Unveiling the complexities of Haitian-Dominican relations, a Dominican view on deportation, racism, friendship and the border.
This reporting was supported by the Pulitzer Center.
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In a series of insightful interviews for Distant Neighbors, ordinary Dominicans reveal a range of perspectives on Haitians that challenge sweeping generalizations. From the construction of a border wall to historical conflicts, these interviews reveal a multifaceted portrait of Haitian-Dominican relations outside of the politicized realm, challenging simplistic narratives and highlighting the potential for mutual understanding, respect and collaboration.
The first three Dominicans whose views are offered here have all had interactions with Haitians. Each offers unique perspectives, but they all stressed the importance of having fair laws that do not criminalize all Haitians and for their government to offer a legal pathway to Haitians for work.
Here are some of their views, by topic.4
Luis Alberto Ortiz Morónta
40, Music Equipment Technician, Santo Domingo
When it comes to deportation, I believe it’s important to consider the necessity of such actions. While there may be cases where deportation becomes necessary, it is crucial to acknowledge that everyone deserves a chance in life.
This applies not only to Dominicans who seek opportunities abroad, but also to those who come here looking for a better life. Of course, individuals involved in serious crimes or unlawful activities should face appropriate consequences, including the possibility of deportation.
However, as human beings, we should always strive to offer people the opportunity they deserve. That’s what it comes down to, in my opinion.
On taking Dominicans’ jobs
When it comes to the issue of deportation, I must say that it has raised concerns regarding competition in the job market. Some Dominicans express frustration, claiming that Dominicans are unwilling to do certain types of work, while Haitians are willing to work for lower wages and are perceived to be harder workers.
However, I personally don’t feel affected by this situation. It’s important to understand that everyone works to earn a living, regardless of their nationality. I believe that each individual should have the opportunity to earn their money through their own means, just like anyone else.
“There’s no justification for resenting someone for finding employment and supporting themselves. We all have our own paths and opportunities to pursue.”
Lives in Santo Domingo and the United States
On the countries’ shared history
If we go back in history, we have always depended on one another. There has been a commercial relationship, anyway, with the Haitians. In other words, I believe that if there was a Dominican racism for Haitians, there would be no borders, millionaire businesses, both Haitian and Dominican.
On his experiences with Haitians
I have not had any negative experiences with my Haitian neighbors. In fact, I even have a Haitian neighbor whom I get along well with, and we haven’t encountered any issues.
I believe that how we perceive others is influenced by our own mindset. If I go searching for faults or negativity among Haitian individuals, I might find some, but that’s not something I’m interested in doing. I choose not to focus on the negative aspects of any nationality or individual.
For me, it’s important to treat people based on who they are as individuals, rather than making assumptions based on their nationality.
“I don’t discriminate based on skin color either because, after all, look at me. I have brothers who are darker-skinned.”
I firmly believe in treating everyone with respect and fairness, without discrimination based on nationality or color.
On being in a relationship with a Haitian woman
Well I felt good because I went after her. Having had a Haitian partner, I can say that I have never experienced discrimination from anyone. People who have gotten to know us may understand that my choice of partner is not influenced by discriminatory factors.
I firmly believe in treating all women equally and without discrimination, regardless of their nationality or skin color. Therefore, my experience with having a Haitian partner has been positive, and I have not encountered any discrimination based on that aspect.
On Haitians taking up too much space
Allow me to respond to that question with a smile. It’s important to understand that in every country, you’ll find communities from various nations coexisting. So, it doesn’t come as a surprise to me when I come across areas in the Dominican Republic where there is a significant population of Haitian nationals.
If I visit Manhattan, I’ll find a large Dominican community there. There are also Chinese communities and many others. Therefore, encountering a Haitian community doesn’t bother me or make me feel uneasy.
I believe this phenomenon is simply a natural defense mechanism observed in all citizens, as people tend to seek out familiarity and form communities with others who share similar backgrounds. It’s a natural part of human behavior and social dynamics.
It’s important to appreciate the diversity within our society and understand that such communities exist as a reflection of human nature’s tendency to form connections with those who share similar experiences and cultures.
On racism among Dominicans
The majority of Dominicans, I would say 95%, are not racist. While it’s possible for a small percentage of individuals, 1%, to exhibit discriminatory behavior or racism, I personally do not believe that we, as Dominicans, harbor racism towards our Haitian neighbors.
It’s important to acknowledge that there can be isolated incidents or individuals who engage in discriminatory acts, but they do not represent the sentiments of the broader Dominican society. As a collective, we value our relationship with Haiti and recognize the mutual benefits of our historical ties.
Let us focus on nurturing understanding, respect, and collaboration between our two nations, rather than allowing the actions of a few to define the entire Dominican population.
On moving forward as two nations
In essence, throughout history, our island has been divided, and this division has existed since our very existence. We are all aware of this narrative, although it is a long and somewhat complicated one. It may be particularly challenging for the younger generation who have not delved deeply into this specific aspect of our shared history that I am referring to.
Grissel Peréz, 24, Bavaro, Punta Cana
On Haitians in general
Well, actually when I was a child I always saw the Haitians who work in construction passing by where I lived. And I also heard things about muggings and heist stuff taking place.
On Haitians she knows personally
I have Haitian friends that I share love with and [with] whom I get along very well.
On the border wall
The construction of a border wall is a necessary task that needs to be undertaken. As neighboring countries with distinct identities, it is crucial to maintain order and security.
While there are undoubtedly hardworking Haitians who come here for employment opportunities, it is also true that there are Haitians who engage in destructive activities, similar to challenges faced within their own country. Therefore, safeguarding our own nation becomes a responsibility we cannot overlook.
Her message to Haitians
“Well, whenever I see school videos about what is happening in Haiti, I see that they [Haitians] are further destroying their country.”
If they are going to go on strike, they can protest but not break the things they already have there, like the hospitals and other things they will need.