Divided island: How Haiti and the DR became two worlds

Divided island: How Haiti and the DR became two worlds

Let’s pause here. I’m driving on the road
that separates Haiti from the Dominican Republic. Right here. It’s the border that
divides two very different countries. If you’re born in Haiti, you’re
2.5 times more likely to die as a baby than if you’re born in the DR. You’ll be almost ten times poorer and you can expect to have a much shorter
life. I came here to find out how the two countries that share this one island can
be so different, with a politically volatile and impoverished Haiti on one
side and the stable and relatively rich Dominican Republic on the other. How did this line produce two totally different worlds? My journey starts here, at this beach
village in southern Haiti, where Haitian merchants, most of them women, are
preparing for a nighttime boat ride. The women boarding this boat have one goal:
to make it to the border where they will be let into a Dominican market, to buy
and sell goods before returning to their villages. It’s international trade at its
most informal. We’re taking these boats because the next door mountain range
makes the land journey almost impossible. These worn-out wooden boats have been
making this exact journey twice per week for decades and yet the process remains
chaotic and unorganized as if it’s happening for the first time. All of this energy, time, and effort all to transport a handful of goods that, in most
countries, would be shipped in bulk inside one of these. We make this seven-hour journey to the
border town arriving around, 4 am. The sun rises and we walk to the border
market. This market was established right on the border as a partnership between the two nations, to give vendors from both sides a place to buy and sell on equal footing. As we approach the border I quickly realize that’s not what’s happening here. So I’m looking across the border right now, into the market and you can see that
Dominicans are already setting up. This is one of the big complaints of the
Haitians: they’re stuck on this side waiting to cross the border and the
border guards are just delaying it and meanwhile the Dominicans are able to set
up and get the best spots. These Haitians come from miles away on this grueling
boat journey, that I know now firsthand is very grueling, and they get to the
border and the guards stop them for no reason. They’re supposed to open it up for
everyone at the same time. The guards keep the Haitian women from
crossing, not letting anyone know how long it will be. The tension grows and
then finally, hours after the Dominicans were allowed to enter, the guards open up
the bridge. They buy and sell for the day, before
returning to the boats to make the journey home. The grueling boat journey,
the senseless discrimination, it embodies the asymmetry that exists on this island.
Watching it happen, it’s impossible not to ask how it got like this. There are a
few key things that explain how this island produced two very different
countries, but if you want to get at the very root of it you have to go back to
when this island was owned by two European powers: France and Spain. This
island is actually the first place that Christopher Columbus set up a colony in
the new world on his first voyage back in like 1490. France wanted a piece of
this island because it was rich in resources like sugar and coffee, so they
fought a war with the Spanish and they ended up splitting the island in two: one
side would be the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo and the other side would
be the French colony, with the same name, Saint-Domingue, just in French. And that is
the most important part of understanding this whole thing, is how these imperial
powers treated their colonial posessions. The French exploited the
land. They brought in tons of slaves and they were interested in making Saint-Domingue solely an economic producer. They destroyed the soil from aggressively
harvesting the same crop year after year, and they created a group of very
resentful, overworked, and abused slaves that eventually rebelled. The Spanish had
a different approach. After establishing domination on this island by massacring
the indigenous population, they didn’t exploit it like the French did. Instead they went to places like Mexico and Peru, to look for gold. So they didn’t bring nearly as many slaves onto this island, and as a result they weren’t nearly as profitable a colony. Instead, the Spanish integrated with the remaining indigenous population, by recognizing the native leader’s authority and intermarrying with the locals. The result was a smaller and more racially mixed
population, with a sustainable economy and a political system, something totally absent from
France’s colony. This becomes really important in the
early 1800s, when independence comes around. Haiti declares independence,
fights off the French, and basically declares itself the first black, former
slave republic in the world. They do so with very little framework for a society
and for a government and they also do so with land that has been exploited, year
after year, with the same crop which basically destroys the fertility of the
land. And to add to all of that, because they were this first black Republic, the
world essentially isolated them. The United States didn’t want to recognize
the independence of a black nation. They thought it might become a slave empire
and seek revenge. The French showed up on Haitian shores
soon after independence, and said you owe us a debt for all of the assets that you
stole from us when you became independent, all these economic assets,
you owe us that debt and you have to pay it over the next thirty years. This
crippling debt Haiti did pay back over years, but it really hampered their
development. This history doesn’t exonerate the dictators and corrupt
politicians that have plagued Haiti’s development since its independence, but
it helps explain them. Suffocating embargoes and the independence debt, as
well as the lack of any tradition or investment in governmental institutions,
guaranteed Haiti’s failure from the moment it was born, and a racist world
made sure of it. That racism isn’t just embedded into Haiti’s history, it is in
fact very alive today. As I drive up the border, by coincidence my driver is also
a Dominican border patrol official. We have hours in the car, where he slowly
and cautiously tells me about how immigration policy has changed in the
Dominican Republic in recent years. “Regularization Program”. That’s a euphemism. He’s talking about a policy of targeting anyone of Haitian
descent, even citizens, rounding them up and deporting them.
There’s always been anti-Haitian sentiment in the Dominican Republic,
usually resulting in racist violence, but since 2010, that sentiment has been
seeping into legislation. The Dominican Constitution that was drafted in 1929,
says that anyone born in the country is automatically a citizen, even if your
parents were undocumented immigrants. This is the same in places like the
United States, but the DR rewrote its constitution in 2010, to only give
citizenship to those born on DR soil, to legal residents. Then, in 2013 the high
court in the DR ruled that this new definition would be applied
retroactively. All the way back to 1929, meaning any citizen who had been
born in the DR to undocumented parents would have their citizenship revoked. More than 200,000 Dominican citizens, were suddenly stateless. It is clearly an illegal act, it is an
immoral act, it is a racist act by the Dominican government. And it’s happening
because these people are black. Dominican law said that if these
stateless people wanted to stay in the DR, they would have to go to a government
office and put their name on this foreigner registry. The government gave
these people one year to either get their name on the registry or face
deportation. Over 55,000 have been officially deported since the
June 2015 deadline. The UN estimates that 128,000
people have voluntarily fled to Haiti, a country many of them have never lived in.
Some came here to this camp on the border, where they’ve been living in
limbo for years. The moment I cross into the DR, I start
to see what this crackdown looks like. On a 75km bus ride, we pass eight
security checkpoints in which security personnel board the bus, to eye who was on
it, and in some cases check papers. But each time we stop, they seem to only
check the papers of the same few passengers. That’s my translator, Pascale. He’s an American
citizen, but everywhere we go in the DR, security forces keep asking him
for his passport. Halfway through the journey, we pull off the road into a facility where a few young military guys are sitting around. And our driver brings
this woman and her two children over to the military guys. She’s speaking in
perfect Dominican Spanish to them, claiming that her children are Dominican
and that the driver brought us to this checkpoint to turn her in because she’s
black. None of this seems to matter, she doesn’t have her papers and her skin
color seems to be all the guards need to see. Haiti’s land and people were abused
when it was a colony of slaves. The world then shunned it, with embargoes and
independence debts when it was a new nation, and today Haitians in the DR
experience racism that is overt enough to be enshrined in law. As we drive up this very curvy road, I
have the DR to my right and Haiti to my left. Back when the French were here, this
was the richest colony on earth, but that came at a price. Not only to abused slaves, but also to the land that they worked. Clear cutting and
single crop planting continued after the French left, but instead of being used to
make fancy French furniture, the trees were burned to cook food. This explains what I’m seeing when on my right there’s lush jungle. and on my left
there’s bare and eroding hillsides. Zoom out a little bit and it’s very clear. I follow the border road all the way north,
until I hit another market town. I wanted to see if the same discriminatory
dynamics played out up here as they did down south. This market was built
with money from the European Union, and the UN development program, with the specific intention of creating a space where communities from both sides could come and buy and sell on equal footing. Rolling through the market, and
once again like we saw in the southern market, the Dominicans are first setting up. I walk to the border and find this huge group of people at this gap in the
fence, paying a border guard to get in early. The dynamic is the same as down
south, only with a few more overt bribes and border guards who seem to have no
problem hitting Haitians with a stick. After hours of waiting for guards to
open the gate for everyone, the Haitians are finally let in. This is a story about a border that
separates two vastly different countries, but it’s moreso a story about policy: how centuries of racist policies, from the French, from the U.S., from the world,
from the DR, can hold a nation back from progressing. Haiti, this first black
republic, has experienced some of the most predatory and racist policy from outside
forces. For Haitians this story isn’t just their history. It’s their present. It’s the stage on which they live their lives. So, I want to say a big thank you to lululemon, who is a sponsor for Borders. They sent me these ABC pants, which are these really versatile, flexible pants. They’re super sturdy, and they’re meant to be basically used for hiking and for activewear, but also around the house when I’m kind of just hanging out, I’ve been using them for both as I’ve been making Borders. I love them. Thank you lululemon for sending me these pants, but more importantly thank you for sponsoring Borders and making this happen. If you want to try out some lululemon ABC pants, You could get a pair of your own. You should definitely check that out.

100 thoughts on “Divided island: How Haiti and the DR became two worlds”

  • This is a surreal feeling. Thanks to everyone for following along and being a part of this journey. Can't tell you all what this means to me. The next video will launch in a week! Follow my newsletter to stay up to date: www.vox.com/borders-email

    – Johnny

  • Haiti got a raw deal from France but at some point Haiti has to pick itself up by the bootstraps and fix it's own problems and rebuild. The US built itself out of nothing, Haiti can do great things if Haitians would start thinking in the same way. Roll up your shirtsleeves and BUILD. Stop thinking about the Dominicans and work on Haiti.

  • Miguel Quezada says:

    Te felicito por la buena calidad de tu video, pero no me gusto para nada el enfoque que da este documental, describes a los dominicanos con un nivel de racimo intolerante y abusivo contra los haitianos, el cual no es a sí, si existen ciertas diferencias entre los dos pueblos, pero porque no agregaste toda la ayuda humanitaria que le a dado República Dominicana a Haití, como por ejemplo el 10 de Enero del 2010 cuando Haití sufrió ese espantoso terremoto, República Dominicana fue el primer país en socorrer a los hermanos haitianos, en vez de tachar a República Dominicana como racista, por que no dices que en los hospitales y escuelas publicas de la República Dominicana se recibe a cualquier extranjero indocumentados, principalmente de origen haitiano, el único objetivo de la República Dominicana es regularizar a los indocumentados especialmente a los haitianos porque es la mayor población de inmigrantes en República Dominicana, para que todos estén bajo el amparo de la ley y de sus derechos como ciudadanos, como todo país la República Dominicana debe de tener sus regulaciones migratorias y el hecho de que lo haga no debe de tacharla como una nación racista, la culpa de que el pueblo de Haití esté bajo esa miseria, la a tenido sus gobiernos corruptos y unas que otras malas influencias internacionales a beneficio de sus propios intereses, ninguna nación está más interesada que la República Dominicana por que Haití sea un país próspero y productivo, donde ambas naciones sean el principal destino turístico y de negocios en toda la zona del caribe.

  • Miguel Quezada says:

    I congratulate you for the good quality of your video, but I did not like at all the approach that this documentary gives, you describe the Dominicans with an intolerant and abusive cluster level against Haitians, which is not yes, if there are certain differences between the two villages, but because you did not add all the humanitarian aid that the Dominican Republic has given to Haiti, such as on January 10, 2010 when Haiti suffered that terrible earthquake, the Dominican Republic was the first country to help the Haitian brothers , instead of crossing out the Dominican Republic as a racist, because you do not say that in the hospitals and public schools of the Dominican Republic any undocumented foreigners are received, mainly of Haitian origin, the only objective of the Dominican Republic is to regularize the undocumented especially to Haitians because it is the largest immigrant population in the Dominican Republic, so that everyone is under the protection of the law and of its rights as citizens, like every country, the Dominican Republic must have its immigration regulations and the fact that it does so should not cross it out as a racist nation, the fault that the people of Haiti are under that misery, the had its corrupt governments and some other bad international influences for the benefit of its own interests, no nation is more interested than the Dominican Republic because Haiti is a prosperous and productive country, where both nations are the main tourist and business destination in all The Caribbean area.

  • As far as interesting this video could be, it's full of inaccuracies and leaves behind countless fundamental sides of the issue. There are almost no points of view from DR citizens, the environmental issue is but barely hinted, there's no mention whatsoever what happened with the Duvaliers in Haiti and Trujillo in DR, just to name a few. I also recommend giving a check to "Collapse" by Jared Diamond, there's a whole chapter tackling the different environmental policies in these two countries and their long lasting consequences

  • Why wouldn’t Dominicans go first the stands are on the Dominican side just like if the stands were on the Haitians side Haitians would go first

  • marek wittenberg says:

    The same thing happened when i took the train from italy to germany. When we stopped in Austria the police only checked the passports of non-white people

  • A brilliant report in my view…as brilliant as it is distressing….living on the other side of the world, this is the most I have ever heard about the divided but fascinating island. Troubling that there is no suggestion of change happening..nor the will to assert a new deal for the Haitians..thank you..
    Rod McNeil. TV….Thailand

  • Haitians had move throughout the Caribbean islands and none then have accept the Hsitians. Except Dominican Republic that have more than 3 million. Beca use of their poverty condition many if not all want to move to DR. Domininicans are fearfull that Haitians take over their island and outnumber then.

  • 2:50 well now that you don't have french backing, money, and military you can't enslave and suppress the Dominicans anymore like you did for ages. You don't like it now that the tables have turned.

  • You failed to mention that in the Revolution that the Haitian slaves killed every white person in Haiti. This included women and children and even there dogs. This is one of the reasons the U.S. didn't recognize there independents. They were afraid if the American slaves were freed the same might happen here in the U.S. It's all very sad.

  • This is really sad! Every human being should be treated with respect, especially those that are just working trying to survive. Both countries have a lot do to improve these conditions and the unnecessary hate that exist from both sides.

  • Leah Ann Mitchell says:

    I always want to watch these videos but it really does matter who the message of my people's struggles is coming from. Why does this white guy always get these types of stories ? Just feels disrespectful…

  • Spidey Whiplash says:

    lululemon is pronounced "loo loo lemon" not "loo loo mon". Thanx for clearing that up for me. Excellent & informative video too!🤓

  • My people should learn to live as one..as what the great bob Marley say ONE LOVE ONE HEART..we are one human specie we are homosapien,means smart man.

  • All of Haiti is not poor, some parts of Haiti is very wealthy and full of socialites…. Like every country in the world the rich live good and the poor suffers……..

  • Good summary and showing the plight of people for actions of their ancestors. Since you talk about statelessness, have you looked into children made stateless due to being born via international Surrogacy? Although a minority, the effects of statelessness are the same.

  • Nice wording there. Funny you don't mention that the reason why there was so little intermarriage on the Haitian side is because the African descendants slaughtered all of the European descendants.
    But at least you obliquely admitted that intermarriage of the Africans with the Europeans is what created a more successful population of people on the DR side.

  • You right out lie, Haití was never the richest colony, the richest colony ever was New Spain, which became modern Mexico.

  • Lots of comments and such opinions have a tendency to be rather one-sided. …… but I would like you all to see and think at 12:48 see the difference between the land of Haiti to the Dominican's side! Only that says a lot about the Haitians way of living and thinking ….. better stay away from them !!!! (I'm not part of that side of the world,sorry) just my opinion for what I see. Ciao Ciao

  • What a sensational report, and what depressing circumstances. In the end, we're all the same essential components, once you remove hate and prejudice from the equation.

  • Alexander Beliasvky says:

    you dont have to go to school to understand IT IS A CULTURAL FACTS FACTS,ONE MAKE MORE BECAUSE IT IS ON THEIR DNA OTHERS NOT


    As soon point haiti economy was the most powerful in the Caribbean. They were the number one on exporting wood to different countries but they just cut trees and never plant. They became that side a big desert. D R was different so they took care about natures resources

  • Ze French. They destroyed Africa as well. If you look at countries in Africa that were English, they are much better off nowadays than former French colonies. I'm wondering if this report is one-sided. If not, then this is widespread discrimination and should be strongly discouraged and fought.

  • Rivers_of_Blood Marshal says:

    Vox's answer to why blacks are poor is to yell 'racism' but DR is mostly black too. You make it out as if DR is white and the whites are oppressing black Haitians, which is not true. Colorism is a factor , the light skinned blacks do abuse the darker ones, all around the world, partly to maintain a thin separation between both groups to feel distinct and better than their darker cousins. But don't try to pretend this situation in DR/ Haiti is a black vs. white thing when its not.
    If the white French had never left Haiti or had not been massacred there by the blacks, the place would be prosperous right now.

  • That's not what you suppose to talk about, talk about how the elite destroying Haiti. How Haitian are still paying for their goid deeds to won their war by Napoleon

  • The same should be done In America. If you were born to illegal even 20 years ago good bye🤔 there must be a balance it's out of control at American borders

  • The illustrations are nice. That's about it. This documentary, like almost all others, only offer a perspective from the Haitian side. That's the main LEGITIMATE beef the Dominicans have.

  • raymond brannon says:

    LOL Dominicans treating Haitians worse as if a Dominican is not black themselves, with a history of oppression, Sad to see the remnants of conversation……

  • Who’s gonna tell these Dominicans that most of them are black, too? But we’re not ready for that conversation yet, are we?
    – a Dominican

  • Why doesn't France pay Haiti for all the horrible things they put those people through?? The effects of abuse last for generations.

  • You mean Haiti has been free and independent for over two hundred years and can't improve their station in life? Also, why do the men not take that dangerous boat trip to go to the DR market and it's mostly the women?

  • Carlton Wilson says:

    If Haiti was your neighbor, you would want a secure border too.

    The D.R. is a sovereign nation. It's immigration laws are for it to decide.

  • You forgot the part when Haiti invaded the DR, unified the island, massacred Dominicans and these had to struggle for their independence…

  • There's a whole lot missing in this video. The difference is very simplistically attributed to racism, but the examples given are not racist just neighbour quarrels. The French and British have neighbourly quarrels, yet they are essentially the same race. The driver in the DR taxi looked the same 'race'. I would say that any difference in prosperity could be because of difference in politics, without even knowing what the politics are.
    I would agree that such mistreatment of people is abominable, but the video producer makes no attempt to explain why it is happening, beyond the usual 'racism' accusation, which explains nothing.

  • Laura Marié Olivo Camasta says:

    Hey Johnny! I really admire your job and Vox's work because I think is pretty accurate with reality. Sometimes it does happen in some of your videos about current situations, that you tend to generalise which is totally understandable because if not, how can we jump into conclusions? However, viewers must understand that this view of what happens in the border is slightly different of what happens in the city. Obviously the border is empowered by resented guards that are trained to do certain things and reflect certain attitudes that are not necessarily reflected in Dominican population (speaking for my generation, of course). It is almost the same with all the Dominicans that have fled to NY (specifically Washington Heights) in search for a better life. Haitians do the same with our country (I'm Dominican, as you can tell) and there comes a point where a nation cannot hold anymore foreigners. Same as the U.S did with us. It's a border issue that with time has deceased its racism reflection because new generations do not think the same way their parents do. If you go to Santo Domingo and other country side areas to the north, you will see a very different image of Haitian citizens working in Dominican streets and selling goods and gaining profits for their daily life. And I'm not justifying the treatment at the border, simply pointing out that there are different realities to the same situation. Thank for your amazing work, I think I have seen most of your videos! Hugs, Dominican Laura.

  • Nelson Swanberg says:

    1492? Billionaires trying to get to mars for ego aggrandizement while we have poverty and racism like this on our planet. We should be better.

  • There is very little difference between Haiti and the DR. They are both corrupt, VOO DOO ridden, devil-worshipping, corrupt places, populated by drugged up lazy people. The people are driven by greed and pure evil.

  • Sean Pablo Carpintero says:


  • The solution to Haiti is simple just have the French pay back all the money they asked for when they gained independence

  • Este video, esta pagafo por alguna ong, que viven de la miseria hatiana, como principes, en nuestros hoteles De DR, y se dedican al chantaje de que lis Dominicanis somis racistas con este knhk africano, que nos quieren injertar a las malas, del unico pais que RD, ha peleado mas 5 veces xe haiti, por sys atrpellos, a un pais que unuca maldad que le hemos hecho es abrirles nuestros hospitales, escuelas, trabajos sin ser molestados, llevebse 3 millones a su pais, haganlos americabis, franceses, lo que sea, aqui en RD, no caben mas, por malos agradecidos, Dios, Patria y libertad, no asu religion satanica….

  • Haiti has had more than 200 years to sort it out. there comes a point where you can't blame past events for a bad situation.

  • Black peoples are incapable of running a country that isn’t impoverished and third world. There isn’t one Black Country in the world that is rich or successful.

  • Haiti is too magical, if every Haitian United, the rapture would be here, highest priest chief's of the Melanated world. Israelites with pure DNA

  • A Dominican Coworker told
    me to mark his words,
    "In 30 years, the next
    President of the United
    States, will be elected by
    Latinos, the numbers don't lie".
    As a Black Man, I just smirked at his
    arrogance, and said to myself,
    Poor fool gonna learn.

  • He spends more time complaining about how Hatians are treated in DR and not on why Haiti is such a bad place. For people to improve they have to stop being victims and start being agents for a better haiti. Haiti is not a wreck because DR does not welcome Haitians. They need to stop looking to other countries to rescue them, but take it upon themselves to make their country a better place. As long as they have systemic corruption and leaders who are more into self promotion, than helping their countrymen, it will never get better. Their past is sad, but not unique in the world.

  • Adriana Caguana says:

    thank you vox for doing this piece. I am half Dominican and this is a part of my motherland that really hurts. I grew up with the horrible mentality of colorism and anti- Haitian. It's the biggest reason I dont try to visit the lush land if my ancestors. It scares me that as an American my home country will eventually go down the tubes the way DR and its social structure on humanity already has.

  • Stop , Research A Lit More before saying everything you just say . And then talk about what Haiti did to the dominican .

  • Haitian Regiments fought in Savanah, Georgia against the British in the American Revolution. They contributed to the independence of the U.S.A… and, that's how they are rewarded now. Wow!!!!

  • Ivancito Oficial says:

    THANKS GOD MY MOTHER TOUGHT ME TO TREAT EVERYONE EQUALY. I Hope Haiti some day develop their economy and get out of that hole, trust me, DR has problems too. it's not the US fault if DR is doing bad. the way many people think about Haiti people in DR really hurts me, because they are human being. I am Dominican and I agree that many Haitians are treated really bad but not all of us are the same way. Every country protect its immigration and laws.

  • Brazilian American Patriotic Soldier says:

    Bad idea for the Haitians to chase away the French farmers, They did this around the World & succeeded building civilizations, The French weren't brutal like Spaniards, They liked to Help & make money ofcourse!🤷‍♂️

  • Youtuve Youtuve says:

    Deblasio be like, a country doesnt accept illegal immigrant is racist. How did u get that logic, let me go to your house in ill live there forever lete see if you'll not kick me out.

  • Monique Cambero says:

    The BIBLE says Simeon and Levi are brothers. Those people are Israelites and don't even know it. Watch GOCC's lesson for clarity. End time prophecy.

  • loboblanco123456 says:

    Resulta k Estados Unidos patrocinó a los dictadores haitianos como duvalierla policía asesina tonton makout por temor k se instalara el comunismo como en Cuba….. Masacraron al pueblo lo Analfabetizaron… La corrupción y el desentrndimiento por parte de Francia hicieron el resto

  • realboygames 123 says:

    I do not like to think of Dominican republic and Haiti as "*two different worlds*" I'm Haitian and I believe that these two countries we should not unify and become one country but we should act as brothers and help each other as we are both part of Hispaniola

  • The United States 🇺🇸 a World 🌎 Power.. This should come as an embarrassment to our country 🇺🇸 and it's ignorance,inhumanitarian and it's happening in our own backyard. Shame..

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