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Dictator Rafael Trujillo controlled everything in the Dominican Republic—but he couldn’t control the 224-mile border with Haiti. The border region was a place where many Haitians and their descendants had lived for generations. They co-existed peacefully with their Dominican neighbors, and people crossed the border freely.

That ended exactly 80 years ago this week, when Dominican armies under Trujillo’s command went town to town and massacred Haitian and Haitian-Dominican families, killing thousands. Afterwards, Trujillo denied that his government had anything to do with the massacre, claiming that the deaths were the result of angry Dominican farmers going after Haitian cattle thieves.

Today, the Dominican government does acknowledge the massacre happened, but there has been little effort to confront what happened head on, and the relationship between Dominicans and Haitians continues to be tense today.

Latino USA traveled to the Dominican-Haitian border to try and unpack what caused the massacre, what scars it continues to leave today and what it can teach us about the lines drawn between us.

Featured image: Latino USA/Tatiana Fernandez

This episode originally aired in October of 2017. 

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4 thoughts on “A Border Drawn in Blood

  1. I heard this story on WBEZ, Chicago. It caught my interest because I am a member of United Methodist Women and we had a mission study on Haiti several years ago. Also, our magazine, “response.” had an issue called Borderlands, on stateless peoples. Haitians living in the Dominican Republic were part of that issue. Those Haitians apparently cannot go to school or cross the border back into Haiti, as the DR has taken their passports.

    I was surprised to learn the source of the issue regarding Haitians in the Dominican Republic. Dictators will be dictators, and have to hone in on a scape goat.

  2. You did not present a balance story and you became a propaganda machine for those who want demolish Dominican nationality so that the whole island is taken over by a country that has more people and births more people than Cuba!
    The lack of border between Haiti and STO DGO/DR since 1795 has been a sore for STO DGO/DR. The invasions of 1801, 1805 (where Dessaline/Christophe slaughtered thousands in STO DGO), 1821, 1845, 1849 and 1855 where Haiti was able to take STO DGO land (La Guava and La Miel valleys) with not accountability or without permission. In 1936, 7 out 10 people in Dajabon were Haitian and the Gourde was circulating, and it was an extension of Haiti. Once the border was set, Trujillo reclaim the border and returned to DR!

  3. I’m curious about Marlon Bishop’s history; specifically, his history with the Dominican Republic. (He quickly mentions that he lived in D.R. many years ago.) While there are verifiable facts in his “A Border Drawn in Blood” episode, some like “the D.R. celebrates their independence from Haiti” is questionable. That is not the history that I learned while in the D.R. The country celebrates their independence from the Spaniards (and the French). There were a few wars that led to the Dominican independence in 1844. Mr. Bishop’s claim that all Dominicans are at least part Black is incorrect. That is propaganda used to wash away Native (American) history/descendence of (many) Dominicans both on the island and in the diaspora, especially with the increased Haitian migration in the 20th and 21st century and with continued interference with outsiders ignorant of the Native (Dominican) people’s history. Some might say Mr. Bishop’s work is a show of support for those who suffer from poverty in Haiti. The people in D.R. suffer too. Dominicans protect the few resources that they have. The interpretation that BOTH Haitians and Dominicans kicked out the Spaniards is also incorrect. Everyone is aware that white (descendency) supremacy continues to be a worldwide issue (because it is associated with status and wealth). Jumping around points (1844, 1937, 1942-1952, 2017, back to 1937) in the island’s history is anecdotal. Suggestion: Thoroughly research Trujillo’s dictatorship, his crimes, (not the anti-Black racism) using authentic, original documents, both domestic and from abroad, compare to fellow leaders of that time in history and produce a report. Talk about the abuses that are unspeakable until this day. I would listen to his findings. Reports of Trujillo’s anti-Black racism are already well documented. Reporting that Dominicans and Haitians view themselves as enemies (intentionally) stokes flames, like the title of your report. A request, please name borders that have not been drawn in blood.

  4. An additional note. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Rafael-Trujillo
    Given Mr. Trujillo’s birthday, it is likely that he heard about the war that ended in 1844 from his antecedents. Moreover, life on the island during that time had a strong influence on his perspective. I’m not defending his anti-African/Black actions, but it should be noted that those were turbulent times. Outsiders, especially those whose culture(s) were dramatically different than the natives’ culture(s) were deliberately kept at a distance in the newly independent country.

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