- Dos rayanos-americanos Rewrite Hispaniola:Julia Alvarez and Junot Díaz
Mientras no se escarmiente a los traidores como se debe, los buenos y verdaderos dominicanos serán siempre víctimas de sus maquinaciones.1—Juan Pablo Duarte
Juan Pablo Duarte, revered as a founding father of the Dominican Republic,2 recently found his nationalist message featured in a video on YouTube titled “ex Dominican@ os que juraron por la bandera de Haiti,” or “ex-Dominicans who swore on Haiti’s flag.” The short clip, about seven minutes in total, features a slideshow containing photos and names of Dominicans who, according to the nationalist, anti-Haitian producers of the video, have “betrayed their Dominican citizenship,” as the title slide suggests, and sworn allegiance to Haiti.3 What sparked the production of this video? The answer is muddled by centuries of negrophobia and anti-Haitianism in the Dominican Republic; beginning with colonization; early border disputes; occupation in the nineteenth century; and Rafael Trujillo’s thirty-one-year reign (1930–1961). The Dominican Republic’s notorious dictator is responsible for the institutionalization of anti-Haitian ideology and it is during this time that the ideology entered the Dominican school curriculum, serving as only one example of the policy’s firm grip on Dominican society. Trujillo’s plan for the nation, based on Eurocentric and Catholic values, did not end with his assassination, but found a new place within Dominican intellectual thought of the late twentieth century. The dictator’s right-hand man, Joaquín Balaguer, in his 1947 publication, retitled in 1983 La isla al revés, equated Haitians to backwardness and labeled them as savages, deeming the Haitian nationals threats to the “non-black” Dominican nation. Although the conjunctures of the political, economic, social, and cultural destinies of the two sister-countries, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, are marked by a long list of misunderstandings, disputes and crises, for the purpose of this paper I will primarily consider two influential events involving Dominican-Haitian relations: the Haitian Massacre of 1937 and the Tribunal Court Ruling (0168–13) of September 2013. [End Page 168]
October 1937 marks the date of the Haitian Massacre, also known as The Parsley Massacre or El Corte.4 Over the three-day course of this race-charged genocide an estimated 20,000 Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent were killed. Seventy-five years later in September 2013, just a few days before the Massacre’s somber anniversary, the Dominican Tribunal Court stripped the citizenship of Haitian-Dominicans registered legally in the country. The sentencia revokes the citizenship of all Dominicans born to undocumented parents after 1929. Unfortunately, as the average life span is 73 in the Dominican Republic compared to 49 in Haiti, the sentence does not grandfather out many individuals, if any at all. Thus, an estimated 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent are rendered stateless by the Ruling. The institutionalized racism inherent in Ruling 0168–13 is an eerie reminder of the troubled history between the two countries. It is also a reminder of a similar decision of the Dominican government carried out almost exactly 75 years prior: the Haitian Massacre. The Massacre has formed a permanent shadow over the Haitian community; perhaps unsurprisingly, it represents a recurring topic in Haitian literature. One of the best-known fictional recreations of Kout a5 is Compère Général Soleil (1955) by Haitian Jacques Stephen Alexis. Accompanying Stephen Alexis’ somber masterpiece are Massacre River (2008) by René Philoctète and The Farming of the Bones (1999) by Edwidge Danticat, both Haitian-American women writing in English. Writers with roots on the eastern side of Hispaniola, however, have more reluctantly broached the subject and the horrific event is notably less prevalent in Dominican literature. Although Freddy Prestol Castillo’s El Massacre se pasa a pie (1961) provides a vivid account of the Parsley Massacre, most Dominican novelists have opted for a subtle “brush over” of the historical event, mentioning the bloodbath in passing, if at all.
Instead Dominican-American writers, those writing from the United States and primarily in English, have revisited Haiti from a unique diasporic lens. Such writers, grouped among the...