Dominican Republic–Haiti relations

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Dominican Republic–Haiti relations
Map indicating locations of Dominican Republic and Haiti

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.



Henri Christophe was a key leader in the Haitian Revolution.

Struggles began during colonial times and have developed into nearly constant conflict between the two governments.[1] The political division of the island of Hispaniola is due in part to the European struggle for control of the New World during the 17th century, when France and Spain began fighting for control of the island. They resolved their dispute in 1697 by splitting the island into two countries.[2] It was not until the 19th century that Haiti became independent from France on January 1, 1804. Spanish Haiti, the predecessor of the Dominican Republic, became independent from Spain on December 1, 1821, after more than 300 years of Spanish rule.

The Disgorgement of Moca and Santiago[edit]

On March 5, 1805, Haitian forces, under Jean-Jacques Dessalines, raided the Dominican towns of Azua, Moca, and Santo Domingo.[3]

On April 6, 1805, Haitian forces executed Santiago prisoners including some priests.[citation needed] The army set fire to the town.[citation needed] The Haitian forces killed some, and brought others back to Haiti by foot.[citation needed]

40 children were killed in a Moca church.[citation needed] More people were killed on Dessalines's orders in the French-held portions of the island.[4]

One source claims the events never happened or were exaggerated. A 2012 opinion piece in the Dominican newspaper El Caribe claims the story is false.[4] Despite claims that there were 1000 victims, the town had a population of 500.[3][5]

Ephemeral Independence and Unification of Hispaniola (1821–1844)[edit]

On November 9, 1821 the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo was overthrown by a group of rebels at the command of José Núñez de Cáceres, the colony's former administrator,[1][6] as they proclaimed independence from the Spanish crown on December 1, 1821.[7] The new nation was known as Republic of Spanish Haiti (Spanish: República del Haití Español), as Haiti had been the indigenous name of the island.[6][contradictory]

Jean-Pierre Boyer, the mulatto ruler of Haiti.

A group of Dominican military officers favored uniting the newly independent nation with Haiti, as they sought for political stability under Haitian president Jean-Pierre Boyer. The Dominicans were unaware that Boyer made a concession with the French, and agreed to pay France for the lost territory of Haiti. Boyer agreed to pay a sum of 150 million Francs (more than twice what France had charged the United States for the much larger Louisiana territory in 1803) thus the Haitians would essentially be forced into paying to maintain their freedom from the French.

During twenty-two years of Haitian occupation, the Haitians implemented what some Dominicans viewed as a brutal military regime.[citation needed] Use of the French language over Spanish was enforced, and the army closed La Universidad Santo Tomas de Aquino. In addition, the Haitian army confiscated all church land and property and imposed mandatory military service. This difficult time for the Dominicans created cultural conflicts in language, race, religion and national tradition between the Dominicans and Haitians. Many Dominicans developed a resentment of Haitians, who they saw as oppressors.

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.[8] 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.[citation needed]

Haiti's constitution also forbade white elites from owning land,[citation needed] 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.

Dominican War of Independence (1843–1849)[edit]

In the Dominican War of Independence[9] Dominicans fought against the Haitian occupation.[10] On February 27, 1844 the Dominicans, led by Juan Pablo Duarte along with Francisco del Rosario Sánchez and Matías Ramón Mella, gained freedom from Haitian rule, thus giving birth to the Dominican Republic, a self-sufficient nation established on the liberal ideals of a democratic government.

After winning the war and ousting the Haitian occupying force from the country, Dominican nationalists had to fight against a series of attempted invasions at the command of Haitian "emperor" Faustin Soulouque from 1844 to 1856. Haitian soldiers would make incessant attacks to try to regain control of the territory, but these efforts were to no avail as the Dominicans would go on to decisively win every battle henceforth. Since then, Dominican–Haitian relations have been unstable.[11]

Parsley Massacre (1937)[edit]

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[12] and 30,000.[13]


Cultural and economic factors[edit]

Haitian workers being transported in Macao, Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic.

In the mid-twentieth century, the economies of the two countries were comparable. Since that time, the Dominican economy has grown while the Haitian economy has diminished. The economic downturn in Haiti has been the result of factors such as internal power struggles, rapid population growth, environmental degradation, and trade embargoes. 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 UN sending missions since the 1990s, in order to maintain peace, terrible conditions persist.[14]

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 Haitian Creole are spoken in the western part (Haiti). Race is another defining factor of Dominican–Haitian relations. The ethnic composition of the Dominican population is 73% mixed, 16% white, and 11% black;[15] 95% of the Haitian population is black.[16]

The development of social classes in the Dominican Republic is somewhat 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 (mixed, whites and others) Dominicans are found in the middle and upper classes. Most Haitians are darker-skinned with little non-African admixture. In the Dominican Republic there is a stigma against dark-skinned residents. People with darker skin are usually associated with poor, uneducated Haitians because of their past connections with slavery.[17]

The Dominican economy is also over 600% larger than the Haitian economy. The estimated annual per capita income is US$1,300 in Haiti and US$8,200 in Dominican Republic.[18] The divergence between the level of economic development between Haiti and the Dominican Republic makes their border the one with the highest contrast of all Western world borders and it is evident that the Dominican Republic has one of the highest illegal migration issues in the Americas.[19]

Haitian migration in the Dominican Republic[edit]

Haitians at the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Some cross-border cooperation exists in areas such as health, business, and infrastructure. Many Haitians travel to the Dominican Republic 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.[20]

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.[20]

A large number of migrated Haitian workers have continued to live in the Dominican Republic 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.[20]

Though migration from Haiti to the Dominican Republic is economically beneficial to both countries, it is one of the leading contributors to tension 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.[21]

Many have observed that there is a clear distinction between Dominicans and Haitians in the Dominican Republic. The two groups of people do not function as one entity and there are many factors that contribute to those tensions. Some Dominicans view Haitians in the Dominican Republic as an invasion of their own space that they have fought very long and hard to live in. Some Dominicans view Haitians as less than and believe that they are only intended in the Dominican Republic to work. There is a strong sense of Dominican pride in the Dominican Republic, and oftentimes, Haitians cannot fit into their culture or way of life. Many of these current day beliefs have been influenced by the old Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo.

Rafael Trujillo had a potent dislike towards the Haitian people and made it his mission to clearly distinguish between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Trujillo was not fond of dark skin, and targeted anyone of dark complexion that appeared to be Haitian. In 1937, Rafael Trujillo carried out the Parsley Massacre in which he sought to destroy anyone who looked dark enough to be Haitian and anyone who could not roll the "r" in "perejil," Spanish word for parsley. This drastic occurrence made the Dominican Republic a very bloody and unpleasant place. Many still regard the Parsley Massacre as a devastating time of horror and despise towards dark skin people. Even without Trujillo in power, some still carry these negative connotations in their heads and approach Haitians with anger and despise.

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.[22]

Haitian refugees were also taken in and supported by many Dominicans, though relations deteriorated as the refugees have remained in the Dominican Republic. This has led 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 to the massive numbers of Haitian refugees in the Dominican Republic. Over the past years tensions have risen, causing the International Organization for Migration to offer Haitians $50 each plus additional relocation assistance to return to Haiti. More than 1,500 have accepted that assistance and returned.[22]


The baseball federations of the Dominican Republic and Haiti have agreed to develop and promote baseball in Haiti (especially at the border), on the basis that sport is a developmental element to foster peace, as well as strengthening friendship and mutual respect between the two peoples. With the support of the Dominican ministry of Sports, the president of the Dominican Baseball Federation (FEDOBE) was thankful and quoted saying "it allows our federation to fulfill the dream of helping Haiti in baseball." He has pledged to put the Haitian Baseball Federation in relation to the international organizations. Coaches will be sent to Haiti for technical courses, referees and scorers by the Dominican Baseball Federation, while the Haitian Federation will support the logistics in the training and training programs.[23]


  1. ^ a b Lancer, Jalisco. "The Conflict Between Haiti and the Dominican Republic". AllEmpires. Archived from the original on 2015-12-11. 
  2. ^ Wucker, Michele (1999). "Roosters". Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola (1st ed.). New York: Hill and Wang. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-8090-9713-5. LCCN 98-25785. OCLC 40200381. OL 365453M. 
  3. ^ a b Domínguez, Ángel (2014-04-03). "Opinión: El Degüello de Moca". Diario Libre (in Spanish). Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Archived from the original on 2014-12-20. 
  4. ^ a b Martínez Fernández, Héctor (2012-01-28). "1805: ¿Degüello en Moca?". El Caribe (in Spanish). Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic: Multimedios del Caribe. Archived from the original on 2015-12-08. 
  5. ^ Lora R., Ramón (2014-10-30). "El legado Dessalines es de muerte (y II)". El Día (in Spanish). Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Archived from the original on 2015-12-08. 
  6. ^ a b Horváth, Zoltán (2014-06-21). Raeside, Rob, ed. "Haiti: Historical Flags". Flags of the World. OCLC 39626054. Archived from the original on 2015-09-28. 
  7. ^ Gates, Henry Louis; Appiah, Anthony (1999). "Dominican-Haitian Relations". Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. Retrieved 2007-12-24. 
  8. ^ 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)
  9. ^ Dominican War of Independence
  10. ^ Haitian occupation of Santo Domingo
  11. ^ Moya, Pons Frank. 1977. Historia Colonial de Santo Domingo. 3rd ed. Santiago: Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra.
  12. ^ Dove, Rita (1997). "Writing ‘Parsley’". In Pack, Robert; Parini, Jay. Introspections: American Poets on One of Their Own Poems. Bread Loaf Anthology (1st ed.). Middlebury, Vermont: Middlebury College Press. p. 78. ISBN 978-0-87451-773-6. LCCN 97-19542. OCLC 36842447. On October 2, 1937, [Raphael] Trujillo had ordered 20,000 Haitian cane workers executed because they could not roll the ‘R’ in perejil, the Spanish word for parsley. 
  13. ^ Cambeira, Alan (1996). "The Era of Trujillo: 1930–1961". Quisqueya la Bella: The Dominican Republic in Historical and Cultural Perspective. Perspectives on Latin America and the Caribbean. Armonk, New York: M. E. Sharpe. p. 182. ISBN 978-0-7656-3305-7. LCCN 96-32355. OCLC 605229117. During the 1937 massacre ... anyone ... found incapable of pronouncing correctly ... became a condemned individual. This holocaust is recorded as having a death toll reaching thirty thousand.... 
  14. ^ Silver, Alexandra (2010-01-19). "Why Haiti and the Dominican Republic Are So Different". Time. Archived from the original on 2015-06-12. 
  15. ^ Field Listing: Ethnic Groups § Dominican Republic. The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 2015. ISSN 1553-8133. OCLC 644186015. Archived from the original on 2015-09-19. 
  16. ^ Field Listing: Ethnic Groups § Haiti. The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 2015. ISSN 1553-8133. OCLC 644186015. Archived from the original on 2015-09-19. 
  17. ^ Howard, David (2001). "Race, Color and Class in Dominican Society". Coloring the Nation: Race and Ethnicity in the Dominican Republic. Oxford, England: Signal Books. pp. 53–54. ISBN 978-1-902669-11-3. LCCN 2001019097. OCLC 45845489. OL 9892119M. 
  18. ^ Bello, Marisol (January 21, 2010). "Hispaniola comparison". USA Today. Retrieved 2016-10-09. 
  19. ^ IMF - PIB per cápita (PPA) República Dominicana / Haití
  20. ^ a b c Schaaf, Bryan (2009-05-21). "Haiti and the Dominican Republic: Same Island, Different Worlds". Haiti Innovation. Washington, DC. Archived from the original on 2015-01-04. 
  21. ^ Taylor, Erin B. (2013-12-25) [1st pub. 2013-10-25]. "Generations of Haitian Descendents Made Stateless in the Dominican Republic". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 2015-10-31. 
  22. ^ a b Childress, Sarah (August 31, 2011). "DR to Haitians: get lost". Retrieved April 22, 2013. 
  23. ^ Press, ed. (10 February 2016). "Acuerdan fomentar el béisbol en Haití". Metro. Retrieved 25 May 2017.  (Spanish)