Divided island: How Haiti and the DR became two worlds

How one line created a vast disparity between countries. The six Vox Borders documentaries, presented by lululemon, are publishing weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Johnny on social media to stay up to date:
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Haiti and the Dominican Republic share a border, and an island. But the two countries are very different today: the Dominican Republic enjoys higher quality of life for many factors than Haiti. I went to this island and visited both countries, to try and understand when and how their paths diverged. And I began to learn how those differences are playing out in the present.
Vox Borders is a new international documentary series presented by lululemon, by Emmy-nominated videojournalist Johnny Harris. For this series, Johnny is producing six 10-15 minute documentaries about different borders stories from around the world.
Video by Johnny Harris
Producer: Christina Thornell
Story Editor: Joss Fong
Animation: Sam Ellis
Assistant Editing: Mwita Chacha
Fixer and Translator: Pascal Antoine
Executive Producer: Joe Posner
Managing Producer: Valerie Lapinski
Art Director: Dion Lee
Engagement Editor: Blair Hickman
Senior Engagement Manager: Lauren Katz
Audience Development Manager: Agnes Mazur
Engagement Video Producer: Tian Wang

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Category: News
Caption: Let's pause here. i'm driving on the road. that separates haiti from the dominican republic. right here. it's the border that. divides two very different countries. if you're born in haiti, you're. 2. 5 times more likely to die. as a baby than if you're born in the dr. you'll be almost ten times poorer and. you can expect to have a much shorter. life. i came here to find out how the two. countries that share this one island can. be so different, with a politically. volatile and impoverished haiti on one. side and the stable and relatively rich. dominican republic on the other. how did this line produce two totally different worlds . my journey starts here, at this beach. village in southern haiti, where haitian. merchants, most of them women, are. preparing for a nighttime boat ride. the women boarding this boat have one goal:. to make it to the border where they will. be let into a dominican market, to buy. and sell goods before returning to their villages. it's international trade at its. most informal. we're taking these boats. because the next door mountain range. makes the land journey almost impossible. these worn-out wooden boats have been. making this exact journey twice per week. for decades and yet the process remains. chaotic and unorganized as if it's. happening for the first time. all of this energy, time, and effort all to transport. a handful of goods that, in most. countries, would be shipped in bulk. inside one of these. we make this seven-hour journey to the. border town arriving around, 4 am. the sun rises and we walk to the border. market. this market was established right on the border. as a partnership between the two nations, to give vendors from both sides. a place to buy and sell on equal footing. as we approach the border i quickly realize that's not what's happening here. so i'm looking across the border right now,. into the market and you can see that. dominicans are already setting up. this is one of the big complaints of the. haitians: they're stuck on this side. waiting to cross the border and the. border guards are just delaying it and. meanwhile the dominicans are able to set. up and get the best spots. these haitians come from miles away on this grueling. boat journey, that i know now firsthand. is very grueling, and they get to the. border and the guards stop them for no reason. they're supposed to open it up for. everyone at the same time. the guards keep the haitian women from. crossing, not letting anyone know how. long it will be. the tension grows and. then finally, hours after the dominicans. were allowed to enter, the guards open up. the bridge. they buy and sell for the day, before. returning to the boats to make the journey home. the grueling boat journey,. the senseless discrimination, it embodies. the asymmetry that exists on this island. watching it happen, it's impossible not. to ask how it got like this. there are a. few key things that explain how this. island produced two very different. countries, but if you want to get at the. very root of it you have to go back to. when this island was owned by two. european powers: france and spain. this. island is actually the first place that. christopher columbus set up a colony in. the new world on his first voyage back. in like 1490. france wanted a piece of. this island because it was rich in. resources like sugar and coffee, so they. fought a war with the spanish and they. ended up splitting the island in two: one. side would be the spanish colony of. santo domingo and the other side would. be the french colony, with the same name,. saint-domingue, just in french. and that is. the most important part of understanding. this whole thing, is how these imperial. powers treated their colonial posessions. the french exploited the. land. they brought in tons of slaves and. they were interested in making saint-domingue solely an economic producer. they destroyed the soil from aggressively. harvesting the same crop year after. year, and they created a group of very. resentful, overworked, and abused slaves. that eventually rebelled. the spanish had. a different approach. after establishing. domination on this island by massacring. the indigenous population, they didn't. exploit it like the french did. instead they went to places like mexico and peru, to look for gold. so they didn't bring nearly as many slaves onto this island,. and as a result they weren't nearly as profitable a colony. instead, the spanish integrated with the remaining indigenous population,. by recognizing the native leader's authority and intermarrying with the locals. the result was a smaller and more racially mixed. population,. with a sustainable economy and a political system,. something totally absent from. france's colony. this becomes really important in the. early 1800s, when independence comes around. haiti declares independence,. fights off the french, and basically. declares itself the first black, former. slave republic in the world. they do so with very little framework for a society. and for a government and they also do so. with land that has been exploited, year. after year, with the same crop which. basically destroys the fertility of the. land. and to add to all of that, because. they were this first black republic, the. world essentially isolated them. the united states didn't want to recognize. the independence of a black nation. they thought it might become a slave empire. and seek revenge. the french showed up on haitian shores. soon after independence, and said you owe. us a debt for all of the assets that you. stole from us when you became independent,. all these economic assets,. you owe us that debt and you have to pay. it over the next thirty years. this. crippling debt haiti did pay back over. years, but it really hampered their. development. this history doesn't exonerate the dictators and corrupt. politicians that have plagued haiti's. development since its independence, but. it helps explain them. suffocating embargoes and the independence debt, as. well as the lack of any tradition or. investment in governmental institutions,. guaranteed haiti's failure from the. moment it was born, and a racist world. made sure of it. that racism isn't just. embedded into haiti's history, it is in. fact very alive today. as i drive up the border, by coincidence my driver is also. a dominican border patrol official. we have hours in the car, where he slowly. and cautiously tells me about how. immigration policy has changed in the. dominican republic in recent years. "regularization program". that's a euphemism. he's talking about a. policy of targeting anyone of haitian. descent, even citizens, rounding them up. and deporting them. there's always been anti-haitian. sentiment in the dominican republic,. usually resulting in racist violence,. but since 2010, that sentiment has been. seeping into legislation. the dominican. constitution that was drafted in 1929,. says that anyone born in the country is. automatically a citizen, even if your. parents were undocumented immigrants. this is the same in places like the. united states, but the dr rewrote its. constitution in 2010, to only give. citizenship to those born on dr soil, to legal residents. then, in 2013 the high. court in the dr ruled that this new. definition would be applied. retroactively. all the way back to. 1929, meaning any citizen who had been. born in the dr to undocumented parents. would have their citizenship revoked. more than 200,000 dominican citizens,. were suddenly stateless. it is clearly an illegal act, it is an. immoral act, it is a racist act by the. dominican government. and it's happening. because these people are black. dominican law said that if these. stateless people wanted to stay in the. dr, they would have to go to a government. office and put their name on this. foreigner registry. the government gave. these people one year to either get. their name on the registry or face. deportation. over 55,000 have been officially deported since the. june 2015 deadline. the un estimates that 128, people have voluntarily fled to haiti,. a country many of them have never lived in. some came here to this camp on the. border, where they've been living in. limbo for years. the moment i cross into the dr, i start. to see what this crackdown looks like. on a 75km bus ride, we pass eight. security checkpoints in which security. personnel board the bus, to eye who was on. it, and in some cases check papers. but each time we stop, they seem to only. check the papers of the same few passengers. that's my translator, pascale. he's an american. citizen, but everywhere we go in the dr,. security forces keep asking him. for his passport. halfway through the journey, we pull off the road. into a facility where a few young military guys. are sitting around. and our driver brings. this woman and her two children over to. the military guys. she's speaking in. perfect dominican spanish to them,. claiming that her children are dominican. and that the driver brought us to this. checkpoint to turn her in because she's. black. none of this seems to matter,. she doesn't have her papers and her skin. color seems to be all the guards need to see. haiti's land and people were abused. when it was a colony of slaves. the world then shunned it, with embargoes and. independence debts when it was a new. nation, and today haitians in the dr. experience racism that is overt enough. to be enshrined in law. as we drive up this very curvy road, i. have the dr to my right and haiti to my left. back when the french were here, this. was the richest colony on earth,. but that came at a price. not only to abused slaves, but also to the. land that they worked. clear cutting and. single crop planting continued after the. french left, but instead of being used to. make fancy french furniture, the trees. were burned to cook food. this explains what i'm seeing when. on my right there's lush jungle. and on my left. there's bare and eroding hillsides. zoom out a little bit and it's very clear. i follow the border road all the way north,. until i hit another market town. i wanted. to see if the same discriminatory. dynamics played out up here as they did down south. this market was built. with money from the european union,. and the un development program,. with the specific intention of creating a space where communities. from both sides could come and buy and sell on equal footing. rolling through the market, and. once again like we saw in the southern market,. the dominicans are first setting up. i walk to the border and find this. huge group of people at this gap in the. fence, paying a border guard to get in early. the dynamic is the same as down. south, only with a few more overt bribes. and border guards who seem to have no. problem hitting haitians with a stick. after hours of waiting for guards to. open the gate for everyone,. the haitians are finally let in. this is a story about a border that. separates two vastly different countries,. but it's moreso a story about policy:. how centuries of racist policies, from. the french, from the u. s. , from the world,. from the dr, can hold a nation back from progressing. haiti, this first black. republic, has experienced some of the most. predatory and racist policy from outside. forces. for haitians this story isn't just their history. it's their present. it's the stage on which they live their lives. so, i want to say a big thank you to lululemon,. who is a sponsor for borders. they sent me these abc pants,. which are these really versatile, flexible pants. they're super sturdy,. and they're meant to be basically used for hiking and for activewear,. but also around the house when i'm kind of just hanging out,. i've been using them for both as i've been making borders. i love them. thank you lululemon for sending me these pants,. but more importantly thank you for sponsoring borders. and making this happen. if you want to try out some lululemon abc pants,. you could get a pair of your own. you should definitely check that out. .

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