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#19: The border at Belladere-Elias Pina : Fuller comments
To Brothers and Wilson for their border research:
Your deforestation research along the border sounds interesting.
Border-crossing is no picnic and its sounds like you'll be doing a lot of it.
At Easter in 1998, I spent several days in the central border area of the two
countries. We (three Americans and a Haitian) left from Port-au-Prince and
crossed the border at Malpasse-Jimani in our Haitian car, authorization
papers from the PAP traffic police and Customs, and a visa for the Haitian
and tourist cards for the Americans. Our intention had been to travel due
north on the small roads shown on Hildebrand's map of Hispaniola. We had a
Toyota pickup accustomed to Central Plateau back-roads and were sure nothing
the DR could offer would be impossible. But in the first sizable town, La
Descubierta, police told us that these roads were in fact just mule tracks,
impenetrable for cars. We kept looking but found nothing, and were forced to
take the very long way around via Neiba and Vicente Noble to reach the main
road, before we doubled back west through San Juan de la Maguana and finally
to Elias Pina. I think it was about a four-hour drive.
The next problem came when we wanted to cross back into Haiti at Belladere.
While there's a big Dominican military and police presence (this is true all
along the border region) there is no regular customs and immigration. Two
days a week, when the big market in Elias Pina functions the border is open
for free crossing by Haitians and others, no documents needed. Some even
drive trucks over locally. But there are no offices to stamp your documents
or officially authorize entry. We wanted to drive into Haiti, spend the
night in Baptiste, a short drive up the mountain from Belladere, and then
head back to the DR the next day. Well, this was technically impossible.
Vehicles are just not authorized to cross the border there. I'm not entirely
clear on the situation for individuals crossing without vehicles. It seems
there are just two fully operational border crossings -- at Jimani-Malpasse,
and at Dajabon-Ouanaminthe in the north. The best source of info on this is
the Haitian consulate in Barahona, which has published an informational
leaflet for travelers, also reproduced in Haiti Progres last year.
We did manage to cross the border with our Toyota anyway and come back the
next day, after talking to the Dominican commander (no bribe), but I can't
say everyone would have this luck.
The Haitian side of the border, a few miles from Belladere, was totally
unstaffed. A police station was refurbished post-1994, but had already been
abandoned and but for the car carcasses could have been a colonial-era ruin.
The road on the Dominican side is paved and wide; you drive or wade across
the river to Haiti and it's mud, rocks and deep holes. We heard that a
conflict between the Belladere mayor, the Deputy and the Vice-Delegue
effectively blocked most development initiatives, including road improvement.
Once you reach Belladere, you should visit Baptiste, cool and high in the
mountains; the road was graded and partially paved by coffee-support STABEX
funds. No hotel however.
In 1992, I informally crossed from Pedernales into Anse-a-Pitres, as people
living on both sides of the border do. It was even less developed as a
border crossing than Belladere-Elias Pina in 1998.
Good luck. Let us know where we can follow the results of your research.