January 20, 2010
Worldfocus Radio: Haiti and DR — Unequal Neighbors

In the aftermath of last week’s earthquake in Haiti, the Dominican Republic has expressed solidarity with its neighbor.

Though Haiti and the DR share the island of Hispaniola, their histories, cultures and economies greatly differ. Racial tensions, stateless children and immigrant violence have created tensions along the border.

Martin Savidge hosts Marselha Gonçalves Margerin of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights and Michele Wucker of the World Policy Institute to discuss these unequal neighbors.

Dominicans of Haitian descent.

The show explores:

  • the intertwined but distinct histories
  • Haitian migrants in the DR and Dominicans of Haitian descent
  • migration and trade along the border
  • the statelessness of children born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian migrants
  • the role of the Dominican Republic, the U.S. and international community


Marselha Gonçalves Margerin is the advocacy director at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights working with RFK Human Rights Award Laureates from Latin America and North Africa. She works directly with Sonia Pierre of the Dominican Republic on issues of race and discrimination facing Dominicans of Haitian descent. She has also worked with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, as well as other non-governmental, academic and international organizations.

Michele Wucker is the executive director of the World Policy Institute in New York City and the author of “Why Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians and the Struggle for Hispaniola.” She also was a 2007 Guggenheim Fellow working on evolving notions of citizenship, belonging and exclusion. Her work involves the politics and economics of immigration and integration, transnational political processes, the politics of culture, Latin America and the Caribbean and international finance.

Host: Martin Savidge
Lisa Biagiotti and Ben Piven

For more Worldfocus coverage of Haiti, visit our extended coverage page: Haiti’s Poor.




Oswald, the link was very interesting, thank you.


Well said, WH, NYC! Take the high road on this one. Nothing says ‘I’m ignorant’ like a guy ranting about misguided opinions on random message boards. You did your best…


Well, I do agree with everything that was said in the article. There’s nothing else I can say. Haiti does need drastic change, and maybe this earthquake is the solution (I know, it sounds bad) http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/africa/01/18/vbs.liberia/ I saw this yesterday. I think it will interest you.


Oswald,and your opinion about the article is?


“visiting tourist destinations does not make you an expert or qualified spokesperson” Why are you prejudging me? How do you know I only been to “tourist destinations”. “Universidad de La Habana, sorry you are not Dominican so let me translate that for you” How do you know I’m not Latino? (which I am, I’ll leave some mystery and say I’m South American). I’m also from New York. We actually have a lot in common, but obviously see things from a different perspective. You’re right, this is about Haiti not DR.


Oswald, let’s get back to the original focus which is to discuss the issues in Haiti. May I suggest you read the article Josefina referenced in comment #5, “David Brooks Op-Ed piece (Jan. 14, 2010) in the New York Times, “the Underlying Tragedy””.
I would like to hear your opinion regarding this article.


Oswald, you are still pretending to be the spokesperson for Dominicans. You admitted that you are NOT Dominican so stop trying to speak for them. The only person you are qualified to speak for is YOURSELF. Additionally you are prejudging people, which is the exact definition of PREJUDICE.
Not only have I visited DR, I also have a home there. Additionally I have studied in Cuba (Universidad de La Habana, sorry you are not Dominican so let me translate that for you, Havana University), visited Puerto Rico, South America, backpacked throughout Eastern and Western Europe and that is still not the entire list, only a fraction.
You presume that because I am from Washington Heights, that I have never left NYC. Once AGAIN you are WRONG. By the way, visiting tourist destinations does not make you an expert or qualified spokesperson. Stop TRYING to represent people that would never chose you as there spokesperson and now go back to school, knowledge is power.


If Obama was in DR he would be considered black. I consider him Both, but this is not about my opinion. It’s about how Dominicans see themselves and others and in that case he is a black man. Really, you are seeing things from a limiting American perspective. You will accomplish nothing like that. I wish you a well reading and hope one day you would travel around the world and see the real truth.


Oswald, once again YOU FAILED to answer the question for the THIRD TIME! Is President Obama black, white or both in YOUR opinion? Do you deny President Obama stated this quote,”I am as much white as I am black”? DO YOU? Are you stating that Obama is “self-hating” because he acknowledges BOTH races? You further stated, “I’m not black or Dominican”, therefore who made you the spokesman for Dominican people?
“Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see.”-Anonymous. As people take in new information they change their thinking. You are not at this level yet, but I assure you that if you do your research you will get there. Knowledge is power my friend and I wish you knowledge. Do your homework. Use information provided by people who are experts in their field. If you do this someone in this world will finally take you seriously. Happy reading!


To Washington Heights: “For the majority of the world, including Dominican Republic, he is black AND white” Are you kidding me? Like I said I’ve been to DR and I’ve seen how they treat black people. It’s worse than in America. I’ve been to South America And I’ve seen how people of color are treated. Have you ever been outside of Washington Heights? I’ve traveled and I’ve seen these things with my own two eyes and not only that but I had friends who were discriminated against in DR (simply because they were black or somewhat dark skin). Oh yeah, I’m not mad. I just don’t like people who take their “real world” experience from a book.


Oswald, please don’t get upset. Each culture is entitled to his/her view point about how to describe themselves. The majority of the world including Africa and Latin America does not follow the United States slave standard that one is either or.
Further, you have not responded to the question of how you describe our President Obama? For the majority of the world, including Dominican Republic, he is black AND white, regardless of how much you hate the obvious. Once again my friend, stop the hate.


To Washington Heights: First, I’m not black or Dominican, and you seem to be someone one in denial. It’s very sad because I’ve meet plenty of people (Dominicans – if you are one) like you. It’s very sad. Why do you think Puerto Ricans hate Dominicans so much? It’s because of their skin color. If the Dominicans were Argentinians I’m pretty sure Puerto Ricans would have no problem. There is no sense in talking some sense to you because you will just lie to your self to make your self happy.


Oswald, I’m glad that you met “hundreds of Dominicans”. Yet we are talking about a population of 10 million and the “pathetic ones” that you are talking about are not statistically representative of the whole society. You further state that “The majority of Dominicans have African blood up to their hearts”, well my friend, then from the heart to the top of their head, as much as you might dislike it is white.
You use the word “white” as if it’s shameful and bad, maybe you can learn something from our President Obama who states “I am as much white as I am black”. Do you also deny President Obama’s whiteness, you probably do. Stop the hate, embrace your whiteness and be proud of a great mix.


To Washington Heights: The majority of Dominicans have African blood up to their hearts. They deny with out any reason what-so-ever. It’s the truth. I’ve been to DR, and I have seen with my own two eyes how they treat black people or people who are one shade lighter than you, and those “percentage” you put are B.S because you can have a Dominican who is black but some what “light skin” and they will consider them selves Indian or even white. Dominicans are notorious for denying they have any black blood in them. At least in Cuba they acknowledge they are black and embrace it. that’s why DR is so pathetic. I’ve meet hundreds of Dominicans and the majority are black or have STRONG AFRICAN features. We are talking about DR not Argentina or Uruguay.


Oswald. Do your research my friend. DR is composed of 70% mixed, 20% white, and 10% black. Haiti is composed of 95% black and 5% mulatto or white. (70% mixed means mixed with European). Question for you Oswald- is DR more pathetic than Haiti?
Stop the hate, Dominicans are proud people and they accept their mixed background. Maybe you should redirect your hatred from trying to racially define people and use this displaced energy to help the people in Haiti (regardless of their shade). Spread the love not the hate my friend.


DR is really a pathetic place. The MAJORITY ARE OF AFRICAN DECENT just like Haiti. They are a bunch of self-hating people. Very Sad. It’s funny how DR treats Haiti because Puerto Rico treats DR the same because most DR people are black. Very interesting, a circle of hate.


Global Fusion, I respect your view point. In your comment, you said that “we are all of African descent”, I would like to add that we are also of European descent in the Western Hemisphere (in various shades). In America, a person who is light-skinned like Hally Berry is considered Black while to Africans, she is considered white. In fact, my African brothers (directly from Africa) argue that all American Blacks are mixed with European decent. True Africans do not consider American Blacks as equal. Unfortunately, racial hatred comes not only from fair skinned people but also from the darkest skinned people of all. At the end of the day Global Fusion, I ask you not to deny your whiteness.


@ Josefina Haitians & Dominicans are both of African decent whether u want to accept that or not- they once shared one Island until the French & Spanish split them hence having 2 different languages from their former slave masters.@Ana -many parts of America once belonged to Mexico so maybe they are ready to take it back. The lack of knowledge or acceptance of history is why the world is so screwed up & injustice continues to occur in this world. Things are not the way they are just because-it’s by design from history so we can never move forward as human beings until we come to terms & right the wrongs of history.
It’s sad when I hear Dominicans acting like they are better than Haitians. Slavery has done a # on the world because we are all of African decent, but we continue to discriminate against one another just as our slave masters taught us to do whether it is in Africa or the Diaspora we battle one another based on skin color & class- where the lighter skin always feels superior 2 the darker skin & often has majority of the wealth whether we r all Dominicans, Haitians, Columbians, Jamaicans, Brazilians, Angolans, Nigerians, Ghanaians, South Africans, etc. This is pathetic slave mentality that we continue to pass on one generation after the other. At the end of the day we are all human beings & when 1 suffers we all suffer-separatism has never served any good in this world & history has proven that time & time again.


Lisa. Thank you for the clarification. I really enjoy the show. The show offers the most interesting topics and different points of view that cannot be found in mainstream media. Honestly, I can’t get enough of the show and I wish it was an hour long!


Josefina: Thanks for listening to the show. I believe Martin was referring to the geographic closeness of the two countries — that they physically share a border. Lisa


Mr. Savage, you insult Dominicans by stating that Dominicans and Haitians “physically couldn’t be any more closely connected”. If you are referring to physical characteristics in this quote, then I must disagree with your comment. DR’s ethnic background is the same as Puerto Rica and Cuba. Dominicans are mostly of Colonial Spanish descent while Haitians are mostly of African descent. Mr. Savage I presume that you are of European decent, would you argue that your background could not be more closely connected to Africans? Dominicans and Haitians speak two different languages, they have different cultures and beliefs and physically they look very different from each other. Your comment is difficult to agree with and requires further clarification.
Additionally, just an aerial view of the landscapes at the border area speaks for itself and demonstrates the destruction that Haiti has inflicted on itself (a view from Google Earth shows Haiti deforested while DR is lush and green on the right-hand side). Haiti has over 200 years of independence and they have to start looking inward instead of blaming others for their sad economic/political predicament. “Haiti has more NGO’s per capita than any other place on earth” and still can’t get their act together, according to David Brooks Op-Ed piece (Jan. 14, 2010) in the New York Times, “the Underlying Tragedy”.
As Ana has correctly written, will we (America) join Mexico since we are connected? I think the majority of Americans would say no. Hence forth, do not force others such as the Dominicans to apply policies that we in America would not do ourselves. Immigration policy has been debated in America for years, continuing through different Presidents and Parties (Dem/Rep). If we as Americans, who have all the resources, cannot solve immigration problems at home how do we expect to impose a poor country like DR to do so? This is why Dominican Republic is sovereign and should be allowed to dictate its own policies without foreign intervention.


What I have gotten from the broadcast is that there is a lot of illegal immigration by the Haiti people. They should be deported to Hattie like we do to any illegal aliens. Like Mexico and the USA becuase they are so close should we join with Mexico? No!, so why should DR and Hattie join together? Why should the country document illegal aliens that came into the country even if they have children in the country? I feel that DR should put a boarder patrol like the USA does to Mexico to keep illegals from crossing and keep the Haiti people out.


Hello Dave: You can listen to the show live on the website tomorrow at 5:30. It will also be archived at around 6:15 p.m., so you can listen to it whenever you like. Let us know what you think, Lisa


The “Dominincan Republic” is literally the United States adopted child on the racial divide fault-line regarding this symbiotic,but ambivalent co-habitational homeland,…prematurely manifested on this floating rock. Please be advised as a sidenote: The DR has been the recruiting ground for major league baseball up-in-comers that enjoy the playing fields that the United States provides on it’s naval base. These young ballplayers are signed at sixteen or younger to minor league contracts by many unscrupulous agents working for major league teams ever since the early 90’s. Now back to reality,..but the Haitian people aren’t so fortunant. The healthy males are culled out too work as immigrant fruit pickers in Florida’s agricultural industry. The squalor living conditions are as bad,or equal to the past,equating them too,(minus the endless time-line of injustice) the northeast tobacco industry farmer’s widely exposed,and documented exploitation during the early 40’s,50’s,and 60’s of the Puerto Rican (immigrants/citizen’s?) tobacco pickers, shamelessly working as poorly-paid slaves,for the boss-man! This ,I,ve seen first hand throughout the state,and yet their treated like illegals even though their filthy corrupt government,through the United States Embassy in Haiti,…through-which the United States Health,and Human Services contracts them out as human cattle,…sound familiar,how pathetic! Lastly,regarding the help to the Haitian people,…there are 500 thousand,or more residents living in Cite Soleil near the capital of Port-au-Prince that is said to be the home of the “Poorest-of-the-Poor”, known to all NGO’s throughout the Western Hemisphere. There is reportedly no food,water,communication,or help in this area of destitution that the untouchables call “Boston” with open sewers,no electricty,no bathing water,and at least fifteen indigenous locals per thatch-hut,…lucky enough if they can scrouge up a dirt cookie for bedtime,nice. PS. These fools drinking in the rich bureaucratic kool-aid having interviewed on Cable TV, and various legitimate news networks in all nationalities throughout the world,…yes, the supposedly experts having the gall to say things were/are getting progressively better,and were doing so before the earthquake should find a new profession,period!


on what channel?

Produced by Creative News Group LLC     ©2023 WNET.ORG     All rights reserved

Distributed by American Public Television