From the AV Room: Hispaniola

Recently screened at the Havana Film Festival New York, the 12-minute short film, Hispaniola, tackles Haitian-Dominican relations on the Caribbean’s second-largest island.

Director Freddy Vargas shows us how childhood friendships can be marred by issues of race, class, and nationality as we watch a rich, light-skinned Dominican kid befriend the son of Haitian migrant workers living illegally across the street. The opening sequence underscores the misinformation taught to Dominicans about their historical ties with Haiti (the Haitians freed the entire island from European colonial rule and liberated the slaves on both the French and Spanish sides), and alludes to the legacy of former U.S.-backed Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, who ensured that education in the country minimized any references to African heritage.

My only criticism of the film would be that the obvious phenotypic differences between the characters in the movie don’t speak to the complexities that arise when Dominicans of my own skin color (or darker) behave with the same rancor and hatred toward Haitians (or even very dark-skinned Dominicans). And believe me, I love my Dominicanos, but when it comes to the race issue, sometimes I be havin to let ’em know.

Best line comes from the little rich kid when he goes over to see his friend in spite of his jackass dad and tells him, “We’re still friends and we’re going to play baseball, okay?” with all the verve of a knowing Caribbean uncle. A mi mencant’el acento’minicano, sabeh?

The video was taken down, but you can see a short clip here.

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This entry was posted in caribbean, Dominican Republic, ethinicity, films, Haiti, nationality, North America, race, videos and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to From the AV Room: Hispaniola

  1. Fly Girl says:

    Did you post this with me in mind? I didn’t plan starting my morning with tears but I ‘m glad that you shared this. Toussaint was a dictator that invaded their island? What warped version of history were they reading? I agree, the characters were a little too simplistic. It’s easy to resent people who you believe are taking jobs and bringing crime into your country. But what about all the dark Dominicanos that get the same resentment? It’s crazy. I’ve seen the same deep-seated denial in Puerto Rico as well. I don’t know when my peeps will stop believing the hype..

  2. Stacy says:

    As a Haitian-American this film (acting aside!) really strikes a chord. Its sad that this kind of hatred (on both sides really) and distorting of the truth continues to go on. Its the same when you watch the news and they only report on the poverty and crime in Haiti– failing to mention the insurmountable odds Haitians face, all the backs that have been turned on us… not to mention completely ignoring the beauty and richness and awesomeness of the country as if they (the US? I don’t know) don’t want the world to know anything good exists there. I hate to say that this has gone on for so long I can’t even imagine a day when things would ever be different.A fantastic read is The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat which is a fictional narration of the Haitian massacre led by Trujillo. Its heartbreaking

  3. Fly Brother says:

    Fly Girl: It was just coincidence that I discovered this film just after we had the convo about the same topic; I found it to be extremely timely. Unfortunately, the colorism that used to be prevalent in the US before the 60s is alive and well in all of Latin America. As well-defined as my own identity is in the States, I’m a different race depending on which country and sometimes which sub-national region I find myself.Stacy: You’re right; Haiti had the rug pulled out from it the moment Africans subjugated a European power. No countries would trade with it and Simon Bolivar refused to invite Haiti to his continental summit after using Haitian support to liberate most of South America from Spain. Corrupt home-grown rulers just put the nails in the coffin. A total tragedy. And you’re right, The Farming of Bones is an amazing, gut-wrenching read.

  4. kwerekwere says:

    ugh. the rep dom. another fun part of dominican issues is being a little black boy in elementary school in mayaguez, puerto rico and CONSTANTLY having to tell people that i’m not dominican, especially as 10 people or so a week wash up on the beach down the street from the house you are living in. [or, moving back and forth between santo domingo and san juan and being called an illegal in *both* places because the accent doesn’t quite fit in either. i think it was at that point where i just gave a big fuck you to latin america, and started to focus on africa full time again.]fun times, let me tell you. in some ways the racism is as bad as it is in europe, in other ways it’s worse. i’m someone who used to give lots of people a lot of grief about their racial hangups within latin america — now, i just don’t have time for them anymore. i’m too old for this mess. ernesto, cuando volverás a la rd? also, what do you think about the baby steps in the change toward cuba? you need to plan another trip there, after you are settled in brazil, but before the floodgates open and it takes the RD’s place as the spot for package tours from the southeastern US.

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