Dominican Republic–Haiti relations

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Dominican Republic-Haiti relations

Dominican Republic


Dominican Republic–Haiti relations refers to the political and social relations between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. These two countries coexist on the island of Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The living standards in the Dominican Republic are considerably higher than those in Haiti. There are deep-set cultural differences that contribute to the long-standing Haitian-Dominican conflict.



Struggles begun during colonial times have led almost continuously into conflicts between the two governments to the present day.[1] The political division of the island of Hispaniola is due in part to the bitter European struggle for control of the New World during the 17th century, when France and Spain began fighting over control of the island. They resolved the dispute in 1697 by splitting the island in two different countries.[2] It was not until the 19th century that Haiti became independent from France in January 1, 1804, and the Dominicans declared their first independence from Spain in November 1821. On February 9, 1822, the Haitian leader Jean Pierre Boyer led troops into Dominican territory to declare an end to slavery across the island. Haitians soon gained control of Santo Domingo, successfully ending slavery in the Dominican side of the island. In effort to unify the island, Boyer then took over Santo Domingo and its people.


In order to raise funds for the huge indemnity of 150 million francs that Haiti agreed to pay the former French colonists, and which was subsequently lowered to 60 million francs, Haiti imposed heavy taxes on the Dominicans. Since Haiti was unable to adequately provision its army, the occupying forces largely survived by commandeering or confiscating food and supplies at gunpoint. Attempts to redistribute land conflicted with the system of communal land tenure (terrenos comuneros), which had arisen with the ranching economy, and newly emancipated slaves resented being forced to grow cash crops under Boyer's Code Rural.[3] In rural areas, the Haitian administration was usually too inefficient to enforce its own laws. It was in the city of Santo Domingo that the effects of the occupation were most acutely felt, and it was there that the movement for independence originated.

Haiti's constitution also forbade white elites from owning land, and the major landowning families were forcibly deprived of their properties. Most emigrated to Cuba, Puerto Rico (these two being Spanish possessions at the time) or Gran Colombia, usually with the encouragement of Haitian officials, who acquired their lands. The Haitians, who associated the Roman Catholic Church with the French slave-masters who had exploited them before independence, confiscated all church property, deported all foreign clergy, and severed the ties of the remaining clergy to the Vatican. Santo Domingo's university, lacking both students and teachers had to close down, and thus the country suffered from a massive case of human capital flight.

Although the occupation effectively eliminated colonial slavery and instated a constitution modeled after the United States Constitution throughout the island, several resolutions and written dispositions were expressly aimed at converting average Dominicans into second-class citizens: restrictions of movement, prohibition to run for public office, night curfews, inability to travel in groups, banning of civilian organizations, and the indefinite closure of the state university (on the alleged grounds of its being a subversive organization) all led to the creation of movements advocating a forceful separation from Haiti with no compromises. In the Dominican War of Independence[4] Dominicans fought against the Haitian occupation[5] Led by Juan Pablo Duarte who along with Francisco del Rosario Sánchez and Matías Ramón Mella, gave the Dominicans, in February 27, 1844 freedom from Haitian rule, thus giving birth to the Dominican Republic, a self-sufficient nation established on the liberal ideals of a democratic government.

Since then, Dominican/Haitian relations have been unstable.[6]

Parsley Massacre[edit]

Main article: Parsley Massacre

In 1937, claiming that Haiti was harboring his former Dominican opponents, Rafael Trujillo ordered an attack on the border, slaughtering tens of thousands of Haitians as they tried to escape. The number of dead is still unknown, though it is now calculated between 20,000[7] and 30,000.[8]

Cultural and economic factors[edit]

In the mid-Twentieth Century, both countries had a comparable economy, but while the Dominican economy grew, Haiti's diminished as a result of factors such as internal power struggles, rapid population growth, environmental degradation, embargoes, and stigmatization over HIV. Today, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. There is a lack of resources and Haiti's population density exceeds its neighbor's by far. Despite the U.N. sending missions since the 90s, in order to maintain peace, terrible conditions persist.[9] One large contributor to cultural dissonance is the language barrier, as Spanish is the primary language spoken in the eastern part of Hispaniola (Dominican Republic) while French and Creole spoken in the western part (Haiti). Race is another defining factor of Dominican-Haitian relations. The development of social classes in the Dominican Republic is mostly based on race. Since the Haitian invasion of 1822, skin color holds importance in Dominican society. Darker-colored Dominicans are usually found in the lower class, while lighter-skinned, or Mulatto, Dominicans are found in the middle and upper class. Today, many Haitians are darker-skinned because most of their ancestors were previously slaves. Unfortunately in the Dominican, there is a stigma behind dark-skinned residents. People with darker skin are usually associated with poor, uneducated Haitians because of their past connections with slavery.[10] Another disparity between is the popular religions of the two countries. Dominicans are much more strongly tied to Roman Catholic and Christian sects, opposed to folk religion, like voodoo, that is practiced in Haiti.[11]

Haitian migration in the Dominican Republic[edit]

Some cross-border cooperation exists in areas such as health, business, and infrastructure. Many Haitians travel to the Dominican to find seasonal or long-term work in order to send remittances to their families. Some of these Haitian workers, as well as Dominicans of Haitian descent have reported complaints of discrimination against them by the Dominican majority population. Other Haitians who would seek work, instead remain in Haiti, fearing discrimination on the other side of the border. Migration has been taking place since the 1920s, when Haitian laborers were actively encouraged to come work in the thriving Dominican sugar industry. With modernization from the 1960s on, fewer workers were required, and other Dominican industries and services started employing more Haitian workers, often an inexpensive, less regulated labor source with fewer legal protections. Many Haitian women find work in Dominican households, and Haitian men at Dominican construction sites, often leading to the move of an entire family. A large number of migrated Haitian workers have continued to live in the Dominican over several generations. The two governments have been unable to agree upon a legal framework to address the nationality of these descendants, leaving around one million people of Haitian ancestry in the Dominican Republic effectively stateless, restricting their access to health care, education and employment opportunities.[12] Though migration from Haiti to the Dominican is economically beneficial to both countries, it is one of the leading contributors to audacity between the two countries as well; illegal immigration from Haiti resonates high dissonance with the Dominican people. It has led to anti-Haitian feelings and mistrust of the Haitian people. Another problem with Haitian migration into Dominican Republic is that it blurs the line of citizenship. This factor of migration affects not only Dominican economy but its culture as well.[13]

The 2010 Haitian earthquake[edit]

After the devastating earthquake of 12 January 2010, countless Haitians fled across the border to escape the quake's effects. The Dominican government was one of the first to send teams to help distribute food and medicine to the victims and made it easier for Haitians to acquire visas to receive treatment in Dominican hospitals. Supplies were transported to Haiti through the Dominican Republic, and many injured Haitians have been treated in Dominican hospitals. Virtually, every level of the Dominican efforts assisted its neighboring country. Haitian refugees were also taken in and supported by many Dominicans, though relations have since deteriorated, as the refugees have remained in the Dominican Republic, leading to reported concerns among some Dominicans that quake refugees contribute to rising crime, over-crowding, cholera and unemployment. More and more discrimination has been attributed by the massive amounts of Haitian refugees in the Dominican. Over the past years tensions have risen, causing the International Organization for Migration to offer to pay Haitians $50 a piece, plus additional relocation assistance, to go back to Haiti. More than 1,500 have gone back through the program.[14]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Wucker, Michele. 1999, Why the Cocks Fights: The Dominican/Haitian Struggle for Hispaniola. New York: Hill & Wang Inc.
  3. ^ Terrenos comuneros arose because of “scarce population, low value of the land, the absence of officials qualified to survey the lands, and the difficulty of dividing up the ranch in such a way that each would receive a share of the grasslands, forests, streams, palm groves, and small agricultural plots that, only when combined, made possible the exploitation of the ranch.” (Hoetink, The Dominican People: Notes for a Historical Sociology transl. Stephen Ault Pg. 83 (Johns Hopkins Press: Baltimore, 1982)
  4. ^ Dominican War of Independence
  5. ^ Haitian occupation of Santo Domingo
  6. ^ Moya, Pons Frank. 1977. Historia Colonial de Santo Domingo. 3rd ed. Santiago: Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra.
  7. ^ Pack, Parini 1997, p. 78.
    On October 2, 1937, Trujillo had ordered 20,000 Haitian cane workers executed because they could not roll the "R" in perejil, the Spanish word for parsley.
  8. ^ Cambeira 1996, p. 182.
    anyone of African descent found incapable of pronouncing correctly, that is, to the complete satisfaction of the sadistic examiners, became a condemned individual. This holocaust is recorded as having a death toll reaching thirty thousand innocent souls, Haitians as well as Dominicans.
  9. ^,8599,1953959,00.html
  10. ^
  11. ^ Franco, Franklin J.1973. ―Antihaitianismo e ideologia del Trujillato.‖ P. 83-109 In Gerard Pierre-Charles et al., Problemas Dominico-Haitianos y del Caribe. Mexico D.F..: Universidad National Autonoma de Mexico.
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Childress, Sarah (August 31, 2011). "DR to Haitians: get lost". Retrieved April 22, 2013.