Taking a STAND: the Parsley Massacre
In 1937, the fate of Haitians was forever changed when Dominican totalitarian leader Leonidas Trujillo Molina ordered mass executions of the population surrounding the border lines of Haiti.
Trujillo was a ruthless and fearless leader, determined to ‘purify’ the Dominican Republic through ethnic cleansing of the Haitians. Maria Cristina Garcia, professor at Cornell University, states that, “He was a psychotic, pure and simple. He kidnapped and raped women, jailed, tortured and killed political prisoners by the thousands.”
The Parsley Massacre, known to the Dominicans as “the cutting”, was justified through the political ideology of antihaitianismo, anti-Haitianism. According to International Business Times, as much as 20,000 Haitians were killed within the span of the five-day massacre.
This tragic event is virtually untold in history books. Just as author Edwidge Danticat confirms, “And, from our side, unfortunately, people – my generation, even older – did not really know about this massacre. It’s not something we heard about. It wasn’t in the history books, I think, in part because it was a shame, this sort of collaboration among the elites of both Haiti and the Dominican Republic. And this was basically done to a lot of poor people, so there was a silence about it over time.”
Victims were forced to hold a sprig of parsley while pronouncing the Spanish word for parsley. The accents became a disastrous giveaway, leading to the death of anyone found with Haitian blood. Not only were Haitians persecuted, but anyone suspected of looking Haitian or accused of helping a Haitian escape to freedom was treated equally.
The massacre had tragic effects on the relations between Dominican Republicans and Haitians. “After 1937, the Dominican culture became exclusive,” states Edward Paulio, a history professor at City University of New York. “On a local level, people could work together and could accept that we have a society that’s mixed, of which Dominicans of Haitian descent are a part. But at the state level, there’s still this sense of rejection of dark-skinned Haitians.”
In 2013, the Dominican Republic passed legislation that revoked the citizenship of children of illegal Haitian migrant farmers born after 1929. Not only does the passing of this act threaten the legitimacy of the offspring for farm workers, but also for Dominicans who share Haitian ancestry
The Parsley Massacre also had a tremendous effect on the culture, music, and literature of the land. Rita Dove, a former Poet Laureate of the United States, drew inspiration from the Parsley Massacre in her poem titled “Parsley”. In addition, the tragic event has inspired writers to use the events to create art to induce social change, including Edwidge Danticat’s The Farming of Bones and Freddy Prestol Castillo’s El masacre se pasa a pié.
Overall, the massacre may have occurred over seventy years ago, but its effects are still relevant and increasingly evident today. As the nation turns to a future of innovation and efficiency, it is crucial to remember the past as a way of preserving human dignity for the next generation. It’s up to us to break the cycle.
Remember that you can make a difference against hatred by:
Being informed about the history behind the events. Nobody has a sudden desire to eradicate a group, rather these tragic events are rooted deeply in early historical relations. By staying abreast of the press and the past, you can be informed about the issues that affect us today. When we fail to remember history, we are eternally doomed to repeat it.
Creating advocacy in your community. Although this event occurred in Latin America, you can assure it doesn’t happen anywhere else by informing your family, friends, and peers about this issue. This specific event in history is unheard of to many people, so this is the perfect foundation for you to educate your peers about it!
Standing up against genocide. Mass killings may seem like a terrible giant to take on, but it is not an impossible task. Ending genocide, massacres, and mass killings begin and end with us. By fostering an environment of peace, humility, and tolerance, you can prevent genocide from occurring!
Taking a STAND: the Parsley Massacre was written by STAND’s Julia Schemmer.