Second Class Dominicans

Divide et impera, is in definite the phrase that gave genesis to the usefulness of the “scapegoat” concept, because if to effectively rule you need to divide, what a better way to achieve so, than to blame a person or a faction of all the evil, or bad circumstances that affect us at the present. To expiate our sins with the help of an unwanted cohabitant. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, the infamous Dominican dictator, knew this while exercising power. That’s why he always was on the lookout to reinforce loyalty from his ministers and military officials, in order to maintain a three decades reign. And he also knew that dividing the opposition —the enemy— from within was important. And so, he did inherit us a few sequels from his regime to our present, that separate our population into conflicting demographics: the Dominicans and the quasi-Dominicans.

Residents from Haitian Descent compose the largest minority in the Dominican Republic, yet instead of gaining access to representation or power, the government structures of the country have managed to always keep ‘em in their place, maintaining them in a position where is even hard to breath. For as long as I can remember, the demonym of the sibling nation, has been used as a pejorative noun. I recall being a ten-year-old lacking all sorts of ground and perspectives imitating a trouble maker seventeen-year-old cousin, that employed his free time in bullying the Haitians at nearby construction sites, where he would throw rocks at these exploited-low waged men, and shout “¡Maldito Haitiano!” as if adjudicating somebody with that nationality was the ultimate and vilest insult. And you know how children learn by osmosis; although I was taught kindness in my family, and I would not perpetuate that behavior thereafter, I absorbed all of its negativity and was implanted intrinsically inside me.

On the ’37, the Generalisimo gave the order to the Dominican Army to swept the borders of the Spanish side of the island; to eliminate the Haitians living in our side of the land, in order to white wash the country and keep it as European as possible. It was imperative to outcast the African savagery our neighbors showcased. Soldiers would go and perform round ups throughout the settlements in the borders of the island, and to differentiate the sometimes, indistinguishable afro-Haitian from the afro-Dominicans, they would grab a parsley sprig and ask the individuals while pointing a gun at them, to pronounce the plant word in Spanish “Perejil”. Whether you were going to be dead or alive for the next seconds depended on the enunciation of that word with the emphasis in the r and guttural j, accordingly with Spanish phonetics. And as so, were the settlements of innocents civilian workers extinguished and thousands killed with bullets, club and machetes by the Dominican Armed Forces.

Have you noticed how the United States citizenship is given to children born in inside the territory regardless of their parent’s documentation status; and if a child is born overseas to American parents, or even just one, the citizenship is bestowed into them irrevocably; in the case of the Dominican citizenship —according to the government and their definition of nationality in regards Haitian blood in someone’s veins— it operates different. As a matter of fact, the Dominican Constitutional Court says that anyone born to undocumented (Haitians) parents is not a citizen, and that’s why the beginning of the regularization process/ exodus occurring in the DR in the recent years.

For an individual like me with dual citizenship, the Dominican and the American, and with three national identities (Dominican, Puerto Rican and American), this type of institutionalized oppression, has a way to get in between my ribs. The fact that I can reside in the State of Massachusetts and exercise the civism of voting, not only in the country of my current residence, but in my homeland thousands of miles away, it’s quite unfair. Compared to the lack of rights that born Dominicans have to confront for having Haitian parents, whom only speak Spanish and may not know no other reality than to leave at the east of the Hispaniola island, but that may carry a French-Creole name for their inconvenience.

The Jus sanguinis citizenship, is the one that Haiti abides by, which grants the nationality to children, not by were they born, but by the parents ethnic origin. The one that the Dominican Republic applies is the Jus soli, which determines a children citizenship by the territory in which they were given birth at. So to Dominican nationalists convenience, they would argue that there’s no such thing as a naturalized Haitian, due to their constitution stating that their citizenship is determined by their ascendance; so despite they being born at the moon, mars, or DR, they are going to keep being Haitian, quite handy an argument.

—Junot Díaz

Many shrug while human beings with the rights that a nationality entitles are being abused. To my understanding it is rather honorable to follow the footsteps of Junot Diaz, who thanks to be advocating in the United States congress against the policies being enforced against the Haitians and the Dominicans from Haitian decent, had the Order of Merit award revoked. Diaz whom is now hated by the Dominican nationalist and right wings/elitists, had even being called anti-patriotic for asking the US government to put sanctions on the DR for its outrageous actions, which do not comply with the human rights declaration. Is ironic how just after being praised for exposing the Dominican culture abroad in a positive manner and being a dignified citizen worthy of honors for its works and accomplishments, Junot the Pulitzer winner, earned himself the hate of a significant group that sees being patriotic enacted at the expense helpless families as not mutually exclusives.

Haitians sustain the base of the DR economy, to the point that I can affirm without being afraid of being erroneous, that there is not a single piece of infrastructure in the country that has been built without a Haitian hand involved.  Yet we seem to still be wanting to find excuses for the praxis of iniquity, but like the character Urania, from Mario Vargas Llosas’ Feast of the Goat would say “After reading, listening, investigating, thinking, you’ve come to understand how so many millions of people, crushed by propaganda and lack of information, brutalized by indoctrination and isolation, deprived of free will and even curiosity by the fear and the habit of servility and obsequiousness, could worship Trujillo” —could perpetrate its rhetoric and agendas in the name of “La Patria” up until today. According to Albert Camus memory is the enemy of totalitarism, so let us not forget.