Current time Dominican Republic

DR protestHaitians and Dominicans come in a myriad of shades, and few would get a second look if they were manning the grill at an African American family reunion. Photograph: Orlando Barria/EPA

My children were born in the United States. But since they have a Dominican-born grandfather, they are eligible for citizenship in the Dominican Republic once they turn 18. But as the country gears up to deport some 200, 000 undocumented residents of Haitian descent, children who actually live and have roots there may be loaded onto buses and taken from the only home they’ve ever known.

People who support the ruling say that it has been unfair that the Dominican Republic, a poor country in its own right, has had to constantly come to the aid of Haiti and its people. Others view it as an ethnic cleansing similar to the Parsley Massacre, when Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo oversaw the killing of some 20, 000 Haitians in the late 1930s. (It’s called that because Trujillo reportedly had troops kill people who didn’t pronounce “perejil” with a Spanish inflection.)

Trujillo painted Dominicans as proud but modest campesinos – the hybrid of Spanish conquistadores and native Tainos – and Haitians as superstitious, backward, physically grotesque Africans. Public education in the Dominican Republic for decades under Trujillo was nationalistic and hateful toward Haiti and its people.

But Trujillo himself had a grandmother of Haitian descent, as had generations of both Dominican elites and working people. Ulises Heureaux, president of the Dominican Republic in the 1880s, was partly of Haitian descent. Popular 20th-century presidential candidate Jose Pena Gomez was adopted into a Dominican family and thought to have had Haitian birth parents who fled Trujillo’s death squads. Haitians and Dominicans come in a myriad of shades, and few of either nationality would get a second look if they were manning the grill at an African American family reunion.

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