The Dominican Republic is a Caribbean country globally known for its large sugarcane plantations that the Spanish colonizers introduced in the 16th century. Agriculture is the backbone of the country’s economy, and sugarcane is the main agricultural product grown in the southeast part of the country. Bad governance in Haiti has resulted in thousands of Haitians seeking alternatives by migrating to their neighboring Dominican Republic as peasants. Thus, the Dominican sugarcane industry has impacted Haiti’s immigrants and the locals in myriad ways, with many Haitians being exploited in sugarcane plantations.
The documentary “The Price of Sugar” by Haney (2007) shows how Haitian immigrants are treated and exploited in sugar production by locals, the government, and private firms. The industry has resulted in severe impacts both locally and internationally. The civil rights of the Haitians have been violated, which has led to an international outcry. Underage children are forced to be laborers in sugarcane plantations. These children have been denied their right to education, treated in harsh conditions, with poor diets, and days of hunger, resulting in malnutrition and even death.
Bateyes are small villages outside the sugarcane plantation where workers and their families live. The Bateyes were a result of large plantations and the need for affordable residence for immigrants. They are mainly characterized by poor living conditions with improvised shelters that lacked sewerage services, clean drinking water, and electricity. According to Keys et al. (2019), there is much discrimination among Batey residents and Haitian-born residents specifically. Many have termed this as modern slavery, where people are treated inhumanly. The locals are not left out as they are also vastly impacted.
Reduced access to locally available land is another impact on the sugarcane sector. Since most public land is used for state-owned sugarcane plantations, Dominicans have since been left with little to cultivate their crops. The documentary reveals various unrests by the locals in an attempt to vacate the Haitians from the country (Petrozziello, 2019). The unrest has resulted in the burning of Haitians’ barracks and, to an extent resulting in fatalities.
Environmental pollution has also resulted since the inception of the sugarcane sector. The sugarcane mills release large volumes of poisonous gases into the air during the production of sugar (Petrozziello, 2019). The lack of essential sewerage services in the Bateyes results in Haitians disposing of their wastes all over and has given rise to related diseases. The Dominican government should adopt modern technological ways of sugarcane harvest and production. Changing modern technology will end environmental pollution and reduce the human workforce in the plantations.
Haitians have crossed to the Dominican Republic either willingly or forcefully to be sugarcane cutters due to desperation and promises of good jobs. The Dominican sugar plantation’s labor force depends on Haiti’s neighboring country, which now forms more than 90% of the labor force (Petrozziello, 2019). Thousands of Haitians have thus crossed to the Dominican Republic with one purpose of finding jobs in sugar plantations. The government has also played a role in Haitian plights as bilateral trade talks between the two nations have led to the importation of Haitians to work in these plantations to reduce labor costs. Although a small percent of Haitians has benefited from the sugarcane industry, a large portion has been subordinated by the sugarcane industry at plantations.
The lives of Haitian workers at Bateyes are horrific and unbearable due to their poor conditions. The Bateyes lack social amenities like hospitals and schools with children denied their basic rights (Petrozziello, 2019). Sanitary services are almost non-existing with the available built by non-governmental organizations. Immigrants are subjected to harsh living conditions, which are unbearable and inhuman, and some had a chance of sharing their plights with a Spanish priest residing there.
Sugarcane cutting is a tedious and challenging job, and the workers are prone to various dangers. Many of these workers have fallen victims to slashing their body parts with the machetes while cutting the cane. The discrimination is high such that their physical and mental health has deteriorated (Keys et al., 2019). They lack protective clothes and are therefore susceptible to venomous animals which loom in the cane bushes. Haitians are also subject to excessive and absolute power from the guards, and most are beaten and harassed with little wages and food despite the hard work. The wages are sufficiently low to meet the basic needs of these workers.
Haitians have suffered considerably both in the plantations and at the Bateyes. They cannot fly back to their country since they are stripped of their ID and considered stateless (Petrozziello, 2019). Though the Haitians are a vital asset to the sector’s success, the Dominicans have treated them with resentment and prejudice. They have often considered them inferior and used it as an excuse for exploiting them and robbing them of their rights and freedoms.
Although being the leading source of the country’s income, the sugarcane industry has resulted in many atrocities, with Haitian workers continuing to be subjected to abuse of their rights. Media, international human rights watchdogs, and non-governmental organizations and charities like the one led by the Spanish priest father Christopher Harley have stepped up to end the poor working conditions of the Haitian workers. They have helped in bringing education and health services to Haitians. The Dominican government has been criticized for its relentless way of handling the situation, and this has presented a case of what the modern world face in dealing with capitalist policies.
Haney, B. (2007). The Price of Sugar [Film]. Uncommon production: YouTube.
Keys, H., Noland, G., De Rochars, M., Taylor, T., Blount, S., & Gonzales, M. (2019). Perceived discrimination in Bateyes of the Dominican Republic: Results from the everyday discrimination scale and implications for public health programs. BMC Public Health, 19(1), 1-13. Web.
Petrozziello, A. (2018). (Re)producing statelessness via indirect gender discrimination: Descendants of Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic. International Migration, 57(1), 213-228. Web.