1937 massacre of Haitians in the Dominican Republic


As the Second World War was on the verge of starting, people were struggling to recover from the Great Depression, Haitians were in trouble. This period is well over seventy years old, as also during this time, in Europe, Nazism was spreading at a fast rate. During this time, Haitians were trying to cope with their lives after being under the power of the occupation by the American military. There were many immigrants workers from Haiti, and nearly 20,000 of them were massacred in Haiti. They were murdered using the crudest weapons such as machetes and bayonets. Not even babies were spared by these heinous acts through the orders of the then dictator of the Dominican Republic known as Raphael Trujillo. He believed that by murdering the Haitians, the Dominican Republic “would be cleansed” (Human Rights Watch, 2002). In turn, wealthy landowners took over the land owned by peasants. On the other hand, Niall Fergusson believes that “the twentieth century will be remembered for many horrific crimes against human beings” (Ferguson, 2007). He claims that, despite their being advances in the social, political and economic arenas, violence took place. Furthermore, withdrawal of empires, ethnic group’s heterogeneity as well as economic volatility were the cause of the horrific violence.

This paper seeks to give an analysis on how the 1937 massacre by the Dominicans on the Haitians fits into Ferguson’s theory. The reasons for the massacre include; pogroms on ethnicity cleaning, ruling classes and economic progress.

Analysis of the 1937 Massacre and how it fits into the theories presented by Fergusson concerning the identity

(CL). The classes that ruled in Haiti and the Dominican Republic were the ones responsible for the horrific massacre. (EV). The Dominican gave minimal compensation to the state of Haiti. It has also been proven in the previous history that reactionary policies existed between the two states. The latter was through the efforts of the ruling classes in both countries. According to Wucker (2000) in Why Cock’s Fight, “two nations share more than a porous common border” and thus the reason for their fights. This means that the various upper classes join each other in many ways. Furthermore, according to the report on human rights, the various feudal classes had been struggling for many years. (WA). Ferguson believes that the need to attain power and prestige made the upper classes murder the lower classes.

(CL). Matters concerning ethnicity played an immense role in causing the horrific massacre on the Haitians by the Dominicans.  (EV). For a long time, since the 1820s there had been fights between the different ethnicities. They all wanted to own their own land, and in the year 1844, the Dominican Republic attained its independence. This is after the Haitian troops occupying the Dominican Republic were defeated. The need to attain Leadership and power were the main reasons for the clash between the ethnicities. Also, the policies, which existed in The Dominican Republic did not favor the Haitians. The policies were known to affect Haitian plantation workers by abusing and exploiting them. According to Wucker in (2000) Why Cocks Fight, Haiti and the Dominican Republic are likened to two cocks fighting in an arena. (WA). This means that the two countries were in need of “making their ethnicities better than each other” (Wucker, 2000). Ferguson believes that most of the heinous violence that has taken place is due to issues on ethnicity. For example, the horrors, which took place during Nazism were due to issues on ethnicity. Every ethnicity wanted to prove that it was more domineering than the other, according to a report on human rights.

(CL). The need to make economic progression made the Dominicans massacres the Haitians. This is through coming up with laws similar to those of apartheid, to have a supply of labor that was low wage.  (EV). The Haitian workers were needed in the sectors of trade and agriculture. This meant that some of the immigrants were taking over work this would be done by legal Dominicans. It is a known fact that the Dominican Republic grew tremendously due to Haitians workers. Despite the Haitian population being at ten percent in the Dominican Republic, they contributed to 30% of the overall economy. The Dominican Republic and Haiti had a disparity based upon wage and the economy. The latter is the mechanism responsible for the migration by many Haitians into the Dominican Republic. According to Ferguson (2007), economic volatility is a reason why the massacre took place. (WA). Since the Dominican people were paying the Haitians they had the right to treat them brutally. Wucker believes that attaining economic power often corrupts people and makes them kill others. Even reports based on human rights seem to believe that the latter is true. Most times migrant workers are mistreated while working in foreign countries. In conclusion, Ferguson’s theories on identity fit in well with the 1937 massacre, which took place in the Dominican Republic. It seems that despite the development in the various sectors of the economy brutality never seems to cease.



Human Rights Watch. (2002). ‘Illegal People’: Haitians and Dominica-Haitians in the Dominican Republic. New York: Human Rights Watch.

Wucker, Michael. (2000). Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola. New York: Hill and Wang.

Ferguson, Niall. (2007). The War of the World. New York: Penguins.

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