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 100

  • 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

  • Hatian just take the island. War time get weapons from America through Jamaica war's big buck's land it always had been a black Island black Indians indigenous people and they foreigners

  • The Dominicans are not the epitome of whiteness either, they shouldn't be so racist. All people are the same, there are only good and bad people. Love to Haiti.

  • I have seen doc on making land green and fertile that need too be done in Haiti for a start .

  • Were it not for the Haitian revolution the United States would still be 13 colonies along the eastern coast of United States

  • Hitting them with a STICK WTH🧐😳😓

  • a video on Haiti and no mention of the Zombies, that's the problem, Zombies, i mean they eat your brains and have bad punctuality, smell bad and eat your Brains, Just saying it's probably a Zombie problem.

  • Que viva la hispanidad, que viva hispanoamerica, arriba España que viva la republica dominicana libre de toda potencia extrangera y del yugo de los haitianos y de la intervenciones politicas de la onu y ee uu ,un pueblo que muere de hambre y se cometen injusticias y todos critican el que no tengamos buenas relaciones con nuestros vecinos solo por que ellos son negros (los haitianos no son hermanos no comparten nuestra herencia España la como los demas paises hipanos americanos) desde cuando el color de piel se convierte en una razon para saludar a alguien ??? En RD tenemos 39 tonalidades de piel aca el rasismo es tabú aca te encuentras de todo solo tienes que conocer la historia, como es posible que paran mas haitianas en RD que dominicanas y que a las dominicanas se les mueran los hijos por que nadie les ayuda economicamente por que no son negras y tampoco son haitianas hipocritas

  • Because one is Spanish and the other one French: Two Different Worlds

  • THANX to the "ALBIONS"!! (GERMANIC TRIBES of"EUROPE"!!)

  • LET'S NOT Forget "CHRISTIANITIY'S" IMPACT!!!

  • Look what's coming to AMERICA

  • What are they going to do when the trees are gone?

  • Very sad!!

  • The history of the countries its incorrect, Haiti was born because the spanish abandoned that side of the island, Sugar and coffe plantations were introduced by the french. On the other hand this historys about racism are taking out of context… Please before passing judgement inform your self better.

  • The Haitians killd Columbus

  • Thanks for the info. Interesting situation.

  • White people, or Pink people to be correct, always tell the scratchy history in order to avoid telling the real truth. The true reason is the HAITIAN defeated both three wold power at that time, BRITISH, SPANISH. FRENCH. For that reason, they guarantee the country and it has never recovered from it.

  • This is SO SAD, Vox CONGRAAAAAAAAAAAAATS for a GREAT piece of information

  • Only China can save haiti

  • Never knew they are Latin

  • I hate how racist my country is because I see no difference between Haitians and me (Dominicans) we’re basically all black and the only difference is language

  • I thought people of color could not be racist tho.

  • Haitians where brought to Dr as slaves the Hispanic people are natives of the island just like every other Hispanic nation They are Spanish tribes indigenous people The Haitians where freed and took over the other side , unfortunately A lot of black slaves where taken all over the world even America to work and have been abused Brazil also has mixed races mostly blacks brought on ships as slaves mixing with the local tribes – HAITIANS NEED SUPPORT AND HELP IF THEY CAN FIX THINGS THEN THEY DONT NEED TO INVADE OTHER COUNTRIES SAME THING THATS HAPPENING HERE IN THE USA !

  • Can't get passed the first minute when he says "The stable and rich Dominican Republic". I know you have a story to do, but can this dude do a more realistic pitch? DR is a 3rd world country. SMH.

  • the united nations caused much of this by failing in it's original charter…

  • it's not racism, it's their awful culture, if you let every one to enter RD they will ruin the country, like
    USA almost had happened in their country and like is happening recently in my home country chile with all these mass migration. RD is doing right to keep strong rule for the borders, but they shouldn't treat the people that way

  • Im a Dominican; I dream of a day where our people (Dominican & Haitian) could once again reunite as our ancestors. We were kings and queens before the evil Europeans came. In fact the whole Caribbean should make our own Union and kick out any European influence.

  • @Vox – At 8:50, the DR's Constitution (2013) has an error of redaction. (j) In words it says, "nineteen ninety nine" which is (1999) not (1929). If this error is real, the deportation actions that DR is performing against the ppl born on (1929) is illegal and unconstitutional.

  • If you born in Haiti you are not Haitian. They also have the same rule. You have to see the other side of the story.

  • And Naomi Osaka came from Haiti?

  • En vez de estar hablando si saber Lee la historia. Cuando ellos se independizaron de Francia nos colonizaron a los Dominicanos y nos maltrataron muchos. El problema no es de color porque los Dominicanos somos negros también. Nosotros no nos independizamos de España los hicimos de Haití y ellos hicieron con nosotros como los Hutus en Kigalis que mataban a todos por su etnias. Cortar un árbol para un Dominicano es un crimen muy penado por la ley pero ellos se mudan a Dominicana y lo hacen carbón Se hacen cacavaca en nuestras calles y patios sin importarle nada. Hazlo aquí en USA o Europa a ver si te lo van a permitir. Te invito a que haga otro reportaje bien hecho y documentado e informe cómo es. NOSOTROS SOMOS NEGROS TAMBIÉN. Y SOMOS POBRES TAMBIÉN. DEFENDEMOS NUESTRA PATRIA COMO DEBE HACERLO CUALQUIER PAIS

  • His own words he met negros like the Ethiopians so why show a pic of Mongolian/ Indians

  • Im from Puerto Rico 🇵🇷 i came to read some comments about dignity equality and respect ✊ we are the Caribbean and we should love help each other like brothers and sisters

  • I dont like how the Spain did it and how the French did it, the spanish massacred the natives, they took care of the land better, they didnt have as much slaves. The french destroyed the land , and oppressed more slaves, neither side did good

  • Just goes to show the impact Europeans had on other nations. Wherever there were Europeans there's instability and racism…

  • Why does the Bahamas, Chile and Mexico have the same issue with Haitian immigration ?

  • Awesome video and soundtrack!

  • Wow major skin tone discrimation in DR. GREAT info video.

  • So you just forget that haiti was somewhat rich in the XIX century, but they waste their money ib useless thing, they devastate the land as a independent republic not only in the french domine and the final punch to their economy was a dictaror that represents everything why any black nation is developed or has gained some wealth like ir happened to zimbabwe.

  • Trashy documentary, it only shows one side of the story.

  • Perception is Greater than Con-ception ( a false view…), do the Graspmatyx by Guyanist Dr. R. Yates.

    Disfortunately, most Americans (not all), are told, or taught what to think, NOT HOW to THINK.

    Vox left out the historical parts of, how the Americans then and now, especially, the Clintons Bill and Hillary have exploited Hai-ti. You did not tell them how the Eye-Land Nation originally was called Hai-ti, and the people are called Haitians, not Hate-hesians, because the Country is NOT Hate-tea, or Hate-he. It is Hai-t, or Eye-T.

  • The end where the woman says " we keep coming back because we are shameless" and she gives that smile, just broke my heart.

  • they're all dark skinned blacks haiti speaks french dominicans speaks spanish!

  • So disturbing n sad. You should also include what's next to look for solutions to improve the country!

  • Thank u for showing this I'm Haitian and I love 2 hear the good things i still feel like it was a agenda behind government our culture and people are great

  • Americans keep hush because we were the first slaves 2 rebel and claim independence Thank u for shining light on it

  • Excuse me sir you are partially right and partially wrong the facts of retaliation the Haitians rebelled now this is to be jokes and the punishment to show the world if you reveal this is what happens

  • Los haitianos hablan que los dominicanos los maltratan y no lo quieren , entonces que se queden en su país y no se preocupen por ir a rep dom , el gobierno de Francia que lo ayuden o Estados Unidos que le den facilidad para entrar a su pais ..

  • Vive haiti

  • You forgot to mention the massacre conducted back in the 30’s aimed at clearing out Haitian peoples from the D.R. by the Trujillo regime.

  • Thanks for sharing. Great history 👍

  • He don't mention that Dominican builded a hospital and university in Haiti and most of the new borns in Dominican are from haiti and the dominican goberment paid for them

  • If I had money I would of help both of the country

  • Reparations is the answer

  • The hate between different Latino groups makes no sense Haitians are Latino why other Latinos hate on them so much makes no sense and a lot of Dominican are so racist to them even though there basically the same people different form of latin toung that’s the only difference

  • Why so much Sufferation for us Black people oh Jah plz mercy we

  • If you are heading to the dominican republic anytime soon check out dominican meet on google play

  • You should add that polish troops under french command ,when they saw the injustice turn back on France and helped Haiti gain their independence,a lot of them stayed on the island back then.

  • Karma is alive and if you treat another person wrong you will answer to god we are all human being we should all live in peace people who has racism in their mind is mentally ill but the people in the world has free will the energy is either positive or negative energy negative energy in the mind create problems such as racism greed anxiety etc etc we hurt each other so much not forgetting that we have short live on earth we kept doing the same mistake over and over that came from ancestors

  • Iam dominican and I do not hate haitian… but I want my country keep independent and we do not have to be responsable of what Haiti's government had done in their country… is not our responsability

  • 200,000 Haitians whom don't speak Spanish, wow, Yes the Europe union and the United States never forgiven them for being the only black Republic in the American continent.

  • People want France to pay for something that Happend 200 years ago. Imagine ur grand grand father was in debt and you have to pay for it today. Doesnt work that way. People today aint responsible for what people Did 200 years ago.

  • Yes.Dominicans are racist towards Haitians for their skin color. The history is just an excuse. Once we acknowledge maybe we can make progress and heal. I am Dominican and I don’t care what anyone says. What I am saying is the truth.

  • This is incredible. Wow.

  • Haïti=Africa. Dominican Republic=Latin America.

  • Thank you for showing the world what it is like to black any where in this world.Haitians are as nice as every one,like the one lady said, they never give up.Right on lady!

  • Out of all the islands in the Carribean, Haiti would be the last island id want to go to.

  • Idk how ppl do documentaries like this wit no information about the whole story….

  • that last smile was heart touching made me cry.hope someday they will get justice and fair treament.

  • Why black people suffering everywhere on earth ?
    Laziness or cursed

  • this is similar to what is happening in South-Africa

  • wanna know a sick fact?
    there's individuals on this planet with enough financial networth to completely modernize this country and it wouldn't even put a dent in their wallet. it wouldn't even matter to trillionaires, or even billionaires.
    what do they do? nothing.
    what can be done? nothing.
    sad world, bad world

  • Mali precinct

  • Another thing that has recently set back Haiti is the 2010 earthquake which was a pretty much direct hit on their capital.

  • SHAME on the FRENCH

  • Before European invaded the island, who was in habitation. Us the indigenous people then they brought in more indigenous people from the mother land and now we are where we are.💯✊🏾

  • This is not the ultimate truth , this is briefly the story we were told, there was a much secret agenda for Christopher Columbus's expedition to Haiti.
    Ayiti had not only sugar cane , coffee, cacao, cotton, precious tropical wood, but most important was the gold so much of it and to this day (the gold was not the secret agenda)
    Therefore France and Spain became prosperous including England.
    Yet, half the story has never been told

  • So why did the Clinton's Steal their DONATION MONEY

  • I've learned something new today. Thank you for this short informative documentary.👍

  • Not much has changed. There is still exploitation of people in today's world. The question is how do you defend family and self from being forced into something that is horrific as slavery or even killed? Firearms! Plenty of firearms and ammunition. This is why so many countries have banned them. You cannot force someone to do something when they have the means of protecting themselves. If one does not learn from history it is bound to repeat itself.

  • If i could help i would help them…..god bless HAITI

  • Create s Free Trade Zone for their Produce to Soley Shipped to the United States Fresh Produce is a Premium for Healthy. DR Shove it. I am suprised Vox you did not bring up The Louisiana Purchase. More important than your fashion Statement

  • They both black i see

  • We have a problem. 1490 whites was enslaved all over the world. How could they have power. It wasn't whites. The ones who did this was dark skinned (MOORS) of Spain. That bought the white man to these islands. Dont believe me, check for ur self. This is history they dont want you to know. Noner of what he is saying adds up.

  • Sounds like america

  • So does that mean that Dominicans are just Haitians mixed with Spanish 🤔

  • Because that would be too much like right.

  • The sins of France the most hight coming judgment on European

  • I give you all my respect very accurate and entertaining

  • bill clinton kidnaps kids from haiti

  • So I don't know why Latinos in the states call Trump racist to try to close the borders? Look at Haiti and DR. Latin America attacking Venezuelians.

  • 9:06 What does Blasio had to speak on this issue is he going to do something about?

  • This is ridiculous how the Dominicans got something against someone because they dark skinned. We all are no different from each other. Wake up and see that we all are African descents light or dark.

  • Jesus Christ…this is so sad…

  • hey dr, stop haitin

  • THIS IS SO SAD AND UNFAIR. I NOW UNDERSTAND THE HEARTS OF A HAITIAN

  • I taught French exchange students. They did not like that I was black and tried to get me fired.

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