The Haitian population on the island of Hispaniola constitutes the principal migrant group to the DR. This group has made a crucial contribution to different sectors of the national economy, including construction, agriculture and services. There are many perspectives on the Haitian presence and much public debate by different groups about the economic, political and cultural implications. A good example of the diversity of such views is captured here:

Who is a Haitian? For a rich Dominicano, a rich Haitian is someone to do business with, someone who is looking for investment opportunities denied to him in his own country. For a poor Dominicano, a rich Haitian is an exploiter who gives him a job at the same wage paid to poor Haitians. For the more caring Dominicano, a Haitian is a human being who is given some money in the street, who is given clothing and work when possible … to be Haitian comprises a range of stereotypes and conditions behind which lurk various realities of exploitation and wounded humanity.

( Diario Libre 16 July 2007) This way of viewing Haitians, this range of stereotypes that determines if neighbours are accepted as Legitimate Others, in Maturana’s (1928) terms, is fuelled by the perceptions held by different groups (nationalist and non-nationalist) 2 about current developments like the numbers of migrants and the legal status of their descendants, as well as historical events which include the so-called Haitian Occupation 3 and the killing of Haitians in the Massacre River ordered by the President of the DR Rafael Leonidas Trujillo in 1937, to cite some examples. In the last decade, the debate has shifted. Now it is not the Haitian sugar workers who are the focus. The nationalist forces have directed their efforts towards wresting from the formers’ sons and daughters the nationality that they have already acquired.