The Dominican Republic and Haiti

written by A. L. Hart Havens on March 1, 2022

The Caribbean island of Hispaniola is home to two countries exhibiting irreconcilable differences that have for centuries severely hindered the pursuit of friendly and cooperative relations.

There is no love lost between French-speaking Haiti, which occupies the western third of the island, and the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic, which occupies the eastern two-thirds. Despite its much smaller territory, Haiti boasts a higher population (11.5 vs. 10.5 million) and thus a considerably higher population density, a situation that has contributed to the centuries-old border tensions.

This article will explore the troubled and blood-soaked history of Hispaniola before taking an in-depth look at the intriguing prospect of relocating to or establishing civic ties with the Dominican Republic or Haiti by way of a residency permit or citizenship.

It is also worth emphasizing at the very outset of this article that the Dominican Republic, a country that is heavily reliant on foreign tourism from across the world, has been one of the most open countries since the coronavirus hysteria began two years ago. This is due in part to the adverse impact felt by the Dominican economy in the wake of the mosquito-borne Zika virus scare of 2015-2016, which is still fresh in the collective mind of the country’s tourism industry.

This openness was reaffirmed on February 17, 2022 by the Dominican government’s lifting of all coronavirus-related restrictions, including any previously applicable vaccination, mask, social distancing, and quarantine rules. And while there is no guarantee that these measures won’t be reinstated at some point in the future, the Dominican Republic is arguably the world’s freest country at present.

Haitian Occupation of the Dominican Republic

Hispaniola was the very first target of European exploration and colonization of the Americas, with Christopher Columbus making several voyages to the island beginning in 1492. And only four years after the discovery of the New World, the establishment of Santo Domingo in 1496 marked the imperial stronghold of Spain’s overseas colonial empire.

However, the arrival of other European powers in the New World in the centuries that followed led to fierce competition over colonial territories, and this saw the signing of a treaty around the year 1700 that ceded the western third of Hispaniola to France. The French wasted no time in setting up large-scale coffee and sugar plantations, which prompted the importation of hundreds of thousands of African slaves over the ensuing decades.

Slaves would eventually outnumber European settlers in the French-held side of Hispaniola by around 30 to 1, far exceeding the slave-to-settler ratio on the Spanish-held side of the island. This would prove to be a very fatal mistake for the French when in 1791 Toussaint L’Ouverture led a slave uprising that was inspired by the slaves’ far higher numbers as well as by the American and French revolutions that had taken place several years earlier.

The conflict soon morphed into a brutal independence struggle that would take place against the backdrop of Napolean’s ascent to autocratic power in France. Ultimately, L’Ouverture’s revolution was successful, leading to the creation of the Empire of Haiti in 1804 and making Haiti only the second country in the New World after the United States to gain independence from its European colonial ruler.

The next few decades saw the newly independent Haiti attacking the considerably less populous Spanish-speaking side of the island in an attempt to unify all of Hispaniola under Haitian rule, which eventually succeeded in 1822. This occupation, which brought about a severe suppression of the Spanish side’s Catholic religion and other forms of antagonization leading to deep resentment, would spark a protracted independence struggle led by Juan Pablo Duarte that finally repelled the Haitian occupation on February 27, 1844.

Today, February 27 is the Dominican Republic’s most important national holiday, marking the country’s birth and national independence — not from Spanish colonial rule as most people would assume, but rather from Haiti.

Unsurprisingly, today’s western mainstream media coverage of Dominican-Haitian hostilities conveniently omits the aforementioned Haitian occupation in its portrayal of the Dominican Republic as the conflict’s historical aggressor.

Instead, the focus is placed squarely on a 1937 incident known as the parsley massacre, which involved the killing and expulsion of tens of thousands of Haitians on the orders of Dominican head of state Rafael Trujillo. While the events of the parsley massacre are undoubtedly deserving of strong condemnation, mainstream documentaries consistently neglect to mention the ongoing border intrusions and rampant theft of livestock, crops, and other property from Dominicans that evoked Trujillo’s ultra-severe response.

Media reporting on this era of Dominican-Haitian tensions also makes a point of drawing parallels between Trujillo and Hitler. However, it is rarely mentioned that the Dominican Republic under Trujillo was the only country in the world at the 1938 Évian Conference that agreed to take in large numbers of Jewish refugees seeking to escape Europe (some of whom subsequently settled on the northern coast and founded the town of Sosúa, now a tourist hotspot known for attracting water sports enthusiasts).

Although Liberated Services has no interest in taking sides in this complex centuries-long feud, it is important to emphasize that the media dishonesty clearly serves the purpose of painting the Dominican government’s enforcement of the country’s immigration laws as callous, inhumane, and fraught with racism and xenophobia.

In fact, the example set by the Dominican government over the past decade with regard to its firm commitment to combatting illegal immigration by way of deportation has raised uncomfortable questions for western governments that have for decades failed to seriously address the issue of illegal immigration in their own countries. The ongoing Dominican-Haitian immigration issues as well as the new border wall now under construction will be covered in more detail further below.

At any rate, the next section will cover one historical commonality that unites Dominicans and Haitians in spite of the longstanding animosity, and that is the tremendous suffering inflicted upon both populations since the turn of in the 20th Century by a series of unprovoked invasions, occupations, and interventions at the hands of the United States military.

US Interventionism in Haiti and the Dominican Republic

While US president Woodrow Wilson was busy pushing America toward war in Europe, his administration decided to shore up its stronghold over countries south of the border with an unprovoked invasion and occupation of Haiti in 1915 and of the Dominican Republic in 1916.

Upon consolidating control over both sides of the island, US Marines set up brutal military dictatorships operating under martial law for the purpose of promoting US business interests, censoring the press, commandeering control over the countries’ financial systems, confiscating gold reserves, as well as incarcerating and expropriating the ethnic German community (beginning two years prior to the US entry into World War 1).

The US military eventually withdrew from the Dominican Republic in 1924 and from Haiti in 1934 but would return to the island uninvited several times before the century’s end. The next invasion came in 1965 in the midst of a Dominican civil war that had seen several government overthrows take place over a very short period of time.

The stated goals of restoring democracy and combatting alleged Cuban support for one of the civil war’s belligerents served as the pretext for the US intervention under then-president Lyndon B. Johnson. When the US-backed candidate Joaquín Balaguer emerged victorious in the 1966 election, the American-led occupation force considered democracy to have been restored and subsequently withdrew from the country.

In 1994, then-president Bill Clinton ordered US forces to overthrow a Haitian military government. And although the US-led invasion under the name Operation Uphold Democracy quickly ousted the ruling Haitian government, the ensuing US/UN occupation (peacekeeping mission) did not end until the year 2000.

The Clintons weren’t quite done with the country yet, however. Following the devastating Haitian earthquake of January 2010, the Clinton Foundation was tasked with leading the disaster recovery effort, which regrettably saw significant financial resources earmarked for much-needed humanitarian aid simply vanish into thin air. Oddly, Bill and Hillary Clinton chose Haiti for their 1975 honeymoon, a destination rivaled in weirdness only by Bernie Sanders’ 1988 Soviet honeymoon.

In 2013, in a more subtle act of cultural imposition, then-president Barack Obama appointed the openly gay LGBTQ activist Jim “Wally” Brewster as US ambassador to the Dominican Republic, a move that elicited massive outrage among the country’s overwhelmingly conservative Catholic population and led to a temporary souring of US-Dominican relations.

Recent years have witnessed a marked increase in economic and political ties between the two countries of Hispaniola with Russia and particularly China, as well as counterefforts by the Trump Administration’s ultra-neoconservative secretary of state Mike Pompeo to keep the island and the entire Caribbean region united in subservience to the US government.

Lastly, early findings in the investigation of the July 2021 assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse, a staunch opponent of indiscriminate coronavirus vaccination, has aroused widespread speculation of CIA involvement, although this of course will never be possible to prove if indeed true.

Life in the Dominican Republic vs. Life in Haiti

Covering approximately the same land area as the US state of South Carolina, Hispaniola is one of several large islands in the world that is split among two or more UN member countries. The others are Borneo (shared by Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei), New Guinea (shared by Indonesia and Papua New Guinea), and the island of Ireland (shared by Ireland and the UK).

It is notable here that the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (Gitmo) is not officially US territory, as the land is leased in an arrangement that the Cuban government has unsuccessfully sought to revoke since the country’s communist revolution in 1959. Additionally, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which controls one third of the divided island of Cyprus, is not a UN member country.

The Dominican Republic observes Atlantic Standard Time, which is one time zone ahead of Eastern Standard Time, although the country does not make use of daylight savings time. Thus, it is an hour ahead of New York for only half the year. Haiti, like New York, is in the Eastern Time Zone and does observe daylight savings time.

Port-au-Prince is the capital of Haiti, a country that is remarkably similar to the US state of Maryland with regard to both its land area and extremely odd shape featuring two long parallel strips of land jutting out into the sea (although Haiti’s run east to west and Maryland’s from north to south).

The Dominican Republic should not be confused with the tiny Caribbean island nation of Dominica (pronounced dah-min-EE-ka and not dah-MIN-ika). And another potential source of confusion to watch out for is that the Dominican Republic was commonly known as the country of Santo Domingo until the turn of the 20th Century, and during the early European colonial period the entire island of Hispaniola was referred to as Santo Domingo (Saint-Domingue in French). Now, Santo Domingo is simply the name of the Dominican Republic’s capital city, which had been renamed Ciudad Trujillo (after the aforementioned Rafael Trujillo) for a quarter-century from 1936 until his assassination in 1961.

The language spoken in Haiti is Haitian Creole, a French dialect that has diverged sufficiently from standard French such that the two are no longer mutually intelligible in verbal conversation. The variant of Spanish spoken in the Dominican Republic is considered to be one of the most difficult to understand throughout Latin America due to the fast pace of speaking and the frequent omission of syllables, particularly at the ends of words. In fact, a recent Liberated Services article ranked Dominican Spanish #15 of a total of 19 Latin American national variants of Spanish with regard to their ease of comprehension.

When it comes to athletics, soccer is the most popular sport of Haiti, although it may come as a surprise to some readers that the national sport of the Dominican Republic (and Cuba) is baseball. There are numerous Dominicans playing professional baseball at the highest level in the United States, and many Dominicans living in their home country watch Major League Baseball on TV and have a favorite team (usually the New York Yankees).

Another wildly popular sport in the Dominican Republic is cockfighting, a national pastime steeped in tradition which has been declared illegal in many other countries. The Dominican Republic is home to countless cockfighting arenas, some of which are designated as family-friendly and tourist-friendly. Dominican cockfighting has a culture of in-person gambling that involves spectators making bets on matches with strangers seated nearby. There is big money in Dominican cockfighting and major contests are broadcast on TV with in-depth analysis and exuberant commentary.

The national currency of Haiti is the Haitian gourde (HTG) and the national currency of the Dominican Republic is the Dominican peso, which has the official currency code DOP but is frequently designated as RD$. US dollars are also widely accepted in the Dominican Republic.

Another notable aspect about the Dominican Republic is the conservative style of dress featuring collared shirts and dress pants for men. There is a clear cultural divide on this issue, with western tourists wondering why Dominicans would dress so formally in a tropical beach paradise and Dominicans wondering why wealthy North Americans and Europeans would degrade themselves by wearing shorts, sandals, and tank tops in public.

Dominicans also like to crank up the air conditioning to create very cool indoor temperatures, usually much to the delight of North Americans and to the outrage of Europeans. This is especially the case for visitors from central and northern Europe, where real air conditioning is very rare and people are accustomed to sweating out the hot summer days at home and at the office. Many European visitors are also perturbed by the Dominican custom of serving of thoroughly ice-cold beer and other beverages as well as the very low instance of cigarette-smoking.

However, in spite of the country’s standing as one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations featuring pristine beaches spanning the country’s southern, eastern, and northern coastlines combined with a beautiful mountainous interior, there are some issues to watch out for in the Dominican Republic.

One area of potential concern is the country’s relatively high rate of traffic accidents, which is due in part to irresponsible driving habits and a generally nonchalant attitude toward observing traffic signs and lane markers. Although the risk of serious accidents in cities is fairly low due to ever-present congestion and traffic jams, nighttime driving on Dominican rural roads and highways is associated with a significant number of traffic fatalities.

Furthermore, crime in the Dominican Republic caused by illegal immigrants from Haiti has become a hot topic in recent years given the large number of Haitians residing in the country who are illegally employed by Dominican businesses in extremely low-paid jobs requiring grueling manual labor.

The fact that so many Haitians are attracted to such arrangements is a testament to the unbelievably awful standard of living prevailing in Haiti that exhibits an extremely high prevalence of poverty, malnutrition, and disease as well as a lack of clean water, adequate shelter, and other basic amenities. Haiti has long since made a name for itself as the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country.

And while the crime caused by Haitians is rightfully viewed by the Dominican population as absolutely unacceptable, it is not difficult to see why some Haitians would resort to criminal activities in a more prosperous country as a way of escaping their dire living conditions. To put the difference in perspective, the Dominican Republic’s GDP per capita (purchasing power parity) is seven times that of Haiti. It is estimated that 500,000 illegal immigrants from Haiti currently reside in the Dominican Republic.

With Dominicans demanding an effective solution to this problem, president Luis Abinader ceremoniously kickstarted the construction of a concrete wall on February 21, 2022 that will cover a large section of the Dominican-Haitian border. What many western media pundits are decrying as a Trump-inspired divisive barrier, the wall is set to stand 13 feet (4 meters) tall topped with razor wire and equipped with watchtowers, high-tech motion sensors, and drones designed to stop the flow of weapons, narcotics, and illegal immigration.

The Dominican Republic has in recent years also seen a large influx of Venezuelan immigrants seeking to escape the appalling deterioration of living standards in the once-prosperous oil-rich nation that has wholeheartedly embraced communism over the past quarter-century. It is worth noting here that the persistent subversive action by NATO countries including economic sanctions and sabotage, covert and overt regime-change efforts, and a confiscation of Venezuela’s gold reserves by the UK have exacerbated the hardship and suffering beyond which can be attributed solely to the Venezuelan government’s destructive socialist policies. Many of the Venezuelans living in the Dominican Republic have an uncertain immigration status and are at risk of deportation.

Another serious problem plaguing Haiti is the severe soil erosion resulting from centuries of deforestation. The root of this problem dates back to French colonial times, which saw large sections of forest cleared to make way for coffee plantations. However, the irresponsible practices of cutting down trees and over-farming arable land has continued unabated since Haiti’s independence over 200 years ago, and this has led to poor soil fertility, large expanses of barren land absent of any vegetation, and a high risk of dangerous floods and landslides. Decades of relief efforts by NGOs and the UN combined with massive foreign aid intended for environmental conservation projects have not produced any meaningful results in a country that once featured a densely forested tropical rainforest climate.

As pertains to the threat of other natural disasters, it is notable that the island of Hispaniola lies within a geological fault zone at the boundary of the North American and the Caribbean plates, which causes occasional earthquakes and tsunamis in both the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The aforementioned 2010 Haiti earthquake struck near the capital of Port-Au-Prince and tragically caused an estimated 160,000 deaths. Both countries are also situated within the hurricane zone.

A notable and refreshing aspect of life in the Dominican Republic is the lack of the political correctness that is ever-present in today’s North American and Western European societies. This can be seen in the numerous US Peace Corps volunteers who upon returning to the United States from assignments in the Dominican Republic have expressed severe frustration with their inability to rally support for left-wing social justice causes among the local population.

One example of the absence of western political correctness can be seen in the Columbus Lighthouse in Santo Domingo, an elaborate monument honoring the European explorer Christopher Columbus. Given that Columbus statues and the Columbus Day holiday in the United States are today at serious risk of destruction, removal, or cancelation at the hands of a woke mob, it is interesting that Christopher Columbus is highly revered in the Dominican Republic as an accomplished navigator and discoverer of the New World.

Further, while George Washington and the American founding fathers have been the targets of an aggressive demonization campaign carried out by US media and academia, Juan Pablo Duarte and the Dominican founding fathers — who were far lighter in complexion and much more European in appearance than the average Dominican — continue to be venerated in the Dominican Republic as national heroes in the struggle against the country’s Haitian oppressors.

And as a quick word of warning particularly to men from western countries seeking romance with a younger woman in a developing country with the prospect of a long-term relationship or marriage, the Dominican Republic is a notoriously bad location to try this. Countless men have learned this the hard way after naively remitting many thousands of dollars (or euros) to their Dominicana sweetheart only to later discover that she was playing the same game concurrently with multiple other men. The Philippines appears to be a much better option for finding women who are genuinely interested in marriage and a family with a western man without harboring dishonest financial motives.

The Dominican and Haitian Passports

A very strange incident occurred in 2001 involving the arrest of Kim Jong-nam (the older brother of the current North Korean head of state Kim Jong-un) at the Tokyo airport for presenting a forged Dominican passport. Incidentally, Kim Jong-nam was infamously assassinated with a nerve agent at the Kuala Lumpur airport in 2017 — likely at the orders of his younger brother due to suspicions of being a CIA informant.

It isn’t clear why Kim Jong-nam chose the Dominican Republic for this fraudulent purpose given the risk that his non-Dominican appearance could potentially raise red flags about the passport’s legitimacy — and more importantly given that the passport of the Dominican Republic is not a high-quality international travel document.

In fact, the Dominican passport is currently one of the worst in the Western Hemisphere, placing #127 in the 2022 rankings of the world’s 199 passports from most powerful (#1) to least powerful (#199), with only Cuba (#135) and Haiti (#176) placing even worse. Interestingly, the passports of countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region exhibit a fairly good quality on the whole, especially compared with African, Asian, and Middle Eastern countries. Venezuela remarkably places #81 in the ranking.

However, despite the poor visa-free travel offered by the Dominican passport, Dominican citizens enjoy visa-free access to Russia and visa-on-arrival access to Iran, marking travel privileges that are not afforded to citizens of the US, UK, or Canada. A Dominican passport also provides visa-free access to a variety of interesting countries in Latin America and Asia (including Japan, where Kim Jong-nam was attempting to use it).

By contrast, Haitian citizens who can afford to travel internationally face heavy visa restrictions across the world. However, Haiti’s full membership in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) may enable the country in the foreseeable future to secure additional visa waiver agreements and to improve the position of its passport in the worldwide ranking. Watch out for an article on CARICOM coming up soon.

While the Haitian passport has the dark blue design typical of a Caribbean country, the Dominican Republic is one of only a handful of countries in the world with a black passport. The Dominican coat of arms is displayed on the passport cover, which shows a Bible opened to John 8:32 below the words Dios, Patria, Liberdad (God, Fatherland, Liberty). The open Bible is also at the center of the Dominican national flag.

In closing, it can be argued that the lifestyle perks, low cost of living, and relative openness of the Dominican Republic over the past two years (and particularly since February 17, 2022) make the country an interesting jurisdiction worth considering as part of a diversified repertoire of foreign citizenships and residency permits.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Haiti, and the analysis in this article has painted the prospect of life in Haiti in a fairly unappealing light for good reason. However, it is worth mentioning that one very adventurous Caucasian American client of Liberated Services proudly explained that he spent a number of years enjoying life in Haiti without incident in a small mountainous town far removed from the capital city.

While his account demonstrates that life in Haiti for expats can be enjoyable for the right type of person, the country is certainly not a jurisdiction that can be recommended to our readership in good conscience. This particular client, now back in the United States, is currently exploring new and exciting opportunities for relocation to Africa with a preference for South Sudan — a country that is poorer and less developed than Haiti by a clear margin.