Feared citizens, eliminated nationalists, and in a raging power of Trujillo began the execution of more than 20,000 Haitian in what is now remembered as the Parsley Massacre. Rafael Trujillo was a strong proponent of anti-Haitianism and he considered Haitians as culturally and socially inferior people. He made his intention crystal clear on 2 October 1937, when he publicly announced, “we have already begun to remedy the situation. Three hundred Haitians are now dead in Bánica. This remedy will continue.”

Who was Rafael Trujillo?

General Rafael Trujillo ruled the Dominican Republic both as a president and as a tyrant dictator. His reign lasted from 1930 to 1961. During his tenure, he was recognized as “El Jefe” or “El Benefactor” and was termed as one of the cruellest dictators of history. But his beginning was never such cruel- his childhood resembles that of an ordinary kid. Trujillo had a loving mother, and he was exceptionally involved in his studies. At the age of just 16, he had his first job as a telegrapher and since then there was no stopping for Trujillo. He went on to join politics, becoming a Marine, and finally, in 1927, he became Brigadier General and Commander in Chief of the Dominican Republic’s army.

During the Revolution in Santiago in 1930, when the president was overthrown, Trujillo assumed the leadership and took charge of the party. He was soon elected as the president of the country without opposition. His reign did give a sound economy, yet it failed to meet people’s needs. Trujillo was exceptionally cruel and demanded every family to have his portrait in their house. Whoever protested would be either jailed to sentenced to death. He renamed several towns, buildings, and streets after his name and took control of over 80% of the country’s GDP. He also claimed January 11 to be celebrated as “The Day of the Benefactor”.

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The Parsley Massacre,Haitian

Trujillo was responsible for the slaughter of thousands of Haitians in the Dominican Republic. The estimated number suggests that around 12,000 to 25,000 Haitian men, women, and children were killed. His reign coincides with the incidents of World War 2 and when Hitler forced Jews into concentration camps, Trujillo welcomed the Jews immigrants. The motive behind this was to provide a ‘whiten’ race in the future. Trujillo himself put on make-up to lighten his skin.

The Parsley Massacre began on 2 October 1937.

The horrific ethnic cleansing occurred on an island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The island was known as Hispaniola which was discovered by Christopher Columbus back in the 13th century. The Island’s Taino natives were decimated by violence and diseases when European colonization began. To build a better infrastructure, the Europeans transported several enslaved Africans to the island to toil the sugar plantations. By 1777, the island was divided into two parts- a French-controlled West and Spanish controlled East.

In 1804, Haiti won its independence following a massive slave revolt and became the world’s first black Republic. But this new nation soon stumbled when it failed to deal with the debt of its former government. Soon the Dominican Republic declared independence by first overthrowing the Haitians in eastern Hispaniola and later Spanish and American colonization. The Dominicans saw Haiti as a racial threat partially because of their color and partially because of growing colonization. The hatred grew even more when during the first world war, Americans took control over the two parts of the island to secure their power in the west. They installed US-friendly governments. The brutal and racial nature of the American occupation on the remote Dominican-Haitian border formed the foundation of the continued racial terrorism on the island.

The Parsley Massacre,Haitian

In 1930, when Trujillo assumed the leadership, the racial atrocities only grew more. Despite being a quarter Haitian himself, Trujillo saw Haitians as a threat to his power and route for political revolutionaries. Claiming to protect the Dominican public from Haitian, he publicly announced the execution of Haitian in 1937. Over the next few weeks, the Dominican military on Trujillo’s orders killed some 4,000 to 25,000 Haitians at the border. The government hid the dirt by disposing off the bodies either in the rivers or burning them till no trace was left. The armed forces killed Haitians with rifles, machetes, shovels, knives, and bayonets. Haitian children were reportedly thrown in the air and caught by soldiers’ bayonets, then thrown on their mothers’ corpses.

The military mostly targeted the black Haitians but because many Dominicans themselves were dark-skinned, they ruled out few tests to identify Haitians. To distinguish the residents, the military forced people to say the Spanish word ‘parsley’. This Spanish word would sound incorrect if spoken by someone whose primary language was Kreyòl (Haitian’s primary language). Those who struggled to say the word was immediately murdered by the Dominican troops.

Though the government tried to censor the killings, Trujillo was internationally condemned. The government was eventually forced to pay $525,000 to Haitians, but due to the corrupt system barely any of the funds reached Haiti. Neither Trujilo nor his government was ever punished for the atrocities they committed on Haiti. But the legacy of the massacre remained through those who somehow managed to survive the killings or fled through the border. The historic footnotes remained as a sad reminder of a past that was not just brutal but also inhumane.  

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