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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.

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

  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. One has to ask: can this desperate situation be fixed? Where to begin? It all seems so hopeless and it does not help that this is a hot climate. It is about as different as it could be from Switzerland, or Scandinavia for that matter. It is almost impossible for us (who live in more affluent countries) to imagine the life that a Haitian lives.

  3. So at the same there was natives on all that land and the black Haitians mixed with them and Dominicans also ion understand how they let the Spanish have the rest of the land and another thing they need to break that deal with the devil from voodoo after winning that Haiti war .im half Louisiana Creole my ancestors use to do it tried to until that Louisiana massacre broke out we could have won an have it all as one country itself

  4. Haiti, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Mozambique, Congo, Uganda…. Compare with Singapore, also in the tropics, but completely devoid of resources and independent only for 60 years or so. The differences in achievement are astronomical. Work, study, family and culture make all the difference.

  5. So all this backwardness in Haiti is because Haitians are not treated well at two vegetable markets on the border. Thanks to Vox for finding the cause of this problem which can now be solved. Vox also treated the the re-integration of Crimea with Russia in the same way ie sending a couple of guys with a camera to Crimea and inform us ignorant Europeans (who can tell the difference between Austria and Australia) of what actually happened. I now look forward to Vox sending a couple of guys to Boeing's production centre to tell us why Boeing Max keep on dropping from the sky and whether it's the fault of the Russians.

  6. its not right it shouldnt be this way. unite them. teach. build compassion and trust between the two. someone must change this. 💔

  7. Haiti: over 100 years of debt re payment between 1821 to 1946 to France – to give you an idea…. the money paid represented between 25 to 40% of the French wealth each year….economic murder + US /western embargo for almost a century from inception…IMPOSSIBLE to build stables communities in these conditions….

  8. Though Haiti is a really poor country, Dominican Republic is also poor. Just because in Dominican Republic you will see nice hotels and resorts for rich or middle class tourists from other countries, that doesn't mean Dominican Republic is economically stable or rich. In fact Dominican Republic has remained one of the poorest countries in the Caribbean, but of course, Haiti being so poor makes any other country seem developed and stabled, when that is not really the case.

  9. Este no sabe lo que abla nosotros los dominicanos 🇩🇴 no somos responsables de que ello destruirán su país, y es Francia que es responsable de ellos no nosotros..

  10. The truth is they were both one until the leaders of Hati came up with a plan too make a deal with the devil to get rid of French occupation….the Dominican leaders wanted nothing to do with this idea because they were Catholics.. .. so they told Hati if you do what you say you are going to do then we will disown you guys and have nothing to do with you or your country Haiti did it overthrew the French occupation and ever since then they've been cursed don't believe me this is a fact……

  11. It's a fact : All the countries that were colonized by France are still underdeveloped. And France is still pumping their resources under the treaties signed after the independence and with the help of corrupt leaders.

  12. Yeah right….It's all the racist Dominican's fault that Haiti is completely dis-functional. Couldn't have anything to do with the corrupt and incompetent Haitian politicians.

  13. Hmm. Well it was kind of interesting and I learned a bit of history of these two countries but scrolling through the comments it seems that there's a bunch of important stuff missing. Not sure if it's fair to say Johnny / Vox should have put all these nuanced points into this very short overview / introduction but I wish it was in there.. Can anyone recommend a video that goes more in depth on this?

  14. Saint Martin is part of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean Sea. It comprises 2 separate countries, divided between its northern French side, called Saint-Martin, and its southern Dutch side, Sint Maarten.

  15. Que tu quieres si el mercado está del lado dominicano que dejen que los haitianos les quiten el puesto a los dominicanos.
    What you want, the market is on the Dominican side, let the Haitians take the jobs away from the Dominicans.

  16. Los US Citizens dejan que los mexicanos les quiten su puesto. Se sabe que la nación que tiene mejores condiciones económicas, mas organizada y mejor preparada, tiene dominio sobre la otra.

  17. Most people are brain washed they really wants people to believe dominican are racist and we have more than 3 million of them in dr and they don’t pay a penny in taxes and get everything free from the dominican government and if we’re racist why don’t everyone who said we are racist and treat them like dog why don’t you take them to your house and take care of them each person can take one in their house and the problem will be solved

  18. You haven't wondered, who's to blame for Haiti being in this situation.
    Tu no te has preguntado, quien tiene la culpa de que Haití esté en esta situación.

  19. Right is right and wrong is wrong and that right there was wrong it don't matter if the DOMINICANS are bothered it don't give you the right to mistreat any person that way it bothers me to see the world we live in

  20. The Dominicans did have lots of slaves, they were the indigenous population. The Spanish completely destroyed the native population. There was not much intermarriage. The natives were sent to the mines where they died in their thousands.
    This guy paints a very pretty picture of Dominican history that is far from the truth.

  21. Hey @vox from 8:53 to 8:55 please blur out the little child, he is a bit indecent and does show a bit too much skin if you know what I mean

  22. I am from DR …. You also showed an short scene tht dominicans are trying to hurt haitians at ( 8.05 ) but they were criminals tht lived in a town , the video is amazing but u had to indagate a bit more because tht can cause misundertanding to the ppl tht do not know some info about it !!! ADIOSSSS

  23. The reason of this disparity is historical resentment just like Israel and neighboring Muslim countries. After Haiti’s independence to pay off the debt of the french, Haiti’s president of the time, Jean Pierre Boyer invaded an independent country named Spanish Haiti (yes Dominican Republic was called spanish Haiti on its first independence, which lasted 2 months due to the invasion, an was to be part of Great Colombia by Simon Bolivar). During the invasion there was oppression of catholic religion, and making the eastern habitants second class citizens. This sparked a rebellion of La trinitaria to fight for independence in 1844

  24. Interesting .!
    I've learnt a lot, at the same time I understand why the Haitians are like are they are
    When they come to the Bahamas they are militant! they are ungrateful! (not all of but most of them, about 70% and it's a lot of them) some Bahamians believe that eventually they are going to take over, because it's almost as much of them as it is us…..
    Haitians are invasive in any part of the world that they go, somewhat like the Chinese, the difference between them is :

    The Chinese don't be visible and is extremely quiet, extremely!
    They don't cause any waves which I think is more dangerous because you never really know how much of them are there, every once in awhile you see more pop up.

    The Haitians are right in your face, it is as though they tend to forget where they are "in the Bahamas".

    This short documentary is a makeup of a sad story but everybody has their fight, we don't need another Nation to bring their flight to us, and that's what Haitians does.
    Much of what the Muslims do when they get numbers.

    If it keeps happening I think that it will end up into a Civil War, (worst case scenario) "I hope it never happens" the possibility is ever so visible……
    They are Breeders they have children 7 times through rate as Bahamians are having them and they always believe that somebody is doing them wrong or trying to take advantage of them and would fight you unto death once this believe is in their heads,
    ( once again not all of them)
    And they are not passive at all.

    I give it another 20 years then it will be just as much as them as it is us, then another 10 to 15 years for something to kick up
    God be with us all I hope I'm wrong!

  25. Thanks for this video! The world needed to hear this, Dominican needed to hear this! The racism has to stop my fellow Dominicans!

  26. Until when the colour of a skin or race will dictate one's freedom and right in this not long lasting world? Its heartbreaking.

  27. The US should copy DR law…cool.

    Now seriously . really how about the US invasion….
    The Haitian Invation…
    The Dictators propped up by the US..

  28. Its not just the Dominicans that dont like Haitians… you should hear some of the comments coming from Bahamians after Dorian.

  29. I got confused when you said Dominicans, because I thought you meant people from Dominica, I call people from the Dominican Republic, Dominican Republicans or Dominic Republicans.

  30. Why dont you let mexican come in your country then and do whatever they see fit, stop taking about thing thats happen in your own country you hipocrits

  31. It was earthquakes and fload that created all this land occupied by other people the land were formerly joined as black Nations land same is happening today.

  32. This video is labeled " how haiti and DR bacame two worlds" and i dont see any of that here! this is trying to label Dominicans as "racist" so uniform message you tring to give with this! you need to educate yourself a lot better!

  33. The story is not about racism (all parties are black), its about extreme government oppression and corruption. Haiti's government is the problem.

  34. Yo vox make sure yah put the right ppl to give right informations, that white boy don’t know what he talking about. 🤦🏽‍♂️🤦🏽‍♂️🤦🏽‍♂️🤦🏽‍♂️🤦🏽‍♂️ bad info

  35. How did they become two worlds? One island originally inhabited by Indigenous people, murdered, then colonized and exploited by Europeans (France and Spain) who forced the kidnapped African slaves to work the land and build their economic empires. The same way that Mexico and the U.S. are two completely different worlds despite sharing a border: Two separate colonies, two separate countries. Sharing a border doesn't make you connected in some way, still two separate countries. Colonization is virtually the same story for all of the Americas and its former colonies.

  36. You are putting Dominicans as racist forgetting that we are black too and you are putting Haitians like victim and they are everything but victim

  37. The God of the whole earth is looking on and will bring retribution and justice where it is due, the powers that be, nations, and the rulers responsible, will one day face the wrath of an Almighty God! Trust me, non shall escape!!!

  38. 67 times did the Haitians tried to invade Dominican Republic in recorded history (with 22 years of continuous invasion) from 1801 up to 1867 when the Haitian government of the time finally accepted dominican independence.

  39. Did any money from your Lululemon sponsorship of this video go into the Haitian community, or at least to those who featured in this film, which Vox will still be making money from on YouTube?

  40. I cried watching this…especially seeing that mother arrested by police and her baby boy jumping up crying….and when they threw the Haitian woman off the ground and cut off the Haitian man’s locks 😭 😢how can they treat a fellow human being this way! They are so racist and anti-black. And btw aren’t Dominicans part black/African…many of they are brown and dark skinned?

  41. Maybe I don't have enough knowledge about Hatian affairs but it would seem obvious that they would need to focus on the economy and education of the people. Possibly have other countries invest.
    Haiti can/should be independent like other countries in the carribean.

  42. My ex father was Haitian and when I told him my father was from the Dominican republic he never talked to me again. He literally hated me until his death. He was in his early eighties. He had been in the states for 30 years. He told me he never went back to Haiti after he left. Now I understand him, after watching this. Wow

  43. Haiti would have been better off if the French never imported black people to the colony. If Haiti was inhabited by the descendants of the French, it would be the New Zealand of the Caribbean.

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