Racism and abuse in the Dominican Republic

haitian_children_in_dom_republic.jpgI was appalled but fascinated by an article I read in last Sunday’s New York Times. It talked about the savage, racist treatment of Haitians on the part of the government entities (and the people) of the Dominican Republic. The treatment of immigrant laborers in the United States is appalling, but the condition of Haitian workers in the D.R. is downright sickening:

“Where there are two Haitians, kill one; where there are three Haitians, kill two,” said leaders of the mobs that descended on the immigrants’ camps, the Haitians here recalled. “But always let one go so that he can run back to his country and tell them what happened.”


Immigrants who make the trek from Haiti to work run the risk of being lynched or murdered in some other fashion. The luckier ones survive, but are forced to live like animals with no legal protection whatsoever. Even Dominican-born Haitians, who are Dominican citizens, are denied the most basic rights and protections:

At the root of the problem, Ms. Altholz said, is that Haitian immigrants and their Dominican-born children live in a state of “permanent illegality,” unable to acquire documents that prove they have jobs or attend schools or even that they were born in this country.

In October, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued an opinion that the Dominican Republic was illegally denying birth certificates to babies born here to Haitian parents, and ordered the government to end the practice.

Particularly chilling was this quote from a Dominican activist priest:

“By keeping Haitians in a limbo of illegality, the government can do whatever they want with them,” said the Rev. Regino Martínez Bretón of the Jesuit-run agency Solidaridad Fronteriza, in Dajabón, a city on the Dominican border. “The government can bring as many Haitians here as they want and then throw them away when they don’t want them anymore.”

Perhaps more frightening is the government dismissal of the charges:

“In no way can the government of the Dominican Republic be characterized as one that does not respect basic rights.”

Amazing how cruel men can be to their fellow men, and how much of this has to do with race. I hope that journalists and activists continue to expose this shameful situation.

More information about the plight of Haitian immigrants in the D.R.

Via / The New York Times

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18 comments on “Racism and abuse in the Dominican Republic
  1. So you already concluded that everything in that article is the true, and nothing but the true? You already accepted as fact that the dominican republic has an official policy to discriminate, kill and abuse the haitian people? If things are so bad, why isn’t the international community, the OAS, the US Government is doing something about it to expose it? I would have think that the web revolution would give you the tools to find out more about this situation and about the dominican side of the story. But you don’t care about the true, do you?

    Ulises Jorge
    San Juan, PR

  2. I’ve concluded that even if half of the information in the article were true, it would constitute an atrocity, and while “official policy” of racism does not exist (it doesn’t exist anywhere on paper, why would it?) it’s no secret that the D.R. has a long-standing reputation of discriminating against Haitians, as does this country.

    Why isn’t the U.S. Government doing something about it, you ask? Because it only gets involved in countries where there are clear political or economic interests. Haiti doesn’t represent either of these. Any many times, the U.S. aids in such acts.

    The “web revolution” you speak of provides decades of accounts like this. This is nothing new. I can’t understand why just because you are proud of your country, you can’t accept thar racism and abuse against Haitians exists in the D.R. God knows I recognize the atrocities the U.S. government commits and the racism that exists here. We have to own up to who we are, the good and the bad, instead of leaning on blind nationalism.

  3. “I’ve concluded that even if half of the information in the article were true, it would constitute an atrocity”

    So in the noble quest to do justice for the Haitians people you would settle for half the true? With half the true you write on your blog about “the savage, racist treatment of Haitians on the part of the government entities (and the people) of the Dominican Republic.”?

    “..and while “official policy” of racism does not exist (it doesn’t exist anywhere on paper, why would it?) it’s no secret that the D.R. has a long-standing reputation of discriminating against Haitians, as does this country.”

    So did you actually Read the NY Times article that you said impacted you so much? What’s the meaning of “Dominican Republic’s systematic abuse of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent”? Isn’t that a fancy way of saying official, organized racism, condoned by the government and the people of the Dominican Republic?

    You are right, racism as an official policy does not exist in the D.R. And yes, Haitians are discriminated against in my country. If that all you need to know, you can stop reading right now; I just admitted it, and I will add that there is also a great deal of discrimination and injustice in the D.R. against Dominicans that are either poor, black or both, not just Haitians. There is a great deal of injustice in my country, but people like the NY Times writer you quote think that the only people who suffer are the Haitians.

    I would also admit that there are organized groups who profits with the plight of the Haitians people that want to cross the border and escape the desperate conditions they face on their homeland for the relative prosperity of a job in the D.R (I could let you know that those groups operate on both sides of the border, but that would be part of the other half of the story that you don’t care about.)

    I must commend you for the fact that you seems to care a lot about Haiti, but do you have to put us down to do that? What kind of justice is that which is not based on the search for the truth? Did you know for example that about 700,000 to a 1,000,000 Haitians live in the D.R.? Do you know that more than 300,000 Haitians were cared for in the D.R. public hospitals? About a quarter of those were treated in hospitals near the border, which usually are the only medical facilities available to Haitians living in their own country.

    So, as a Dominican I must ask, why the NY Times did not wrote about the impact that Haitians migration have on the Dominican Republic? Have you ever reflected, ever for a second, how does the Dominican Republic cope with this issue? A third world country were thousands of people risk their lives to illegally enter the U.S. to escape from poverty? A country that was declared by the very influential Foreign Policy magazine as a “failed state”? The answer is: We deal the best we can.

    “Why isn’t the U.S. Government doing something about it, you ask? Because it only gets involved in countries where there are clear political or economic interests. Haiti doesn’t represent either of these. Any many times, the U.S. aids in such acts.”

    You know, you are right. Americans send the marines to put Aristide back in power and then forgot about all the promises they made about helping Haiti to get back on its feet. Ditto for France and Canada. In fact, do you want to know which country provides the most assistance to Haiti? No, I guess you don’t care to know so I won’t tell you is the D.R. (oopss! I said it)

    “The “web revolution” you speak of provides decades of accounts like this. This is nothing new. I can’t understand why just because you are proud of your country, you can’t accept thar racism and abuse against Haitians exists in the D.R. God knows I recognize the atrocities the U.S. government commits and the racism that exists here. We have to own up to who we are, the good and the bad, instead of leaning on blind nationalism.”

    You assumed that I “can’t accept that racism and abuse against Haitians exists” in my country. Only God knows why you made that assumption, but I think it could be part of your tendencies to look at things from a very narrow point of view. So I suffer from “blind nationalism” because I’m asking you to do your homework before filling your blog with accusations about my country?

    Did you care to find out that in the small and isolated community of Guatapanal that the NY Times article refers to, a Dominican reporter that went there to investigate was unable to find a single person (Haitian or Dominican alike) who recalled seeing an American female reporter doing interviews? They do recall seeing one man, who was taken to the bateyes and saw the appalling conditions in which Haitians that work in private farms live.

    So, was Ginger Thomson (the “journalist” that wrote the NY Times article) actually in the Dominican Republic? I don’t think so. She wasn’t looking for the truth, and neither were you. You both have a belief (in this case “Haitians suffering is all due to those Dominican bastards across the border”) that you need to prove, and you would not let small details such as fairness get in the way.

    Best regards,

    Ulises Jorge
    San Juan, PR

  4. I think that it is sickening how we can live in a society that has supposedly been altered so much and yet, there are things like that happening still. What is the United States government doing?? It apalls me because now I think that maybe Martin Luther King’s dream never came true at all. Man is still killing man and demeaning man because of race, a darker skinned color,and an african heritage. The Dominican Republic should be sanctioned for their actions. What adds more shame to insult is the fact that they too are of African Heritage.. Does that make them lesser human beings? Should they too be treated like scum? I think that as a society, we need to stand up and take a look around us cause instead of going forward, we are going all the way back.

  5. Wait a minute. We Domincans should be sanctioned?. Maybe you’re right but only if we start on The United States of America.

    You discriminate latins for been latins. You discriminate arabian, european, asians, canadians, mexicans. You discriminate everyone. And now we are the racist? You got to be kidding. God! even in movies you discriminate other countries. Always the bad guys are mexican, cuban, puerto rican, haitian, dominican, colombian, japanese, chinese, russian, oh! and the new fashion, arabian.

    Who are the ones who are always invading other countries just for economical reasons?. Who are the ones who starts a war just because their economic system is different to yours?. Who are the ones who wants to build a wall to separate yourself from Mexico? How many mexicans die everyday just trying to cross your borders to find a better way to live?

    If your country is so concerned about the haitian situation, why the haven’t done nothing yet? Oh, i should answer that question: maybe because there is not oil, gold, or any kind of resources, or something else that worth a military or political intervention.

    Do you want to see discrimination, start in your own school. Americans has no moral or credibility to speak about discrimination. You are always speaking against other countries without knowing the real situation in it.

    God Bless America.

    Att: Un Dominicano.
    Dios, Patria y Libertad.

  6. I already accept the fact that America is a racist country because I am a minority and it is just the truth and I have been changing the way some of my family members and friends think of Africans and Hispanics, particularly those in the Caribbean because they are just fantastic, despite their racial issues. Another thing that we have to focus on is that the United States and the Dominican Republic are not the only places in the western hemishpere where people are discriminated. If you ever heard of Che Guevara and his experiences in South America then you can relate to what i am talking about. Also Mexicans and Puerto Ricans have a big beef. For what? I do not not know. Also we can not always attack the Dominican Republic for its racial issues but the country has a deep history of being racist against people of African descent, particular Haitians. If you ever heard of Trujillo, then you know what I am talking about when he masscared about 20,000 Haitians. This racisim that preveals in the Dominican Republic is not going to stop me from loving its people and its beatiful culture. In fact, I think that if you love a country or something and you know that there are issues you will work towards making justice and improving the current situation. I will always love the Dominican Republic and Dominicans.

  7. I see people are responding with great ‘emotionality’ over the topic and many times emotions blur reality and human progress. As a dominican born female coming from a family with a variety of attributes ranging from blue eyes, ‘white’ skin, blonde hair to black eyes, ‘black’ skin, ‘corse/African American hair’, people need to stop pointing fingers and feeling defensive.

    Rather, read up on the facts. Make your own jugements and broaden your thinking capacities, notions and worldview.. nothing is ever as ‘black or white’ or as ‘good or bad’ as many people try to make it.. many things are multidimensional and rather than yell, demean, insult, degrade etc. each other…

    it is most productice to think about how to best educate ourselves and look for solutions irregardless of color of skin, or eyes and hair texture…only then will progress begin….

  8. As a Haitian-American myself, I cannot say that I can totally blame Dominicans for being pissed at Haitians coming into their country. It is just like how Americans complain that illegal immigrants steal our jobs in the US and stop payrolls in certain industries from improving because of immigrants taking jobs and getting paid pennies. I have been to Haiti and I must say that I was NOT happy with some of the things I saw. Many of the people were savages, trying to attack me for my bags and such. I wouldn’t want those kinds of people to be able to freely be savages in any country that just happened to be nearby. I am sorry but I think that there should be more standards for allowing people into another country. (i.e. minimal levels of reading, writing, and speaking the country’s main language, psychological exams, other forms of education based on age for people over a certain age) I don’t think that the Haitians should be killed but if they committed any crimes, be sent back with no chance of being able to return. I actually think that there should be a wall or gate put up to separate the two countries until both are economically and politically stable. Don’t call me a Haitian hater because I am not, I am someone who is really trying to view the situation through the eyes of a Dominican. And the “white” Dominicans who hate “dark” Dominicans need to stop being dumb. You all have the same history, share the same culture and you need to learn to embrace your differences.

  9. I’ve lived in the D.R. as a study abroad student, and never before was I so keenly aware of my race. Surely this partly a product of my sensitivity to the tales I’d heard of Dominican sentiments towards Haitians, but mnay times, sadly, this sensitivity was proven to be necessary for survival as I was abused verbally and on one occasion physically accosted for my skin color and by extension my race. The ignorant paid no mind to my speaking to them in English, just my halting conversational Spanish and “haitian-look”. I was denied access to clubs on account of “private-parties” being held inside. MUCH OF THE CLUBS ON THE STRIP ON ANY GIVEN NIGHT WERE HOLDING THES “PRIVATE PARTIES.” So imagine: if as a tourist/student with the good old American passport in my hand, fluent english and money to burn I was subject to such treatment, what of the poor, undereducated, desperate and voiceless? There is racism in D.R. and it is government policy as it is institutionalized in the education, health and labor policies of the government. This goes on to trickle down to the poor, undereducated and desperate population of Dominicans all to eager to be appeased, however temporarily, by blaming Haitians. The truly disturbing feature of this hate, however, is that it is tapped into by the country’s educated and monied population as well in order to consolidate and maintain power. The same groups that abuse Dominicans in the D.R., leave them out of work, are the same groups that call to Duarte and the patria. It must be asserted that such calls are based on fictions meant to, once again, gain and consolidate power for a few rich and powerful. I can go on and on, sure, but even I know it’s a futile pursuit in the face of ignorance and runaway nationalism. But as we all know, you reap what you sow. Chickens always come home to roost.

  10. Mr. Blasphemous, if the DR is such a hell for the haitians, why do they keep coming? Also, why don’t you attack the appalling living conditions prevalent on Haiti, which are the source of the trouble in the first place? Do you want the DR to pay for the broken dishes left by the corruption and incompetence of the haitian elites, which are the ones to blame for the sad condition of that country? I would really love to read your answers (or from anyone on this forum) to these questions, because as I see things, this all haitian controversy is aimed to force the DR to pay for the broken dishes of a party to which it hasn’t been invited, and which the so called friends of Haiti (US, Canada, France) have made themselves astoundingly rich, along with their haitian elite cronies. Have a nice day,

  11. I’m not Haitian or Dominican I’m BLACK American Trinidad and to answer your first question, simply because they need the (Better opportunity), little is better than nothing and some of them believe so there willing to sacrifice there livelihood for a (half ass) better opportunity’s don’t believe its right for any body to discriminate against another peoples there are no exceptions(especially since most Dominicans are of Haitian descent),as it stands how can D.R. Pay for broken dishes when the government can only afford to pay $525,000 out of $750,000 from the Parsley massacre, and Dominican citizens flee to puerto rico on a daily basis for work. United States only has interest in countries it can benefit from helping (Chinese earthquake) etc.the U.S. (has not) by any means been getting fat profit off of D.R. or Haiti. There is racism in D.R. mostly due to lack of education and self hatred you don’t have to go to D.R. to see that.

  12. Theres plenty of illegal domincan immigrants in puerto rico and i always say that we should treat them the exact way they treat haitians, to me they are no diffrent. They are spanish speaking haitains in my eyes

  13. Wow, this is so fucked up in about million ways, I don’t even know how to respond to your comment Michael. And then you have the nerve to use younglord as your email address. The lords were so not about racism among our own peeps.

  14. I am black (african) african-american. More specifically I am of Nigerian descent. I have known closely two DR (but some others generally as I have lived in NYC). One who was an acquaintance and had “standard” DR appearance was cool and progressive (“I know I have black in me, just look at my physical appearance”/”we (DRs)talk about U.S. immigration but we forget it is the same thing with Haiti”). The other was a girl who I was getting cool with (“some black girls said I was black, and I don’t understand why so we didn’t get along”). There were things she didn’t get but she was cool all in all.

    The big issue as I see it is…SOME black folks in America for whatever reason actually give a flip about DR. If a nation’s greatest strength as a people is that you have curly hair (or something), clap for yourself. I speak mainly to those who may have that outlook on life. My sense though is this is a DR issue and not a DR-American issue. Having travelled a lot, I understand how a group of people (generally lacking education) can be wholly dismissive of another group and not really understand they are being so. I’ve seen it in Eastern Europe and in Asia.

    My issue though is with people from those communities who have been in America and had a chance to think about issues like race in a complex way. I agree the truth is somewhere in btw…Domincancs certainly are not all bad people and not the couple I have gotten to know. But it is also amusing that a lot of the responses above are non-answers in the vein of “the U.S. is racist too” or “hold the Haitian government accountable”. But of course that does not address the anecdotal racist experience of people like the exchange student above. In a way i like Michael’s comment the best b/cos it shows that the shoe can alwasy be on the other foot.

    Bottom line, DR I am sure is a great place. The screwed up people need to get it together and those who know better should not defend them. I know some black folks mistreat them as well as immigrants or non-English speakers. These folks need to get it together too. Later y’all.

  15. I, too, agree with Michael and Chitown trilla (to some extent). Their thoughts can be best addressed by the following statement, “What goes around comes around”. Bad karma ALWAYS finds a way to return to those who have evil intentions. In other words, treat others as you would like to be treated.

  16. I am a black Dominican and can legitimize half of the things that have been said about the treatment of the Haitians in the Dominican Republic. i have often been confused for a Haitian and it is not a good feeling. Because when a Dominican calls a dark skin person a Haitian it is the equivalent of calling them an animal or telling then that they are less than human. I dont discriminate agianst anyone and disagree with this mentality. At times people see me and immidiately think i am African American but then they hear me speak spanish and they smiled surprised and ask me if Dominican really came in complexion.
    Yet the experience is completely different when another Dominican hears me speak Spanish. they look at me like i have three heads and insists on knowing whether or not i have Haitian blood in me. My grandfather on my mother side is Haitian. so yes Haitian bloods does run through my vains.sadly, at times i dont openly say this because i know that my own people will look at me differently. I know for a fact that there are many Dominicans with Haitian in them that would rather say thay they are of European decent, I guess because it has been drilled into their heads that it sounds better and less shameful than having Haitian Blood.
    to Michael the exchange student i am sorry that you had to go through that and i know exactly how you feel. There is a lot of ignorance and it goes back to the time of trujillo and earlier.
    For the proud Dominicans whose only defense to this, which i dont consider an attack against Dominican, is saying ´If you were treated so bad why do you continue to go back´ i feel really sorry for you if you cant feel symoathy for a foreigner who was mistreated in your own country. Though we can try to use the US as an escapegoat, at least most of us can say that though racism exist in the US we have been given a chance to have decent eduaction, we were treated like humans and our chilldren, for the most part, have been given their rightful citizenship. Can we honestly say that we, Dominicans, have done the same for the Haitians.

  17. “Antonia :-) ~ Wednesday, Sep 10 2008 | 17:14H:
    I, too, agree with Michael and Chitown trilla (to some extent). Their thoughts can be best addressed by the following statement, “What goes around comes around”. Bad karma ALWAYS finds a way to return to those who have evil intentions. In other words, treat others as you would like to be treated.”

    Antonia, What is happening to Haitians now is karma coming back to bite them in the ass for what they did to Dominicans when they had control of the entire island. Did you know that when Haitians had control of Dominican Republic no one was allowed to speak spanish, and many Dominican women had to stay indoors for fear of being raped by haitians. I am Dominican, and I have many many black friends, I am by no means racist, but when I hear of things that happen to Haitians in DR I feel absolutely no sympathy for them. There is a simple solution to this whole problem, and that is “HAITIANS STAY IN HAITI, AND DOMINICANS STAY IN DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. SIMPLE”

  18. Trinitario- I can’t condone your last comment. You’re saying that you have no sympathy for Haitians over some mess that happened nearly 200 years ago? Plus, you’re completely negating the offensive treatment received by people who LOOK like Haitians and come to your country. But hell, no problem. I’ll stay out of your country (I’m not Haitian). Take my dollars elsewhere…

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