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25126: Miller adds new data: ----- Re: 26122: Miller: (reply ) Bob Corbett adds reply ----Re: 26109: Wilcken (ask) Massacre River history and geography (fwd)
From: Rob Miller <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A Brief Reflection on The Massacre River
By Edwidge Danticat
Between Haiti and the Dominican Republic
flows a river filled with ghosts. This river is
called, aptly enough, the "Massacre" river and is one
of several natural frontiers which splits what is
geographically one island into two separate and
The Massacre River claims its name from a
seventeenth century battle between French and Spanish
colonizers who were fighting for possession of the
island. Along the lush banks of these then vigorous
waters, the Frenchmen and Spaniards butchered each
other to the point that the riverbed seemed crimson
enough with blood to merit the name. Over time, the
river has lived up to its designation and has been the
site of several other brutal massacres, including one
in 1937, which was targeted at Haitians and ordered by
General Rafael Trujillo, then the dictator of the
In March 1995, when I decided to visit the
Massacre River, all of this was on my mind. When I got
there, I half expected to see a river running with
blood, the faces of the dead wavering beneath the
surface like swamis in a series of fairy tale mirrors.
In the shadow of such a bloody history, I told myself,
how could there be anything else?
On the Haitian side of the Massacre River
is Ouanaminthe, a small border town, with a few
thatched and wooden houses dotting the main roads.
Ouanaminthe was a much more agricultural town than
Dajabón, the first Dominican town, whose ice cream
parlors, open squares, and large government edifices
could be spotted from the edge of the Massacre River.
When I got to the river itself, I found
that it was simply a tiny braid of water running past
the bridge, into the distant plains. The sand in the
riverbed was a deep dark brown and was close to the
surface of the water, which was slow-moving, almost
stagnant. Where was the high current which had been
made to engulf hundreds and hundreds of corpses? I
There was a well-worn path leading down to
the riverbank, so I took it. One woman was sitting on
the edge of the river with two small basins of clothes
in front of her as both her feet swayed back in forth
in the water. She immersed some of the clothes then
took them out to soap them and beat them with a large
rock. A man was holding the noose as his
mule lapped up the water a few feet upstream from
where the woman was washing. Downstream, two boys were
taking their afternoon bath, scrunching up their faces
each time one spilled a cupped hand full of water on
top of the other?s head. On the bridge were Dominican
soldiers in camouflage uniforms with rifles on straps
on their shoulders. Every once in a while, one of the
soldiers would lower his head and peek down at the
beauty of the sun filtering through the water and to
make sure that no one was crossing illegally beneath
the barbed wires that the Dominicans had set up on
their side of the river.
As I watched my own shadow and the
silhouettes of all this activity dance on the surface
of the water, I marveled at how incredibly generous
nature could be, how much it could tolerate
destructiveness and violence while still continuing to
yield and produce. In my mind, I had conjured up a
river turbulent with rage. What I found instead were
these gentle waters which I could easily traverse
without even wetting my knees. I had come looking for
deaths, but I had found habitualness, routine, life.
In spite of its blood-drenched history,
the Massacre has proven itself to be extremely
compassionate, bravely shielding its historical scars
by granting to the people around it the same
indispensable services it always had in the course of
hundreds of years. "Perhaps the most productive way to
honor a bloody past is to provide for and contribute
to the survival of the future. When will the
inhabitants of both sides of Hispaniola ever learn
this lesson?" A Haitian-American poet friend, my
traveling companion, said as he fished for small
translucent rocks beneath the riverbed. "In the
meantime, the Massacre River still flows..."
Yes, in the meantime, the Massacre, Rivyè
Masak, still flows, a monument of survival in an area
where no other exists, the invisible ink with which
some countless unacknowledged stories have been and
more could be written.
As I sat there on the riverbank that day,
with my own hands dipped in the water, I grieved and
mourned our ancestors who had lost their lives there.
However my hope was renewed by their descendants?the
washing woman, the man with the mule, the bathing
boys, and even myself and my friend?who as we either
pondered the river?s past or went on routinely about
using it, were silently and unceremonially part of a
meaningful celebration. Not only of the continual flow
of a boundless body of water, but essentially of the
resilience of life itself.
--- Bob Corbett <email@example.com> wrote:
From: Rob Miller <firstname.lastname@example.org>
and Bob Corbett <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: 26109: Wilcken (ask) Massacre River
history and geography (fwd)
Rob Miller writes:
The name of the river Masacre is named for the 1937
massacre of 30,000 Haitians and dark skinned
living along the border.
The name "Massacre River" is earlier than 1937. I
just pulled Richard
Loederer's terrible book, Voodoo Fire in Haiti off
the shelf. It was
printed in 1935 and he talks about the Massacre
River in that book.
Because the border was not heavily populated by
Dominicans, Haitian expansion moved settlements
some into Dominican territory.
There are numerous ways the story has been told.
what I have gathered, it begins with an order from
Trujillo along the lines of, "Take care of it."
Dominican soldiers would stop and question any
with dark skin. They would determine their
nationality based upon their ability to pronounce
Spanish word for parsley, or perejil. They believed
that the difficulty of rolling the R was sufficient
enough to determine nationality.
30,000+ were killed becuase they could not roll
r's apparently. But their are other stories too.
As far as the geography of the NE along the border,
varies a great deal. The border town of Ouanaminthe
has been almost completely deforrested. During the
embargo Ouanaminthe was the site for a great
black market, as a result of the spilled gas, there
are many areas that still cannot be planted. North
Ouanaminthe as you approach the see you find very
dense mangrove. South of Ouanaminthe, as you enter
the hills of the Capotille area, you will find much
more vegitation and trees. The entire area has very
sandy soil, which sustains the peanut industry that
thrives in the NE. There are of course plenty of
Mango, Bread Fruit and citrous trees. You will find
some cashew, but only in very small quantities.
are very fickle trees.
Anyway, the Massacre runs only knee deeps in its
deepest parts. After a rain, it can rise many feet.
Numerous people drown every year trying to wade
accross. If you have any questions you can email