Haiti & the Parsley War

February 16, 2019

Once again, the good people of Haiti, the poorest country in the Caribbean, a country where 60% of its population earn less than $2 a day, find themselves the victims of yet another clearly corrupt government causing them to come out onto the streets, to protest for better conditions and to bring President Moise, the Haitian President to trial for irregularities in his handling of development loans, made by Venezuela to Haiti since 2008.

 

The Haitian people are no strangers to hardship and political violence, they have been suppressed for many, many years, but even with this horrid treatment, anyone who has visited Haiti will tell you about the fun-loving people who live there. At this point it would be probably wise to explain the title of this short narrative.

 

Back in 1973 I spent some time on what used to be the island of Hispaniola an Island where all seemed to live relatively friendly towards each other, even though at times, tensions would surface between the two ends of the Island. Today the Island is divided into two different countries, the Dominion Republic at one end and Haiti at the other.

 

It was while touring the Island with one of the local tour guides that we came across a rather bizarrely named river called the Massacre River, a river which stretches from one side of the island to the other separating Haiti and the newly formed Dominican Republic. When asked why the river had such a bizarre name our guide turned his back to us and walked to the shade of a large Attalea plant (akin to a palm tree) growing on the banks of the river where he sat beckoning us to join him. Staring out over the Massacre River he began to tell us the story of the Parsley Wars of Hispaniola.

 

It was while touring the Island with one of the local tour guides that we came across a rather bizarrely named river called, the Massacre River, a river which stretches from one side of the island to the other separating Haiti and the newly formed Dominican Republic. When asked why the river had such a bizarre name our guide turned his back to us and walked to the shade of a large Attalea plant (akin to a palm tree) growing on the banks of the river where he sat beckoning us to join him. Staring out over the Massacre River he began to tell us the story of the Parsley Wars of Hispaniola.

 

Although the Massacre river was not named after the 1937 Parsley Wars but an earlier massacre, the river did run red with blood once again when the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, carved out a border separating the two ends of the Island, now the Dominican Republic and Haiti, our guide informed us that his great grandfather was one of the lucky ones to survive the massacres happening within the border areas, mainly on the Massacre River.

 

Just why this bloodbath became known as the Parsley Massacre we still did not understand, but our guide informed us that the word parsley (or perejil in Spanish) is pronounced differently by Haitians and Dominicans so the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo’s military would wear a sprig of parsley on their lapels and would just point to it when facing a suspected Haitian and ask him or her to pronounce the name. If they simply pronounced the word using the wrong accent, they were summery executed. 

 

When pressed for more information our guide held his head in his hands and rocked back and forth, we thought that was all he was going to say but suddenly he jumped to his feet and ran to the river dipping his hand into the now clear water he said, “these waters once ran red with the blood of children, mothers, old men, I know this from the stories of my father and great grandfather, it was a time of madness, a time of senseless slaughter and for what? Just to satisfy one Politician’s cravings for more power, more money, and more territory. With that our guide simply stood up and said both Haiti and our friends in the Dominican Republic came of age back in those dark days of October 1937.

 

The rest of our guided tour was carried out almost in silence, and we bade farewell to our guide back at our hotel.

 

 After this rather sobering tour we did speak to others about the massacre and heard harrowing tales of young babies being tossed into the air and caught on the ends of the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo’s troops bayonets, most other adults men women and children were simply hacked to death with machetes, shovels or anything else found in the area.

 

Official records of the slaughters and there are not many, say that the parsley Massacre or the cutting was ordered directly by the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. The Haitian President Élie Lescot in 1953 put the death toll at 12,168, while Joaquín Balaguer the Dominican Republic's interim Foreign Minister at the time of the massacre, put the number of dead at 17,000 but the historian Bernardo Vega states that the death toll was closer to 35,000.

 

Authors note: Good luck to all my Haitian friends and I do hope that somehow you get what you have always looked for, a happy and prosperous country free from all political unrest and turmoil.

 

I urge you all to read Marlon Bishop, a producer for NPR's Latino USA, and Tatiana Fernandez account of the Parley War when they traveled the country, speaking to survivors of this holocaust. You can find it by using the link below

 

80 Years On, Dominicans And Haitians Revisit Painful Memories Of Parsley Massacre

 

Steve Simmonds

Global Breaking News Hub.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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