A border-River called El Massacre

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Northeast Haiti, February 2009, 5:00 am. A river with some dreadful name provides a natural boundary with the Dominican Republic. The River Massacre has been the theater of several horrible killings in the stormy history of the island. The river was renamed River Massacre after some Spanish conquistadors murdered French buccaneers in its waters in the 17th century. The killings did not stop at that date. In 1937, under the dictatorship of the Dominican General Trujillo, thousands of Haitians were brutally murdered in the river. In the 21st century, some tensions are still visible on this place steeped in history.

On the river shores, in the rainy morning street children shine shoes, ladies sell food, embargoed live chickens due to bird flu quietly pass from the Dominican side and motorcycle taxis as well as exchange dealers come and go. A crowd waits for the opening of the border to sell and buy goods at the Dominican market of Dajabon, at the other end of the bridge. UN Peacekeepers are tasked to secure the place and control traffic at the border. In addition to human trafficking to the Dominican Republic of prostitutes, some servant Haitian children in domestic service in Dominican republic, the so-called restavec are regularly reported in the area. Some cross the border by the river wishing they will install first their stands at the market. After reaching the other side, they must pay a bribe. A few dozen miles away, potential illegal immigrants have chosen a more discreet but less accessible spot to cross the river. Dangerous, the crossing takes place on car tyre inner tube. They look for a seasonal work in the Dominican Republic in the agricultural or the construction industries or as house employee.

Ambivalent, relationships between the two communities are regularly marred by incidents. The Haitians accuse the Dominicans to fish in Haitian waters with their powerful fishing boats. Dominicans blame Haitians for stealing their cattle. A simple rumor of theft may justify some punitive expeditions against the Haitians. On the land of the Dominican cousin, the hunt for beards has not disappeared. Dominican authorities deport every year sometimes bluntly tens of thousands of Haitians. Some of them go back to Haiti without getting their wages from their Dominican employers. Civil society, institutions of the both countries, as well as the international community, are more or less committed to ease tensions.

A story created between November 2008 and June 2009.