Human Rights Watch has stated in their reports that the differences between Haitians and Dominicans can be based on colonial times from linguistic, cultural, and racial differences. For instance, the Dominican Republic was governed by the Spanish, and thus acquired part of their culture from the Spanish, mixed with native Americans and Africans. Haiti, on the other hand, was governed by the French, and its culture is a mixture of French and African. The majority of Haiti's population is descended almost entirely from African slaves, while Dominicans possess a multiracial mix of Spanish, Native American and African ancestry. It is evident that historical background is related between the two countries, however, major cultural aspects remain greatly dividing them.
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 17th century, 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 19th century, 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. In 1844 the secret revolutionary movement called "La Trinitaria" took place and the Dominican Republic declared its independence defeating the Haitian forces. After several tumultuous decades, the Spanish briefly acquired nominal control of the Dominican Republic in the 1860s, setting of another war. By the late 19th century, over three hundred years of European control was ended; the modern history of west Hispaniola (Haiti) and east Hispaniola (Dominican Republic) had begun.
Antihaitianismo was strongly institutionalized during the regime of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. Border disputes under Trujillo culminated in the order of a military intervention and to massacre Haitians accused of practicing vodou or witchery, practices that were against the religious beliefs of the time. Claims range "from several hundred to 26,000" or even "recorded as having a death toll reaching 30,000" in October 1937, an 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.
Trujillo's policies served to perpetuate antihaitianismo within the Dominican Republic. 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.