In 1937, during the first week in October, Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo ordered the slaughter of as many as 20,000 Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent in an ethnic cleansing on the Dominican-Haitian border.
This year is the 75th anniversary of the massacre.
In a very unique commemoration to begin a healing process between the two countries, Dominican nationals and the Diaspora, Dominicans of Haitian origins, and Haitians are coming together in spite of continued discrimination inside the Dominican Republic.
Dominican author and activist Julia Alvarez comments, “Many Dominicans in the Diaspora and in the country have been waiting for an opportunity to acknowledge a shameful event in our past.”
A three-day commemoration, named Border of Lights, will begin Oct. 4 with a peace walk and vigil starting at churches on both sides of the border, to remember this tragedy unknown to many or long forgotten.
Artists, activists, students, parents, teachers, clergy and locals will walk from Ouanaminthe in Haiti and Dajabón in the Dominican Republic, meeting on the Dajabón Bridge crossing, spanning the Massacre River that connects the two countries.
“This is a people to people event,” says one of the commemoration planners, Dominican-American Cynthia Carrion, National Youth Program coordinator with Amnesty International.
“This is for acknowledgement and healing to take place on a personal and grassroots level, a symbolic gesture of unity, a coming together as neighbors,” she notes.
While those in their respective governments are invited, this is not that sort of political event. Particularly, Dominican Diaspora are encouraged to attend as a show of solidarity. The project has the support of other leading public figures, including writers Edwidge Danticat, Michele Wucker and Junot Díaz.
Carrion explained the schedule is still being finalized, “On the second day, Friday, Oct. 5, volunteers will spend the day cleaning and beautifying a park in Ouanaminthe, Haiti. The event will culminate on Saturday in Dajabón, Dominican Republic and will include an art installation and teach-ins with the theme of unity.”
A recent evening of dramatic readings at Judson Memorial Church, entitled: “An Evening of Monologues of the Haitian Massacre,” brought to life through fictional characters this piece of history.
“I could help put a face to the Haitians and Dominicans impacted by the massacre,” said Monologues co-producer and Border of Lights organizer Haitian-American Nehanda Loiseau.
Among the Monologue’s portrayal of Haitians and Dominicans in vignettes, the audience met a very ancient Dominican woman, a Haitian child, a haunted Dominican soldier and a crazy professor. Actors and audience, alike, shed tears.
Michele Wucker, who was in the audience and is the author of “Why The Cocks Fights,” a book about the two nations, later said of the upcoming event at the border, “Border of Lights is about the possibilities we create by sharing stories of what we have in common, and finding in memories of shared tragedy both forgiveness and the inspiration to stand up for fellow human beings to prevent future suffering,”