Haiti: Dominican Nationalism on the Island of Hispaniola

I have read one book from Haiti before my reading challenge, and it was by Edwidge Danticat, so I wanted to read a book by another author, but I had no such luck, since I was only able to find her books. This is how I ended up reading The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat. In all honesty, I hadn’t exactly planned on reading another book of hers, but due to the reading challenge I went ahead anyway.

Nationalism. Ethnic cleansing. Persecution. All familiar words. Still happening today. I try to keep up with what’s happening in the world, at least on a “need to know” basis, and I consider myself fairly aware of what has happened in the past, but I admit, I had little knowledge about the Haitian persecution on the Dominican side on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. “To them we are always foreigners, even if our grandmémés grandmémés were born in this country… This makes it easier for them to push us out when they want to.”

Rafael Trujillo was the leader of the Spanish side of the island, Dominica, and he decided it was time for a genocide in 1937. The target for his nationalistic obsession were Haitian cane workers. Amabelle,  a maidservant to a Dominican family and her lover decided to get married and move back to Haiti. Obviously things did not go as planned.

There are so many questions we could ask about our world and its inhabitants, and one of them is simply, why can’t we get along? And if we’ve figured out that we can’t get along, why can’t we just leave the others alone? When you are poor and living on an island, there are not many places to escape to. If you’re lucky enough you can go to the other part of the island, which is the richer part, so that you can make a living, and preferably not be dirt poor anymore. Sounds fair enough, but then… One person’s obsession can change the faith of everyone around him, in his own country and in the neighbouring country. Sounds too familiar, right?

The book is a fast read, and beautifully lyrical as its best. Somehow it just was not memorable to me. Almost immediately after I closed the book for the last time the story just left my head, without much of it saved to my hard drive. I have read many similar books, and therefore I think this just didn’t live up to others in the same genre. This is definitely not a bad book, and for someone interested in understanding the Caribbean countries and cultures should definitely give it a try. As far as genocide goes, there are more intriguing books to read.


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