I can't remember when I first heard about the Haitian Massacre. It was one of those shameful events, like the murder of the Mirabal sisters, that my family always brought up whenever they spoke of the dictatorship. It was blamed on Trujillo and his brainwashed military and minions.
But dictatorships succeed by planting a little dictator inside each of us. Although many Dominicans did not participate in the massacre, it was made possible because of a deep-seated antagonism towards our Haitian neighbors.
I've experienced this antipathy at the nonprofit coffee farm that my husband and I established in the Dominican Republic. Our idea was to model Fair trade practices of agriculture, create an umbrella brand, Café Alta Gracia, and bring in small growers who were otherwise unable to compete with the agribusiness plantaciones. But the local farmers, victims themselves of poverty and oppression, balked when we accorded Haitians the same benefits and wages. The massacre mentality is not over.
We, Quisqueyanos valientes, need to acknowledge the shameful treatment of our Haitian brothers and sisters in the past and in the present in order to co-create a brighter future. The Border of Lights gathering, taking place this October 5-6 on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the massacre, should not be just a one-time event, but an ongoing collaboration between neighbors, modeling for communities and countries in conflict around the world what can happen when two peace-loving people turn a historical barrier of darkness into a border of living light.