Unfortunately, my time in the Dominican Republic came to an abrupt and unexpected end last week. I got news of a family emergency on an early-morning bus from Las Terrenas to Santiago. I was able to find an internet café and book a ticket back to New York after my bus arrived in Santiago — thankfully, Santiago has an international airport.
In Santiago, I met with a professor of immigration and human rights. She was an incredible resource who shared a lot of details about Dominican race relations and her community partnerships over the years with migrant rights organizations. One interesting thing she shared was that Haiti places a much lower precedent on paperwork and documentation than the DR, which means very few Haitian migrants even have Haitian passports when they enter the DR. This makes migrants and their children particularly vulnerable to statelessness.
The beautiful ILAC campus, where the professor of immigrant rights works (Institute for Latin American Concerns)
That afternoon I met with CEFASA (Centro de Formación y Acción Social y Agraria), an organization that works with Haitian-Dominicans in Santiago. They gave me almost more resources than I knew what to do with, including a book about the cost of traveling without documents from Haiti to the DR and several studies they had conducted studying naturalization and migration.
Sources about migration, Haitian-Dominicans, and naturalization in the DR, courtesy of CEFASA.
That evening I flew back to the U.S. and had several days at home. Now I’m sitting in the airport in Brussels, waiting for my flight to Abidjan. I am extremely fortunate that this unexpected change in plans didn’t require large amendments to my flight itinerary, since my original flight from the DR to Cote d’Ivoire routed through New York.
There are a few things I didn’t have time to finish in the DR. After Santiago, I had intended to continue on to Dajabón, the northern border post with Haiti. There I was going to meet with Solidaridad Fronteriza, a Jesuit organization working with migrants on the border. Several of my sources told me about the porousness of the border crossing – as a white American, apparently I could hop the border for a day at the Haitian market with relative ease without paying any border taxes or getting my passport stamped. Haitians moving the other way, however, typically must pay large bribes to cross without documents. Although I had hoped to see the crossing for myself, it will have to wait for some future trip.
On the upside, I did have time for some fun in the DR before I left so abruptly. The week I spent in Santo Domingo was full of surprises. Walking from the bus stop to my hostel one day, I stumbled on Santo Domingo’s Chinatown, where vendors were killing chickens and ducks in the street and cooking them into truly delicious dumplings. I also visited Las Tres Ojos, a series of turquoise-blue underground lakes hidden in caves nestled right in the middle of the city.
I spent the weekend in Las Terrenas, a beautiful northern town on the Samaná Peninsula with the most amazing beaches I’ve ever seen and cliffs that fall into the sea. In Las Galeras, I trekked 10km through the rainforest to find Playa Frontón, a deserted beach that looked as if no one had been there in years. Overall, my time in the DR was very productive, which is encouraging as I move to Cote d’Ivoire. I am most apprehensive about conducting research here because I don’t speak a word of French, but I’m hopeful that everything will go relatively smoothly and that at the very least I’ll walk out with a bit of French under my belt.