Divided island: How Haiti and the DR became two worlds

Divided island: How Haiti and the DR became two worlds


Let’s pause here. I’m driving on the road
that separates Haiti from the Dominican Republic. Right here. It’s the border that
divides two very different countries. If you’re born in Haiti, you’re
2.5 times more likely to die as a baby than if you’re born in the DR. You’ll be almost ten times poorer and you can expect to have a much shorter
life. I came here to find out how the two countries that share this one island can
be so different, with a politically volatile and impoverished Haiti on one
side and the stable and relatively rich Dominican Republic on the other. How did this line produce two totally different worlds? My journey starts here, at this beach
village in southern Haiti, where Haitian merchants, most of them women, are
preparing for a nighttime boat ride. The women boarding this boat have one goal:
to make it to the border where they will be let into a Dominican market, to buy
and sell goods before returning to their villages. It’s international trade at its
most informal. We’re taking these boats because the next door mountain range
makes the land journey almost impossible. These worn-out wooden boats have been
making this exact journey twice per week for decades and yet the process remains
chaotic and unorganized as if it’s happening for the first time. All of this energy, time, and effort all to transport a handful of goods that, in most
countries, would be shipped in bulk inside one of these. We make this seven-hour journey to the
border town arriving around, 4 am. The sun rises and we walk to the border
market. This market was established right on the border as a partnership between the two nations, to give vendors from both sides a place to buy and sell on equal footing. As we approach the border I quickly realize that’s not what’s happening here. So I’m looking across the border right now, into the market and you can see that
Dominicans are already setting up. This is one of the big complaints of the
Haitians: they’re stuck on this side waiting to cross the border and the
border guards are just delaying it and meanwhile the Dominicans are able to set
up and get the best spots. These Haitians come from miles away on this grueling
boat journey, that I know now firsthand is very grueling, and they get to the
border and the guards stop them for no reason. They’re supposed to open it up for
everyone at the same time. The guards keep the Haitian women from
crossing, not letting anyone know how long it will be. The tension grows and
then finally, hours after the Dominicans were allowed to enter, the guards open up
the bridge. They buy and sell for the day, before
returning to the boats to make the journey home. The grueling boat journey,
the senseless discrimination, it embodies the asymmetry that exists on this island.
Watching it happen, it’s impossible not to ask how it got like this. There are a
few key things that explain how this island produced two very different
countries, but if you want to get at the very root of it you have to go back to
when this island was owned by two European powers: France and Spain. This
island is actually the first place that Christopher Columbus set up a colony in
the new world on his first voyage back in like 1490. France wanted a piece of
this island because it was rich in resources like sugar and coffee, so they
fought a war with the Spanish and they ended up splitting the island in two: one
side would be the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo and the other side would
be the French colony, with the same name, Saint-Domingue, just in French. And that is
the most important part of understanding this whole thing, is how these imperial
powers treated their colonial posessions. The French exploited the
land. They brought in tons of slaves and they were interested in making Saint-Domingue solely an economic producer. They destroyed the soil from aggressively
harvesting the same crop year after year, and they created a group of very
resentful, overworked, and abused slaves that eventually rebelled. The Spanish had
a different approach. After establishing domination on this island by massacring
the indigenous population, they didn’t exploit it like the French did. Instead they went to places like Mexico and Peru, to look for gold. So they didn’t bring nearly as many slaves onto this island, and as a result they weren’t nearly as profitable a colony. Instead, the Spanish integrated with the remaining indigenous population, by recognizing the native leader’s authority and intermarrying with the locals. The result was a smaller and more racially mixed
population, with a sustainable economy and a political system, something totally absent from
France’s colony. This becomes really important in the
early 1800s, when independence comes around. Haiti declares independence,
fights off the French, and basically declares itself the first black, former
slave republic in the world. They do so with very little framework for a society
and for a government and they also do so with land that has been exploited, year
after year, with the same crop which basically destroys the fertility of the
land. And to add to all of that, because they were this first black Republic, the
world essentially isolated them. The United States didn’t want to recognize
the independence of a black nation. They thought it might become a slave empire
and seek revenge. The French showed up on Haitian shores
soon after independence, and said you owe us a debt for all of the assets that you
stole from us when you became independent, all these economic assets,
you owe us that debt and you have to pay it over the next thirty years. This
crippling debt Haiti did pay back over years, but it really hampered their
development. This history doesn’t exonerate the dictators and corrupt
politicians that have plagued Haiti’s development since its independence, but
it helps explain them. Suffocating embargoes and the independence debt, as
well as the lack of any tradition or investment in governmental institutions,
guaranteed Haiti’s failure from the moment it was born, and a racist world
made sure of it. That racism isn’t just embedded into Haiti’s history, it is in
fact very alive today. As I drive up the border, by coincidence my driver is also
a Dominican border patrol official. We have hours in the car, where he slowly
and cautiously tells me about how immigration policy has changed in the
Dominican Republic in recent years. “Regularization Program”. That’s a euphemism. He’s talking about a policy of targeting anyone of Haitian
descent, even citizens, rounding them up and deporting them.
There’s always been anti-Haitian sentiment in the Dominican Republic,
usually resulting in racist violence, but since 2010, that sentiment has been
seeping into legislation. The Dominican Constitution that was drafted in 1929,
says that anyone born in the country is automatically a citizen, even if your
parents were undocumented immigrants. This is the same in places like the
United States, but the DR rewrote its constitution in 2010, to only give
citizenship to those born on DR soil, to legal residents. Then, in 2013 the high
court in the DR ruled that this new definition would be applied
retroactively. All the way back to 1929, meaning any citizen who had been
born in the DR to undocumented parents would have their citizenship revoked. More than 200,000 Dominican citizens, were suddenly stateless. It is clearly an illegal act, it is an
immoral act, it is a racist act by the Dominican government. And it’s happening
because these people are black. Dominican law said that if these
stateless people wanted to stay in the DR, they would have to go to a government
office and put their name on this foreigner registry. The government gave
these people one year to either get their name on the registry or face
deportation. Over 55,000 have been officially deported since the
June 2015 deadline. The UN estimates that 128,000
people have voluntarily fled to Haiti, a country many of them have never lived in.
Some came here to this camp on the border, where they’ve been living in
limbo for years. The moment I cross into the DR, I start
to see what this crackdown looks like. On a 75km bus ride, we pass eight
security checkpoints in which security personnel board the bus, to eye who was on
it, and in some cases check papers. But each time we stop, they seem to only
check the papers of the same few passengers. That’s my translator, Pascale. He’s an American
citizen, but everywhere we go in the DR, security forces keep asking him
for his passport. Halfway through the journey, we pull off the road into a facility where a few young military guys are sitting around. And our driver brings
this woman and her two children over to the military guys. She’s speaking in
perfect Dominican Spanish to them, claiming that her children are Dominican
and that the driver brought us to this checkpoint to turn her in because she’s
black. None of this seems to matter, she doesn’t have her papers and her skin
color seems to be all the guards need to see. Haiti’s land and people were abused
when it was a colony of slaves. The world then shunned it, with embargoes and
independence debts when it was a new nation, and today Haitians in the DR
experience racism that is overt enough to be enshrined in law. As we drive up this very curvy road, I
have the DR to my right and Haiti to my left. Back when the French were here, this
was the richest colony on earth, but that came at a price. Not only to abused slaves, but also to the land that they worked. Clear cutting and
single crop planting continued after the French left, but instead of being used to
make fancy French furniture, the trees were burned to cook food. This explains what I’m seeing when on my right there’s lush jungle. and on my left
there’s bare and eroding hillsides. Zoom out a little bit and it’s very clear. I follow the border road all the way north,
until I hit another market town. I wanted to see if the same discriminatory
dynamics played out up here as they did down south. This market was built
with money from the European Union, and the UN development program, with the specific intention of creating a space where communities from both sides could come and buy and sell on equal footing. Rolling through the market, and
once again like we saw in the southern market, the Dominicans are first setting up. I walk to the border and find this huge group of people at this gap in the
fence, paying a border guard to get in early. The dynamic is the same as down
south, only with a few more overt bribes and border guards who seem to have no
problem hitting Haitians with a stick. After hours of waiting for guards to
open the gate for everyone, the Haitians are finally let in. This is a story about a border that
separates two vastly different countries, but it’s moreso a story about policy: how centuries of racist policies, from the French, from the U.S., from the world,
from the DR, can hold a nation back from progressing. Haiti, this first black
republic, has experienced some of the most predatory and racist policy from outside
forces. For Haitians this story isn’t just their history. It’s their present. It’s the stage on which they live their lives. So, I want to say a big thank you to lululemon, who is a sponsor for Borders. They sent me these ABC pants, which are these really versatile, flexible pants. They’re super sturdy, and they’re meant to be basically used for hiking and for activewear, but also around the house when I’m kind of just hanging out, I’ve been using them for both as I’ve been making Borders. I love them. Thank you lululemon for sending me these pants, but more importantly thank you for sponsoring Borders and making this happen. If you want to try out some lululemon ABC pants, You could get a pair of your own. You should definitely check that out.

76 thoughts on “Divided island: How Haiti and the DR became two worlds

  • This is a surreal feeling. Thanks to everyone for following along and being a part of this journey. Can't tell you all what this means to me. The next video will launch in a week! Follow my newsletter to stay up to date: www.vox.com/borders-email

    – Johnny

  • You forgot the part when Haiti invaded the DR, unified the island, massacred Dominicans and these had to struggle for their independence…

  • Why did they not build it in between so both country’s can place there guard instead of give full power to the DR

  • There's a whole lot missing in this video. The difference is very simplistically attributed to racism, but the examples given are not racist just neighbour quarrels. The French and British have neighbourly quarrels, yet they are essentially the same race. The driver in the DR taxi looked the same 'race'. I would say that any difference in prosperity could be because of difference in politics, without even knowing what the politics are.
    I would agree that such mistreatment of people is abominable, but the video producer makes no attempt to explain why it is happening, beyond the usual 'racism' accusation, which explains nothing.

  • Hey Johnny! I really admire your job and Vox's work because I think is pretty accurate with reality. Sometimes it does happen in some of your videos about current situations, that you tend to generalise which is totally understandable because if not, how can we jump into conclusions? However, viewers must understand that this view of what happens in the border is slightly different of what happens in the city. Obviously the border is empowered by resented guards that are trained to do certain things and reflect certain attitudes that are not necessarily reflected in Dominican population (speaking for my generation, of course). It is almost the same with all the Dominicans that have fled to NY (specifically Washington Heights) in search for a better life. Haitians do the same with our country (I'm Dominican, as you can tell) and there comes a point where a nation cannot hold anymore foreigners. Same as the U.S did with us. It's a border issue that with time has deceased its racism reflection because new generations do not think the same way their parents do. If you go to Santo Domingo and other country side areas to the north, you will see a very different image of Haitian citizens working in Dominican streets and selling goods and gaining profits for their daily life. And I'm not justifying the treatment at the border, simply pointing out that there are different realities to the same situation. Thank for your amazing work, I think I have seen most of your videos! Hugs, Dominican Laura.

  • 1492? Billionaires trying to get to mars for ego aggrandizement while we have poverty and racism like this on our planet. We should be better.

  • There is very little difference between Haiti and the DR. They are both corrupt, VOO DOO ridden, devil-worshipping, corrupt places, populated by drugged up lazy people. The people are driven by greed and pure evil.

  • Me I think if Haitians help more each other will be better for them, I can give you an example:BELIZE IS PREDOMINANTLY BLACK AND A BETTER QUALITY LIFE THAN OTHER LATIN AMERICAN COUNTRIES,,CULTURE AND SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS HAS TO CHANGE IN HAITI

  • The solution to Haiti is simple just have the French pay back all the money they asked for when they gained independence

  • Este video, esta pagafo por alguna ong, que viven de la miseria hatiana, como principes, en nuestros hoteles De DR, y se dedican al chantaje de que lis Dominicanis somis racistas con este knhk africano, que nos quieren injertar a las malas, del unico pais que RD, ha peleado mas 5 veces xe haiti, por sys atrpellos, a un pais que unuca maldad que le hemos hecho es abrirles nuestros hospitales, escuelas, trabajos sin ser molestados, llevebse 3 millones a su pais, haganlos americabis, franceses, lo que sea, aqui en RD, no caben mas, por malos agradecidos, Dios, Patria y libertad, no asu religion satanica….

  • Haiti has had more than 200 years to sort it out. there comes a point where you can't blame past events for a bad situation.

  • Black peoples are incapable of running a country that isn’t impoverished and third world. There isn’t one Black Country in the world that is rich or successful.

  • Haiti is too magical, if every Haitian United, the rapture would be here, highest priest chief's of the Melanated world. Israelites with pure DNA

  • A Dominican Coworker told
    me to mark his words,
    "In 30 years, the next
    President of the United
    States, will be elected by
    Latinos, the numbers don't lie".
    As a Black Man, I just smirked at his
    arrogance, and said to myself,
    Poor fool gonna learn.

  • He spends more time complaining about how Hatians are treated in DR and not on why Haiti is such a bad place. For people to improve they have to stop being victims and start being agents for a better haiti. Haiti is not a wreck because DR does not welcome Haitians. They need to stop looking to other countries to rescue them, but take it upon themselves to make their country a better place. As long as they have systemic corruption and leaders who are more into self promotion, than helping their countrymen, it will never get better. Their past is sad, but not unique in the world.

  • thank you vox for doing this piece. I am half Dominican and this is a part of my motherland that really hurts. I grew up with the horrible mentality of colorism and anti- Haitian. It's the biggest reason I dont try to visit the lush land if my ancestors. It scares me that as an American my home country will eventually go down the tubes the way DR and its social structure on humanity already has.

  • Stop , Research A Lit More before saying everything you just say . And then talk about what Haiti did to the dominican .

  • Haitian Regiments fought in Savanah, Georgia against the British in the American Revolution. They contributed to the independence of the U.S.A… and, that's how they are rewarded now. Wow!!!!

  • THANKS GOD MY MOTHER TOUGHT ME TO TREAT EVERYONE EQUALY. I Hope Haiti some day develop their economy and get out of that hole, trust me, DR has problems too. it's not the US fault if DR is doing bad. the way many people think about Haiti people in DR really hurts me, because they are human being. I am Dominican and I agree that many Haitians are treated really bad but not all of us are the same way. Every country protect its immigration and laws.

  • Bad idea for the Haitians to chase away the French farmers, They did this around the World & succeeded building civilizations, The French weren't brutal like Spaniards, They liked to Help & make money ofcourse!🤷‍♂️

  • Deblasio be like, a country doesnt accept illegal immigrant is racist. How did u get that logic, let me go to your house in ill live there forever lete see if you'll not kick me out.

  • The BIBLE says Simeon and Levi are brothers. Those people are Israelites and don't even know it. Watch GOCC's lesson for clarity. End time prophecy.

  • Resulta k Estados Unidos patrocinó a los dictadores haitianos como duvalierla policía asesina tonton makout por temor k se instalara el comunismo como en Cuba….. Masacraron al pueblo lo Analfabetizaron… La corrupción y el desentrndimiento por parte de Francia hicieron el resto

  • I do not like to think of Dominican republic and Haiti as "*two different worlds*" I'm Haitian and I believe that these two countries we should not unify and become one country but we should act as brothers and help each other as we are both part of Hispaniola

  • The United States 🇺🇸 a World 🌎 Power.. This should come as an embarrassment to our country 🇺🇸 and it's ignorance,inhumanitarian and it's happening in our own backyard. Shame..

  • Dominicans are some of the most racist people that I know of. They hate Black People. There needs to be more attention brought to this matter and the history of what Trujillo did to Black People and the Thousands of Black People that he killed and tortured is beyond despicable. It is amazing how the history between Hitler and Jewish people is always acknowledged but what took place in The Dominican Republic Never Is!!!.

  • David Ortiz where are you? you are a black man from the DR with money. What is your purpose to make your country better..

  • In order to better understand the "dominican hate to haitians", you forgot to mention that the DR became independent from Spain in 1821. Next year in 1822, haitians invaded the DR with and army of 30,000 men during a 22 year period, abolished the new country and unified the island as a unique country: Haiti. They tried to swipe out all the culture of the dominicans, including the practice of catolicism (wich was highly spread among the population) and changed the spanish language, but the main reason of the occupation was to use the east part of the island in order to get enough resources to pay the independence debt with France.

  • Problems follow AFRICANS even to lands that are far& beyond the African continent!! Why?!?

    French are always known to be the worst colonialists.. All French colonies (former) in West ,North & Central Africa are the poorest war torn areas in the world yet all British colonies (former & current) are the most peaceful & prosperous… Why?!?!

  • Its not racist it's economics.
    For good or bad the Dominicans have decided that they can't afford illegal Aliens. Dont judge them maybe they know something we don't

  • This was very informative. Racism and discrimination ation is a human problem. A problem that can only be address by a divine intervention.

  • NO ONE HERE KNOW THE REAL HISTORY: hatians came in the oriental part of the island (actual Dominican Republic) because the intered island was french!!!, and hatians won french trops so the intered island was haitians property…THIS IS THE BEGINNIG of all those differences…GO to read TEATRY OF BASIL where the kind of Spain in 1795 give THE TODAY DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, in those times was just an spainer colony, to NAPOLEON, BECAUSE IN THE WAR NAPOLEON MADE AN INVASION TO THE EST SPAIN….JUST go to see in google, it s take you couples minute to see the TRUTH!

  • PEOPLE did you know that today this racists european nacions continue robbering Haiti? in Swizerland Baby doc, who was haitian dictator has an acount with 19,000,000 dollars and the hatian govrrment can not touch this money!!!! yes! the rich and very white swizerland…the same they did to jews people!

  • I once thought this video made sense but after I did my own research and watched other videos on the topic, I feel now that you have left so much out of the video. On the other hand, I am seriously doubting your future videos, suspecting that perhaps you are twisting narratives or leaving things out. If your journalism must be journalism, it has to submit to history and proper process of telling things; don't leave things out; don't put out an agenda; don't distract people with flashy, smooth transititions and saturated colors; more importantly, tell the story but tell the whole story. There are better reasons why the Dominicans treat their neighbor like this and there are reasons why the Haitians may be shooting themselves in the feet.

  • The discrimination at the market isn't senseless. The guards are probably getting paid to bar the Haitians from getting in.

    Evil and senselessness aren't the same thing.

  • This documentary seems to blame the Dominican Republic for enforcing their laws and enforcement. The Dominican Republic has been working very hard for their development of their society and economically. My questions is why the Haitian can do the same? Why they have to be the victim of the whole situation? Every country has to grow and move forward.

  • Alas, another example of where among various minority groups living together black people always seem to end up at the bottom of the totem pole and suffer the highest degree of discrimination. Many Haitians in the report seem to be dependent for their livelihood on the Dominican Republic but the latter can well do without Haiti and regard Haitians as a burden. That says it all.

  • I love how people in the US ask for rights, but yet, they do the totally opposite in their home countries. What a shame.

  • what a hit peice. you realize most dominicans live side by side with haitians and hatians are the "watchmen" .. also known as body guards. most Dominicans have a Haitian family living in their home.

  • Que dejen de hacer brujeria para que prosperen, y tambien que dejen de cruzar a RD a obtener beneficios que no les corresponden. Solo sirven para matar a los dominicanos, quien hizo este video que haga un video tambien de los haitianos que defecan en las calles limpias de RD esos haitianos no tienen educacion ni hacen nada por ellos mismos . Asi seguiran como los cocodrilos que no evolucionaron , esperando que el mundo se apiade de ellos e implorando lastima.

  • I wish there were some ways we could help the Haitians to help themselves. Curruption and poor development are major obstacles. There are many Haitians in the United States that are established beyond easy deportation. Are any of them organizing any political strategies?

  • A real problem, but I don't think racism is the correct term, since Dominicans have black skin color, even the guards shown in the video. This is a social problem and would be the same if Haitians weren't mostly black. Anyway, it's not fair to send away people based on the 2010 law.

  • 9:03 it is happening because this people are Black? but Dominicans are black as well. yea Haitians are more darker skin color but still I don't think is because of that. is more about the Haitians mentality. make a video that show us the way Haitians think, live, habits, religion Etc and you will understand a little why DR is doing that,

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