The Dominican Republic and Haiti
Imagine yourself as a businessperson on a trip to the island of Hispaniola to check on how production is faring. You land in Santo Domingo to transfer to a short commuter flight to Port-au-Prince. During the flight, you gaze outside your window to admire the breathtaking view of the Sierra de Baoruco, with its luscious forests. As the plane approaches the Haiti-Dominican Republic border, you notice that the land has been completely denuded of trees directly on the other side of the border, creating a clear demarcation between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
This physical border is only one indication of the clear contrast between the two countries that share Hispaniola. According to the CIA World Factbook, in 2002 the Dominican Republic had a per capita GDP of $6,100, with 55% of the work force in the service sector and 25% of the population below the poverty line, while in Haiti, the per capita GDP was only $1,700, with 66% of the work force in the agricultural sector and 80% of the population below the poverty line. Likewise, the Dominican economy expanded by 4.2%, while the Haitian economy shrank by 1.5%. Historical differences in the political nature of both countries determined the diverging courses which each had taken, especially considering the dictatorships of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic and the Duvalier family in Haiti. Structures of government, corruption within these structures, and economic decisions paved these two paths.
Dominican Façade: “Men behind the curtain”
Political structures in the Dominican Republic and Haiti have been closely related through their interconnected histories and dictatorships, though they diverged from this common history. After the transfer of the western part of Hispaniola to France, the history of Santo Domingo became intertwined with the events in Saint-Domingue. During Napoleon’s reign in France, Napoleon sought to control the entire island of Hispaniola through control of Spain and the reacquisition of Haiti. Harsh rule by the governors-general induced loyalists to form the movement La Reconquista to rise up in order to restore Spanish sovereignty. (Metibag 91)
Though the colony was returned to Spain in 1809, weak support led to a decay in colonial infrastructure, leading to a revolt, led by José Núñez de Cáceres and Don Manuel Carvajal, which declared “Spanish Haiti” independent. However, the new nation was vulnerable, and Boyer immediately seized on the opportunity to unite the island for security purposes, seeking to impose “Haitianization” on Santo Domingo economically and politically. Such aspects of “Haitianization” included abolition of slavery, land redistribution, settlement of Haitians, and forced cultivation of crops in a region dominated by cattle ranchers. (Moya Pons 123, 133) An insurrection group named los trinitarios seized on the discontent of the Dominican people in...