The island of Hispaniola, located in the western Caribbean, is divided in two by an invisible line that snakes down its central mountain range. On one side is Haiti, the other the Dominican Republic: one colonized by the French, the other by Spain. The island was the first place in the Americas colonized by Europeans, and was the place where trans-Atlantic slavery was first implemented. It was also home to the first--and only--successful slave revolt when Haiti rebelled against France in 1791. Yet there has frequently been a tremendous amount of tension between the two countries. For decades, Eurocentric elites in the Dominican Republic have painted Haitians as inferior and threatening. Today, there is an uproar around the issues of Haitian immigration to the D.R., and politicians who are lobbying to build a wall between the two countries.
Despite the conflicts, Dominicans and Haitians are linked by deeply interwoven histories, economies and cultures. In this episode of Afropop Worldwide, we tell the story of the relationship between Haiti and the Dominican Republic through music, from the Haitian Revolution to the 1937 massacre perpetrated by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. We also visit a batey community in the sugarcane fields, where residents play Haitian-Dominican gagá music, explore the relationship between race and music on the island, and meet young people using music to bring the people of Hispaniola closer together.