Christmas

It’s Christmas in Latin America, as it is in most everywhere else. As I said once on Facebook, European colonialism is responsible for a lot of contemptible things, but it was also the vehicle for other things the region now takes for granted. In this festive season, I can think of two of them: the Christianity from which the Christmas celebrated in Latin America originates and the Spanish language most of its inhabitants utilize to express the feelings of happiness Christmas awakens. Those feelings are at their most creative through music and song, and I would like to sit back and reminisce.

I have always thought that Christmas songs in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, in comparison to northern latitudes, are steeped in its culture, personality, and warm weather. When I think of Christmas music in the US, I think of church songs or mellow songs meant to be listened to over egg nog on a snowy night. Do not get me wrong here, because I like to sing “Angels We Have Heard on High” and Frank Sinatra’s “Mistletoe and Holly” and Nat King Cole’s rendition of “The Christmas Song” are among my all-time favorite songs. But none of them say “home” to me. I grew up in Puerto Rico, which is not usually mentioned as part of Latin America, but the Christmases I remember from when I was growing up there have a good amount of salsa and merengue music – two rhythms associated with those parts of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean that are always mentioned as part of Latin America. (To be sure, salsa did not originate in the Caribbean, but it incorporates Afro-Cuban rhythms and musical instruments.) For instance, a salsa song I remember from childhood is Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz’s “Aguinaldo navideño,” from one of my father’s records. In later years, thanks to an American friend of mine from Iowa (of all people), I heard Johnny Ventura’s “Salsa pa’ tu lechón,” which I think is the way merengue is supposed to sound like, and “Lechón y bachata” by Chappottín y sus Estrellas. All three songs share a general idea I wholeheartedly get behind: Christmas is here, so let’s grab some food and some booze and have a rollicking good time. I also think that very few Christmas songs from the Spanish-speaking Caribbean come close to the status of bona fide cultural institution like the Sonora Matancera’s “Aguinaldo antillano,” which is a Christmas salutation to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico; and mentions two different local manifestations of the Virgin Mary (the cult of which also crossed the Atlantic into this continent in the 1400s-1500s): Our Lady of Altagracia (DR), and Our Lady of Charity (Cuba). By the way, the lead singer here is none other than a youthful Celia Cruz, before becoming the musical legend she now is.

But not all of my Christmas recollections relate to salsa and merengue music. Another cultural institution, and another song I remember from childhood, is “Mi burrito sabanero,” sung to a traditional Venezuelan rhythm by a kids group called La Rondallita. As a late teenager and young adult, I sang with the University of Puerto Rico Choir during most of my undergrad years, and part of the engagements we were expected to be in were Christmas concerts held close to the end of the semester. The first half of the show was reserved to scholastic repertoire that could include Baroque or early music, works from the Great Composers, and maybe some contemporary classical work. The second half was dedicated to comparatively lighter stuff, which included works from Latin America. I remember three very melodious songs from those wonder years. One is “Esta parrandita” (Venezuela), about a mom, her loving offspring, and the promise to reminisce happy times together. Another one, challenging to learn back then but enjoyable to listen at any time, is “¿Qué le daremos?,” which wonders which traditional Venezuelan foods and crafts will be given to Baby Jesus at the manger. And the third one is “Festejo de Navidad,” where Jesus is born in Lima instead of Bethlehem and Afro-Peruvians are gathering yummy food to give the Holy Infant. Years after leaving the Choir, I had the chance to see it rehearse “Los Reyes Magos,” a movement from Argentine composer Ariel Ramírez’s Navidad nuestra, itself a retelling the story of the Nativity with the help of traditional South American rhythms. In this movement, played to the rhythm of a takirari, the Three Wise Men make it to the manger to leave their presents to Baby Jesus.

The point of the matter is that even though Christianity and Spanish came to the region with the very big help of swords, firearms, and bondage, they also left a mark that gives Latin American Christmas its own delicious flavor. After all, without them, Latin Americans would not be able to say to you, as I am sure they would, Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo (“Merry Christmas and Happy New Year”).

And I wish all my readers just the same.

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The US Can’t Be All Bad, Now Can It?

Fidel Castro warms up before a baseball exhibition game in July 1959. Source: Courier Mail (Brisbane, Australia).

It is said that Fidel Castro has a heart for baseball. Legend has it that he once tried out for Major League Baseball, either with the New York Yankees or the Washington Senators (now the Minnesota Twins), but scouts thought that he was not good enough for the big time. Some baseball historians doubt that the story actually happened; what is more plausible is an anecdote told by Don Hoak, who played baseball in Cuba in the early 1950s before joining the Brooklyn (now Los Angeles) Dodgers. As he narrates (with the help of football announcer Myron Cope) in “The Day I Batted Against Castro,” an anti-Batista demonstration crashed a Cuban pro-ball game he was playing in and among the crashers was Castro himself. Castro took to the mound, commandeered a glove, and threw several pitches that Hoak thought were quite decent, but two of them almost hit him in the head. Castro was eventually ejected from the stadium, and Hoak’s recollection ends with a curious statement: “I think that with a little work on his control, Fidel Castro would have made a better pitcher than a prime minister.”

In a recently published article, Dinorah Azpuru and Dexter Boniface describe Latin America-US relations as “close but often rocky,” and although they are quick to point out that anti-US sentiment in general is often contradictory and not reducible to a grand theory, they identify a number of individual-level determinants of anti-US sentiment in the region. ALBA countries are examined, but fellow member Cuba was not. No reasons are given; I speculate that it was because the type of public opinion data that could reasonably reflect (initially) on anti-US sentiment, from Latinobarómetro and AmericasBarometer, is unavailable for Cuba. Assuming that is the reason, gauging anti-US sentiment in Cuba is important because it could have on the US side of the current normalization effort. Given the dearth of public opinion data from Cuba, we can only entertain some initial and highly probabilistic thoughts – more like puzzles – on this subject, some of them based on Azpuru & Boniface’s own review of the literature on anti-US sentiment writ large.

Contact-and-information theory (remittances): A report from the Inter-American Dialogue estimates that only 55% of Cubans residing in the US sends remittances to Cuba, at an average of $1,250 per sender per year and a total volume of $770 million per year. The report also suggests that as a result of the policy changes that were implemented before the announcement of normalization, as much as 65% of Cubans residing in the US could be sending money to Cuba in the coming months, at an average of $2,400 per sender per year and a total volume of $1.7 billion. The prognosticated effect is manifold and significant: increases in household consumption, personal savings, and investments in small businesses. In Azpuru & Boniface’s study, those who receive remittances are not likely to harbor anti-US sentiments, but would that be the also case for Cubans who receive them?

Scapegoat theory: Azpuru & Boniface’s study concentrates on citizen security (i.e. gangs and the drug war) and the impact of the recession, which are not as relevant to Cuba as they are to the rest of Latin America. But the official statements from the Cuban government insist that the embargo, or what is still being referred to in Cuba as “blockade,” is an act of genocide (unnecessarily muddling the concept much to the chagrin of instances of actual genocide) and has generated as much as $833 trillion in economic damages – more money by far than the proposed 2016 federal budget ($4.1 trillion). The implication is that the Cuban government blames shortcomings in key areas like public health, education, and food security on the US because it will not lift the embargo. How much of this translates into anti-US sentiment at the individual level, if at all? Could it also extend to those Cubans who receive remittances from the US?

Anti-market theory: The study also investigates whether or not ideology explains anti-US sentiment in Latin America and concludes that it does. In the case of Cuba, Fidel Castro’s public statements against the US between 1960 and 1991 are numerous, documented, and described by Azpuru & Boniface as “symptomatic” of the anti-Americanism of Latin American Marxists. According to the authors, the end of the Cold War resulted in the channeling of existing anti-US rhetoric into critiques of neoliberalism, given that it is championed by the US. Fidel Castro himself, though not in charge anymore, has a section in Granma (the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party) in which he expresses his views on neoliberalism and US-Cuba relations. On the other hand, his younger brother and replacement Raúl is allowing (with evident hesitation, though) the establishment of small businesses, which could develop further if the trends forecasted in the Inter-American Dialogue report come to fruition. In addition, US companies are showing interest in Cuba and, despite embargo restrictions, have already made deals with its government (not different from doing business with China, but unthinkable when Fidel Castro was in power). What does all this, and especially the latter point, have to do with anti-US sentiment in Cuba? Are Cubans cherry-picking?

Sovereign-nationalist theory: The Cuban Revolution, its regime, and its embrace of Marxism have decidedly nationalistic foundations; indeed, as The Economist observed in the wake of Fidel Castro’s retirement, that is one major difference with Eastern European Marxism, which was imposed by the Soviet Union. And the US is at the center of a major part of that story, from the Platt Amendment and Guantanamo Bay, to the machinations of Ambassador Sumner Wells, to the support given to and very belated estrangement from Fulgencio Batista shortly before the triumph of the Revolution. After that, there was Bay of Pigs, the Missile Crisis, tons of CIA assassination attempts against Castro, US blessing to Luis Posada Carriles and, of course, the embargo. But people-to-people exchanges continue and there are minimal but concrete instances of intergovernmental cooperation, particularly on migration (to avoid a repeat of the chaotic 1980 Mariel boatlift and the balsero crisis of 1994). Is cool, calm, and collected pragmatism ruling over hot-blooded anti-Yankee passion? And how does that influence opinions of the US on the street, if at all?

And then there is Cuban baseball. In a book he wrote about that subject (reviewed here), Yale literature professor Roberto González Echevarría argues that American culture is so deeply ingrained in Cuban culture that it is one of its many components, and baseball exemplifies a process where “the other” (to put it in some way) is absorbed instead of being repelled. That is a very significant claim, considering that the Cuban Revolution and its later embrace of Marxism have a decidedly nationalistic explanation. But given the popularity of baseball in Cuba and how good Cubans are at it (they have won the most Olympic medals, including three golds, and sent players like Armando Marsans, Tony Pérez and Yoenis Céspedes to Major League Baseball) González’s point makes a lot of sense. Moreover, Cuban baseball in its infancy even had its own nationalistic undertone: Spanish colonial authorities forbade baseball during the turbulent days of the Ten Years War, but Cubans saw the sport as a way to vindicate their nationalistic fervor. (By the way, the Havana Baseball Club was established shortly before the war; the Cincinnati Reds were established the following year.) Again, are Cubans cherry-picking?

Azpuru and Boniface conclude their article saying that “[a] positive and better relationship [between the US and Latin America] can be achieved through a better understanding of how citizens ‘south of the border’ feel, what their concerns are, and particularly, what are the factors that generate antipathy toward their northern neighbor.” The same can be said about this era of détente between the US and Cuba: barring a full reversal under a Republican president (unless Rand Paul wins, which is all but improbable), a lasting normalization can be achieved if the US understands how Cubans feel and takes that input into account when devising what to do next. In optimistic terms, that will burnish its image in Latin America even more and reveal to Cuba that the US is acting in good faith. On a more perverse note, it will give the Cuban Revolution less chances to blame the US for its failures and no excuses to chase dissidents like the late Oswaldo Payá, the Ladies in White, Tania Bruguera, graffiti artist “El Sexto”, and others. (Hopefully, that latter point will convince hardliners in the US – from both parties – to play along and do something really bold about Cuba. Like lifting the embargo.)

But regardless of what will happen, I do not think that anti-US sentiment in Cuba being as complex and contradictory as it is elsewhere can be that far-fetched.

These two newsreel clips show Fidel Castro speaking English (something he does not do in public anymore) and playing baseball. Enjoy.

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On The Holiday of October 12

  
The meme above was received this morning. Its translation reads thusly:

“In 1492, natives discovered that they were Indians. They discovered that they lived in America. They discovered that they were naked. They discovered that sin existed. They discovered that they owed obedience to a king and a queen of another world and a god from another heaven, and that god invented guilt and clothing and had ordered that anyone who adored the sun, the moon, earth, and the rain that soaks it was to be burned alive.”

For purposes of these thoughts, it does not matter that the original quote was made by the author of a volume still regarded by the Latin American radical left as one of its cannonical texts but that he later estranged himself from. What matters is the obvious message of the meme and the not-so-obvious paradox underneath it. The obvious message is a protest against the cultural and physical extermination indigenous peoples were subject to centuries ago. The not-so-obvious paradox is that this protest was made in the evolved language of those who came over in 1492. Back then, natives also discovered that they had to speak a language that was completely alien to what they normally spoke in.

This is not about observing the holiday with a big celebration or protesting against it ad nauseam. Both attitudes are inadequate. The former whitewashes the nasty bits of the European conquest of Latin America. The latter holds to the impossible notion that history can be re-done, not just rewritten. The proper way to observe today’s date is engaging in serious reflection about what happened then and afterwards, because Latin America owes much of its virtues and flaws – if not all of both – to Columbus’ arrival on its shores.

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The United States will come and talk to us when it has a black President and the world has a Latin American Pope.

— Fidel Castro in a 1973 press conference

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Comedian-in-Chief?

Guatemalan presidential candidate Jimmy Morales. Photo credit: EFE

Parts of this blog post were translated from a recent submission to Spanish online newspaper Mundiario

The corruption scandal that shook Guatemala to its core and resulted in the downfall of its president, Otto Pérez Molina, has taken an extraordinary electoral twist: TV comedian and host Jimmy Morales – a political newbie – won almost 25% of the vote in the presidential election, slightly ahead of runner-up and former first lady Sandra Torres and millionaire Manuel Baldizon. Because presidential elections in Guatemala require candidates to reach a specific threshold to win outright (50% of the vote), Morales will face-off on October 25th against Torres, who won just under 20% of the vote. Of a voting population of 7.5 million citizens, about 5.3 million showed up at the polls, which tallies up to just under 71% voter turnout – the highest since 1984.

Morales is known for portraying a country bumpkin who nearly becomes president running on vacuous promises only to drop out and return to the countryside. Some outlets might have given the impression that his real-life presidential campaign is somewhat similar because he has not been forthright or clear on what are his policy plans, other than to promise that he will not make his fellow citizens cry as president (yes, he did say that). But the “throw the bums out” attitude that Guatemalans have shown since the scandal was uncovered last April does not indicate that they would consider Morales’ lack of policy candor, and perhaps not even his lack of political experience, a deal-breaker. In that sense, his story is not different from that of Alberto Fujimori in Peru or Hugo Chávez in Venezuela – two political-novices-turned-heads-of-state who ran on not being part of the political establishment. Neither is this the first time that TV personalities ran successfully for office: Talk show host and network owner Ricardo Belmont won the mayoralty of Lima, Peru in 1990 and was reelected four years later. Indeed, strange things happen when voters are mad as hell and are not going to take it anymore; for a Guatemalan analyst, what they did was to vote for a “phenomenon” that is nothing but a “hollow shell, with no solid party structure.” Of course, a prior phenomenon with no solid party structure (Fujimori) won the Peruvian presidency in 1990. If Morales wins, whether he will inaugurate an era of “politics of anti-politics” (as Fujimori did) or think that the whole structure is too plagued by corruption to be salvaged or even govern with is unknown at this point. Whether he will be implicated in a new corruption scandal, directly or indirectly, is another matter.

Meanwhile, the disgraced former president spent Election Day in jail, his day in court still pending. That he will have such a day is a bright spot in the less-than-stellar reputation of Latin American rule of law. We have to recognize it as such because Latin Americans think that the justice system in their countries does not prosecute and punish the guilty as diligently as it should. In Guatemala itself, according to Vanderbilt University’s AmericasBarometer 2014, 44% of citizens trust the judicial system and another 42% do so with courts. And it is that judicial system and those courts which will put Pérez Molina on trial for corruption. Democracy in Latin America (or anywhere) is more than just the rule of law, but if citizens evaluate democracy on the basis of the performance of its institutions, a fair trial where the proper responsibilities are placed – as well as the most profound citizen acceptance of the verdict, even if it results in the acquittal of Pérez Molina – would be a big step toward the consolidation of rule of law (and, consequently, democracy itself) in a country that saw coups, military dictatorships, guerrillas, open civil conflict, and even the genocide of its indigenous population.

Finally, events in Guatemala are unfolding a few years after Latinobarómetro 2013 revealed that Guatemalans do not consider corruption as a truly serious problem in comparison with citizen security (a legitimately dire situation as it is). Latin Americans as a whole agree with that sentiment. The problem, however, is that according to those pollsters, recognizing that corruption exists is the first step toward combatting it, because doing the opposite weakens any effort on the matter. If the story behind Pérez Molina’s downfall helps Guatemalans to reach that first transparency once and for all (and judging from the street demonstrations, they might have reached it), the effort of those who uncovered this scandal – the UN-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala – would not be in vain. Just voting for an outsider promising to be different from “those people” will not do a whole lot on its own. Not without an independent press and transparency NGOs that do not hesitate in naming and shaming the bad apples in public service. Not without avenues for citizens to demand accountability to the government when it breaches public trust. Not without the political will to uphold the law through ethics commissions, ombudspersons, or other internal accountability mechanisms – a will that includes providing them with clear and stable mandates, the proper staffing, and the necessary funding. And certainly not without a massive and unwavering rejection to the culture of discretion and cronyism that stills permeates in Latin America and is fertile ground for every corruption scheme. As the head of the Guatemalan chapter of Transparency International told the British Guardian, “without major political reform, elections will just be about choosing the next group of thieves.”

Guatemala and Latin America deserve no less.

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“El que calla, otorga”

Facebook’s “Like” thumb on display in Havana’s waterfront. Photo credit: Edu Bayer. Source: El País (Spain)

To Pablo Medina Sr. and Jr. – two generations of Cuban creative talent.

A couple of days ago, I ran into an op-ed published on Spanish daily El País related to the world-famous Havana Art Biennale, recently celebrated. Its author, Antonio José Ponte, is a writer and the deputy director of Diario de Cuba, an online newspaper very critical of the Cuban government. The premise of his op-ed is that there are Cuban artists who have the opportunity to present their work in Cuba but are conspicuously silent when their fellow artists are victimized by the government. They, says Ponte, do not depend on any government largesse that may compromise their position, but nevertheless are so intent on cultivating a beneficial relationship with the Cuban government that they would sacrifice their scruples and, basically, throw a fellow artist under the bus of the Revolution. That artist is Tania Bruguera, of whom I spoke about in one occasion. In this Biennale, as Ponte tells us, Bruguera did a public reading of Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism in her home. Only an art critic and one of her fellow artists attended the event; the rest were State Security officers and a group of people that assembled in her street for a spontaneous rally against her. She is still a marked person but, seemingly undeterred, has gone up to research on the subject of political repression in Cuba for future performance artworks.

Cuba’s version of the Rousseauian paradox of being forced to be free, seen in Bruguera’s ongoing story but not exclusively by it, has been ignored all of a sudden in Latin America. In speaking unanimously against the embargo (and rightly so) and welcoming Cuba with open arms to CELAC and the Summits of the Americas, the region has done like those artists who have forsaken Bruguera for the sake of political accommodation with the revolutionary powers-that-be. The apparent justification is that Latin American countries, unlike the US, respect the sovereignty of other states and would not do or say anything that could violate it. That is not an unfounded claim – not in a region where that ground-breaking lesson of the Peace of Westphalia was repeatedly ignored by global powers (including the USSR in its day). The problem is when insisting that the Cuban state has sovereign rights means that everybody else has to turn a blind eye to whenever there is abuse and unfairness. And that is seemingly what Latin America has agreed to, much to the chagrin of people who, like Bruguera, have committed the sin of not sharing the ideological herd mentality still dominating Cuban society.

Furthermore, I find it even more irritating that leftist forces and voices ignore cases like Burguera’s. My assumption is that their explanation would be that it is all propaganda elucubrated by CNN en Español. With that, they fall into an obvious double standard: it is imperative to say something against, say, how the “genocidal” Peña Nieto and his government treat dissenters in Ayotzinapa, Atenco, and everywhere else in Mexico, but not so when it comes to how the Cuban Revolution treats Bruguera, Damas de Blanco or Yoani Sánchez. As far as those leftist voices are concerned, they are on the CIA’s payroll. At the very least, they are miscreants who dare to disagree with the will of the Cuban people channeled by their government. Taking Revolution Square as Bruguera did, as a stage for a performance art that would allow people to say whatever they wanted (even if it is against the government) is sacrilege in Revolutionary Cuba. For that reason, she has to wear the scarlet letter of counterrevolution. Ponte mentions that Bruguera has been banned from museums and art galleries, without any word of protest from her fellow artists.

Which brings me to this statement: it is unreasonable for any government to expect all the people to agree with it all the time. Any government that does otherwise, by whatever means and under any ideology, is a dictatorship. Pure and simple. And that is why the double standard of leftist movements, in Latin America and outside of it, is so irritating to me. The Latin American left wants us to take the whole point of dissenting with the current Mexican government (notwithstanding the sense it does make) really to heart and American progressives constantly complain about their voices of dissent being shushed by the US government; the point is that dissent with authority should never be silenced. I get it, but why should we treat Cuba any differently? Because it is the beacon of anti-imperialism? How is it that dissenting with authority in Cuba does not have the same justification as dissenting with authority in Mexico or the US? Because Cuban dissenters belong to a squalid oligarchy, as the late Hugo Chávez used to call his opponents? Is this about defending the right to dissent or that some people have more right to dissent than others? And by the way, the whole point about the beauty of dissenting with authority comes all the way from the same philosophical current that brought us… wait for it… that scourge of worldwide progressivism known as neoliberal economics.

Of course, old-fashioned sovereignty still matters (to the extent that globalization allows), so the point is also to avoid the other extreme of really getting in the way of other governments’ decisions to drive home the point that dissenting with authority is a human right. There is no need for wetworks; sabotage is not the right approach (the US tried the former against Fidel Castro and did the latter in Cuba many times during the 1960s). No military occupation like Panama’s in the late 1980s is required as well. And it is not necessary for the US to raise these issues at this point in the normalization of relations – not before it becomes irreversible. But at the end of the day socioeconomic equality is not an excuse to disrespect the political rights of anyone who thinks differently.

There is a Spanish saying for stories like Tania Bruguera’s: “el que calla otorga,” which translates roughly into “silence speaks volumes.” In Cuba, it speaks a whole library.

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Jim Crow’s Dominican Cousin (Part II)

Dominicans of Haitian descent wait in line to legalize their status at the Dominican Interior Ministry, June 16, 2015. Photo credit: Erika Santelices/AFP/Getty Images. Source: The Root.

Back in October of last year, I blogged about how the Dominican Constitutional Court snuffed out the legal citizenship status of the children of undocumented Haitians living in the Dominican Republic, mentioning that this was not just a consequence of the racialized nation-building process all Latin American countries went through, but also proof positive that the anti-Haitianism of the late dictator Rafael Trujillo was still alive and well. As of today, the Dominican government is doubling down. Under a government order, all Haitians residing in the DR have been instructed to register with the government or face deportation. About 290,000 of the 450,000 Haitian migrants living in the DR have registered, but only less than 2% of all applicants have acquired legal status. Mass deportation has not occurred (yet), but many Haitians have already been detained on the streets and forcibly deported, while another 30,000 or so have left for Haiti voluntarily because of the threat of deportation.

As it usually happens, the roots of the story go far back. The DR is one of the very few examples in which independence was gained more than once (the other being Uruguay, first from Spain and later from Brazil); although the country declared itself free from Spain in November 1821, independence ended nine weeks later when Haiti invaded and annexed the country. Then, in 1844 (the officially recognized year of Dominican independence), Juan Pablo Duarte and the Trinitarians unleashed a revolt and declared the DR liberated from Haitian control, although it would take another two decades for that independence to be firmly established in part because Haiti tried several times to retake the country. Those historical circumstances – as well as the fact that the 1822 occupation started with a trail of killed Dominicans – were a perfect fit for Trujillo’s construction of Dominican nationhood around Spanish culture. (David Baronov and Kevin Yelvington argue that this was more ethnic than racial, as Afro-Dominican-ness was more or less recognized despite the popular belief that all people of African descent were necessarily Haitian.) More unfortunate still, anti-Haitianism made its way into popular consciousness, survived Trujillo’s assassination, and was taken up by protégé Joaquin Balaguer, who during one of his five presidential reelection campaigns – in 1994 – constantly referred to his main rival, Santo Domingo mayor José Francisco Peña Gómez, as a Haitian. Very ironically, Trujillo’s maternal grandmother was Haitian.

There are interesting angles to this still developing situation. First we can only wonder if Haiti can handle what some see as a humanitarian disaster in the making. To be sure, the Dominican government restored full citizenship to 55,000 Dominico-Haitians last month, but that does not reduce the possibility of a wave of deportees crashing into Haiti (tentatively) late this month – not with the number of accepted applications this low. And if and when that happens, the Haitian government may not have enough resources to mitigate anything. Indeed, the fact that the internal stability of Haiti continues to depend on a UN peacekeeping force and that the World Food Program is concerned about the 3 million Haitians whose food security is non-existent shows that Haiti still cannot take care of itself on its own, much less of hundreds of thousands of deportees from the DR. It may happen that Haiti will have to outsource the effort of mitigating the problem (or parts of it) to international bodies.

Another angle is how the Dominican government has responded to all disapproval of its decision to revoke the citizenship of Dominico-Haitians and issue the threat of deportation. A highly notorious example occurred in 2005, when the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) decided unanimously that the Dominican government violated the rights of two Dominico-Haitian girls by imposing onto their parents conditions on acquiring the proper birth certificates that were considered too difficult to meet, ordered the prompt issuing of those certificates, and granted $8,000 in damages to the families (read the full text of the opinion here). Demonstrating to the whole continent that there was no problem with the DR being a sore loser, the Dominican Constitutional Court opined afterwards that the country’s constitution did not grant automatic citizenship to the children of people “in transit” through Dominican territory; because their parents were seasonal workers, the petitioners were hence excluded from jus soli (birthright citizenship). Subsequent restrictions on citizenship, such as the one declared last year against Dominico-Hatians, were defended by the Dominican government as exercises of its sovereign right to decide who is a citizen and who is not, utilizing a rhetoric that is usually found in governments that do not tolerate any criticism whatsoever of its actions, even if they are deservedly reprehensible. In other words, the DR invokes national sovereignty to plug their ears and not listen to what it needs to hear, such as another unfavorable verdict from the IACHR. It seems, then, that the DR is no different from China, Venezuela or Israel in that regard.

The most interesting angle for purposes of the US, one that mainstream pundits appear not to have mentioned yet, are the connections with the ongoing immigration debate, More precisely, it seems that neither Donald “One-Man Border Patrol” Trump nor those who agree with his statement that Mexico only sends criminals and rapists seem to know about the Dominican case despite being covered in mainstream outlets like the New York Times. There is no reason why Trump and others who have insulted Mexican migrants in the past (and presently) cannot find kindred spirits in the DR; after all, their words sound like Trujillo’s. Neither there is a difference between Balaguer supporters accusing Peña Gómez of spearheading the Haitian re-annexation of the DR and hardline American nationalists accusing Mexican migrants of being part of the recapture of the land won by the US from Mexico in the 1840s and subsequent creation of the Chicano nation-state. There is also very little that separates the typical Mexican migrant working on a California lettuce field and the typical Haitian working on a Dominican sugar field – they share the same reasons to live their home countries, and the same abuses. And besides, having the Supreme Court deciding against birthright citizenship to DREAMers through legal casuistry, similar to what the Dominican Constitutional Court did against Dominico-Haitians, is less laughable and outlandish than proposing to build a wall sealing the southern border tight, as Trump says he will do as President. After all, it would not be the first time that the Court has decided against minorities (see Dred Scott v. Sandford, Plessy v. Ferguson or Korematsu v. US). In all, both the US and the DR are examples of a global migration crisis that cannot be solved through xenophobic gestures.

And on that note, I will repeat the quote from Duarte that opened the initial post:

I admire the Haitian people from the moment when, gathering the pages of its history, I see it struggling desperately against exceedingly superior powers and how it defeats them and overcomes the sad condition of slavery to constitute itself as a free and independent nation. I recognize its possession of two eminent truths: love for liberty and valor.

His country continues to give him the finger.

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