Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hispaniola and Racism

Spaniards under Christopher Columbus established the first successful colony in the Americas in 1496 on the eastern side of Hispaniola. By 1511, having wiped out the indigenous Taino population, they began the importation of Africans as slaves. This was a century before colonization of North America with the importation of slaves into Jamestown in 1607.

In 1697, Spain ceded the western third of the island to France, who created their most productive economic colony with the use of African slaves. Noted for working the slaves to death and relying on constant new importations of new Africans, the French created a massive racial imbalance. By 1789 there were an estimated 500,000 African slaves to an estimated 32,000 French and French Canadian plantation owners. In 1804, the slaves revolted and formed the first Black Republic, Haiti.

Henri Christophe, became President of Haiti in 1807. He writes of the French:

"Have they not hung up men with heads downward, drowned them in sacks, crucified them on planks, buried them alive, crushed them in mortars? Have they not forced them to eat shit? And, having flayed them with the lash, have they not cast them alive to be devoured by worms, or onto anthills, or lashed them to stakes in the swamp to be devoured by mosquitoes? Have they not thrown them into boiling cauldrons of cane syrup? Have they not put men and women inside barrels studded with spikes and rolled them down mountainsides into the abyss? Have they not consigned these miserable blacks to man eating-dogs until the latter, sated by human flesh, left the mangled victims to be finished off with bayonet and poniard?"

Political control of both sides Island went back and forth in a series of battles: Spain, France, Haiti, Spain, Haiti, Spain, independence, US occupations, dictatorships, democracies, overthrows, "imperialist interference', democracies.

The Dominican Republic defines itself historically as "white, Christian, Spanish." Despite the fact that the Taino indians were wiped out in the first 50 years of European occupation, and the Dominican Republic is 76% mixed race, most Dominicans are identified on their national identity cards as "indios".

Immigrants into the United States from the eastern side, the Dominican Republic, are classified under the US census as "Latinos"- theoretically marked as an ethnic identity -while immigrants from the western side, Haiti, are classified as "black" - a racial identifier.

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