Bearing Witness and Giving Voice to the Genocide Long Forgotten and its Legacies: 80 Years after the Haitian Massacre
Activists and Artists from Around the World Come Together to support peace and solidarity in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Edward Paulino – Border of Lights
Dajabón, Dominican Republic. People from around the world will come together under the banner of Border of Lights from September 28th until October 1st, 2017 to peacefully commemorate the 76th anniversary of the Haitian Massacre, also known as el Corte (The Cut), or El Desalojo (the Eviction), and even the Parsley Massacre. In 1937, the Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo, ordered the slaughter of as many as 20,000 Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent in an ethnic cleansing on the Dominican-Haitian border. Border of Lights invites artists, activists, teachers, students, parents, and clergy to gather together to honor a tragedy long forgotten in the annals of 20th century genocidal history and unknown to many people by participating in a two-day community project in the border towns of Dajabón and Ouanaminthe.
The name "Parsley” comes from the often-told story that during the massacre there were times when the Dominican army and its conscripted civilians asked dark-skinned residents to identify a sprig of parsley, perejil, in Spanish. The word is difficult for speakers of Haitian Kreyòl to pronounce, so it was used to determine whether someone was Haitian. Those who failed to correctly pronounce the Spanish word, but instead made a wide and flat “r” sound very unlike the Spanish sound, were murdered. This linguistic litmus test, however, was not the sole factor to determine whether an individual lived or died. The region was heavily populated by the Dominican-born children of Haitians – children who grew up speaking Spanish and called the eastern half of Hispaniola home. This population was also targeted. In interviews years later, many of the survivors of the massacre living in Haiti for decades but born and raised in the Dominican Republic before 1937 were indeed interviewed in the Spanish language they had learned as children. BOL seeks to resurrect this long-forgotten history of cross border cultural and economic exchange and solidarity that the massacre and the subsequent anti-Haitian ideological government campaign attempted to erase.
Among the notable artists supporting and attending the gathering is author and activist, Julia Alvarez. "The  gathering was an immensely powerful and moving testament to the goodwill which exists between the people in both countries. But it is only the beginning of a shift in a history of violence and conflict between these two traditional ‘enemies.’ Border of Lights is committed to continuing our work as a community of concerned artists, activists, Dominicans, Haitians, with supporters of many nationalities. So, again, on this 76th anniversary of the massacre, we are gathering at the border in Dajabón and Ouanaminthe, continuing our project work, with a special emphasis this year on outreach to young people. We are hoping to hold workshops and interactive sessions with school children of both nationalities. We would also like to celebrate our many collaborations, our brotherhood and sisterhood. We look to the future and our shared hopes for this whole island and small planet.”
“Border of Lights supports and encourages strengthening a new understanding of borders. Not one that is expressed and associated with confrontation or isolation, but rather solidarity and the acknowledgment that for more than three centuries has culturally enriched both sides of the border in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Our diversity enriches us, strengthens us, and does not erase our identity,” says Father Regino Martínez, former Director of Solidaridad Fronteriza in Dajabón, DR, who led a candlight vigil at the border last October.
The two-day event begins on Friday, October 4, in Dajabón where volunteers will beautify the town’s park and conduct an art exhibition. Friday evening, a mass will be held in memory of the victims of the 1937 massacre but also to celebrate the much stronger and longer history of cross-border collaboration and solidarity. On Saturday, October 5, volunteers will spend the day cleaning and beautifying the park in Ouanaminthe, Haiti. At the same time, there will be an interactive cultural exhibition.
“These events seek not only to remember the victims of the massacre but also shine a light on ongoing injustices faced by those of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic,” says Cynthia Carrion, one of the key organizers of the gathering. The Border of Lights Collective has created a website (www.bordersoflight.org) to announce activities, host resources, and house an archive of personal stories about the massacre and its legacy of exclusion. Last year, BOL held a commemorative event in New York City August 27, curated by Nehanda Loiseau, in which actors performed a series of monologues conveying the experiences of Dominicans and Haitians affected by the massacre. Border of Lights Collective has a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds needed for the park cleanup and art installations.
ABOUT BORDER OF LIGHTS
Members of the Haitian and Dominican diaspora and activists across the country are coming together on the 76th anniversary of the Haitian Massacre to commemorate, collaborate, and shed light on current injustices faced by Dominicans of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic.
For more information and to get involved, visit borderoflights.org.