“Conquering Cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic” – Panel Discussion

By Nic Johnson, Undergraduate Research Assistant

On October 24, 2013, Representative Barbara Lee (CA) and the Global Health Caucus hosted “Conquering Cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic: The Untold Story of Progress” at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. The briefing featured representatives of public health organizations and advocacy groups to discuss new policy initiatives and partnerships for the elimination of cholera in Hispaniola.

Karen Goraleski, Executive Director of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, introduced the background of the event, a “call to action” in January 2012 that began a partnership between Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and a group of more than 20 international organizations to eliminate cholera on the island of Hispaniola by 2022. This international coalition led to the creation of the 2013 National Plan for the Elimination of Cholera in Haiti. Continue reading

Historical ‘Anti-Haitianism’ and the Rulings of the Dominican Constitutional Court

By Scott Freeman, Visiting Scholar

The Constitutional Court decision made by the Dominican Republic two weeks ago is the most recent of the ongoing rulings that affect Haitian citizenship in the country (Reuters, BBC). The law stipulates that individuals of foreign descent born after 1929, the vast majority of whom are Haitian, could have their Dominican citizenship revoked. Such denationalization comes with heavy prices: schooling, voting privileges, social services, and health provision all hang in the balance for hundreds of thousands of Haitian descended Dominicans. Advocacy groups and scholars, as well as multilateral organizations (Unicef, Amnesty International) have vocalized and mobilized opposition to the ruling. Continue reading

The Finger of Blame for Haiti’s Environmental Degradation

The Haiti/Dominican Republic border. Photo: thegreentreeproject.org

By Meghan Pierce, Undergraduate Research Assistant

I visited the Library of Congress last Tuesday to listen to a lecture by Dr. Jean-Francois Mouhot, a post-doctoral research fellow based at Georgetown, who is currently conducting a three-year research project on the Environmental History of Saint-Domingue / Haiti (1492-today).

Dr. Mouhot began his talk by displaying a picture of the Haitian-Dominican boarder, brought to prominence by Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth (see above). The photograph reveals sparse, brown soil on Haiti’s side of the border, and flourishing tropical forest on the other. Dr. Mouhot indicated that with this image, Gore, like many others, depicts Haiti as a “cautionary tale” of failed environmental policy.

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On the Role of History and Social Science in Policy

Kiran picture new

By Kiran Jayaram, Visiting Focus Blogger 

Five days after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, I smuggled myself onto a bus chartered by the Dominican government, and for the next two weeks, I assisted the relief efforts in Haiti by working with the Cruz Roja Dominicana (CRD).  Indeed, the Dominican government and non-state actors in the Dominican Republic played important roles in the immediate aftermath, as I will discuss below, but some of the good intentions were undermined by existing social dynamics.  Policy initiatives, especially during disasters, should be based upon solid understandings of history (lest we be doomed to repeat it) and of people’s experiences gained though social science.  Rather than depict angels and demons, I offer a sober sketch of the pre and post-earthquake dynamics of the island of Hispaniola, shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, after which I mention a few details from my time as a relief worker.

Both in the past and presently, Haitians and Dominicans have co-existed amicably.  Slavery in the Dominican Republic was abolished while the country was under Haitian rule.  Though certain Dominican groups resented the so-called Haitian unification of the island from 1822-1844, others supported it due to potential trade benefits.  After the 2010 earthquake, President Fernández opened the border between the two countries to facilitate relief efforts.  The Dominican Red Cross was one of the first international groups operating after the earthquake, which I will discuss shortly.  In the contemporary era, Haiti represents the largest foreign market for Dominicans, accounting for at least 25% of all exports.  Additionally, Haitian students represent the largest group of foreign students in the Dominican Republic.  Furthermore, there have been festivals with both Haitian and Dominican musicians, sometimes in the same band.  Finally, there are countless children across the island who have a Haitian and a Dominican parent.  Yet despite this amity, animosity also exists.

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“On Common Ground” Opens at the Art Museum of the Americas

By Meghan Pierce, Undergraduate Research Assistant 

On February 13th, the Organization of American States and the Embassies of Haiti and the Dominican Republic held an opening reception for “On Common Ground,” an exhibition featuring emerging artists of Hispaniola, the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The pieces are held at the Art Museum of the Americas, the OAS gallery located at 201 18th Street, NW.

In order to foster AMA’s mission of “promoting the Inter-American agenda through artistic expression by encouraging social change, consensus building, diversity and tolerance,” the exhibit encourages visitors to examine the shared identities and perceptions of Hispaniola’s people.

One’s eyes are immediately drawn to simple black and white signs hung at each room’s entrance, on which questions are posed to the featured artists. For example, when asked “why do you feel your country is misunderstood?” Dominican artist Engel Leonardo replied “lack of responsibility,” while Haitian artist Pascale Monnin answered “the omnipresence of negative stories in the media.” Powerful and thought-provoking, the responses resonate with visitors as they move throughout the rooms.

In addition to Leonardo and Monnin, the gallery also displays the work of Dominican artists Natalia Ortega Gámez, Hulda Guzmán, Gustavo Peña and Julio Valdez, and Haitian artists Killy Patrick Ganthier, Marc Lee Steed, Manuel Mathieu, and Pascale Monnin. Guzmán’s “Fiesta en el Batey” and Peña’s “Swimming Outside the Boundaries” are especially noteworthy, depicting festive scenes with bold colors and brush lines.

The exhibit as a whole has a hopeful, albeit challenging feel. A visitor is at both times reminded of the richness of Hispaniola culture, but cognizant of its history of inter-island violence and political strife. Indeed, the exhibit authenticates the notion of productive dialogue through thoughtful creativity.

A short way off the National Mall, the exhibit will be on display until May 26th.

For more information, visit the AMA website.

"On Common Ground" exhibit at the Art Museum of the Americas, Washington, DC

“On Common Ground” exhibit at the Art Museum of the Americas, Washington, DC