During the winter of 2022, I found myself living with my brother at small town Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Since there were not many options there to meet queer people, I decided to expand my dating app horizons (at the time I only knew Tinder and to be honest found it quite disappointing), so I googled “best dating apps for queer women”. That is how I discovered Hinge. Among the women I matched with on Hinge, there was a woman from a small town in the outskirts of Philadelphia. When we started talking and found out each other’s nationality the unavoidable subject came up: the relationship between Dominicans and Haitians.
She asked my opinion on the way the Dominican authorities and society in general treat Haitian immigrants. After I responded that I was in complete disagreement with the abusive practices of the government and society, she asked me another question that got me thinking: Had I ever dated a Haitian woman before? When my answer was “no”, she asked me “why not?”. It was something I never thought about before, but then I started to search my memory for how many Dominican and Haitian couples I have met in my three decades living in the Dominican Republic. It was just two couples. It begged the question, “why is it so rare to find Dominicans and Haitians dating each other?
It does not make much sense that we don’t have a copious amount of love stories between Dominicans and Haitians. I mean, we have a bunch of love stories between Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, and with Haitians, we share a very small island. Both countries have been ravished by colonizers, both countries have cultural practices inherited from African slaves, and there are around half a million Haitians living in the Dominican (even though Dominican nationalists insist the number is much bigger). I personally think it is a multi-factor occurrence, but sadly I also have to admit that the two main factors are racism and xenophobia, with a little splash of paranoia.
Some people may wonder, why racism if both countries are majority black. Well, even though the Dominican population is around 70% black, only 8% of Dominicans self-identify as black, the rest would use certain race classifications established by the Spanish colonizers centuries ago like “Indio”, “mestizo” “Mulato” or they would use other made-up categories like “Moreno lavaito” (which refers to a person with dark skin and “hegemonic” facial features). Also, a lot of Dominicans would say they don’t mix with Haitians because the Dominican Republic is a Christian country. They say Haitians only practice voodoo, witchcraft or Santeria (very anti-black and colonizer mentality to label African spirituality as “satanic” if you ask me), which is inaccurate, because Haiti is majority evangelical Christian and voodoo, witchcraft and Santeria are also popular practices in the Dominican Republic. It’s really tiresome to listen to Dominicans trying to distance themselves culturally and racially from Haiti when in reality we are both the same people, the only real difference is that Haitians speak creole because they were colonized by the French and we speak Spanish because we were colonized by the Spanish.
Now about that little splash of paranoia, which I think it is often used as an excuse by Dominicans who won’t admit there is a racism problem in the Dominican Republic; we have to look at the
history of both countries. In February 1822, after the Spanish side of the island declared their independence from Spain, Haiti’s president, Jean-Pierre Boyer, entered the Dominican Republic with 10,000 soldiers and it wasn’t until February 1844 that the Dominican Republic gained its independence from Haiti. But what many Dominicans don’t know or ignore is the fact that the reason Boyer took control of the country was because he was asked to by Dominican politicians and military officers in exchange for protection from Spain. So, it exists in the minds of many Dominicans this preposterous idea that Haitians are going to take control of the Dominican Republic again and enslave Dominicans.
At the end of the day, I’m optimistic that through education a lot more Dominicans will be able to get rid of their prejudices and we will finally start building amazing love stories, especially queer love stories, between Dominicans and Haitians. I can totally picture in the near future a lot of Dominicans (myself included) learning to dance Kompa, learning to cook Joumou and Griot, and drinking Prestige beer, to conquer the hearts of Haitians all over the world.