“Border of Lights” Marks Massacre Anniversary

Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)
200 people gathered in the border town of Dajabón, in northwestern Dominican
Republic, from October 4-6 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the “Parsley
Massacre” in 1937, when Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo ordered the
slaughter of some 20,000 Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent in an
ethnic cleansing along the Dominican-Haitian border. The massacre took place
over the course of about five days.
            The three-day event marking the
bloodshed was entitled “Borders of Light.”

            The massacre’s name comes from how
its victims were targeted. The Dominican army and conscripted civilians asked
dark-skinned Dominican residents to identify a sprig of parsley, “perejil” in
Spanish. If the person pronounced the word with a Haitian Kreyòl accent, they
were often murdered.
            Among the notable artists supporting
and attending the gathering was Dominican author and activist Julia Alvarez and
Haitian author Edwidge Danticat.
            “Many Dominicans in the
diaspora and in the country have been waiting for an opportunity to acknowledge
a shameful event in our past, the 1937 massacre of thousands of Haitians,
ordered by the dictator Trujillo, and carried out by Dominicans,” Alvarez said.
“We feel compelled to do what our governments and our treaties, our accords and
our conferences, have not done: to express our sorrow for this shameful crime.
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 border,” said Father Regino
Martínez, who is director of the Dajabón-based Solidaridad Fronteriza and led
the vigil ceremony at the border. “Not one that is expressed with confrontation
or isolation, but rather side-by-side so they may culturally enrich each
community of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Our diversity, enriches us,
strengthens us and does not erase our identity.”
            The three-day gathering began with a
peace walk and candlelight vigil on Oct. 4 with community members on both sides
of the border. The following day volunteers spent the day cleaning and
beautifying a park in Ouanaminthe, Haiti, across the Massacre River from Dajabón.
The event culminated with a series of teach-ins and an art installation in
Dajabón, with the theme of unity.
Dominican-American writer Julia Alvarez,
left, is among some 200 persons at an Oct. 4 candlelight vigil on the
Dominican/Haitian frontier commemorating the 75th anniversary of the 1937
“Parsley Massacre,” in which some 20,000 Haitians and Haitian-ancestry
Dominicans were murdered.
Photo by Tony Savino