The American Invasion
By: Alejandra Baez
December 4, 2014
While discussing the impact of Haitian immigration in my Dominican migrations class, our professor brought to our attention an opinion piece from the newspaper called “Creole por todos lados” written by Dominican writer Ramón Colombo.
I will paraphrase in English what Ramón Colombo writes:
“This country is no longer ours. On the radio, what mostly play are songs in creole. The TV is full of channels straight from Haiti. Everywhere you will find fast food shops selling Haitian foods, goods, and services offered in Haitian currency, and bilingual schools that teach in creole about the culture of globalization: which can be seen through the celebration of the holiday in October where the kids dress up as zombies and the Day of Papá Sedifé in November where they eat a rooster together with the family. Something must be done about the terrible denationalization that Haiti has imposed upon us!”
Ramón Colombo wrote this piece of satire as a critique of the tension between Haiti and the Dominican Republic and the public panic that Haitians are trying to slowly invade and reconquer the country. Some Dominicans see the large amount of Haitian illegal immigrants, migrant workers, and even Dominicans of Haitian descent that reside in the country as a “Haitian Invasion.” These people fear that if a Haitian (or even a Dominican of Haitian descent) enters politics and the government, it would mean the end of the Dominican Republic entirely: a return to Haitian control, like what occurred from 1822 to 1844. [Note: Independence Day in the Dominican Republic actually celebrates independence from Haiti, not from its colonizer, Spain.] What Colombo is showing through this satire is that this fear is absurd and unfounded, seeing as the country with the most cultural influence in the Dominican Republic is actually the United States.
Upon arriving, I was taken aback at first by the abundant aspects of American culture that have pervaded the Dominican society. It seems as though every two out of five radio stations is playing some American song (from 1980s soft rock to the popular songs of today). When looking at the movies screening at the theater for this week, I noted that six out of the seven films playing are American films, with only one Dominican film available. McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Domino's, and Denny’s restaurants are numerous; in fact, I am sure you could find every big-name American food franchise here in Santo Domingo. And sure enough, as Colombo alludes, kids dressed up for Halloween and went trick-or-treating, a number of families are celebrating Thanksgiving, and tomorrow hundreds of shoppers will get in line to take advantage of Black Friday deals at the mall.
Why has American culture so thoroughly permeated this country? I believe it has to do with the country’s history and its economic dependency on the United States. The United States has occupied the Dominican Republic twice in its history, from 1916 to 1924 and again from 1965 to 1966. The main purpose for the first military intervention was to recover the massive debt that the Dominican Republic owed. The American forces established their own military government, repaid the national debt by collecting customs on all exported goods, and began many social projects including building schools and constructing highways. While the impact of the infrastructure projects was positive, in order to fund the expensive endeavors the Dominican Republic entered further into debt with the United States. The motivation for the second intervention which took place after the dictator Rafael Trujillo was overthrown was to prevent a new Cuba from emerging. The United States intervened in order to promote democracy and in doing so further strengthened its grip on the Dominican Republic.
Today, the service industry accounts for 65 percent of the Dominican Republic’s GDP; this industry includes tourism, telecommunications, and free trade zones. Approximately 50 percent of Dominican exports are consumed by the United States, 43 percent of imports originate from the United States, and 5 percent of Dominican GDP comes directly from remittances sent from the United States.* It is overwhelming how much economic influence the United States has on the Dominican Republic.
I therefore find it problematic that the public fears a Haitian invasion when the United States has so much more control over the country as a whole, politically, economically, and culturally. This begs the question, why does no one fear an American invasion? And while I know the answer to that question is complex, I am sure race plays a major factor in this issue.
*Statistics were taken from the CIA World Factbook: Dominican Republic.