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    To the editor, Blackworld

    To the editor, Blackworld,

    I have read Sarah Demezier’s recent article, “La Hispaniola: An Island Divided,” in the latest March 2008 issue of Blackworld. Although Demezier’s article offers a good amount of factual historic information regarding the relationship between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, I find that the manner in which she presents these facts and the history of the continuing animosities between these two countries is very biased.

    Furthermore, many of the points she made regarding present-day issues between Haitians and Dominicans are superficial and simplified, lacking valid support and substantial data.

    I would like to begin by first confronting the brief summary Demezier provided on Trujillo’s regime. Demezier writes of Trujillo: “…his reign was known as the bloodiest of the 20th century. With his hatred towards Haitians, despite the fact that his mother was 50% Haitian, he oversaw the massacre of over 35,000 Haitian people. Trujillo’s reign ended after his assassination on May 30th 1961.”

    Although this is true, Demezier emphasizes that Trujillo was cruel to Haitians but fails to point out that he oppressed, tortured, and assassinated his own people, Dominicans, as well. Moreover, this passage from her article seems to conveniently omit the fact that Trujillo was murdered by Dominicans; by failing to mention this fact about Trujillo’s reign, Demezier associates the Dominican people with his tyranny. Clearly, Trujillo terrorized both Dominicans and Haitians and was thus loathed by both as well.

    I took issue with the many generalizing and sweeping statements Demezier made on the contemporary issues facing the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Haitians have legally and illegally been migrating to the Dominican Republic for many years now, seeking not only refuge from the ongoing turmoil in their own country, but also work. In her article, Demezier states that Haitian migrants are being “exploited” by Dominicans. Though it is an unfortunate truth that exploitation probably does occur to some extent (as it does everywhere, especially in the United States), this is largely due to the fact that the surging influx of illegal Haitians to the Dominican Republic has not only depressed workers’ wages, but also engendered resentment towards Haitians who have taken on jobs in the construction and hotel industries that had previously and would still be taken by Dominicans.

    Demezier asserts that “…Haitian laborers come to the Dominican Republic to do the work that the Dominicans do not want to do, such as working on the sugarcane plantations.” Unfortunately, because of their illegal status, Haitians are willing to settle for lower wages than would be offered to Dominican citizens, and sadly, for less demanding and ideal jobs such as working on sugarcane plantations.

    It is not unreasonable for Dominicans to be concerned about the increasing illegal immigration to the country. I strongly disagree with the following statement on Haitians seeking work in the Dominican Republic made by Franli Guzman (this statement was quoted in Demezier’s article): “Haitians are being pushed to work wherever they can find work.” This is a very strong statement for a student to make and not offer any supporting evidence and information to make it valid. For someone to make such a sweeping remark, especially on the status of illegal Haitians in the Dominican Republic, is a bold move. This article would have been well served if the writer had interviewed other individuals or experts, such as professors, who may have had background or more knowledge on the topic, and therein offer better insight.

    I was also stricken by the way Demezier seemed to center the existing animosities between Haitians and Dominicans on issues of race. In her article, Demezier talks about three YouTube videos that were shown at a special program “dedicated to the problems that exist between [the Dominican Republic and Haiti]” at the Student Activities Center that the author asserts “showed the racism that exists toward the Haitians, who have darker skin than the Dominicans, who consider the Haitians inferior. . .”

    The animosity between the Dominican Republic and Haiti that Demezier speaks of in her article does not simply and strictly have its roots in racial issues, as she seems to assert, but rather in part by a complex history of colonization by the Spaniards and the French, and then of the Dominican Republic on the part of Haitians. The period of history during which Haiti ruled over the Dominican Republic is still very present in the Dominican conscience and sense of nationality. The fact that this is present in the Dominican conscience, I hope, can better explain the tensions that exist between Haitians and Dominicans and offer further insight and expand the author’s statement about the “racism that exists toward the Haitians.” Racism is a strong word to use in this context, and certainly cannot be used to represent the sentiment of an entire country towards another people or of the problematical and intricate history between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

    Finally, I was dismayed by the meager attempt Demezier made to offer a countering perspective to this issue. Though she does acknowledge that “Haitians are not only being exploited at work by the Dominicans but they are also mistreating one another” and that abuse, slavery, and child mistreatment “may occur in the Dominican Republic it is worse in Haiti,” these are the only statements Demezier makes that attempt to show both sides of the coin.

    I was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to the United States when I was fifteen years old. I have been in direct contact with the realities of the complicated situation between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. I have been to Haiti and have witnessed first hand the poverty, dire conditions, and effects of the political turmoil that Haiti has undergone and continues to endure.

    While it is unfortunate that Haiti has been coping with poverty and social and political instability for some time now, these are problems that Haitians seek refuge from in various countries, but primarily in the Dominican Republic.

    Since the international community has conveniently turned a blind eye to Haiti’s problems they have become a problem that only the Dominican Republic seems to perceive and be directly influenced by, it is in the Dominican Republic’s best interest to have an economically thriving, socially and politically stable neighbor, as its own wellbeing depends upon it.

    That said, the Dominican Republic is very willing to help Haitians, but must do so with the help of the international community.

    In this response to Sarah Demezier’s article I only seek to offer a less biased and more objective account of the relationship and history between the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

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