October marks the 76th anniversary of the Haitian Massacre, in which more than 20,000 Haitians were killed near the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina, ordered the national army to kill anyone that could not pronounce the letter “r” in the word “perejil” (parsley). Creole speakers were known to have trouble pronouncing this sound. As a result of this test, the massacre is sometimes referred to as the Parsley Massacre. Many of the Haitians killed were actually Haitian-Dominicans, Dominican citizens that lived in well-established Haitian communities in the Dominican Republic.
Trujillo, son of a Dominican man of Spanish descent and a mother of Haitian ancestry, was born in San Cristobal in the Dominican Republic in 1891. At the age of 28, he joined the national army during the U.S. occupation of the Dominican Republic from 1916-1924. In a number of years, he was able to move up the ranks and became the country’s army chief of staff. The U.S. helped place and keep Trujillo in power from 1930 until he became unpopular with the U.S. government and was assassinated 1961 with the help of the CIA.
During his reign of terror, Trujillo institutionalized anti-Haitianismo in the Dominican Republic. Anti-Haitianismo, or anti-Haitian bias, created a hierarchy based on race and nationality, denied AfroDominican heritage and continues to this day. State-sanctioned discrimination normalizes racist policies, such as requiring Dominicans of Haitian descent to prove that they can work in the country legally. Laws like this further marginalize Haitians in the Dominican Republic, who already face inadequate access to jobs and healthcare.
Organizations like Borders of Lights and the Bono Center are bringing awareness to the long history of anti-Haitianismo in the Dominican Republic. Last year, Borders of Light held a 3-day event at the Haiti-Domincan Republic border, which included a candlelight vigil remembering the victims of the Haitian Massacre. While much remains to be done, both organizations are committed to working with Haitian migrants and others of African descent in the Dominican Republic to secure human rights protections and push for meaningful institutional change.
by Miosotis Perez