International Perspective – Hispaniola: shared island split by tense, violent history

Haiti became independent in the early 19th century and occupied
Santo Domingo for 22 years before winning independence and becoming the Dominican Republic

In the Dominican Republic, U.S. President Donald Trump often serves as a conversational segway into comments on the Caribbean
nation´s high concentration of Haitian immigrants.

The origins of antihaitianismo, or “anti-Haitianism” are different from some Americans’ distaste for immigrants, the results are similar. Feelings of animosity persist among many and immigrants find
it harder to go about their lives.

While U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids U.S. cities, Dominican-born children of undocumented immigrants, mostly Haitians, are stripped of their birthright citizenship — a 2013 court
ruling implemented this practice.

Facebook pages such as ¨No somos Haiti,¨ (¨We are not Haiti¨) have amassed many followers, in this case about 38,000. The majority of posts on these pages accuse Haitians of crimes and express
negative opinions about the group in general.

The owner of the page, Angelo Vasquez, describes the group as a nationalist movement that looks to restore the Dominican Republic’s creole culture, as well as “recover our values, our honor and
our religion.” Vasquez’s comments
were translated from Spanish.

Haiti became independent in the early 19th century and occupied Santo Domingo for 22 years before becoming the Dominican Republice.

He said issues like government corruption, in addition to drug use by minors and teen pregnancies, are part of an overall problem, to which Haitian immigrants contribute.

“(A lack of border control) makes it so that drugs and other things can enter,” Vasquez said. “(Haitian)] come and burn flags. They say the land belongs to them.”

Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the island of Hispaniola
and a tense history, beginning in colonial times. Spain originally controlled the colony of Santo Domingo, what would later become
the Dominican Republic, and ceded the land to France in 1795.
However, those of primarily Spanish descent rejected what they saw as a French and African culture, instead heralding themselves as lightskinned, Hispanic and Catholic.

Violence has since been perpetuated by both sides — after Haiti became
independent in the early 19th century, it occupied Santo Domingo for 22 years, before the former colony won its independence and became the Dominican Republic.

Under Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, tens of thousands of Haitian
immigrants and dark-skinned Dominicans were killed in the first half of the 20th century.

Some Dominicans believe Haiti plans to reclaim Dominican
territory. According to Vasquez, and a post on the page, 98 Dominican soldiers were killed by Haitians in order to obtain guns.

Videos on pages like “No somos Haiti” claim to show Haitians militarizing within the Dominican Republic. Other photos and videos are graphic, showing injured individuals who were supposedly attacked by Haitians.

Organizations like We Are All Dominican, a New York Citybased group, oppose nationalist campaigns of this nature. They
label many of the viral images and stories as “misinformation,” according to the group’s website.

“We are alarmed by the decades long process that has sought to
strip an entire ethnic group of their right to an education, employment, social services, as well as the right to vote and equal protection under the law,” a post on the site says.

According to We Are All Dominican, the 2013 ruling has rendered many Haitian immigrants stateless. One post on ¨No somos Haiti¨
includes an image with a caption that would ring bells for many
Americans: ¨We must build a wall on the border and make Haiti pay for it.”

GEORGIA GEEN, Staff Writer

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