College Papers

The their leader and execute his plans, regardless

The rich island of Hispaniola is tragically beautiful. Its beauty comes in the rich culture, people, and resources. Its tragedy lies in the harsh division and bloody history that exists amongst its two twin nations ; Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The presence of Haitians and Haitian descendants in the Dominican Republic and their treatment by the Dominicans are explored throughout the novel “The Farming of Bones”, by Haitian author Edwige Danticat. The story follows Amabelle, a Haitian servant for a wealthy Dominican family whom she has grown to love. As she becomes intertwined into their lives, her people exist in the country through the system of people and family exist through the practice of sugarcane farming.  “The Farming of Bones” illuminates the detrimental effects of colorism , racism, and “antihaitianismo”, in the Dominican Republic, leading up to the massacre of 1937.At the beginning of the story,  the rich Dominican woman that Amabelle works for, Señora Valencia,  gives birth to twins, Rafael and Rosalinda. Amabelle brings them into the world as the midwife.Unfortunately, juxtapositioned to this event is a tragedy that results in the loss of life as new life is being brought into the world.  In the rush to reach his wife and witness the birth of his children, Senora Valencia’s husband  Señor Pico, races down the road, striking Joel, a Haitian cane worker, and forcing the his two companions to fall into a ravine in an effort to dodge the vehicle. In this instance and the story, Senor Pico, serves as a representative of Trujillo’s militia, who follow their leader and execute his plans, regardless of who is in the way, Alternatively, the slain cane worker, Joel is the son of Kongo who represents a father figure to many of the workers in their village. On a larger scale, he also represents Kongo represents Africa and its rich heritage, and this poses a threat to the Dominicans, and plot of the piece. “The idea behind the massacre is to rid the Dominican Republic of this tie to the African presence. Not surprisingly, the massacre is foreshadowed by the lack of regard for the death of Kongo’s son Joel. If Kongo is Africa, his children are the issue in the Dominican Republic. As Kongo’s child is killed to make way for the new Dominican offspring, so will be the Haitians living along the border. ( Petit-Frere 25)The arrival of the twins in Amabelle’s world highlights the racial constructs that divide the the island of Hispaniola. Although Amabelle had no prior experience or knowledge delivering children, the Senora trusted her enough to bring her babies into the world. She is able to call on the actions of her parents , who used to practice midwifery as well. This ability to access the knowledge of her late  loved ones makes her a suitable midwife. With Amabelle’s assistance, Señora Valencia gives birth to a boy, whom she names Rafael, and a girl, whom she calls Rosalinda. Once Señora Valencia has given birth and the the babies have been cleaned up by Amabelle, and prenouced healthy, she is quickly overcome with curiousity about their conflicting appearances. The twins  and the following reactions by Señora Valencia and her husband, Señor Pico, can be used to identify the issue of identity and its engrained ties to colorism in the Dominican Republic. It is natural to  to make the comparison between the twins and the relationship between Haiti and the Dominican Republic given their description in the novel.  “The girl appeared much smaller than her twin, less than half his already small size” Amabelle observes (31). In reality, Haiti is about a third of the size of the Dominican Republic. Haiti is also home to many more dark skin individuals than her twin island. The conflicting shades of the twins’ skin draws attention to this fact. Rafael’s silky white skin is favorable while Rosalinda’s darker complexion appears to be more reflective of the countries African origins. . Rafael is a “cherimoya milk color” and Rosalinda is “a deep bronze, between the colors of tan Brazil nut shells and black salsify” ( Danticat 11). It is a denial of blackness and ties to Africa that many Dominican people in the story possess. It is quiet, but loud in their actions. Furthermore, not only do the twins differ in color, but they also have the same origin; they shared a womb.  It becomes evident that the babies were not able to share the placenta within their mother. Much like how Haiti and the dominican Republic are not able to harmoniously share the island of Hispaniola. “Señora Valencia’s womb was in fact colonized and yielded these two different offspring that once shared a space in relative peace, and when “birthed,” in turmoil, begin a history as two separate entities” (Petit – Frere 29). Unlike Haiti and the Dominican Republic, in the novel, the twin babies can in fact be seperated.  Originally the preganancy was only supposed to yield one child, bu the second twin,  Rosalinda, is born soon after her brother.  It seems as if he has attempted to kill his sister from inside the womb, before they were even born. Doctor Javier later comments, “It’s as if the other one tried to strangle her” (Danticat 19). She enters the world with a caul and the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, and the doctor does not expect her to survive. It can be interpreted, that through this instance, the author intended for Rafael’s attempted murder to represent him killing  his darker half ; his African heritage that is represented within his sister’s skin tone. The twins are then a challenge to the idea of purity within the Dominican ethnic conscience. Rafael, continuning to assume the identity of the Dominican Republic, is named after the Generalissimo. He does not cry when he is bor, but rather when his sister is born. “The firstborn wailed as I drew another infant from between Señora Valencia’s thighs” Amabelle notes (Danticat 10). His pain is symbolically felt through her existence and survival. Señora Valencia’s fears that her daughter has simply taken Amabelle’s color, and will be mistaken for one of her people. “Amabelle do you think my daughter will always be the color she is now? ….My poor love, what if she’s mistaken for one of your people?” Valencia asks (Danticat 12). She does not wish this stigma to follow her precious Dominican baby.  Through this question, Señora Valencia also showcases her own internalized seperation from Amabelle and Haitians in general.  Although she appreciates Amabelle, and they once had a treasured childhood friendship, she does not believe that they are equal.  Señora Valencia used the distancing word  “people”, which would include her in the distancing. However, by saying the possessive “your” in front of “people,” she removes herself from the group that Amabelle belongs to. She places herself in a different, and superior category. For she is Dominican, and Amabelle is Haitian. It is through instances of fear and other subconcious emotions, that heavily engrained negative attitude toward Haitians surfaces.  The Señora has two dueling sides within her. One that rememebers her hearty friendship with Amabelle, and another that must insist that she is superior to her friend simply based on their races. The side that wishes to be superior to the Haitian people , is made clear by this exchange with Amabelle.  Though Señora Valencia’s questions about her baby’s skin are not asked with the intent to shame Amabelle, the blatant racism and fear is evident.  Instead of  accepting Rosalinda’s inheritance of the rich African blood thatpumps through the generations of the Domincan Republic, Señora Valencia decides that her daughter’s hue is reflective of the Taino people, the native Indians on the island.She describes her twins to Amabelle as “…my Spanish prince and my Indian princess…The profile of Anacaona, a true Indian queen” (Danticat 29). She chooses to liken her daughter’s coloring to the Tainos, like many Dominican people do, because they are seen as a mix of the spanish and the native people, void of any African influence.  Despite this, her father, Don Ignacio casts doubt on the purity of her husbands heritage, because surely it could not be the fault of their family. When Doctor Javier notes that baby Rosalinda has “a little charcoal” behind her ears, indicating ties to a possible African ancestry, her father  is quick to imply that it is the fault of  Señor Pico’s heritage,  as Señora Valencia’s mother was of pure Spanish blood and could trace her family back to the Conquistadores ( Danticat 17). After this initial discussion , Señora Valencia,  sheds  more light on the structure of her relationship with Amabelle by asking her Dominican mistress, Juana, to spend the night with her and the children, rather than Amabelle, despite the fact that she is her childhood companion and just aided in the emergency birth of her babies.  Although Amabelle dismisses this act, it does lead her to vocalize her confusion over her role in society and Señora Valencia’s life. “Why Juana? Why not me?” Amabelle wonders ( Danticat 41). The author poses these questions in Amabelle’s mind so that she and the reader will be forced to think about the factors that would go into this decision.   Like the twin islands on Hispaniola,  the baby twins depend on each other. “The two babies stopped crying when we rubbed the soles of their feet together” Amabelle observes ( Danticat 11). This is symbolic for both babies being at war, and coming to a calming resolution once they are unite in touch. Despite this initial harmony, the fate of the twins takes a turn for the worse, when Rafael suddenly passes away. Like the Dominican Republic, he was unable to establish his domain and his identity as a sole child, and this effort killed him and his  identity.  It’s as though “he simply lost his breath” Doctor Javier observes when Rafael quietly slips away, never waking from his sleep ( Danticat 90). This death suggests that his quest to obtain an identity away from his sister’s existeance was not successful. Similar to the way that the identity of the Dominican Republic can not be improved with the demolition of Haiti or African ties.  Neither he nor Rosalinda, who now must grow up without her brother, benefits from his passing. The twins’ inability to coexist is evident from their time in the womb to this point in the story when he passes away. It is like they were poisonous for each other. This is the perpetual dilemma for the entire island and her twin countries. The novel positions Amabelle’s story next to the tragic events taking place in the Dominican Republic regarding the dictator’s deadly antihaitian sentiments.  This is further explored in tthe novel with the usage of the Generalissimo’s radio broadcast. Ironically, Trujillo’s broadcast is presented during Rafael’s wake.The family raises the volume, in a symbolic display of their allegiance to the general and his word even in the midst of their misery. The voice annoucnes: “You are independent, and yours is the responsibility for carrying out justice…Tradition shows as a fatal fact…that under the protection of rivers, the enemies of peace, who are also the enemies of work and prosperity, found an ambush in which they might do their work, keeping the nation in fear and menacing stability…The liberators of the nation did their part…and we could not ask more of them. The leaders of today must play their parts also “(Danticat 97). The dictator, Trujillo has already devised a plan to abolish the Haitian people, and is acting out the first phase by spreading his antihatianismo propoganda through the medium of broadcast.  He is insisting that Dominican people remeber their struggle with Haiti, and not forget the effects it had on their people and country. He insists that  Haitians in fact the oppressors in the dominican Republic, and if given the chance, they will rise up and reoccupy the eastern side of the island. Despite his sentiments, it is ignored that most Haitians occupied the dominican Republic to work in the sugar cane fields, like Joel and Kongo, or to tend to wealthy Dominican families like Amabelle. The so called justice that he is calling for will be at the expense of Haitian bodies, but will hurt the economy and livelihood of the entire island. The situation between the Dominican Republic and Haiti is a heightened reflection of race politics in Haiti itself. Haiti’s history is also filled with many of the same struggles they face at the hands of others. Part of the reason for the economic strife and realities stem from the people’s own inability to deal with color politics and issues through discourse. Enslavement and the way to rebuild Haiti after independence brought about issues of color for the nation. The new nation was and is continually divided between the mulattoes and the darker skinned Haitians. Though they readily unite against other nations and against clear issues of colonizer versus colonized, when the dust settles, the two camps remain divided. antihaitianismo in the Dominican Republic has created a world of terror, fear, and hatred on the island of Hispaniola. The Dominican national identity has been built upon being the superior race , with their Haitian neighbors being the inferior race. The development of this stigma has been passed down for generations throughout the Dominican and Haitian people and unfortunately is woven deeply into their shared history. Currently, antihaitian sentiments are still dominating the political landscape in these countries. A massive and criminal program of ethnic cleansing has been unfolding in the Dominican Republic over the past two years, targeting immigrants from Haiti as well as people born in the DR, but of Haitian descent. It has already spread terror and ripped apart the lives of several hundred thousand people. Hundreds of thousands of people are living in fear, either of deportation to Haiti (including tens of thousands who have never even been to Haiti) or of being reduced to “illegal” and “stateless” status while remaining in the DR. The United States has not chosen to intervene in this issue, and in turn, neither has the greater world. Antihaitianismo is evil, and to blame for ripping the two rich beautiful twin nations apart.