Human Rights Watch has stated in their reports that the perceived difference between Haitians and Dominicans can be based on colonial times from linguistic, cultural, and racial differences, when the Dominican Republic was governed by the Spanish and Haiti by the French. Haitians mostly descended from African slaves, while many Dominicans, who also have African ancestry, claim to have Spanish or other European ancestry. Even though there is no clear racial divide between the two countries, the Haitian population is generally considered "blacker" than that of the Dominican Republic. As of 2014, it remains an issue in the Dominican Republic.
Background. Antihaitianismo can be traced back to a policy of racial segregation instituted by the Spaniards in the Captaincy General of Santo Domingo (present day Dominican Republic). Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the island was split into absolutist chiefdoms, three where modern-day Santo Domingo now exists, and two where modern-day Haiti now exists (albeit also including some territory which is current part of Santo Domingo). Carib people from islands further south were often at war with the Taíno people. Columbus reached the island in 1492 (slaves imported from Africa arrived from 1503 onwards—many natives were also soon enslaved), and within a few decades the Spanish controlled most of the island. During the 1600s, however, the French also began maneuvering for control, and in 1697 acquired the western portion (now part of Haiti—whereas the Spanish portion encompassed the modern Dominican Republic). During the 1790s and early 1800s, the French and Spanish battled back and forth across the island; by 1809 the Haitian Revolution had resulted in the overthrow of both French and Spanish control. The Spanish briefly retook the eastern portion that same year, but in 1821 lost control again in another rebellion. Shortly afterwards, Haitian forces again briefly controlled the entire island, from 1822 to 1844. After several tumultuous decades, the Spanish briefly acquired nominal control of the Dominican Republic in the 1860s, setting of another war. By the late 1800s, over three hundred years of European control was ended; the modern history of west Hispaniola (Haiti) and east Hispaniola (D.R.) had begun.
Antihaitianismo was strongly institutionalized during the regime of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. This policy became part of the Dominican school curriculum, which Trujillo relied "on the schools and the media to disseminate these ideas" Native Dominicans were taught that they were "white," and were to be proud of being descendants of the Spanishconquistadores. On the other hand Haitians, who share the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, were to be viewed under this racial policy as "merely" descendants of Africanslaves.
Border disputes under Trujillo culminated in the order to massacre Haitians ( claims range "from several hundred to 26,000" or even "recorded as having a death toll reaching 30,000") in October 1937, an ethnic cleansing event subsequently named the Parsley Massacre. During later diplomacy, Trujillo agreed to pay hundreds of thousands in reparations, but somewhat less was actually delivered. Due to corrupt Haitian bureaucrats, exceedingly little reached the families of the dead.
Trujillo's policies served to perpetuate antihaitianismo within the Dominican Republic and consequently a number of Dominicans still share this view of racial policy and history. In the 1996 Dominican presidential election, Joaquín Balaguer (historical leader of the populist Right and former right-hand of dictator Trujillo) united in a "National Patriotic Front" with PLD candidate Leonel Fernández in order to prevent Peña Gómez from becoming President. Peña Gómez's alleged Haitian ancestry was regarded as a significant reason for the alliance against him.