Monday, January 14, 2019

Decolonizing Hispaniola

By Dalila Frías

In Cultured Company hosted their second Decolonizing Hispaniola: The Sancocho and Soup Joumou Edition at the First Spanish Methodist Church on 163rd E 111st in New York City on November 30, 2018.  The facilitators consisted of: Alexis Francisco (Spirituality Role in Healing Historical Trauma), France Fancois (Imagining Haitian History and Identity), Saudi Garcia (Imagining Dominican History and Identity), and Cassandre Theano (Justice and Social Movements for Human Rights). Sancocho which is a Dominican soup consisting of meat (chicken or beef) with plantains, yucca, carrots, potatoes, etc. and Haitian soup Joumou consisting of winter squash with beef, potato, carrots, celery, etc. (beef and vegan option) were served for everyone to enjoy.  The organizations’ website describes the event as

An intimate gathering for people of Haitian and Dominican descent to deconstruct the divisions that define Hispaniola and discuss how to move past the current narrative to reshape our future. Break bread with us and share the soups that embody the strength and resilience of these two people.
The discussions will center around evaluating our ideas of nationality, nationhood, ethnicity, race, color, class, colonial identity, historical memory and trauma, spirituality and economic inequality in the context of DR & Haiti. Honest questions and dialog will be encouraged as expert facilitators provide the tools, knowledge, and provocation to deconstruct our collective histories, identities, and examine the power dynamics that support and sustain the current status quo.

The event consisted of presentations of the history from both Dominican Republic and Haiti, past and current political, economic and social conflicts, and issues surrounding citizenship for Dominicans of Haitian descent.  Facilitators Saudi, France, and Cassandre gave an in-depth relationship between the two countries which share the same land.  Some of the issues Saudi and France spoke on were the issue concerning Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent. In short, Dominicans of Haitian descent are children to Haitian migrants.  Some of these individuals have had their citizenship stripped from them due to the TC-168-13 ruling which is a result of their parents being undocumented and living in the Dominican Republic since 1929. A table below provided by In Cultured Company further explains the circumstances surrounding both Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian migrants.

Dominicans of Haitian Descent
Haitian Migrants
Children of the migrants BORN in the Dominican Republic (DR). They are DOMINICAN citizens.
The migrants were born in Haiti. They are HAITIAN citizens. Most of these individuals are great/grandparents and parents of those born in the country.
Born in the country. Some were registered in the Civil Registry. Most were not. TC-168-13, the Constitutional Court decision stripped them of citizenship (meaning DENATIONALIZED) because their parents’ were undocumented when these children were born in the DR. The court decision held that this applies to everyone born to undocumented parents in the DR since 1929.
1929 majority came into the country as labor pool for sugar companies legally under treaties entered into by the DR and Haiti governments. Over time to help facilitate the flow and ease of laborers, bureaucratic niceties such as worker ID cards were not bothered with. Today, most work in agriculture and construction or are cleaning persons, nannies, etc.
Now denationalized, these individuals are not recognized as citizens by any country-not by the DR (country of their birth) and not by Haiti (the country of their parents). So, this is why they are STATELESS.
The migrants came from Haiti. They are Haitian nationals. They are not stateless.
In 2005, Inter-American court of Human Rights held in a decision brought against the DR that- a parent’s immigration status CANNOT determine the citizenship of the child. So TC-168-13 is illegal under international law.

Being kicked out of the country from which you are born is EXPULSION, not deportation. So, when discussing the Dominicans of Haitian descent being forcibly removed from the DR, it is correct to say they are being EXPELLED from their homeland.
DEPORTATION is when a person is kicked out of the country that is not his or her place of birth (foreigner).
LAW 169-14- after international outcry, DR passed this law to give a path to citizenship to those who were denationalized. Law treats them as foreigners (although they were born there). They will have to register (if not already listed in the civil registry) and in 2 years are able to apply for NATURALIZED citizenship. (This is like getting US green card).

The deadline to apply was February 1, 2015.
REGULARIZATION PLAN- applies to Haitian nationals who emigrated to the DR before 2011 without proper documentation. Regularization does not grant nationality to anyone, it simply provides for RESIDENT status to undocumented migrants in the country. (This is like getting a temporary visa).

The deadline to apply was June 17, 2015. This is the date everyone feared. If you are UNDOCUMENTED (whether you were born in the country or are foreigner) the government said you will be kicked out.
Out of 110,000 eligible to register under law 169-14, only about 8,755 actually did. Tens of thousands remain undocumented and can be expelled.
Regularization Plan: About 288,466 have applied by June 17, 2015 (23 nationalities represented in this number, but predominately Haitian migrants). A 2012 government survey indicated there were about 458,223 Haitian immigrants in the country.
What are we ASKING for? Return of citizenship to this group and do not expel them from their country.
What are ASKING for? Calling for a MORATORIUM on all deportations until all migrants have been regularized under the plan. If deportations happen, must be in accordance with international law and due process standards (e.g., give people notice of when deportations going to happen, don’t round them up like cattle, don’t separate parents from children, protect women and children from abuse and trafficking, inform them where in Haiti they will be dropped off, etc.)
Dominican constitution- a distraction the DR government likes to argue is that these individuals are not stateless because they have Haitian citizenship. This is a red herring. The issue is about the DOMINICAN CONSTITUTION which at the time these individuals were born granted them citizenship because they were born in the DR (jus soli). It is illegal to now say that even though the state granted you citizenship, the state is now taking citizenship away from you because you can get it from another country.

HAITIAN CONSTITUTION- to be a Haitian national you need to be the child of a native-born Haitian (either mother or father) AND cannot have renounced Haitian citizenship. So, if you were born in the DR in 1929 to Haitian migrant parents, you are now 86 years old. You lived your whole life as a Dominican and identified as a Dominican, you cannot now claim Haitian citizenship. Also, you grandchildren and great grandchildren cannot have Haitian citizenship because their parents are not native-born Haitians.

Issues Related to Both Groups
Dominican government argues it has a right to its SOVEREIGNTY and to regulate its borders. No one disputes that. However, (1) violations of human rights have no borders. The Dominican government agreed with its principle when it entered into international treaties which it promised to follow. So, we are asking DR to keep in line with sovereign obligations. (2) We are asking DR to follow its own laws. The 2010 Constitution says explicitly that it is NOT RETROACTIVE. So the Court decision TC 168-13 improperly included those born in the country since 1929. (3) DR entered into a protocol with Haiti in 1999 on REPATRATING the Haitian migrants. There is talk of both countries negotiating a new protocol. In the absence of that, at a minimum DR should uphold its end of the agreement.
Haitian migrants flooded DR after earthquake of 2010: while there was an increase of migrants’ present in the country post-earthquake, the government has said 3 million Haitians came over to the DR. For simplicity, let’s put it this way: Haiti has a rough population of 9 million people. If 3 million got up and left, it would’ve been noticed. By everybody. Also, the government’s own figure says there is only about 458,000 or so as 2012.
Table provided by In Cultured Company.

In between presentations, the groups of Dominicans and Haitians at each tables spoke on different topics provided by In Cultured Company while non-Dominican/Haitian individuals sat back to listen to what was on everyone’s minds. Each table also had sheets with more contexts between Dominican and Haitian relations, “DR Human Rights Crisis Fact Sheets,” and a “Make Power Dynamics Visible” sheet which gave a better understanding of what dynamics held power over the other (i.e light skin over dark skin, rich over poor, cis gender over transgender, etc.).

Make Power Dynamics Visible

Light Skin
Dark Skin

College Educated


English First
English Second
Cis Gender
US Citizen/Green Card Holder
Foreign National

Able Bodied
Differently Abled
Non Christian
White/White Passing
Non-White Passing

The facilitators presented a short audio of an interview with Parsley Massacre survivor, Francisco Pierre.  In the interview, Pierre described how he had to gather his things on his donkey and run away from the Dominican army troops who killed men, women and children.  The massacre occurred in October 1937, under the Dominican of Haitian descent dictator, Rafael Trujillo. The act took place in the DR’s northwestern frontier and in some parts of the Cibao region against Haitians living in these parts of the country.  Stemming from conflicts between the two nations as far back from the 19th century, Dominican army troops were ordered by Trujillo to murder Haitians who he believed were stealing cattle from Dominican residents near the “border.”  The Parsley Massacre was named due to Dominican soldiers carrying sprigs of parsley, asking Haitians and Dominicans (ones who had Haitian “features”) to pronounce the word parsley (perejil in Spanish).  The reason behind this was to distinguish who was Dominican and who was Haitian from the way it is pronounced.  

The last facilitator, Alexis, practiced breathing techniques with everyone where with both feet planted on the ground, took a deep breath in and then out while projecting a unique sound noise. Alexis then spoke of the similarities in spirituality between both the Haitian and Dominican communities. The presentation concluded with the sounds of Afro-Caribbean drums from percussionist’s Dasky Menesky and Bembesito.  Although Dasky is from Haiti and Bembesito from the DR, explained the similarities in the sounds and the practice of Dominican Vudu/Haitian Vodou (also known as 21 Divisions), which was banned by Trujillo due to its belief of devil worship/black magic.

Ms. Delah Bee’s Herbal Remedies sold homemade honey’s blended with herbs like moringa, sage, and matcha.  Other honey’s had spices like turmeric and one consisted of charcoal.  The vendor also sold homemade tea bags for anxiety and for lucid dreams (which help with remembering ones dreams). 

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