Haiti Earthquake: Dominicans Give, But Hard Feelings Remain

January 26, 2010 2:58 am 9 comments

Jose Tavares

NEW YORK — Fifteen minutes after he heard about the earthquake in Haiti, Dominican barber Jose Taveras said he made a donation to the Red Cross. Taveras was born in the Dominican Republic, a country that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

“I consider Haiti a part of my country,” Taveras said through his friend Jay Hernandez, who acted as his interpreter. “We are one people.”

But not every Dominican feels that way. Taveras admits the two countries have not always gotten along. He said the Haitian occupation of the Dominican Republic between 1821 and 1843 is a source of resentment between the two nations. Even so, the owner of Groom Team barbershop in Washington Heights insists any grudges between Haitians and Dominicans have been buried, at least in his mind.

“That’s in the past,” Taveras said. “It’s not something we think about now.”

Dominicans in Washington Heights expressed remorse for the devastation and lives lost after the Jan. 12 quake, but some, unlike Taveras, did not paint a rosy picture of the current relations between the two countries. Victor Sangiovanni, whose father still lives in the Dominican Republic, says illegal Haitian immigrants in the D.R. are a continuing cause of frustration.

The Christian Science Monitor estimates that, in 2009, between 700,000 and 1 million illegal Haitian immigrants were living in the D.R. Most, according to the Monitor, come seeking economic opportunities, often in the construction industry.

“I don’t really like Haitians,” Sangiovanni said. “They keep trying to take over our country, and we keep having to send them back.” Despite his distaste for illegal Haitian immigrants, Sangiovani’s eyes widen with surprise when asked whether he’s donated money to the relief effort. “Of course,” he said. “They live so close to where I come from. I would hope they would do the same for us if an earthquake happened in the Dominican.”

Nicholas Gomez insists it’s no coincidence that Haiti was ravaged by a natural disaster while the Dominican was spared. He contends that belief in Catholicism, the primary religion practiced in the Dominican, spared his home country from catastrophe. “God is watching out for us,” Gomez said. “When you have God, you don’t have to worry about anything.”

Gomez said Haitians believe in voodoo and “worship the devil.” He stops short of claiming that practicing voodoo is what caused the earthquake, but he says Haitians must be careful who they pledge allegiance to.

“The devil will trick you,” Gomez said. “Haiti is living in the dark. They are moving in the wrong direction.”

Contrary to Gomez’ assertions, a 2008 United Nations report on national religions found that only 2 percent of Haitians practice voodoo. Further, those who believe in Haitian voodoo do not typically worship the devil. The primary deity in the religion is Bondye, whose name is derived from the French “bon Dieu” or “good God.” The U.N. report found that 55 percent of those living in Haiti are Roman Catholic.

Although he condemns what he claims are Haitian religious practices, Gomez said he made a donation to Catholic Relief Services, an international aid group contributing to the relief effort. Like Taveras, Gomez explains that geographical proximity fosters a feeling of brotherhood between the two countries.

“We feel like we are a part of them,” Gomez said. “They are like our relatives.”

Doyanica Pineda bristles at the notion that God had anything to do with the disaster, which has claimed an estimated 200,000 lives. The nurse, whose family resides in the Dominican, said it was purely a matter of chance that Haiti was struck.

“Some people say God is the one who made the earthquake happen,” Pineda said. “I don’t believe that at all. God is not responsible for this.”

Image (Simon McCormack): Jose Taveras gives Jay Hernandez a shave inside Groom Team barbershop in Washington Heights. Taveras contends Dominicans and Haitians no longer bear resentment toward one another, but other Dominicans disagree.

This article was originally published by Pavement Pieces.

9 Comments

  • rita ros-planas

    Compassionate, well-written piece that dispels the erroneous stereotypical view of Haitians as voodoo devil worshipers, but does so in a respectful, informative manner.

    One little typo that got through spellcheck–it’s “bear” not “bare resentment” in the last paragraph.

    Muchas gracias!

  • Henry Pastrano

    Even though some minority groups may think different, the vast majority of the dominican people get along with our haitian neighbor, which was demonstrated when the earthquake struck earlier in this month and immediately all of the available resources were use to help Haiti, both by our goverment as by particular individuals, and as of today our hospitals are full of injured haitians and there are thousands of Dominican volunteers working in Port au Prince and other locations damaged by teh quake.

    The PAT ROBERTSONIAN position indicated in your article is shared only by a very little minority mainly older uneducated people.

  • Actually, saying that haitians practice or are voodoo worshipers is not steriotype at all, that’s a fact. Also, dominicans don’t feel that haiti is part of the dominican republic or that haitians are our “brothers”, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t help them. It is part of our culture to help our neighbors.

  • That cheap labor is sure good, also the sugar cane.

  • i’m half Haitian and i have Dominican family members and friends, i grew up in the bronx, new york and all my friends were Dominican. we don’t practice voodoo we go to church every sunday. we speak spanish and french. my family is what would be considered the “Mulattoes” of Haiti. but the one thing that bothers me is that how can 2 different groups of people share the island and not get along/not like each other. if the Dominican Republic had an earthquake i would send money, food, and clothing to them as well. i feel like no matter what goes down,both countries should ALWAYS be there to support and love each other!

Leave a Reply


Other News

  • Guatemala Photo Essays Oxlajuj Baktun: Maya Era Ends, As Longstanding Tensions Remain

    Oxlajuj Baktun: Maya Era Ends, As Longstanding Tensions Remain

    HUEHUETENANGO, Guatemala – Events here during the much-awaited end of the Oxlajuj Baktun, a 5,129-year period in the long Mayan calendar, provide a clear reflection of the divisions and challenges faced by Mayan communities today. The media exploited inaccurate apocalyptic rumors the Maya never predicted, the government and business sectors viewed it as an opportunity to gain economically through tourism, and progressive groups like the Consejo del Pueblo Maya del Occidente seized the opportunity “to strengthen ancestral wisdom and never-ending search [...]

    Read more →
  • Dispatches Mexico Mexico Protests: Rumors Of Deaths During Anti-Peña Nieto Demonstrations Stir Social Media

    Mexico Protests: Rumors Of Deaths During Anti-Peña Nieto Demonstrations Stir Social Media

    NEW YORK — Social media buzzed this weekend with unconfirmed rumors that several protesters had died in confrontations with police during the inauguration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Thousands took the streets to protest the return of the Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party to power, which was ousted from the presidency in 2000 after governing continuously seven decades. Some 105 protesters were left injured, with 29 requiring medical attention. Protesters hurled Molotov cocktails, threw stones, and there were reports of a [...]

    Read more →
  • Brazil Today in Latin America Brazil Supreme Court Appoints First Black President

    Brazil Supreme Court Appoints First Black President

    Top Story — The Brazilian Supreme Court appointed the first black presiding judge, Joaquim Barbosa, on Wednesday. Judge Joaquim Barbosa, 58, was appointed by ex-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2003 and became the first black judge to be appointed to the Supreme Court. More recently, he has been known for overseeing the “Mensalão,” or “big monthly allowance” case, which convicted senior members of ex-President Lula’s administration for corruption. Barbosa will take his post once the “Mensalão” trial ends. [...]

    Read more →
  • Dispatches Mexico Photo Essays United States Caravan For Peace ‘Plants Seeds’ In New York City

    Caravan For Peace ‘Plants Seeds’ In New York City

    NEW YORK – On the night of Sept. 6, a procession of a few hundred people crossed Harlem from east to west before gathering in front of Santa Celicia Parish in the heart of El Barrio, illuminating the steps of the church with hundreds of tiny candles and filling the sidewalk with images of friends and family members lost to the drug war. There, they began to read from a list of dead and disappeared. “Regina Martines,” someone called. “¡Presente!” the crowd responded. [...]

    Read more →
  • Mexico Today in Latin America Zetas Leader Body Stolen From Funeral Home, Mexico says.

    Zetas Leader Body Stolen From Funeral Home, Mexico says.

    Top Story — The body of Zetas leader Heriberto Lazcano, alias “The Executioner,” was stolen out of the funeral home where it was being kept by armed men, Mexican authorities said on Tuesday. Lazcano was allegedly killed on Sunday afternoon and his identity was confirmed on Tuesday by the Mexican Navy. However, the military seems to have been unaware that they had killed Lazcano until after his body was snatched. Lazcano, for whom there was a $5 million U.S. bounty, [...]

    Read more →
  • Mexico Today in Latin America Mexico Arrests Alleged Zetas Leader Suspected Of Migrant Massacre

    Mexico Arrests Alleged Zetas Leader Suspected Of Migrant Massacre

    Top Story — The Mexican Navy captured alleged Zetas cartel chief, Salvador Alfonso Martinez Escobedo, suspected of some of the country’s most well known crimes. Martinez Escobedo was arrested on Saturday and is thought have led the massacre of 72 migrants in Tamaulipas among numerous other crimes, authorities said on Monday. He is also linked to the breaking of 151 prisoners out of jail and the killing of a U.S citizen in 2010, the jailbreak was the largest in recent Mexican [...]

    Read more →
  • Mexico News Briefs Guatemala Implements Police Reform Aimed At Reviewing 20,000 Officers

    Guatemala Implements Police Reform Aimed At Reviewing 20,000 Officers

    Guatemala will implement a program to root out corruption in the police and military, according to Mexican daily El Informador. The wide-reaching anti-corruption program marks an effort by the administration of President Otto Pérez Molina to crack down on the drug traffickers that have infiltrated Guatemala’s often poorly paid security forces — particularly Mexico’s Los Zetas cartel. Some 20,000 police officers will face reviews during the first phase of the program. Two-hundred of them have already begun the process, according [...]

    Read more →
  • Today in Latin America Venezuela Hugo Chavez Wins Venezuela Elections

    Hugo Chavez Wins Venezuela Elections

    Top Story —  Hugo Chávez won the presidential election on Sunday, defeating his opponent Henrique Capriles by over 1 million votes, with 54% of the vote. This will be Chávez’s third re-election after almost 14 years in office. The elections saw a high turnout and voting was extended past the closing time of polling stations.  The electoral council president said that stations where voters hadn’t been able to cast their ballots would remain open. Read more at Aljazeera. Headlines from the Western Hemisphere [...]

    Read more →
  • Honduras News Briefs 2 Honduras Officials Receive Death Threats

    2 Honduras Officials Receive Death Threats

    Two officials in Honduras viewed as sympathizers with the county’s political left have received death threats, the local press reports. The news of the death threats against National Agrarian Institute Director César Ham and Secretary of Justice and Human Rights Ana Pineda raises questions about security in one of the region’s most violent countries, after a string of attacks against journalists and political activists preceded by threats that were disregarded. Ham told Honduras’ El Heraldo that President Porfirio Lobo himself [...]

    Read more →
  • Mexico Today in Latin America U.S. Embassy Car Was Targeted In Mexico Attack

    U.S. Embassy Car Was Targeted In Mexico Attack

    Top Story – New evidence suggests that the Mexican police officers who shot at a U.S. Embassy vehicle on Aug. 24 near Cuernavaca, wounding two CIA officers, were working for organized crime, a senior U.S. official said on Tuesday. Mexican officials have confirmed that they are investigating the involvement of the Beltran Leyva Cartel in the attack. Contradicting the Mexican federal police’s claims that the shooting was a mistake, a U.S. official told the Associated Press that the attack was an ambush planned [...]

    Read more →