Conference addresses conflict in Haiti, Dominican Republic
The University’s Center for Latino Arts and Culture hosted a Caribbean conference this weekend to explore the relationship between Haiti and the Dominican Republic from a new perspective.
The closing of the Transnational Hispaniola Conference was held at Hickman Hall on Douglass campus, in remembrance of Sonia Pierre, a human rights advocate who died last December. Sonia Pierre worked to stop discrimination against individuals of Haitian origin.
The conference was held Friday through Sunday to bring activists, scholars and artists together to discuss the conflict between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, said Carlos Decena, organizer of the event.
Decena, an associate professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, said he got incredible support from the University.
“This really speaks the true commitment of the University and being a leader,” he said.
Nehanda Loiseau, a New York University alumnus, showed excerpts of her play “Across the Front Line,” which focuses on the relationship between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Although the two countries share an island, Loiseau said the nations are unable to get along.
“You see this a lot across the world — one border and people hate each other, have wars and the question is, why?” she said.
When Haitians immigrated to the Dominican Republic, they were treated poorly and put to work in sugar cane fields, Louiseau said.
“You pay $5 for your latte, but do you know the story behind the sugar you put in? The sugar you put in everyday came from this world [where people] are still fighting for their rights,” Loiseau said.
Conflict also stems from the countries’ histories, she said, when Haitians occupied the Dominican Republic before they gained independence in 1844.
Manuela Dandre Pierre, assistant in the Legal Department of Movimiento Unido De Mujeres Dominico-Haitianas, said her mother Sonia Pierre wanted women in the Dominican Republic and other countries to rise up and defend their rights.
“[Sonia Pierre] told me to rise up and continue her legacy wherever I go, while respecting others rights,” Dandre Pierre said. “While she was dying, I saw that same fight in her eyes. She died proud dedicating her life to carry our voices where otherwise would not have been heard.”
Unlike other countries in Latin America, lack of documentation in Dominican Republic is closely related to the question of migration, said Jenny Moron, a lawyer involved with human rights in Dominican Republic.
She said many Haitian people live in the Dominican Republic, and 11.4 percent of the population is undocumented.
“This affects their children, grandchildren and all their descendants because women and children who lack documentation are largely exposed to lower wages and physical abuses,” Moron said.
Without a passport in the Dominican Republic, people are not able to get married, receive health care or get an education, Loiseau said.
“Imagine yourself as an American and one day the American government tells you, you are no longer a citizen because your parents are from another country,” Loiseau said. “That’s what is happening to Haitian [descendants] in Dominican Republic. ”
Christopher Peralta, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said he was able to relate to the struggles of the Dominican Republic because he has seen the poverty there.
“It was definitely emotional. This conference makes learning in Rutgers University more realistic,” he said. “It’s not just learning in classroom, [but] seeing the person definitely improves the quality.”