I write this post with a heavy heart and I am nervous about sharing it. If you have read my other travel posts (which I am sure you have) you know that I write on my personal experiences of all the wonderful places I have visited. I write about these places and experiences to inspire others to travel and see the world. My posts are filled with positivity and pictures as well as helpful travel guides. I have never done a politically driven travel post, until now. This is my first true editorial piece based on current events and I hope it resonates with my readers. If you are trying to decide whether to boycott travel to the Dominican Republic, keep reading.
Dominican Republic and Haiti-The History:
Haiti and Dominican Republic share the island of Hispaniola. Although both countries have struggling economies and poverty, Haiti is more destitute. Haitians have been migrating-legally and illegally-to the Dominican Republic for generations. As with immigrants to the US, they are often found doing laboring jobs and the jobs that noone else wnats to do. Many are workers in the service industry at hotels and resorts while others worked in the fields. According to Dominican lawmakers, taking on Haitian immigrants, while caring for their own, puts an extra strain on the economy. A court ruling in 2013 stripped many immigrants, including Haitian-Dominicans, of their citizenship even if they were born in the Dominican Republic. This goes back to anyone born in the country from 1929 to present day. Haitian-Dominicans have to prove, by submitting paperwork, that they have at least one parent of Dominican descent. The government then decided to allow a process for naturalization. The deadline for submitting all paperwork expired in June with forced deportations soon to follow. Many Haitian-Dominicans do not have proof of being born in the Dominican Republic or their ancestry. Based on this law there is now a movement to boycott travel to the Dominican Republic. I have visited there twice in the past year which has led me to write this post on this topic.
Vacationing in the Dominican Republic:
Last December I was so excited to finally make it to this beautiful Caribbean island. I had heard so much about it from friends and family who all enjoyed their time there. Being of Jamaican descent I love exploring other Caribbean islands and can relate to most of the culture, food and class structures. Although most of my trip was restricted to an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana for a wedding, I enjoyed the beaches, the food and the people. Although many of the staff were darker skinned, it never occurred to me nor did I ask who was Dominican vs. Haitian. Being from Jamaica where our motto is “Out of Many One People”, I assumed they all considered themselves and each other to be Dominican.
As my second trip approached I looked forward to exploring more of the island. However, prior to my return there were news reports of a Haitian man being lynched as well as others being beaten to death. No matter where you live in the world there is violence but based on the history of Blacks in America the word “lynching” elicits fear, anger and disgust. At this point I paid closer attention to the news and the Facebook posts of my Haitian friends as well as my Dominican friends. My Haitian friends were asking people to boycott the Dominican Republic in order to put pressure on the government to change the law and their treatment of Haitians. My Dominican friends argued against a boycott of travel to the Dominican Republic. Their continued argument relates to tourism and the impact it would have on those the boycott is trying to help. Boycotting travel to the Dominican Republic will hurt both Dominicans and Haitians on the island who depend on tourism at hotels and resorts for their income. What I do find interesting is that the majority of the resorts are not owned by Dominicans. The profits are gained by foreign investors who are unlikely to make a stance against these racist policies.
Armed with all this knowledge I questioned whether I should boycott travel to the Dominican Republic. Maybe because I wanted to go back to see more of the island, maybe because I wanted to celebrate my cousin’s birthday with my family, maybe because I was in need of a beach vacation, maybe because I had already paid for my trip, I convinced myself that my friends from the Dominican Republic made valid points so I went.
While visiting for the second time I fulfilled my wish to see more of the Dominican Republic on a daytrip from Punta Cana to La Romana. I visited churches, baseball stadiums, cigar factories, luxurious neighborhoods and drove by not so luxurious ones. I was able to meet with and speak with many Dominicans. Our guide was of Spanish descent and spoke to the differences between Dominicans, Haitians and Haitian-Dominicans (Dominican born people of Haitian decent). He noted that many Dominicans were quick to acknowledge their Spanish roots vs their African ones. All of this was with the connation that having Spanish ancestry was better than African ancestry. When I returned to the U.S. I planned to write a blog post on my experiences as usual. I took beautiful pictures on my brand new Canon DSLR camera and was excited to share them with my readers. Then all hell broke loose.[Tweet “Should you boycott #travel to the #DominicanRepublic?”]
My Facebook page news feed was filled with articles and statuses pleading with people to boycott travel to the Dominican Republic. The deadline was quickly approaching for Haitian-Dominicans to provide paperwork of their ancestry and legal status. However, many Haitian-Dominicans were born in fields and away from hospitals so documentation of births and Dominican ancestry are sketchy. There are Haitian-Dominicans who were born in the Dominican Republic, have only lived in the Dominican Republic and have never been to Haiti or even have relatives there that now face deportation. I could not believe what I was reading. What if we enforced this policy in America? How many of us would be deported? My parents were born in Jamaica and I was born in America. According to their policy I would not be considered a citizen based on my birth and would be at risk for deportation. Reflecting on the history between these two countires and the treatment of Haitians in the Dominican Republic, there is little doubt in my mind that this law is based on racism.
Some Haitians have already voluntarily moved back to Haiti and the Haitian government is preparing for a larger number to follow once forced deportation occurs. They have cited fears of a “humanitarian catastrophe” and rightfully so. The noise to boycott travel to the Dominican Republic is louder now more than ever and unless this law is revised, I agree. But, if I am being honest, what if this was all at a fever pitch a few months ago and my trip loomed around the corner? Would I still take this stance? I truly hope so. However, I will not stand in judgment of anyone’s decision to travel to the Dominican Republic. What I do hope is that based on worldwide influence and pressure, the Dominican Republic will see the errors of their ways and demolish this law. Will I ever write my blog post on La Romana? Probably so. But instead of promoting tourism and tours from Punta Cana, I will use it as an opportunity to educate people on the rich history, culture and beauty of this island.
So what do you think? Should you boycott travel to the Dominican Republic? Please share your thoughts with us below. In a recent development, the Dominican Republic has agreed to work with the Organization of American States on its immigration policies and deportation of Haitians.
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There’s no reason to boycott traveling to any contry because of their immigration regulations. Think what should happen if 5% of french population suddenly move to Italy?? Or what about if 5% of people from Peru moves to Colombia?? If this ever happens and the affected countries start to control the problem, Should we blame it on them and start blocking their tourism?? Definitively NO.. They have the right to use their laws as every country in the world does to regulate their borders. That’s what I think…
I respect you for wading in on this sensitive and difficult topic. Your statement “Haiti is more destitute” sums up over 30 years of problems within Haiti in four simple words. However, that history deserves to be explored. Military coups, meddling by United States and a series of the world’s most corrupt politicians has left Haiti in its current state. None of which is the fault of the Dominican Republic. Blaming the Dominican Republic for the the plight of Haitians makes as much sense as blaming people in Sweden for what is happening to the Syrians. It’s a red herring. Are the DR immigration policies really strict? It would seem that way. Are the DR immigration policies more strict that other nations? Not necessarily. However, rather than focus on the DR, why are we not talking about the humanitarian situations within Haiti that keep leading to these problems – year after year, decade after decade? Why are we not talking about the “missing” millions of humanitarian relief money from the 2010 earthquake? Why are we not talking about corrupt politicians who have abandoned the Haitian people? Why are we not talking about the institutionalized -isms within Haiti that causes many to flee in the first place? There are real problems on Hispaniola…
Lance I didn’t get from the article at all that the problems in Haiti were due to policies of the DR that however does not justify the current ethnic cleansing going on in the DR especially for generations of Haitians who have only ever lived in the DR, it would be the equivalent of sending me back to Africa. I think however that we can vote with our wallets that we don’t want to support countries that wholly alienate a subset of their citizenry and immigrant populations
I am Dominican born and bred, as such I feel the need to write a response. I’m sure you’re familiar with media sentionalism, I’ve fallen in its seducing arms too. I believe that as a writer you will agree that the way media misrepresent facts by selective disclosure and crafty language is absolutely wrong and how we use that information further can be exceptionally damaging. Now that we both agree on that I would like to answer your facile question, no, I believe you shouldn’t boycott travel to the Dominican Republic, that is unless you want others to miss out on meeting exceedingly hospitable and heart-warmed people and all the flavorful combinations of Spanish, Taíno and African culture that we have to offer.
We both agree on something, my country’s immigration laws lack basic humanity, and in no way am I trying to justify it but, did you know that only 30 of the world’s 195 countries grant automatic citizenship to children born to undocumented immigrants? We are not very exclusive; on the contrary, looks like it’s quite mainstream. When it comes to granting citizenship we are way more flexible that Haiti. Did you know that to become a citizen in the DR you only need to be born to a legal resident? In Haiti things are a little bit stricter as one of your parents must be Haitian for them to grant you your citizenship. However, I still believe our immigration law it’s dehumanizing, derogatory and destructive. I also believe Haiti’s corrupt government made it harder for us when it denied it’s own citizens the necessary documents to become citizens of the DR.
There is widespread racism in the DR (where isn’t?) but this whole issue is so complex that in order to understand and discuss about it we cannot use such an over simplistic framework. I’m keen to steer the conversation to the subject of structural violence. Structural violence is embedded in our political system as it is around the world, which is centered on evidently inequitable social arrangements, and I feel there’s a need to unpack layers of history and structures to understand the complexity of the Dominican-Haitian subject.
There have been many pacific protests by Dominicans against this law and I haven’t seen any media coverage on it. This law doesn’t represent what my country is much less the rich experience we offer our travelers. The fact that I don’t agree with a country’s political agenda doesn’t mean I wouldn’t travel there or encourage others not to do so, much less write a post about it. If I chose to travel to countries based on how much I agree with its political agenda or its modus of negotiations in international relations, I would go nowhere.
As I wrote in my post, I am not going to ask people to not visit my country and one that I have written so positively about as a travel blogger. That being said, to state that there are worse places, with more strict laws and that the corruption, racism, and faults of the DR aren’t any different or worse than in other countries is a pretty disheartening scape goat. Are there worse crimes against humanity happening in other countries? Yes, but that doesn’t make what is happening in DR any less awful. Are there worse immigration laws in other places? Absolutely. But, having living in the Dominican Republic, and thus knowing first hand how convoluted and corrupt the state and government offices are, I know also how difficult it is to get any paperwork and process from these places. And the fact that it can be worse elsewhere, doesn’t make me feel any better about it. And though we can say this is all about immigration laws and enforcement, let’s not glaze over the ever present racism that has existed towards the Haitians and let’s not pretend that this is simply sensationalism over dramatizing standard legal, governmental procedures. Again, I won’t be a voice to say, “Ban DR”, but I am also not going to try to act like this is just stuff that happens because I don’t want to jeopardize the tourism and economic structure there. Dominicans such as myself should be outraged for what is happening there, and yes, the threat on their livelihood should make them angry…but not with those shining light on the truth, but instead with those violating the human rights and operating the dysfunctional system that doesn’t allow for the legal processes to work as they should for these people.
We’ll said Carol. I appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts on this issue and expressing yours as a Dominican.
This post came right on time, as I am traveling to DR in August! We already planned it and paid for it before everything started going on. Maybe I will gain more insight on the issues when I actually get there. It definitely seems like a tricky situation, I see both arguments, but I really feel for the Haitians.
Thank you Kasi. So do I!
Nadeen, I applaud you for addressing this sensitive topic. To be honest, I would not visit the Dominican Republic as this is happening. No it is not exclusive to DR however I would not visit any country that decides to deport their own birth citizens based on their heritage.
As a caribbean woman, it scares me to think that other countries in our beautiful territory do or will do this very thing to our Haitian brothers and sisters.
Haiti is a beautiful country and I plan to visit one day. I have Haitian friends who are working to rebuild their country and educate the world about Haiti. Haiti can not be lost on any of us. I pray this situation is resolved in a humane way.
I agree MJ!. I hope the pplicy changes and these two conutries can work together on a better solution.
I really really want to visit the Dominican Republic. I had plans in place. But I firmly believe that you make change by hurting people’s pockets. I hate to boycott because I know the people who remain will suffer, But it’s the only thing I’m able to do at this time. SMH
I agree LaShawn. Thank you for commenting!
I hear you but unfortunately you are exactly the demographic they actually don’t want to visit the DR. A travel boycott won’t work unless white people are boycotting. They don’t like Blacks (whether American, Jamaican, or Haitian) anyway.
I enjoyed your article and I applaud you for being brave enough to publish it. I really don’t care which island it is, all I believe in is the humane treatment of every human being. At this time Dominican Republic is not handling it’s border problem humanely and as an individual I refuse to put my money or myself on that soil. My opinion my choice. I Pray for all those hurt physically and emotionally by the implementation of this law. Nadeen Please continue sharing the beautiful places of the world with us.
Carolyn thank you! I agree that not only the DR needs to look at how they treat their immigrants and citizens.
This is a tough one, my gut says nobody wins. Folks have families to take care of and so the tourism is needed. At the same time they are treating these people like animals. It sounds like the law is set up against you from the start. I was born in the US and so were my parents. I couldn’t imagine being forced out because someone didn’t believe me and I couldn’t prove it.
Adn that is my main issue with this law/policy Mimi! I agree that the boycott has its down sides but we must bring attention to this issue.
It’s truly worrisome the way that Haitians are treated in Dominican Republic and the ethnic cleansing that’s occurring. As a black person, a mother this makes my heart sink so much. Dominican history is so complicated when it comes to identity. I remember watching the documentry Black in Latin America where Henry Louis Gates really dug in the way Domonicans identified themselves and their determination to neglect their African roots.. I wouldn’t travel to DR but I would travel to Haiti, I’ve always wanted to go there.
Me too Adanna! I stopped there on a cruise but hope to return to see more of the island.
I don’t have plans to travel to DR, but I applaud you for putting yourself out there and touching on the subject. It can be hard to step out of our comfort zone so kudos to you for doing that.
Thank you! I appreciate that!
Thank you for your honesty. I’m not sure wherr i dtand this being my first exposure to the issue. It does seem inherently wrong to deport so many who have been there their entire life.
Yes I agree! Thank you for reading and chiming in.
Dominican Republic has violated international laws and its own constitution by taking retroactive laws (sentence 168/13) to make Dominican of Haitian ascendancy stateless. This law apply to black skin which Dominican Rep want to eliminate from its population and preventing people of Haitian ascendancy from voting during elections.. This law does not apply to European, Middle East and Asian people. This is a political issue and it is the crux of the matter.
There is no neutrality in politics. Masquerading yourself as being neutral on this issue make you very transparent as a a fake , fraud and phony . You chose the Dominican side while our people are under assault. You probably have an identity problem like most Dominicans. Do you think the albinos Dominicans will open the door of their “white only nightclubs” for you after you wrote this article? I doubt it.
My family is planning a trip to a resort in Punta Cana. The trip is paid for and our commitment is too great to participate in a boycott. (I’m not sure that I would advocate a boycott, in any case).
A travel letter like yours could do two things that would be helpful:
1. Suggest ways that visitors can express their concern about the Dominican Republic’s treatment of Haitians.
2. Suggest ways that a trip with a guide, like the one you described, could be arranged.
I would like to know about the experiences of black tourists (whether African American, Afro British, Jamaican, etc.) in the DR. With the segregated nightclubs and openly colorist social policies in the DR, would it even be possible for a black person to have a nice vacation in the DR? It seems that the darker and more “African” you appear the worse you are treated, even if you have money and are otherwise a tourist just like a white Briton or a white American. I could see being refused entry into a luxury hotel or swank nightclub kind of ruining a very expensive trip. Does anyone here have any first hand data or anecdotes they can share?