It has been widely held that in October of 1937 a massacre took place in the Dominican Republic involving Haitians by orders of dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. It is very common to see figures of upwards of 20,000; 30,000; even 50,000 victims. The purpose is to gain an understanding of these numbers and if they are realistic or exaggerated. Furthermore, we will look into what the Haitian government investigations say of their findings within days of the occurence and what changes they had as time went on.
“Border of Lights”
The Dominican-American author (born, grew up and lives in the United States) Julia Álvarez founded the organization “Border of Lights.” In 2012 this organization organized a trip to the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti which included her presence (the event is celebrated every year, though with the Covid restrictions this could had been interrupted or became virtual). Nowhere in the website of the organization is there an estimate of how many victims, a rarity of any site referrencing a massacre. Silvio Torres-Saillant (see here in the section “A Special Look at Silvio Torres-Saillant”), a Dominican that has been living in the United States since 1973 and is a major proponent of the American invented One-Drop-Rule, plus the founder of the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute and a friend of Julia Álvarez, called the event the following.
Typical Paper Mentioning the Border Incident
We also noticed that in the paper “Dos Rayanos Americanos Rewrite Hispaniola: Julia Álvarez and Junot Díaz” published in the United States by Megan Jeanette Myers from Iowa State University it constanty mentions the massacre. In addition, it also claims that the Dominican Republic suffers from “negrophobia and anti-Haitianism” (see here in the section “Relating Dominican Identity to the Dominican-Haitian Dilemma), an important part to understand the massacre from their point-of-view. We also found the following in the paper.
The author did include this about Junot Díaz.
In addition, the author also claims that the Haitian massacre has impacted Haitian authors during the 20th century and 21st century.
Although there is much more to quote, this gives a nice idea of the viewpoint regarding the Haitian massacre of 1937 and how it’s used as part of a theory involving anti-Haitianism, racism, negrophobia, the Trujillo dictatorship and other aspects of the Dominican Republic past and present.
Now that we have an idea of what people that decades after the event took place decide to write about it or incorporate in their imaginery of that event. Of these same people, many were not born at the time and others were not born on the island. They do have decades living in the United States and, in fact, whatever they publish more often than not is in English, a language that isn’t native to the Dominican Republic or Haiti. They also are believers in the USA invented One-Drop-Rule. Keeping all of this in mind, lets explore the rest of our thesis.
Where are the Haitian Remains?
One of the greatest misteries surrounding the claims that the victims numbered in the tens of thousands is the following question. Why a single Dominican or otherwise anthropologist, archeologist or everyday people haven’t found a single human remains pertaining to Haitians from 1937? It has been over 84 years since the event, at least one should had been found by now on purpose or by accident.
Our belief that at least one Haitian remains from 1937 should had been found by now is that every century remains are discovered in the Dominican Republic pertaining to Europeans, Dominicans, Tainos and even of Haitians from dates around the multiple invasions they did against Dominicans in the XIX century. Why then exactly 0 remains have been found of victims from 1937?
In 2007, construction workers of a plaza in Moca discovered a forgotten tomb (see here) at the construction site. According to an investigation done by a scientific team using carbon dating, the remains are from the XVII century. That is at least three centuries before 1937. In fact, the ancestors of most Haitians alive today were still in Africa at that time, considering that at the time of the Haitian Revolution half of Haitians were born in Africa and most of the other half had around one generation born on the island. A single generation is nowhere near 100 years.
Even more impressive is the findings of remains in 2011 on the north coast beach playa Grande near Río San Juan, Dominican Republic. Those are not of Haitians since no Haitian remains from 1937 has ever been found in the Dominican Republic. Those are of Tainos, the amerindians that lived on the island before the arrival of the Spanish. In the Caribbean, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans have the most remaining Taino ancestry in the average DNA, even though Tainos were dominant in much of modern Cuba, Jamaica and Haiti too. It is a mistery that no Haitian remains have been found, but the construction workers stumbled on these Taino remains dated to be 500 to 1,000 years old (see here).
As we investigate articles in the Listín Diario newspaper, we notice something already noted by other Dominican historians. The amount of victims of 1937 tends to increase with the passage of time. This must be the only massacre that continues to make people “disappear” over more than three-quarters of the time since it happened.
For the sake of space and time, we will limit translating only the pertaining parts of the articles rather then the entirety of each article.
Osvaldo Bazil’s Protest
On January 1, 1938 minister of the Dominican Republic in Brazil, Mr Osvaldo Bazil, comments regarding errors he identified in the international media concerning the incident on the northern border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. His protest was recorded in “No hay margen para conflicto internacional.”
Osvaldo Bazil also makes reference to this event published on December 6, 1937 which took place near the border, but since the aggressors were Haitians and the victims Dominicans the international media remain quiet. This took place in the La Peñita community in Monte Cristi province of the Dominican Republic and the perpetraitors were Haitian countryfolks that crossed illegally into the Dominican Republic and created the bloody scene. We will translate the relevant parts only.
Immediate Haitian Government Investigation
Immediately as Port-au-Prince received news from Haiti’s National Guards stationed along the border concerning the occurence on the northern border with the Dominican Republic, the Haitian government decided to do its own investigation of the matter. It organized a small group that headed to the northern part of Haiti. The reason why the investigation was done in northern Haiti only is because the authorities never got news of any issue along the southern and central parts of the border. The most valuable aspect of this investigation is the time it was done immediately after the occurence.
On December 14, 1937 an article was published about the memorandum reached in the United States by representatives of the United States, Mexico and Cuba regarding the incident on the northern frontier between the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Within the memorandum, which appears in its entirety of the newspaper and covers many pages, there is a reference to the Haitian government investigation within days of the occurence.
Noticeable is the lack of numbers other than the 10 injured and were treated at the hospitals in Cape Haitien and Ouanaminthe. It is interesting that given what had transpired mere days before, rather than being overrun with injured they only found 10 combined in two hospitals. Assuming the amount of those killed would had been in the thousands, the injured should had been many more as is the case whenever something happens by nature or man where some people lose their lives. Not only should they had found many more injured in Haitian hospitals, it should had been relatively easy to find those that returned to Haiti without any injuries, assuming the event was of several thousands.
Another interesting findings is that while they confirm having seen “several dead Haitians” on the Dajabon side (the Dominican side of the border.) As lamentable and horrific the scene must had been, the fact that no number is mentioned and everything is resumed as “several” gives the impression that it wasn’t many or a sea of cadavers. In fact, the definition of “several” in the Oxford Dictionary is “more than two but not many.”
So far, what we have is that a serious investigation done within days if the event by the Haitian government finds no more than 10 injureds combined in just two Haitian hospitals and “more than two but not many” Haitian cadavers on the Dominican side of the border. It also appears they had trouble finding Haitians that went back to Haiti after the event. This is somewhat shocking if we are to assume that the incident comprised of thousands of deaths, many more thousands of injured and many more thousands of people returning after witnessing a massacre.
Another interesting fact is that while Megan Jeanette Myers asserts in her 2016 essay “Dos Rayanos Americanos Rewrite Hispaniola: Julia Álvarez and Junot Díaz” that there were “Dominicans of Haitian descent” when the investigation of the Haitian government finds Haitians only, never mentions “Dominicans of Haitian descent.” This is in the same quote we present further up where she says “an estimated 20,000 Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent were killed.”
Thus far, not a single remain of Haitians from 1937 have been found, intentionally or by accident, in the Dominican Republic while during the same time many remains of people from before 1937 have been found, including remains of Taino indians from hundreds and a thousand years ago. In addition, we have a reference to a serious investigation by the Haitian government done within days of the incident where it only finds a few injureds and a few dead ones and no healthy people that arrived fleeing the Dominican Republic.
Negotiations between the Dominican and Haitian Governments
After the incident and the investigations done by the Haitian government, both governments of the island reunited and in a negotiation that took place on October 15, 1937 reached several agreements, mostly demands on the Dominican government. These were included in the memorandum shown previously, but we will reference to the pertaining parts.
This is in tune with an incident that didn’t involve many deaths, injured and others affected. However, if the real numbers was in the thousands for all three categories, it could mean that the Haitian government itself doesn’t care much about its people.
Tendency to Exaggerate the Number of Victims by the International Media
On December 3, 1937 an article was published with the title “Cómo juzga la prensa seria de otros países el incidente de la frontera domínico-haitiana” and the subtitle is very telling.
The following was reprinted from the “Bohemia” magazine published on November 21, 1937 in Havana, Cuba.
Dominicans Involved in Exaggerating the Incident
On December 8, 1937 a article “Los incidentes fronterizos alientan la reelección” further mention of the exaggeration and sensationalism revolving the incident in the international media, headed most by news agencies based in the United States.
Dominicans were also found among the exaggerators of the incident. These perhaps were dissidents of the Trujillo dictatorship that emigrated to the United States either pushed by the regime or decided on their own to leave the country. It’s known that dissidents of the Trujillo regime were involved in certain actions that would affect the image of the dictator beyond the Dominican Republic.
Haiti Begins to Exaggerate the Number of Victims
On December 18, 1937 is published “‘Le Canadá Latín’ ridiculiza la información del Gobierno de Haití sobre el incidente fronterizo” where it is noted how Haiti itself is increasing the number of victims of the incident.
Andrés Pastoriza Rejects the Veracity of the Haitians
On December 27, 1937 Minister Andrés Pastoriza in Washington DC accuses the Haitians of arbitrarily increasing the amount of victims which doesn’t corresponds with census records. He also says that many Haitian politicians are trying to increase the economic indemnization. This indemnizatoon was later paid by the Dominican government to the Haitian government by the agreed amount of heads of the victims. Not only was it increased to increase the money the Dominican government was to transfer to the Haitian government, but it was never known if the families of the “victims” got the money or if the Haitian politicians kept it all for themselves.
Dominican Republic Pays Indemnization to Haiti
The “healing process” regarding the massacre took place at the moment the government of the Dominican Republic agreed to pay an indemnization to Haiti. This occured despite the exaggerations and falsely increasing the number of victims, which was done by the Haitian government presumably because the indemnization was done on a certain amount of money per head of the victims. The more victims, the more money for the pockets of Haitian politicians in what essentially is the poorest and least developed country in the Western Hemisphere and poorer than most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, not to mention yearly ranking as one of the world’s most corrupt. Rather than Haitian politicians focusing on a effective erradication plan of malaria, reducing considerably the deforestation occuring at the time, improving public health care or public education; they focus on what was the most important thing for them, the amount of money that goes into their pockets.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti entered negotiations about the money the Dominican Republic would pay Haiti as an indemnization for the massacre. On February 1, 1938 was published an article about the economic agreement signed by the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The agreement itself took place on in Washington DC, as everyone knows is not the capital of Haiti or the Dominican Republic, was published the first article of the conclusion of negotiations between the two governments of the island. The indemnization consisted of US$750,000. In 2021 US dollars this is equivalent of approximately US$14,286,419. This was paid directly to Haitian politicians in Port-au-Prince, Haiti who promised to give the indemnization to the poor families of the massacre. It’s not known if they ever got the money from the Haitian government.
The following are interesting parts of the economic agreement between the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
The Focus of this Massacre More than Others
It should be of note that this border incident has received much focus to this day by the international media and by organizations. The amount of victims continue to be exaggerated and outright lies are included as fact in order to create more sorrow among anyone reading about this incident. This is very telling because border incidents have occured on Hispaniola since the very beginning of Haiti as a country and the victims were the Dominican farmers who were subject to robberies and at times murders by Haitian intruders just across the border.
One of these Haitian intrusions into Dominican territory, this during the times of the Spanish, was noted in Samuel Harzad “Santo Domingo Past and Present and a Glance at Haiti” published in 1871.
Perhaps the greater interest in the border incident of 1937 is due because in this one the perpetrators were Dominicans and the victims Haitian in Dominican soil. It must also be considered the desire of Haiti to control the entire island, effecting many bloody armend invasions of the Dominican Republic and on multiple times threatning to massacre the entire Dominican civilian population. This sentiment is still noted in some Haitians.
Most Massacres on Hispaniola have been in Haiti
A little known fact is that most massacres on Hispaniola has occured in Haiti. The perpetrators and victims were Haitians and, in fact, most victims of massacres on Hispaniola have been Haitians killed in Haiti. The following is a partial list of the massacres in Haiti during the 20th and early 21st centuries.
August 8, 1902: In Petit-Goâve, 450 Haitian civilians died in a fire which destroyed the town. General Carrié is blamed.
September 17, 1902: In Limbé, 10 disarmed Haitian peasants were killed on orders of the pro-Firmin general Laborde Corvoisier.
March 14, 1908: At least 27 Haitians mostly from the intellectual and social elites were executed and some mutilated. Among the victims was one of Haiti’s most prominent poet Massillon Coicou, later his body was decapitated and thrown into a mass grave.
July 27, 1915: Armed supporters of President Vilbrun Sam and General Oscar Etienne’s troops slaughtered 167 Haitian members of the social and intellectual elites in Port-au-Prince.
1915 – 1920: Several thousand Haitian civilians were killed by the US Marines. On October 31, 1919 Haitian hero Charlemagne Péralte was killed by the US Marines. The total number of victims remains unknown.
1918 – 1919: Many Haitian prisoners, supposedly part of the Caco, were systematically executed by the US Marines.
June 4, 1916: In Fonds-Verrettes, the General Mizrael Codio and 10 of his men were executed by the US Marines.
January 1919: In Hinche, 19 Haitian prisoners were executed on US Captain Lavoie’s orders.
November 1919: US planes bombed and shot at the civilian population of two villages of Thomazeau and allegedly killed half of their inhabitants.
December 6, 1929: In Marchaterre, were killed at most 22 Haitians by the US Marines.
June 15-16, 1957: The Haitian army killed upwards of 3,000 poor Haitians.
1957-1986: François Duvalier was became president in 1957 and ruled Haiti until his death in 1971. During his regime, the more brutal of the two, is said to be responsible for 30,000 to 50,000 assassinations and executions.
April 26, 1963: In Port-au-Prince, several Haitian families were killed killed in their homes including elderly, children and servants. Around 100 Haitians were the victims, most members of the military, social and intellectual elites.
August 1964 “Vêpres Jérémienses Massacre”: In Jérémie, were massacred 27 Haitian men, women and children. Most were from mulatto (mixed race) families. Several families were wiped out. A four-year-old child was tortured in front of his relatives before being killed. The Haitian perpetrators extinguished their cigarettes in the eyes of crying Haitian children.
July-August 1964: Around 600 Haitians were massacred in the towns of Mapou, Thiotte, Grand-Gosier and Belle-Anse. This included men, women, children, babies and elderly Haitians. Several families were wiped out. A nine-year old child managed to escape but was later found and brought to the Presidential Palace in Port-au-Prince. There this Haitian child was killed by François Duvalier himself.
June 8, 1967: 19 Haitian officers killed in Fort-Dimanche by a firing-squad led by François Duvalier himself.
April 5, 1969 “The Cazale Massacre”: In Cazale, several dozen peasant Haitian families were massacred. This included 80 Haitians massacred or “disappeared” and 82 houses were looted and torched. Even the cattle was killed or taken away by looting soldiers. Haitian women were forced to dance and have sex with the Haitian soldiers who stayed in the village.
April 14, 1969: In Fort-Dimanche, about 30 young Haitians were executed.
July 22, 1969: Massive execution of Haitians in Ganthier. The corpses were unceremonially thrown into a mass grave.
September 21, 1977: Eight Haitians were shot by a firing squad in Morne Christophe.
January 31, 1986: In Leógane, the Haitian army massacred 100 Haitians.
February 7, 1986: In Port-au-Prince, a massacred was committed by the Haitian government, but the number of Haitian victims remains unknown. This doesn’t includes the several dozens Haitians believed to be werewolves or witches lynched by the mob in this same year.
April 26, 1986 “The Fort-Dimanche Massacre”: The Haitian army massacred at most 15 Haitians who were protesting.
July 1 – 3, 1987: In Port-au-Prince, the Haitian army massacres 22 poor Haitian workers who were on strike.
July 23, 1987 “The Jean-Rabel Massacre”: In Jean-Rabel, at most 1,042 poor Haitian peasants were massacred according to one of the killers by the name of Nicol Poitevien.
July 29, 1987: The Haitian army massacred 22 Haitians protesting.
November 29, 1987 “The La Ruelle Vaillant Massacre”: In Port-au-Price, at most 200 Haitians were massacred with machetes at a polling station. This doesn’t includes the 60 Haitians massacred in the district of Artibonite.
September 1, 1988 “The Saint-Jean Bosco Massacre”: In Port-au-Price, the Haitian government massacred 13 Haitians inside the Saint-Jean Bosco Church during a Sunday mass.
March 12, 1990 “The Piatre Massacre”: Near Saint-Marc, a massacre of 11 Haitian peasants took place.
January 7, 1991 c: In Port-au-Prince, an unidentified number of Haitians were massacred, though some sources said it was 75.
January 17, 1991: In Gervais, upwards of 12 Haitian peasants were massacred. In addition, 494 houses belonging to Haitian families were set on fire.
October 1, 1994 – September 14, 1994 “Colonel Raoul Cédras Regime”: The Haitian government massacred between 10,000 to 30,000 Haitians (depending on the source).
September 30 – October 1, 1991: The Haitian army massacred at least 1,000 Haitians, many were members of a pro-democracy group. This doesn’t includes those Haitians affected the Haitian army randomly firing at Haitian bystanders and homes (many of those homes received indiscriminately thrown grenades which exploded. Around 30 to 40 Haitians were the massacred in this case.
October 1 – 2, 1991: In Port-au-Prince, in the neighborhood of Martissant to be exact, 7 Haitians were massacred by the Haitian army. This doesn’t include the 30 Haitians massacred in the neighborhood Cité Soleil by the Haitian army on October 2.
December 27, 1993: In Port-au-Prince, a total of 37 Haitians were massacred along with over 1,000 Haitian homes set on fire by FRAPH. The Haitians that wanted to flee from their burning homes were prevented by the FRAPH, ensuring they were burned to death.
February 2 – 3, 1994 “Carrefour Vincent Massacre”: The 7 Haitian members of a pro-democracy group were massacred by the Haitian army while they tried to escape from their house attacked with machine guns.
April 22, 1994 “Raboteau Massacre”: In Gonaives, the Haitian army working in a team with FRAPH massacred 14 Haitians.
May 28, 1999: In Port-au-Prince, 11 Haitians were massacred while lying down and with their hands tied by the Haitian National Police.
February 11, 2004 “La Scierie Massacre”: In Saint-Marc, an informal Haitian government group massacred 50 Haitians. This includes two young Haitians by the names Jean-Baptiste Kénol and Joseph Leroy were thrown alive into a burning building. This doesn’t includes the rape in a Haitian National Police station of the two young Haitian women known as Anne and Kétia, respectively, after they witnessed the killing of their husbands.
Once again. these are only the massacres during the 20th and early 21st centuries in the country of Hispaniola that has been the scene of the most in number of massacres and the most number of Haitian victims. There are many more massacres in the XIX century and Haiti leads Hispaniola by a long shot in numbers of the massacres and the Haitian victims (except the Dominican victims during the “Campaign of the East” and the multiple Haitian invasions of the Dominican Republic – see here, here, here and here; these are only a small example although the victims were Dominicans and the perpetrators Haitians, so for many this probably means nothing).
As has been demonstrated, many aspects of the border incidents of 1937 were exposed. In addition, other aspects have been brought to light such as the intended exaggerbation of Haitian victims, the lack of finding Haitian remains despite the remains of other much older people have been found and that the technology has advanced that the time of the remains can be identified, the inclusion of lies into the description of the border incident and the blatant double standards. Furthermore, it has been noted how a much greater attention is made towards this event (supposedly because the perpetrators were Dominicans and the victims Haitians) while remaining quiet (basically unknown outside Haiti) the many more Haitians that have been massacred in Haiti and by the Haitian government after that time.
We finish by asking the following rhetorical questions.
Why are there no organizations holding a yearly events to commemorate the Haitian victims of the multiple massacres that took place in Haiti by Haitian perpetrators?
Why no published papers, books, etc in the United States, American organizations and/or by American universities concerning these horrible events in Haiti, despite the Haitian victims outnumber by a long shot?
Perhaps is it because the perpatrators are not Dominicans? Does it makes it hard to further justify anti-Dominican attitudes and in effect supporting the elimination of the Dominican Republic?
Perhaps while the Haitian massacres took place on Hispaniola, is the lack of attention because they didn’t occur in the Dominican Republic?
Perhaps the lives of the Haitian victims of these massacres don’t merit attention despite they are most Haitians killed in massacres during the XX and XXI centuries?