History, lauded for its immortality and ability to put into perspective the present, is a double-edged sword. As Cicero put it, history is the witness that testifies the passing of time; it illuminates reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in our daily lives, and brings us tidings of antiquity. But what happens when witnesses of history compete to tell it? Exactly whose reality is illuminated and whose memory is vitalized? The other edge of the sword comes from the fact that history easily falls victim to subjectivity. This subjectivity, when used from many different points of view, can be a beautiful thing because of the diversity in the telling of history it offers. However, when subjectivity is one-sided, stories of those who don't have a dominant voice in the retelling of history remain untold. And when stories remain untold, history is warped and excludes unheard voices. The islands of Haiti and the Dominican Republic are examples of this, as they are known for being locked in a competition, a battle of resentment and hatred of each other. However, there are unheard voices, ones that would show a different side to Haitian-Dominican relations, if given the chance.
Because both countries share the island of Hispaniola, there has been a history of invasion, domination, and battle between them. At one point, the Haitian government ruled the Dominican Republic, until the latter country declared its independence from Haiti, and to this day celebrates its independence from Haiti rather from the colonial powers from which it was created. These relations and tensions came to a peak in 1937, where the massacre of Haitian sugarcane workers living in the Dominican Republic, known as 'El Corte' ('The Cutting'), in the Dominican Republic and 'The Parsley Massacre', was carried out for almost a week. Under the orders of Rafael Trujillo, the corrupt dictator of the Dominican Republic at the time, all Haitians living in the Dominican Republic near the border dividing the two countries were to be slaughtereda kind of attempted genocide that wiped out an estimated 12,000-35,000 Haitians.
[...] A final scene that shows that Amabelle ultimately could not choose a nationality with which she could genuinely and completely identify occurs at the very end of the novel, where she in essence commits physical suicide by allowing the river current to overtake her. She wanted to go into the river to enter “Sebastien's cave, [her] father's laughter, [her] mother's eternity.” (310) She was “looking for the a new beginning that she could not find in either Haiti or the Dominican Republic. [...]
[...] She complicates the usual sentiments of pure Haitian-Dominican hatred by making Amabelle nationally ambiguous and uncertain, and by using other characters She uses scenes and situations that show how pieces of Amabelle's heart are in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic, to show that Haitians living in the Dominican Republic in the 20th century during a time of antihaitianismo (“anti-Haitianism”) did not hate their situations, as many historians would lead people to believe. Instead, they were often conflicted between their love for both the Dominican Republic and for Haiti, as they were nationally ambiguous and often unable to choose between the two countries. [...]
[...] The Farming of Bones. Danticat, Edwidge. Soho Press, Inc.: 1998. New York, NY. Secondary Sources: the Crossroads: Disability and Trauma in "The Farming of Heather Hewett. MELUS. Vol No (2006) pp. 123-145. < http://www.jstor.org/stable/30029654> Accessed 29/11/2010. World Destroyed, A Nation Imposed: The 1937 Haitian Massacre in the Dominican Republic.” Turits, Richard Lee. Hispanic American [...]
[...] When a creature is attacked, its options are to fight back or flee Dominicans and Haitians have drawn lines clearly establishing divisions between groups played out in the form of the island's tragic history (238-9) Sentiments like these about the inhabitants of Hispaniola are widespread, and often are the only ones people have about Haitian- Dominican relations (Martinez 81). However, the history is more complicated than this, as another author puts it: “Were the whole story to be told, the end product would be a story so full of contradictory emotions and impulses of tenderness and violence, love and hatred, incorporation and rejection of the Haitian "other" that no theme as monolithic as "anti-Haitian ideology" could contain (Martinez 82) So, an important question is, how did Haitians living in the Dominican Republic before and during this historical moment feel about their situations—living in a place in which they were constantly discriminated? [...]
[...] Another notable thing in Danticat's retelling of history in this scene occurs in the form of Amabelle, a Haitian, defending her Dominican family. Although she is a housemaid for the family, she harbors no ill feelings towards it and is even willing to admit this to her Haitian- nationalist lover instead of deny it when he got angry with her. She could have retracted her statement of kinship with the family when she saw his reaction, but instead she said (110) rather than completely denying the family and only seeing him and her other Haitian friends as her true kin. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee