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Estud Soc. 1985 Jan-Mar;18(59):43-59.

[Haitian migration to Santo Domingo].

[Article in Spanish]



This work examines the history of Haitian migration to the Dominican Republic, the central role of Haitian migration in Dominican society, working conditions of Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic, and the relationship of the migration to economic development on the island of Hispaniola. Lack of data, the difficulty of measuring illegal movement, and the problem of defining Haitians in Santo Domingo have impeded understanding of migration to the Dominican Republic. It is believed by many authorities that Haitian migration to Santo Domingo is considerable and perhaps exceeds that to the US. Haitian migration to the Dominican Republic began after 1915 with the fall of the Haitian president, a worsening of economic conditions partly caused by stagnation in the agricultural sector, and the newly dominant role of the US in Haitian economic affairs. The Great Depression of the 1930s was a direct antecedent of the massacre of Haitians by Dominican police in which some 30 thousand persons were killed; the economic recession of the early 1980s has also caused an outburst of antiHaitian feeling in the Dominican Republic although 80% of laborers in the sugar industry are Haitians. Sugar is extremely important to the Dominican economy: in 1974, sugar covered 12% of cultivated land, produced 40% of foreign exchange earnings, and was responsable for 21% of taxable income. Dominicans however refuse to work in sugar plantations under the current technological. conditions and wage system. Although the government periodically demands the Dominicanization of the sugar work force, no such changes have been made. Sugar will probably continue to play a decisive role in the generation of foreign exchange despite introduction of more technologically advanced sectors which benefit from better prices in the international market. Possibilities of mechanizing sugar production in the Dominican Republic appear remote, and failure to modernize an important sector of the economy has explained migration of unskilled labor from poorer countries in more than 1 case. Under such circumstances, the extremely poor working conditions of Haitians in the Dominican Republic are not surprising. A 1983 investigation by the International Labour Organization indicated that salaries were low, that a large proportion was routinely diverted from the migrants, that hours of work were long with no regular rest and few days off, that few workers had any contractual protection, that forced labor recruitment occurred, that a rigid system of vigilance with armed patrols was used to keep the immigrants in the work camps, and that living conditions were substandard--in short, that Haitian workers were "neo-slaves". In addition, the Dominicans consider themselves racially and culturally superior to Haitians. The Haitian government, in return for payments from the Dominican Republic, does nothing to stop the abuses.

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