Haiti and the Dominican Republic comprise the Island known as Hispaniola. Christopher Columbus landed on the island in 1492 claiming it for Spain. The original inhabitants were the Arawak and Carib people, peaceful farmers and fishermen. They were exploited by the Spanish colonists, became extinct and were replaced by African slave labor. Spain had officially ceded the entire island to the French during the Treaty of Ryswijk in 1695. Black slaves worked the profitable sugar, indigo, coffee and cotton plantations in St. Domingue (Haiti) while Spanish colonists fought to regain control of Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic). Haiti would become the first independent black nation in the world in 1804 under the leadership of Toussaint L’Ouverture. Between the years of 1804 and 1844 Santo Domingo regained Spanish rule, declared independence, was taken over by the nation of Haiti and finally achieved independence becoming officially the Dominican Republic.
Civil wars and foreign intervention have plagued the island. A class system based on economics and race has also impeded the growth of both nations. Today the official language of Haiti is Creole and French with 95 percent of the population of African decent. In the Dominican Republic it is Spanish with a mix of black-African, Spanish and mestizo cultures.
My Two Worlds
, eight year old Kirsey must balance living in the Dominican Republic and New York. She does not want to choose one over the other
. How Many Days to America
introduces the exodus of Haitians to the shores of Miami during the Clinton administration. They must now find a balance between their heritage and new home. Each piece of non-fiction will stimulate discussion of the different worlds each of us live in. We will explore the similarities and differences in our homes and cultures. What are strategies we use to balance our own worlds. We will publish a class book entitled ,
Our Many Worlds
The duality of life in Hispaniola is evident in the art, music and literature of this region. Popular masks, cojuelo diablos, worn during Carnival celebrates good over evil on the eve of Lent. The horns can be seen painted two different colors while the face is a solid color. Each of the horns represent a side of Hispaniola, the face their potential unity. Also part of Carnival is the merengue or meringue depending on your location. In the Dominican Republic the national dance, the merengue, owes its roots to Afro-Caribbean dance/music mixing with rural life. Today it is danced throughout the world, but its traditional setting is the countryside. Here you would find it accompanied by a perico ripiao, a small band playing an accordion, a drum, a guiro (grage in Haiti) and maracas. Haitians will fiercely claim that the merengue (me-reng’ga) is only a cousin to their national dance, the meringue. They believe it was brought to the Dominican Republic during the Haitian occupation of 1822.