Exploring the history and experiences of mixed heritage persons and inter-racial relationships across the world

Caribbean Racism

October 27th, 2010

Working on the Dominican Republic chapter, I was fascinated by the racism in that region.  In a nutshell, the Puerto Ricans, from the island just east of the Dominican Republic and whose population mainly self-identify as white discriminate against the Dominicans who mainly self-identify as mixed.  The racial discrimination that the Dominicans show towards their fellow islanders, the Haitians, has even been investigated by United Nations who declared that the discrimination is very evident in Dominican Republic society.  Haiti whose people mainly identify as black, as most of the other Caribbean islands with large ex-slave populations, has the honour of being the first independent Latin American country and the first black led republic in the world.

Dominican girls at carnival

Dominican girls at carnival (Click for rights)

All over the world there has been a concerted effort to tackle racism but this does not appear to be something being actively pursued in these countries.  Whilst obviously historically influenced, I have to wonder if the continuing racism that is being displayed by these societies is fuelled by illegal and legal immigration.  The Haitians forced by abject poverty in their own country seek better pastures mainly illegally in the Dominican Republic.  The Dominicans, despite the fact their country having nearly the largest economy in Central America and the Caribbean and has a high GDP for Latin America, seek pastures new in Puerto Rico, many crossing illegally and dangerously across the sea in dubious boats.  Some use this as a stepping stone to the USA, where Dominicans form the 5th largest Latin American community, but many also remain in Puerto Rico.  Considerable mixed marriages are said to be occurring thus subtly changing the racial dynamic in Puerto Rico.

Deforestation in Haiti

Deforestation in Haiti which is on the left. (Click for Rights)

The Dominican policy to Haitians – formalised as Antihaitianismo (“anti-Haitianism”) by the dictator Rafael Trujillo who was quarter Haitian and who ruled for 30 years – is interesting considering that the racial mix is what the Spanish termed mulatto, that is, European and African with evidence of some indigenous Taíno mixing as well.  The racism appears to stem from the fact that the European mix is Spanish and no thought is given to the shared ancestry on the African side. Though Haiti was effectively mainly a French colony producing some mulâtre offspring, the colony was effectively exploited and slaves made up 90% of the population.  The mixed race people either assimilated or joined the exodus that left Haiti at independence.

What is also interesting is that facing discrimination in Puerto Rico and probably in the USA, the diaspora’s probable distain for racism is not being fed back into the Republic with the millions of dollars remitted back each year.  It is a fascinating question to ask if any Dominican who has faced racism abroad and has returned home still maintains the racist attitude to Haitians.

I look forward to visiting this region investigating this phenomenon in greater detail.