Haitian Immigrants in the Dominican Republic

Winter 2001 InGear
2001winterHaitiDominicanRepublicBiemboBiembo Olivé is a twenty-five-year-old Haitian immigrant who works as a day laborer on local rice plantations. He lives in the part of Boca de Mao called El Batey; the name comes from the time when it housed the Haitian workers who cut sugar cane in the state-owned plantations. Rice, bananas, yuccas and plantains have replaced sugar in this region of the Dominican Republic, but immigrants like Biembo still supply much of the labor.

As a day laborer harvesting rice, Biembo usually earns 100 pesos ($6 US) a day. Paying car fare out of that would cost him 20 pesos daily, and given that option before having the bike, he usually walked.

He came to the Dominican Republic from Cape Haitian, his birthplace, two years ago. He came “Buscando la vida” as the expression here goes, “Looking for a living”. What money he can save from his earnings, he sends to his family in Haiti, toward the construction of a better house there.

2001winterHaitiDominicanRepublicRosa

Rosa Pye is a twenty-two-year-old Haitian immigrant who works washing clothes by hand, and also as a field laborer on local rice or tobacco farms. Her husband is twenty-one, Haitian, and works as a day laborer as well.

“I use the bicycle to take meals to my husband in the fields and also for me to get to work”, she says. The trip to the rice fields takes from 30 minutes to an hour on foot. Riding the bike, she arrives in 10 to 20 minutes. Before owning the bike, on days when she didn’t walk to the fields, she paid 20 pesos for car fare. A day in the fields has recently been netting them 80 pesos daily.

Rosa comes from a family of eight children in a small town in northern Haiti near the Haitian–Dominican border. She has been traveling to and from the Dominican Republic to work for the past five years. She met her husband in the D.R. on one of her first trips when she came to work bundling tobacco and picking tomatoes. She says that life here is a little easier.

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