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.




Comments
  1. 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

  2. Why are we always helping or protecting these corrupt former French colonies like Haiti and Yemen . Let France deal with it !

  3. oh come on its always the same explanation, blaming colonial powers for the current situation. There might be a corellation between colonialism and fail states but dont mix it up with causation. It is always easy to blame someone else for your own failure, but it always takes away motivation, to improve from status quo. There are plenty nations which made it to the top from nothing just by getting things done.

  4. It's ironic, many Dominicans are black, not like Puerto Ricans who are mostly white skinned people.

  5. You got my like right after i finish to watch your video Jonny, koz you're a very intelligent gentleman who travelled and make this very educational video and post it on the social media.
    Well few historical information are missing,like the haitian occupation of the dominican Republic, the involvement of US for decades to destroy Haiti,exemple the administration of Ronald Reagan who brought the country totally down pretending to bring democracy by ousting baby doc and sump the country into chaos and disorder until the day of today and so on and on.

    But Thank you for this video, I'm haitian and this video is enough accurate . Thumb you up.😂

  6. That's very sad, but who pays to help them? No such thing as a free lunch. Someone will eventually have to pay the bill. So who pays?

  7. This makes me feel so disgusted to be human and treat others like this. Why don't hatians have their own military and gaurds

  8. The elephant in the room, one is a country of blacks , the other is a country of mixed race with white influence, one is still living in the Stone Age , one isn't.

  9. Isnt it more like shoving black people on one side and the majority white on the other side. How about removing unruly slaves then, and sending them to Jamaica 🇯🇲.

  10. Wondeful video. Sad and despairing. The world, and I mean the West continues to shun Haiti despite the numerous tragedies and ills that befall her, whether man made or natural disasters. To compound this with the discrimination by the DR and racist terminology now enshrined in law, really is a sad state of affairs. I wish the Government and people of Haiti a strong future. Your prosperity lies within, not outside from other nations who dont want you to suceed. One day soon you will prevail and be a stronger people and nation.

  11. Is there even one ex french colony that is doing well?? excluding their current dependencies. That tells a lot.

  12. Just don't go to the DR visit Haiti instead this will boost the Haitian economy and feed a lot of hungry helpless people , besides murder of many tourists are being committed in the DR so why would anyone want to go there

  13. I pray the African Union should Take in These People and Establishment a mechanism to solve these Human Degredation.

  14. Only vox can me Haitis last of dictators strong men and plain horrible dictions makes it the fault of the USA or France England lol.. Not the real history at all . Missing about billion in stolen money bribery robberies just plain chaos

  15. Just watching vice I notice NOTHING can ever be the fault of others , just the main players USA uk eu and even though we give these ppl tons of cash as help every year..common

  16. Good reads…

    White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo.
    The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism
    by Edward E. Baptist.
    Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi.

  17. Nearly everything that's wrong in that island and in much of Latin America nowadays stems from the fact that the Spanish, French and Portuguese brought slaves from Africa. They should have never done that. Had they been left alone in Africa, there would have been no abuse in much of the Americas. Those people have been hopelessly struggling for generations and the future is not looking promising to them.

  18. Listening to this video on noise canceling headphones man ur audio is on point. Thank you for making this video 💪❤️✌️

  19. Of course Vox would ignore the hatred the Dominicans have for the Haitians over the past atrocities of Haitian dictators. One hazy reference offhandedly mentioned made to lessen it's significance. So much easier to make long held ethnic hatred at feet of past colonialism. Racism somehow always leads back to "Caucasia".

  20. Cause the Haitians colonized Dominican Republican, killed tons of Dominicans, then we fought for our freedom!!!! So we independents!!

  21. Nice nice.. Talking about the systematic oppression of the Haitian people by the DR and ending it off with a lovely tid bit on lululemons.. racism and jeans, my favorite!

  22. You could at least have mentioned the voodoo curse which cam with the revolution. Haiti needs to repent and turn back to God.

  23. Very interesting video. But you have to take anything a white liberal reporter says with a grain of salt. They always have an agenda and wield the power of media and academia to put their spin on everything. Usually blaming everything on racism or global warming.

  24. You can find out how many Haitians with Dominican id and if they get their permanent residence would be easy but just like Mexican are afraid of getting counted in the census for the same fear

  25. Is it really always Racism. Any time a country is a failure it must be racism. So easy to figure out. I wonder if there could be other reasons but we just can't say so?

  26. En estos comentarios se ven como ahí personas llenas de egoísmo y maldad, no todos los haitianos son ilegales, explotados, violadores, o no pagan impuestos, ustedes deberían de ponerse a pensar de otra manera por qué en el mundo ahí otra persona que piense lo mismo que ustedes dicen hacia ustedes, buenas noches

  27. Do not forget that America blocked Haitians trading abilities and occupied Haiti for twenty years.

  28. That is so sickening as Afro-Americans fight for equil and fair treatment of Latino immigrants. I used to have great love for Dominicans but that has waned.

  29. I talked to plenty of DR people in the USA. They hate the Haitians, regard them as devil worshipers and of course, Haitians are black. Blacks destroy cities and contries. The DRs hate them, want then kept out.

  30. Quer malos son, a los puerto riquenos la isla hermana le llaman algunos pero los que de verdad son hermanos que los tienen a la par los descriminan. en toda la historia los racistas siempre usan las mismas escusas que son araganes, oportunistas, ladrones, son diferentes… y lo peor es que los adultos dicen eso y la siguiente generacion (ninos) ven aprenden para en unos anos seguir con la misma cultura racista…

  31. This is the part of the story of Haiti that the press routinely leaves out of their reporting. This video gives some desperately needed context for understanding the situation over there. 🤬

  32. The World most help the People of the Republic of Haiti, after The United States occupation of July 28, 1915 – August 1, 1934 (19 years and 4 days), Duvalier dynasty (1957–86) , The U.S.-led invasion in 1994 and The United Nations Stabilisation Mission (MINUSTAH) was established after the 2004.

    Many Country acuse The Dominican Republic of not loving theirs enemies, yes enemies if you look at it from history point of view.
    Haiti and it 10+ Millions of people is not responsibility of the D.R. they are totally different people, the main problem that I see is Haitian showing in their school to hate Dominican, so can their be real pease?

  33. These useless aborigines have to stop blaming others. Stop having children until they can care for the ones they already have.

  34. I am from Haiti and I want to make something very clear to you all because this videos makes light of it. Haitian people and revolutionaries were the only slaves and European colonial subjects in the entire history of European colonization to completely force a European power out of a colony by force. The British surrendered at Yorktown but, did the French did not surrender against us. Our victory was won by force and will to be free.

  35. Instead of just saying the dominican haitians citizenship was revoked because they are black, did you investigate the reasons? If those people were hard working people, contributing to society, paying taxes, etc would that have happened? I kinda doubt it. I'm not saying they weren't hard working contributors, but it's worth investigation. I don't know. Were they a drain on dominican society? Things like revoking citizenship and discrimination happen due to pressure from other people, not just because of skin color. Or maybe i'm just a color-blind dreamer.

  36. trujillo was a murderous dr tyrant, but he did establish protection of dr’s natural resources. also this vid makes it seem like dr is well off vs poor haiti but its not its very poor and corrupt too. the whole of hispanola is sad and obviously everybody had a hand in that, its a shame.

  37. I’m from New York City and I’m from Puerto Rico the Dominicans are just as hateful and racist here especially towards us because we are better

  38. 4:02…the root of the Haitian are the Original American Indians and were called the Nobles. No Colonizers can and should "claim possession" of indigenous people Lands, it's because of 'your' trespassing ancestors why the original Americans face all kind of genocide and discrimination.

  39. France still receives colonial tax from MANY African countries including Haiti til this day. Without it the economy of France would plummet

  40. The tribe of levi (Haiti) are cursed, they are apart of the 12 tribes of isreal, they are gods children, they need to repent for their sins, stop doing voo doo, and the tribe of simeon( DR) needs to do the same

  41. Sad for the people of Haiti. A bigger sad how people who took advantage in the early days of Haiti. Whatever reasons or decisions made in the past by their forefathers. The next generation always ends up paying, when they are not part of the decision making of their forefathers. No matter what color u are, we are all the same species human beings. It's easy to forgive but hard to forget. The challenges for its neighboring people is, learning to forgive of the pass. Nothing is perfect but if we try it will make the world a better place. Thanks for sharing.

  42. its just like in africa, they make a difference between white africa (north) and black africa (south). But for the european people they are all just african and arabs

  43. Haitians can start by trading among themselves, then look for a friendlier nation to trade with, in most cases, DR would need them more than they need DR stuff. One always got a choice.

  44. How are Dominicans being racist towards black when Dominicans are also mixed with black? If they were really being racist they would ban black Dominicans as well. However, it’s more about keeping Dominicans as Dominicans and not Haitians.

  45. Like someone else mentioned, why go after DR but not France to help Haiti? Go petition France to pay back the money they made Haiti pay after they free themselves and give money for the colonizations and destruction of the land. It’s so simple yet you ignore a wealthy country and let them go Scott free while attacking a 3rd world country that had little to do with Haiti and it’s economy.

  46. Haitians are Dominican number one customer, if they stop buying good from the DR. The Dominican market will have a effect.

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