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4155: The Republics of Hispaniola by MR Trouillot (fwd)

From: Max Blanchet <MaxBlanchet@worldnet.att.net>

Peuples des Terres Mêlées:
Les Républiques d’Hispaniola

Peoples of the Jumbled Lands:
The Republics of Hispaniola

Michel-Rolph Trouillot

To the memory of René Philoctète1

Two republics on a bit of an isle, with too much history
to love each other.
Too much blood, too much mud. Too much loathing
Two republics on a bit of an isle with too little space to hate.
Too few trees, too few birds.
Neither textbooks nor dogmas have been able to find the
words that signpost this memory of mishaps and makeshifts.
Even the dates are misleading.
September 1697. Ryswick, a little village in Holland.
The French and Spanish crowns sign a treaty ending a war
that lasted nine years.
No mention of Hispaniola, this far-away Caribbean island
that their subjects share.
Only much later would textbooks make of this date the
beginning of a partition.
One wonders how Ryswick became a historical event so far
from Europe. Who invented this partition much simpler and
clearer than the realities before and after it?
No matter. Isn’t history also made of false truths, silences,
and memory lapses?
In the reality of the times, Ryswick gave the colonists on
both sides a chance to renew commercial exchanges interrupted
by the war (Moya Pons 1995).
The few French men who sneaked in the western part of
Hispaniola from the smaller island of Tortuga, were growing
tobacco and buying cattle from the Spaniards.
The two colonies grew without clear boundaries until 1777.
Then, the treaty of Aranjuez explicitly recognized the French
dominion over the western part of Hispaniola and set
definitively - so it was hoped - the only land boundary in the
Antilles, with the exception of the island of Saint Martin.

Between Ryswick and Aranjuez, there grew a gulf.
With the rise of the sugar plantations, the colony of
Saint-Domingue became the strong link among the
Caribbean possessions of an upwardly colonialist France.
After 1763 - another war, another treaty - Saint-Domingue
held world production records for sugar and coffee.
Thousands of imported slaves paid the price of that wealth.
Their death rate was one of the highest of the Americas.
Santo Domingo, on the contrary, struggled along with very
few slaves, neglected by an increasingly weak Spain
(Moreau 1976). It had a high ratio of free blacks who
mixed with whites, to the extent that this was possible.
Between Ryswick and Aranjuez, the island of Hispaniola
developed two models of colonial societies: in
western Saint-Domingue, the hell of plantation slavery;
in eastern Santo Domingo a landscape shared by big
Spanish cattlemen and petty farmers of mixed ancestry.
It took the Haitian Revolution to remind the ones and the
others that they were sharing an island.
Two republics on a bit of an isle with too much black in
the white and too much red in the black. Too many
challenges to take on. Too many words thrown in the night
between the mountains and the sea. Two republics on a bit
of an isle with the burden of oaths taken.

A few skirmishes aside, the Haitian Revolution entered
Santo Domingo with the army of Toussaint Louverture in 1801.
The first abolition of slavery there followed. Within the logic of
Toussaint Louverture’s assent, slavery was the only inadmissible compromise (Dorsinvil 1965; Trouillot 1977). But the competing
logics that faced one another during this first invasion were not
only of a political nature. Between the two societies, the gap
was also social, ideologica, cultural in the strongest sense of
the word, since it carried through daily life.

Between Ryswick and Aranjuez, Santo Domingo, a society with
one of the world’s highest ratios of individuals of mixed ancestry,
became also a negrophobic society. Its brown majority
notwithstanding - better, because of the very ambiguities
inherent in the collective identity of that brown majority, led as
it was by a racist elite - Santo Domingo claimed shamelessly
the purity of an imagined whiteness (Moya Pons 1986). Dominican
critic Silvio Torres-Saillant (1997:33) summarizes the dilemma:
"The tragedy of the construction of creoleness in the Dominican
Republic is that the process  implied a refusal of social blackness
that could provide no defense against the intellectual negrophobia
the Dominican elite would subsequently promulgate to control the
lower classes." In short, whether from the elites or from the masses,
to be Dominican also meant not to be black.

While this absolute refusal of blackness grew on the eastern side
of the island, the Haitian Revolution - as Aimé Césaire reminds us -
made of Haiti the country where "Négritude stood up for the first time."
A négritude explicit in the uncompromising refusal of slavery by
Toussaint Louverture’s party. A négritude implicit in language and in customs. At the time Louverture entered Santo Domingo, the word nèg already meant "person" in the Haitian language,  an indication
- if needed - that the humanity of the black is an undisputed
ontological fact.2

The Haitian invasions of the eastern side have often been held
as the starting point of Dominican negrophobia.3  However, Torres-Saillant’s penetrating analysis suggests an internal
genesis that precedes Toussaint Louverture’s entry in Santo
Domingo. The gulf that grew between Ryswick and | Aranjuez
had propelled the two societies onto different paths. Although
the revolution turned upside down the particulars of the Haitian
political situation, it did not decrease the demographic and cultural
weight of the former slaves. Quite the contrary. The anti-slavery

struggle turned Haiti into a black country that claimed its blackness. 
>From Toussaint Louverture to  Faustin Soulouque, the military
campaigns thus only aggravated  social-cultural differences that
preceded them, reinforcing among each people the idea it had of
the other. The devastation Dessalines and Christophe caused
during their military campaigns of 1805 in the east did not help
the situation. However, the more severe wounds were to the soul.
The more Haiti claimed to be black, the more Dominican
negrophobia boiled down to anti-Haitian racism. From one
invasion to another - until the massacre of Haitians around the
border by the troops of Trujillo in 1937, at the very time that Haiti, 
pressured by the "Indigenous Movement," was renewing its
négritude - the ideological confrontation repeated itself with each
military encounter between the two societies, way beyond the
political issues of the day. That was even more so since the
Haitian elites, proud of their independence and anxious to
maintain a political legitimacy that relied on their négritude,
push their negrophile discourse to the extreme. Haiti was
and remains for them the country whose history forever
rehabilitates the black race (Price 1900).

We shall skip the ambiguities of that assertion - in light of the
depth of color prejudice among those very same elites. Yet we
will insist on these elites’ capacity never to waver on the historical 
and ontological value of the revolution in spite of this prejudice
(Nicholls 1979; Trouillot 1986;1990). Thus, President Jean-Pierre
Boyer, a prototypical Haitian mulâtriste, was not at home among
the mulattos of Santo Domingo in 1822. Nor did they recognize him
as one of theirs. Instead, loyal to the logic of Louverture’s party, 
and to its republican pretensions, Boyer repeated Louverture’s
very own gesture, abolishing slavery in the eastern part of the
island for the second time, and definitively. That gesture was
indeed unique, the only case in the Americas where slaves were
freed by an army of former slaves.

The fact that the Haitian elites could not herald a whiteness to
which the Dominicans laid claims no matter the odds, reduced
the chances of a class alliance across the border throughout
the nineteenth century. Early in the twentieth, while both
countries were occupied by the U.S. marines, Haitian elites
came to terms with the occupiers just as they had opened
themselves to German immigrants. Still, they continued to
view with great embarrassment the Dominicans’ loud racism.
That these elites might themselves be both racist and pro-black
at the same time is possible. However, Haiti was and remains
for them, or at least within their discourse, a black country that
said no to the whites.

Inasmuch as the masses on both sides shared and still verify the
discourse of their respective elites, there is  - we can understand -
a major misunderstanding. On one side, we see a country where
pro- black sentiments, forever "politically correct," are inherently
part of national identity; where proof of color prejudice acts as a
damning condemnation. On the other side, we see a country
where the "blancos de la tierra," whites of the land but black
skinned, upheld in turn both slavery and white immigration,
wishing to whiten themselves at all costs; where the darkest
inhabitants choose to call themselves "indians" to avoid the
inevitable disgrace of a black descent. Indio chocolate. Blanco
de la tierra. Negro, pero negro blanco. White Negroes,
chocolate indians!4

Two republics on a bit of an isle caught between history and
geography, between a past of conflicts and a geographical
present of local and immediate exigencies. Two republics stuck
between time and space.

The occupation of both countries by U.S. troops verified their
proximity and launched a massive migration of Haitians towards
the cane fields of the neighboring republic. Ebbs and flows
followed in the aftermath. How many Haitians are there today in
the Dominican Republic: 100,000 or a half a  million?5
On both sides, the ambiguous and embarrassed attitude of the
authorities have helped to mask the facts of this migration
(Moya Pons et al.; Martinez 1995). Similarly, in Port au Prince,
ambiguity and embarrassment color the presence of the panyòl 6  prostitutes, that other legacy of the U.S. Marine Corps. Likewise,
silence and ambiguity surround the Haitian torturers who take
refuge in the Dominican Republic, escaping state  justice and
popular retaliation. Does the same collusion hide the movement of
the petty drug lords? How can all these people cross the border? Conspiracy of two U.S.-trained armies?

The border is porous and it will remain so as long as there is an
island with two weak states incapable of controlling their own
internal space. That is not necessarily bad. Market women cross it.
So do rivers and tontonmakout, prostitutes and ideas, the fruits
and the wind. Yet the palmchat (Dulus dominicus) does not cross
anymore. A species unique to Hispaniola, it seems to have
disappeared from the Haitian side and can be found only in the
Dominican Republic. The caïman is starting to follow, with the
agouti and many parrots, including the Hispaniola parrot, also
unique to the island. The list of endangered species includes the wanga-nègès (Hispaniolan Trogon or Temnotrogon roseigaster),
the Haitian national bird.7

Two republics on a bit of an isle with too little space to hate
each other.
Too few trees, too few birds. Peoples stuck between the mountains
and the sea with rivers right in the middle.
Two half countries. Peoples of lands jumbled in the dusty wind.

Peeping through the airplane window, a passenger cannot fail to
notice the extraordinary difference between the Haitian and
Dominican landscapes. On the one hand, the desert. On the
other, vegetation. No wonder the palmchat ran away. But that
naked-eye difference is analytically misleading. For in sharing an
island, the two peoples also share an ecosystem.

To be sure, the eastern side has better protection against erosion
- the usual case when a central mountain chain towers over a
Caribbean island. To be sure, the highest peak of that chain is
also in the eastern part, reinforcing its relative advantage. To be
sure, the demographic growth of the peasantry and the excessive
poverty of the countryside further complicate the Haitian
case. Yet for the longue durée, neither erosion nor sea pollution
is sparing the Dominican Republic. The Haitian ecological disaster threatens the entire island of Hispaniola. Is anyone aware of this
on either side?

Since the 1970-80s, a growing number of writers within the
sphere of influence of the Dominican left have begun to take a
new look at Hispaniola. Some call into question the Dominican
past as conceived since at least Trujillo. Others try to rethink
their country within the space of the island. Behind their
historical writings or their critical analysis of the Haitian
situation in the Dominican Republic the idea is sneaking in
that neither of the two people will make it for good without
at least taking into consideration the presence of the other.

Admittedly, that proposition is barely exposed in subtle and
timid ways through a discourse that defines itself most of the
time as primarily academic (but see Dore-Cabral 1987).
Admittedly, these scholarly interventions have not modified
the racist domination over public discourse in the country.
Thus, in the 1980s, Balaguer’s racist book became a
bestseller. More recently, Mr. Peña Gomez lost the elections
to the presidency of the Dominican Republic because of his
Haitian origins.

All this to say that the walls still exist. Be that as it may, the
breach introduced on the eastern side is a sizable one. It is an
invitation to rethink the time and space of Hispaniola. To date,
there is no equivalent on the Haitian side of the border.

Michel-Rolph Trouillot
University of Chicago
(translated from the French by the author
Copyright Michel-Rolph Trouillot 1999)


 the palmchat
 (zwazo palmis)

Michel-Rolph Trouillot (rolph@uchicago.edu) is Professor of
Anthropology at the University of Chicago. He is the author of
several books, of which are Ti difé boulé sou Istoua Ayiti (1977); 
Les Racines historiques de l’état duvaliérien (1986);
Haiti: State against Nation. The Origins and Legacy of
Duvalierism (1990); and Silencing the Past: Power and the
Production of History.

 Guerres, Annexations et Invasions

L’ invasion de la partie est d’Hispaniola par les troupes du
président Jean-Pierre Boyer en 1822 inaugure une occupation
qui dure 22 ans. En Mars 1843, Charles Hérard ainé (dit Rivière), 
qui succède à Boyer, ne peut faire face aux forces séparatistes. L’indépendance de la République dominicaine s’ensuit en 1844.
En 1845, le président Jean-Louis Pierrot projette une
invasion qui avorte. En Mars 1849, attisé en partie par la
reconnaisance de l’indépendance de la République dominicaine
par la France, Faustin Soulouque traverse la frontière avec
15,000 hommes. Le 21 Avril, ses forces sont finalement battues
par celles du général Pedro Santana à Las Carreras. Mais
le même Santana, anxieux des ambitions haïtiennes initie
une anexation de son pays par l’Espagne (1859-1865). En 1888,
aidé par Florvil Hyppolite, Casimiro Nemesio de Moya projette
une invasion contre le président dominicain Ulysse
Heureaux, mais le même Hyppolite le trahit pour se protéger
à son tour d’une invasion d’exilés haïtiens. En fait, les invasions
viendront d’ailleurs. Le 28 juillet 1915, les marines américains
débarquent à Bizoton. Le 16 mai 1916 ils occupent Santo Domingo.

Michel-Rolph Trouillo

1 Among the many books of Haitian writer René Philoctète
(1932-1996), the 1989 novel, Le Peuple des terres mêlées
(The People of the Jumbled Lands), tells the love story of
Adèle Benjamin, a Haitian peasant woman, and Dominican
worker Pedro Brito. The setting is the Haitian-Dominican
border during the massacre of Haitians by Trujillo’s army in 1937.
Philoctète wondered: "Two nations, one island! And why not a
single people?" This is a reply to René, a man of hope,
beyond death.

 2 The earliest treaties recognizing a de facto occupation
that Spain officially judged unacceptable date from the
beginning of the seventeenth century. Today’s Haiti is
larger than the French colony of Saint-Domingue.
Even the limits set by Aranjuez would change as the
French and then the Haitians gnawed on the neighboring
territory. On the history of the border, see Moya Pons 1992.

 3 Haitian anthropology repeatedly insisted on that point since
its birth (e.g. Firmin 1886).

 4 On the Haitian invasions, see insert.

 5 The history of the Dominican Republic is punctuated by
immigration  policies explicitly targeting the physical settlement
of the border areas and the whitening of the human landscape.
In the absence of actual whites, anyone who did not look like
the Haitians would do, from Canary Islanders to Japanese!
On Dominican racial categories and the construction of race,
see Torres-Saillant (1998) and Charles (1992).

 6 Lozano (1992b) estimated between 60,900 and 117,900
Haitian workers and dependent involved in Dominica agriculture
outside of sugarcane in 1988. The numbers are fuzzy, just as
those of the sugar bateys, exactly because who is Haitian is
problematic in the Dominican context. Individuals of Haitian
descent born in the Dominica Republic or perfectly legal Haitian
immigrants are treated as foreigners and criminals by local authorities. Dominican soldiers burn their papers without sanction
(Martinez 1995:9-10).

7 In Haitian, the adjective panyòl means "Spanish," but the noun
panyòl means either a Spaniard, a Dominican, or a prostitute,
preferably of Dominican origins.

 8 The Palmchat is not only a species but a whole family unique to Hispaniola. It is classified with the wanga-nègess and ten other birds endemic to the island among the world endangered species.


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