Wednesday, December 4, 2013

threat to justice.

in the 1940s, 50s and early 60s, the dominican republic was ruled by a tyrant. you may know him if you're familiar with caribbean history, but he was not nearly as famous as his central american counterparts. julia alvarez brought his reign of terror a little more into the light with her book (later made into a movie), "In the Time of the Butterflies."
nearly 250 haitian students study in our
schools. some are documented. some are not.

trujillo was a terrible man - he ran the country with an iron fist: killing those who opposed him, robbing those he deemed too rich and raping women who denied him. but, most accounts leave out his most atrocious deed - the mass killing of haitians living in the dominican republic. 

there is a deep and troubled history on this island - one that goes back to the original colonists raping the island, divvying it up for the kingdom of god (and queen isabella). it is sad and sordid. and the tensions that existed then, exist still. 

there is no easy way to sum up hundreds of years of hatred and fear.
and in order to understand the problems that this island is facing today, it is necessary to understand a little bit of the history. and i don't have that for you. 

what i have, is an incomplete, outsider's understanding of two groups of people who have been taught to fear and hate each other. some of it is systematic and institutionalized. some of it is personal. all of it is frightening.

in the past few months, the dominican government passed a new law deeming any child born to non-dominican parents un-documentable in this country. the law is fair, as all sovereign nations have the right to make and enforce laws that they see fit. immigration is a significant problem and this law seeks to reduce some of the problems associated with immigrants. what is bizarre about the law is that it is retroactive to the year 1929. 

any child born since 1929 to illegal immigrants are no longer considered dominican citizens.
we are now stripping human beings of citizenship to the only country they have ever known, denying them the basic human right of documentation. 

social justice groups around the world have risen up. it's an embarrassment to the world! it's a shame! it's ridiculous! how dare those dominicans? how dare those haitians?

church service in creole.
and while the social justice groups argue amongst themselves and the news reporters wax poetic on a subject they really don't understand - children are being pulled from schools. adults are hiding in their houses. the reverse rush across the border is intense. 

people are scared.
real. live. people. both dominican and haitian. frightened for their futures. wondering what all of this hatred might lead to.

it was not all that long ago that trujillo pulled a similar stunt. except, instead of veiling it in constitutional legalese, he called on the citizens of this great nation to kill their brothers and sisters. the test, to prove that "light skinned haitians" and "darker skinned dominicans" were not lost, was to have them say perejil. it is the spanish word for parsley and difficult for creole speakers to pronounce. if they failed the parsley test, they were most likely slaughtered. conservative estimates for the parsley massacre are 20,000 dead in less than five days. 

as long as we continue to teach our children fear - fear of things that are different, fear of differences that really just don't exist - we will continue to see laws put into action that allow us to continue to live in fear. we will just perpetuate hatred, because, after all, hatred springs from fear. 

violence against haitians, especially in regions close to the haitian/dominican border, has escalated since the court ruling to uphold this law. at least one haitian man was lynched, supposedly while authorities watched on impotently. however, i urge you to be careful of news reports that are over-dramatic representations of what is happening. several articles were published on cnn ireport that were outright fabrications. check facts. 

a beautifully written book about the parsley massacre can be found here (though i am sure there are more. and of course, julia alvarez's in the time of the butterflies is a nice story about the overthrowing of trujillo). 

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