Saturday, October 18, 2008


About two weeks ago I went with a colleague to Dajabón, a small city that sits on the Dominican/Haitian border. When I'm not off to Jamaica, I'm stuck in Santo Domingo, so I was really pleased to get out of the city and go so close to Haiti. Our office's only driver had a job to do for another project and the colleague I went with doesn't drive standard, so I had to do all the driving. All 5 hours of it.

Dajabón is a matter of minutes away from Haiti. The border is porous, making for a great mix of cutlures in the town of 20,000. Dajabón is famous for its twice-a-week market: people make the trek from Santo Domingo to buy everything under the sun: clothes, food, electronics. On market days the border opens and Haitians can cross without papers and bring back as much as they can carry. Supposedly they can only carry what they buy, not use wheelbarrows or carts, so on the Haitian side there are hordes of men with carts, trucks and motorcycles waiting to take people home comfortably.

We arrive the day before the market (on a Thursday) and already the town was bustling. We tried to drive to the hospital for out meeting but couldn't get past all the trucks so we parked the car and walked. As we walked around, I really enjoyed hearing Creole being spoken and kompa, Haitian music that could easily be mistaken for Angolan kizomba.

Our trip was a short one and we were on our way out the next day. As we were driving, I noticed a high number of military checkpoints along the way. I assumed that it was for migration purposes, since the migration of Haitians to the DR is a hot-button issue. My colleague said that migration was likely the official cause, but that really there were so many checkpoints so the military men could get their bribes.

She said that one time when she was in Dajabón for project monitoring she stayed for the market and took the bus back with all the Santo Domingo buyers who bought things in bulk to sell back home. As the trip began all the women took up a collection and at every military checkpoint the informal group leader would pay the bribe. I asked what would happen if they banded together to protest the bribe and she just cackled and said, "Muchacha!"

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