Dominican Republic / Haiti

By: Angelina Fagundes, Katie Ferguson

Thesis

While both Dominican Republic and Haiti are located on Hispaniola, Haiti collapsed because of the weak, drier and devastating environment caused by the an earthquake while the Dominican Republic survived and began mass deportation of Haitians who immigrated to survive.


Background

The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Its early history is deeply entwined with that of Haiti, with which it shares Hispaniola. The Arawak and Carib Indians originally inhabited Hispaniola and depended on fishing and farming for their livelihood. In 1492, Christopher Columbus found the island, gave it its name ("Little Spain"), and claimed it for Spain. Hispaniola became the site of the New World's first Spanish colonies. The indigenous population soon died off as a result of their exploitation by the Spanish colonists.

As Spain started to establish settlements in South America, interest in Hispaniola waned, and the Spanish settlement (by that time called Santo Domingo) was neglected. The northern and western parts of the island soon became a base for English and French buccaneers. After French colonists began settling in the northern territory, Spain, unable to support its claim, ceded Haiti (then known as Saint-Dominique) to France in 1697. While Santo Domingo continued to decline, French-ruled Saint-Dominique thrived, aided by a prosperous plantation economy. Spain finally ceded Santo Domingo to France in 1795, and the entire island came under the rule of France. In 1804, Haiti declared itself an independent nation.

Discrimination

Between 800,000 and 1 million Haitians living in the Dominican Republic face intense discrimination and forced deportation—even if they were born in the Dominican Republic. Haiti, which is just west of the Dominican Republic on the shared island of Hispaniola, is much poorer than its eastern neighbor, and this imbalance prompted the Dominican government to actively recruit and hire thousands of temporary Haitian laborers to work on state-run sugarcane plantations during harvest time in the 1980s. The Haitian government received a fee for each laborer who came to work on the other side of the border. however, many Haitians stayed in the Dominican Republic, and others continued to cross the border illegally in search of work. The Dominican government began a series of mass deportations that continue today, in which police round up anyone who appears to be Haitian and deport them to Haiti. Tens of thousands of people are deported in mass each year, including children of Haitian immigrants born in the Dominican Republic who have never been to Haiti.

Environmental Isuues

Haiti, which is just west of the Dominican Republic on the shared island of Hispaniola, is much poorer than its eastern neighbor. The island of hispaniola’s rains come mainly from the east. Since the Dominican part of the island receives more rain and thus supports higher rates of plant growth. The Haitian side is drier because of that barrier of high mountains blocking rains from the east. Haiti is one of the most environmentally abused countries in the world. Unlike its ecologically rich neighbor, the Dominican Republic, Haiti is no longer a bastion of biodiversity, but rather a country stripped of most of its native wildlife by a long tradition of unrestricted hunting. One-third of Haiti's soil has been eroded by rampant deforestation—more than 98% of the country is deforested.

Soil erosion has contaminated sources of drinking water, causing a serious shortage, as well as settling in dams and irrigation systems. Each year, 15,000 acres of fertile topsoil is washed away. Vast quantities of soil, washed down to the sea from eroded mountainsides—especially during the hurricane season, have damaged delicate coastal tropical reefs. Another big contribution to it’s environmental issues is the major earthquake they encountered in 2010. This earthquake added onto their multiple issues and left the country with nothing.

The Dominican Republic's 12 national parks cover about 18% of the country's territory and are home to more than 5,600 species of fauna and flora. Because international support is earmarked to government agencies, private conservation efforts have been limited. The island's environment has also been ravaged by 139 hurricanes in the past 100 years. In 1979, 94,000 trees were wiped out by hurricanes and flash floods. Man-made deforestation has in turn increased the country's vulnerability to flooding during hurricane season.

Political Issues

Both Haiti and the Dominican Republic are faced with many political issues causing the countries to suffer. The two countries are very poor leaving them with many serious problems with public health and lower agricultural productivity that in the temperate zones. Also, the Dominican Republic has had problems with being taken over by an evil dictator, Rafael Trujillo, who tried to modernize and develop the economy, however, he did it in as if the country was his own private business. Although the Dominican has many problems, Haiti’s problems are much more serious than those of the Dominican Republic, giving more reason in why Haiti collapsed and the Dominican Republic did not. Haiti is officially the poorest country and is among the most overpopulated countries of the New World. Haiti has barely ⅓ of the land area as the Dominican Republic does, but nearly ⅔ the population (about 10 million). Also, 78% of the Haitians live on less than 2$ US per day.



Works Cited

Diamond, Jared M. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking, 2005. Print.

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"Dominican Republic: Contemporary Issues." World Geography: Understanding a Changing World. ABC-CLIO, 2014. Web. 8 Mar. 2014.

Feldmann, Andreas E. The 'phantom State' of Haiti. (2013): 1-4. 1 May 2013. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.

"Haiti." Issues: Understanding Controversy and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2014. Web. 8 Mar. 2014.