In the year 1937 Dominican President Leonidas Trujillo Molina ordered the execution of the Haitian population living within the border lands with Haiti. This execution resulted in the murder of twenty thousand to thirty thousand persons. These killings were carried out over a period of five days and was known as the Parsley Massacre. The Parsley Massacre was due to the shibboleth in which Trujillo had his soldiers apply to determine whether those living in the border were native Dominicans who spoke Spanish fluently.

The Parsley Massacre was also motivated by Trujillo’s desire to firmly establish a clear border separating the two nations.

The Haitian Massacre which is referred to as el corte (the cutting) by Dominicans and kouto-a (the stabbing) by the Haitians was an action to homogenize the furthest stretches of the country in order to bring the region into the social, political and economic fold and also to cleanse his republic of Haitians.

The factors that lead to the Massacre was that Dominican Republic, the former Spanish Colony of Santo Domingo resides on the eastern side of Hispaniola occupying two thirds of the island with five million inhabitants. There were fewer inhabitants on Haiti’s side. Haiti however residing on the Western side only occupied one third of land consisting of five hundred persons per square mile.

This posed a possible threat to Trujillo’s regime, because of long-standing border disputes between the two nations. It was seen that if large numbers of Haitian immigrants began to occupy the less densely-populated Dominican borderlands, the Haitian government could have made a case to claim part of the Dominican Republic’s land. Additionally, loose borders allowed for contraband to pass freely and without taxes between nations, thus depriving the Dominican Republic of viable revenue. Furthermore, the Dominican Government saw the loose borderlands as a liability — in terms of the formation of Revolutionary groups which could flee across the border with ease, while at the same time amassing both weapons and followers.

Also another major factor was that Haitians were stealing cattle and crops from Dominican residents and this affected the income of the Dominican residents.

After the cleansing of the Haitians, Trujillo began to develop the border lands linking them to urban areas. In these urban areas you could find state-of-the-art hospitals, schools, political head quarters and housing developments. Also there was a highway to connect the borderlands to the major city parts.

It was seen that after the year 1937 there was a restriction to the number of Haitians that were allowed to enter the Dominican Republic.

Women standing in the Massacre River between Haiti and the Dominican Republic

More images concerning the Parsley Murders can be viewed in a Powerpoint presentation that can be downloaded here.