By: Antoniqua Roberson-Dancy
On November 26, 2013, a Haitian resident of the Dominican Republic was tied to a tree and beaten by Dominican government officials, while locals stood around to watch. Prior to his death, 350 Haitians or people of Haitian descent were deported or left on their on after the death of an elderly couple (Dominican Republic: Fearful Haitians Deported or Voluntarily Flee). Rumors surfaced that the death was caused by a Haitian immigrant, resulting in a spike in violence and deportation to the Haitian community in D.R. This tension, however, did not arise overnight, but rather stems from a history of unsettled conflicts between the two nations. The following is a list of the reasons Haiti and the Dominican Republic have grown so distant despite sharing the same island:
1. Unresolved Colonial Tensions
In the 18th Century, the French colony of Saint-Domingue rapidly grew in slave population, allowing the economy spike from work provided by slave labor. The lands abundance in fertility was a haven for slave owners and became a huge profit. With a strong economy, Saint-Domingue was able to supply a powerful army to protect the colony. As the French power grew on the island, the Spanish became pushed back against the French colony. The constant battles over the land and resources, later resulted in the Haitian-Dominican War, giving the Dominicans their independence of the French (Hispaniola: Caribbean Chiefdoms in the Age of Columbus).
2. Antihaitianismo in Dominican Culture
During the years post colonization, slaves in both regions were treated in harsh conditions. Racism played a major role in the severity of slaves indecent treatment, and “the color of one’s skin indicated to a large degree one’s social standing and economic position” (A Case of Mistaken Identity: Antihaitianismo in Dominican Culture). Santo Domingo colonists refused to be referred to as Haitian because of the negative connotations surrounding the ethnic group. Santo Domingo colonists were said to be of white, Spanish descent, while Saint-Domingue colonists were of African with traces of French descent. Santo Domingo colonists were considered the power elites because their fairer skin gave them a closer alliance to white identity (A Case of Mistaken Identity: Antihaitianismo in Dominican Culture).
3. Economic Factors
Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the Americas. According to UNICEF statistics, approximately 62% of Haiti’s population is living below the international poverty line (At a glance: Haiti). It is by no surprise that Haitians, for years, have moved into the Dominican Republic to find work and provide a living for their families. Similar to Americas resistance and hostility towards immigrants, the Dominican government has opposed high rates of Haitian immigration into the country. The underlying tension between the two nations, which has not fully been resolved, makes it difficult for the two ethnicities to live peacefully within the Dominican Republic.