by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)
Some 200 people gathered in the border town of Dajabón, in northwestern Dominican Republic, from October 4-6 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the “Parsley Massacre” in 1937, when Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo ordered the slaughter of some 20,000 Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent in an ethnic cleansing along the Dominican-Haitian border. The massacre took place over the course of about five days.
The three-day event marking the bloodshed was entitled “Borders of Light.”
The massacre’s name comes from how its victims were targeted. The Dominican army and conscripted civilians asked dark-skinned Dominican residents to identify a sprig of parsley, “perejil” in Spanish. If the person pronounced the word with a Haitian Kreyòl accent, they were often murdered.
Among the notable artists supporting and attending the gathering was Dominican author and activist Julia Alvarez and Haitian author Edwidge Danticat.
"Many Dominicans in the diaspora and in the country have been waiting for an opportunity to acknowledge a shameful event in our past, the 1937 massacre of thousands of Haitians, ordered by the dictator Trujillo, and carried out by Dominicans,” Alvarez said. “We feel compelled to do what our governments and our treaties, our accords and our conferences, have not done: to express our sorrow for this shameful crime. We would also like to celebrate our many collaborations, our brotherhood and sisterhood. We look to the future and our shared hopes for this whole island and small planet.”
“Border of Lights supports and encourages strengthening a new understanding of border,” said Father Regino Martínez, who is director of the Dajabón-based Solidaridad Fronteriza and led the vigil ceremony at the border. “Not one that is expressed with confrontation or isolation, but rather side-by-side so they may culturally enrich each community of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Our diversity, enriches us, strengthens us and does not erase our identity.”
The three-day gathering began with a peace walk and candlelight vigil on Oct. 4 with community members on both sides of the border. The following day volunteers spent the day cleaning and beautifying a park in Ouanaminthe, Haiti, across the Massacre River from Dajabón. The event culminated with a series of teach-ins and an art installation in Dajabón, with the theme of unity.
Dominican-American writer Julia Alvarez, left, is among some 200 persons at an Oct. 4 candlelight vigil on the Dominican/Haitian frontier commemorating the 75th anniversary of the 1937 "Parsley Massacre,” in which some 20,000 Haitians and Haitian-ancestry Dominicans were murdered.
Photo by Tony Savino