Picture Courtesy of Aurora Arias
I am at the Aereopuerto Internacional Las Américas, José Francisco Peña Gómez in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic while I wait for a flight from Santo Domingo to San Juan. A Dominican woman sits next to me and asks me to help her fill out the all English customs form that she will need to turn in as soon as she lands in San Juan. She is a high-school teacher who is visiting the island to see her niece who is having a baby and this is only the second time she travels to Puerto Rico, where she has family in Bayamón, Río Grande and Mayagüez. Soon we start talking about of what the court decision ruling or sentencia #168 means to her. She says that this is most of all a political decision made by “those in the government” and that she does not agree with it. She sees it as against the law and unconstitutional. I tell her that the feeling that I got from watching the local news is that there is a consensus and that mostly all Dominicans agree with it. “Mentiras,” she argues, “lies” all that appear on the news here are lies, “they are all lying and they are corrupt” and “many people simply don’t want to address they discontent openly because they fear they will be deported.” Where they will go? They are Dominicans.” When we finish our conversation I think about the irony of the situation. Peña Gómez was a Dominican-Haitian born in 1937, the year of the “Corte” the local name for the “Perejil Massacre” which occurred at the border between these two nations that killed more than 300,000 Haitians and some Dominicans citizens as well. Peña Gómez a politician, and three-times candidate for the presidency will not be considered a Dominican citizen if that ruling will be effective today. Now he “lives” in an airport name the best way of silencing his body, legacy and politics.
Court decision 168-# approved in September 23, 2013 and made by the government and judicial system in the Dominican Republic proposes that, all persons born after 1929 of non- Dominican parents on Dominican soil will need to legalize their citizenship status providing documents of citizenship (cédula de identidad). If not they will be left in a “citizen limbo” as they will be unable to access basic services, receive medical attention or acquire jobs. More than 200,000 people will be affected; and 24,000 of the 60,000 birth records reviewed during November will have their citizenship revoked. This sentencia is rooted in an anti-Haitian ideology that is still active in the trujillista sectors of government and society. It is an anti-Haitian decision as it relates to the anti-Haitian sentiment still thriving on the more conservative elites and media in the island. Also, it is an anti-Dominican sentiment as it stripes these Dominican men, women and children of their basic human rights. Dominican progressive sectors in the island and the diaspora have been vocal in their protests and critiques. While in San Juan Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican government has remained silent, other sectors of the Dominican, and the Dominican-Haitian and Puerto Rican community have made their voices heard particularly on social media outlets. Dominican writer Junot Díaz has criticized the court ruling calling it “racist” and unconstitutional. This ruling goes against a border culture whose coexistence has provided economic gains and profit to the island even before 1929. A recent meeting in the Aula Magna at the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo as well as the Solidarity for the Dominican Republic events celebrated at the City College of New York last week show the voices of many who oppose it. In a recent op-ed piece one in The New York Times, Prof. Lorgia García Peña (Harvard University) see the influential role of the United States as a force that shapes negatively the dialogues of citizenship and migration in the Dominican Republic (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/13/opinion/suddenly-illegal-at-home.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&rref=opinion&hpw&).
This is not only a decision that will influence the lives of more than 200,000 Dominicans, Dominican-Haitian citizens and their children, but it is an attempt against their most basic human rights.
Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Department of African and African American Studies
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed on this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position and views of LLILAS BENSON Latin American Studies and Collections.