were superior to the black-skinned slaves. As a result of this tenet, they could not subordinate to the high-ranking-black-skinned slaves nor their slave leader, Toussaint L’Ouverture.
As Toussaint L’Ouverture, the pioneer of the Haitian Revolution, had always said, ‘it is always the Blacks [black skins…] who suffer the most’ (cited in James 1963: 152). E.g., Most of the black-skinned Haitians are the ones who live in dense poverty. Light-skinned Haitians and Haitians with complexion close to European features gain more privilege in all aspects in the Haitian society. In addition, most of the time, the light-skinned, mulatto and cassatra Haitians have always been the monopolies of the Haiti’s national economy. And in the political spectrum, they are always huge supporters of the bogus governments, politicians and leaders.
On one hand, not only the most light-skinned, mulatto and cassatra Haitians that have always been great supporters of undemocratic governments in Haiti, on the other hand, also all Dominican governments, from then and now. Dominican Republic has always seen Haiti as a threat, despite the densely existing poverty and political instability that exist within Haiti. Thereby, Dominican Republic is one of the countries that has always played a role to keep the government of Haiti in subordination. The more Haiti is preoccupied by unstable governments, political instabilities and dense poverty, the more secure Dominican Republic feels, in terms of national interests and more superior to Haiti in all social aspects.
Badly unstable governments, politics and the abandonment and isolation of imperial capitalism on Haiti are the causes of its dense poverty. Historically, Haiti has been abandoned and isolated by most countries in the world. Some countries have begun to bring attention and seemingly give humanitarian aids to Haiti during the period of post earthquake. Before that most countries in the world had ignored and abandoned Haiti. And all of those countries had had a profound awareness about this old-existing poverty in Haiti. Why do those countries wait for so long to help a nation that is dying due to dense poverty? This is what the so-called diplomacy, politics and hypocrisy.
And poverty is the primary factor that drives mass of Haitians to cross the Dominican border to seek for a better life in the Dominican Republic. If the national economy of Haiti were at least at the level of that of Dominican Republic, those particular Haitians (i.e., border line crossers to the Dominican Republic) would never cross the border to migrate in order to do job cutting sugarcane, most Dominicans will not do, along with daily degradation, humiliation, violence, violation of human rights and slave-like treatments under the hands of Dominicans.
Emphatically, sugarcane is the primary-national product of the Dominican Republic. Therefore, the exportation of the sugarcane to the United States, few Asian countries and some European countries is where the Dominican Republic’s domestic economy relies upon. And the sugarcane cutters (employees) are the Haitian migrants that represent 90% of this labor force. Because most Dominicans despise this type of job, they choose not to do it. Thereby, in a way, those Haitian migrants have their importance in the Dominican society. They should have been treated with decencies, not like slaves of the past slavery society.
Therefore, if today Haiti is among one of the poorest nations in the world and Dominicans have been culturally and racially discriminating against Haitians that live in Haiti and in the Dominican Republic, this is due to isolation and weight of the world imperial capitalism on Haiti and also to greedy, selfish, unpatriotic and wicked Haitians.
So this is why apparently to these particular Haitians mentioned above, the anti-Haitianism (anti-blackness and anti-African descent) doctrine in the Dominican society is a fiction to them. They don’t show any sympathies at all regarding to what Haitian migrants have been going through in the Dominican Republic. They go on vacation there all the times to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars. Some big time Haitian entrepreneurs (millionaires and multi-millionaires) even invest hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions of dollars in the Dominican Republic.
To these particular Haitians, they don’t realize if they are contributing to the Dominican Republic’s economic growth, by going on vacation to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars there or investing hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions of dollars in it. Meanwhile, over 1 million of their compatriot Haitians are experienced all kind of inhuman treatments, such as racial prejudice, racial discrimination, physical violence, violation on their human rights and live an old-time-slave-like-style in the Dominican Republic.
As stated earlier: racism and racial stereotypes don’t exist only in the Dominican Republic, they also exist in whichever society and periodical time humans interact in this world. E.g., even in the biblical history blackness is portrayed as a symbol of badness, in writable and visual terms. In the 12 Apostles of Jesus the Christ, Judas Iscariot, the only black Apostle among them, is portrayed and known as the one who betrayed Jesus to the Jews. This human made’s infamous story-image is purely based upon racism and skinned-colored stereotypes.
Certainly, racism and racial stereotypes don't derive by nature, but are rather culturally and environmentally learning process that derive from humans’ power for supremacy, greed and ignorance. Racism is what causes, for the most part, poverty, turmoils and wars within this world. If humans could engulf ignorance and apply wisdom in their lives so as to acknowledge the essence and destiny of humans, humans could have lived with openheartedness in this world.
Racial categories and skinned-colored classifications are the labels institutionalized by humans in order to justify the superiority of one’s race over the other and superiority of one’s skinned color over the other. In reality, before the law of nature, under the skin all humans are equal. This is why all humans breathe the same air, share the same happiness, feel pains the same way, shed tears for the same causes, share the same hatred, share the same sadness and share the same destiny….
After all, with the time, there’s nothing that says progressive change is impossible to make... As old generation Dominican/s with corruptive beliefs, thoughts and ideologies is being gone, new one/s will be emerged with rational beliefs, thoughts and ideologies. If old and young Dominicans put aside these corrupt ideologies (i.e., anti-Haitianism, Antihaitianismo, anti-blackness and anti-African descent) that had/has been implanted into their minds for so long and rationally recollect, without distortions, the essence and destiny of humans, a past history of how Haiti and the Dominican Republic share and find themselves on the same island of Hispaniola, maybe one day Haitians and Dominicans might live with openheartedness...
Baud, M. 2002. Race and Nation in the Dominican Republic, KITLV, New West Indian Guide, accessed 18 April 2012
James, C.L.R. 1962. The Black Jacobins. 2nd ed, New York: Vintage Books: A Division of Random House Inc.
Journal of the Research Group on Socialism and Democracy. 2011. The Stigma of Blackness: Anti-Haitianism in the Dominican Republic, accessed 18 Avril 2012
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Sagás, E. An Apparent Contradiction? Popular Perceptions of Haiti and the Foreign Policy of the Dominican Republic, Bob Corbett email@example.com, accessed 18 April 2012 <http://www.webster.edu/~corbetre/haiti/mistopic/dominican/conception.htm>
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