The long history of anti-Haitism in the Dominican Republic – OpEd – Eurasia Review

On December 16, 2021, two diplomats from the Haitian Embassy in Santo Domingo – Williamson Jean and Jackson Lorrain – were arrested on their way to a farm in the province of Monte Cristi, where they were to hand over 11 passports. to the hundreds of Haitian workers waiting. for them. The military confiscated passports and computer equipment used to produce personal identity cards – all of which legally belong to the Haitian state. The arrest took place despite the fact that Jean and Lorrain presented diplomatic identifications, the authenticity of which was later confirmed by the head of the consulate, François Guerrier. The incidents occurred against a backdrop of growing tensions between the two nations, with the Dominican Republic stepping up border surveillance and implementing a series of measures to curb irregular immigration from Haiti.

The current hostilities between the two countries of Hispaniola are deeply rooted in the historical soil of racism and imperialism. The Treaty of Ryswick of 1697 formalized French control over the western third of Hispaniola – at the time a Spanish asset – under the name of Santo Domingo. In 1797, Spain ceded the whole island to France. A precious tap of wealth, Santo Domingo supplied two-thirds of France’s overseas trade and was the largest individual market for the European slave trade. It was a greater source of income for its owners than all of the thirteen British colonies in North America combined. The half a million slaves who supported the dazzling opulence of the French commercial bourgeoisie rebelled in August 1791 – two years after the French Revolution and its ripple effects in Santo Domingo.

The collective British, Spanish and French efforts to crush the rebellion sparked a war that lasted 13 years and ended in the humiliating defeat of the imperial powers. William Pitt the Younger and Napoleon Bonaparte together lost some 50,000 soldiers in the campaign to restore slavery and the elaborate structures of exploitation. The defeat of the latter’s expedition in 1803 resulted in the creation of the State of Haiti. Frightened by the establishment by Haiti of a black republic resolutely opposed to the barbarism of European civilization, the Dominican elites developed a national identity that defined the Dominicans as white, Catholic and culturally Hispanic, as opposed to the Haitians whom they qualified. black people, animists and African culture. . Anti-Haitianism or anti-Haitian racism was reinforced with the occupation of the Dominican Republic by Haiti, which lasted from 1822 to 1844.

President Jean-Pierre Boyer – under whom Hispaniola was unified – feared that the French would use Dominican territory as a base in an attempt to reconquer Haiti. His decision also obeyed a constitutional ideal: the fusion of the whole island in the face of foreign aggression. Although the occupation of Haiti was greeted positively by poor Dominicans, the Dominican ruling class did not like being ruled by someone they saw as inferior. So, shortly after Boyer was overthrown in 1843 and General Charles Rivière-Hérard took power, a small group of activists from Santo Domingo overthrew the unified regime. Rivière-Hérard attempted to oppose the separation and sent troops east, but he was more focused on consolidating power at home and was unable to succeed due to internal instabilities. On February 27, 1844, the Dominican rebels drove the last Haitian troops from the capital, ensuring independence.

The struggle for Dominican independence was heavily marred by anti-Haitian myths. One of these myths concerned the Dominican Indian. Even though the Taino Indians were dead after the Spanish conquest, Dominican rulers insisted that the ancestors of the Dominicans were Indians and Spaniards, not enslaved African laborers. Why were Indians chosen as the central symbol of Dominican identity? Indians are neither white nor black – an attribute capable of accommodating the ambiguity of the Dominican mulatto (of mixed white and black ancestry). The battle lines were now drawn according to this racial pattern – the Indian being opposed to the Haitian, who came to be seen as the true black. These conflicts intensified over the following decades, preparing a context of disunity favorable to the imperial project of the United States, which threatened the two nations of Hispaniola with a possibility of intervention if they did not contain “the upheavals and the banditry ”.

Under these pretexts, the American Empire launched the invasion of the Caribbean island, beginning in 1915 in Haiti, then in 1916 in the Dominican Republic. The eight-year occupation of the Dominican Republic saw the creation of a comprador class – serving as an affiliate of foreign companies that owned Dominican sugar cane plantations through their dominance in the National City Bank of New York, which managed the country’s finances. A social architecture as strictly exploitative as this required an authoritarian government – an imperative fulfilled by the Guardia Nacional Dominicana (Dominican National Guard, or GND). The US Marines commissioned Rafael Leonidas Trujillo to lead the GND in 1918 and made him the commander-in-chief of the national army in 1927. In 1930, with the support of his army, Trujillo supported a coup against the president Horacio Vasquez.

Under Trujillo’s ruthless dictatorship – which lasted until 1961 – anti-Haitianism solidified. In 1937 – during what is now known as the Parsley Massacre – Trujillo aimed to whitewash the Dominican Republic by expelling Haitians. Trujillo, who was known to lighten his own skin with makeup, ordered the deaths of those who refused his order to leave. These Haitians were recognized by their ability to pronounce the word perejil, Spanish for “parsley” – most Haitians could not pronounce the “r “ the sound because the French “r” was different. This massacre left nearly 30,000 dead. These mass killings were followed by the production of propaganda in favor of an anti-Haitian ideology. Dominican history books have begun to overemphasize the Haitian occupation – the demonization of the dark-skinned “other” has become commonplace.

In 1962, Juan Bosch ran for president of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), inaugurating the first democratic government of the post-dictatorial era. Seven months later, he was overthrown by the oligarchs, the old Trujillist army and the Catholic Church. Faced with a popular revolt, the putschists requested the support of the United States, which sent their soldiers in 1965, killing 5,000 people. After the defeat of the Democratic Revolution, Joaquin Balaguer – a disciple of Trujillo – led a repressive government. An anti-Communist lackey of the United States as well as a close collaborator of the dictatorial regime of Francois Duvalier in Haiti, Balaguer’s 12-year reign has been responsible for the incarceration, torture and murder of 6,000 people.

In the late 1970s, the PRD took office. After that, the reins of the national government alternated between the PRD, the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) and briefly the Christian Social Reform Party (PRSC) – the party associated with Balaguer. While the PLD has become largely dominant, the PRD has become the main official opposition in the country. With the growing impact of neoliberal globalization, the progressive legacy of the struggle against trujillismo and balaguerismo has been abandoned in favor of a shift to the right towards anti-Haitian Hispanophile identities. In 2010, the former center-left PLD convened a constitutional convention, largely to exclude a new group from the birthright-citizenship clause: the children of anyone “residing illegally in Dominican territory”.

The injunction targeted Haitians and served as a model for the regressive decision of the Constitutional Court of September 23, 2013 which declared the nearly 500,000 Haitians living in the Dominican Republic as illegal, and therefore liable to deportation; the judgment extended to the descendants of Haitian immigrants who arrived in the Dominican Republic in 1929. Systematic stigmatization allowed the Dominican bourgeoisie to impose on Haitians conditions of semi-slavery in the sugar cane plantations; to deport tens of thousands of Haitians without a court hearing; and deny citizenship and access to public services to children born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents. During the mass expulsions of Haitians, some dark-skinned Dominican citizens were identified as Haitians and deported to Haiti without being able to prove their citizenship. This is emblematic of a larger problem facing the black and mulatto masses of the Dominican Republic: either to assume Indian identity and Hispanic culture, or to be excluded from the body politic.

In 2014, when former President Hipólito Mejía left the PRD to form the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM), Luis Abinader – a 52-year-old businessman with no public service experience – jumped on the bandwagon. In 2020, he was elected president, ending the 16-year domination of the PLD. Dominicans of Haitian descent – who represent 7.3% of the total population – had trusted the administration, hoping it would end their condition of statelessness. Abinader, however, continued to expel thousands of Haitians from the country. He also began building a 118-mile border wall between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The estimated cost is over $ 100 million. Given the negative impact of the pandemic on tourism, construction and the flow of remittances, erecting a xenophobic wall should be the last thing on Abinader’s agenda. The government’s continued existence of such an exclusionary project indicates that it is fundamentally anti-people in nature, using anti-Haitianism to distract public attention from its destructive, market-driven economic policies.


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