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The island of Hispaniola is split by a border that divides the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which has been historically contested. Dividing Hispaniola is a study of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo’s regime, during the mid-twentieth century, to create and reinforce a buffer zone on this border. Trujillo created institutions and a racists ideological campaign against what was considered an encroaching black, inferior, and bellicose Haitian state. The success of this program relied on convincing Dominicans regardless of color, that whiteness was synonymous with Dominican cultural identity.

Paulino examines the campaign against Haiti as the construct of a fractured urban intellectual minority, bolstered by international politics and U.S. imperialism. This minority included a diverse set of individuals and institutions that employed anti-Haitian rhetoric for their own benefit (i.e., sugar manufacturers and border officials). In reality, these same actors had no interest in establishing an impermeable border. Paulino further demonstrates that Dominican attitudes of admiration and solidarity toward Haitians, as well as extensive intermixture around the border region are a commonplace.

Book Reviews


“In this deeply historical treatment of the Haitian-Dominican borderlands, state building, and the 1937 ‘Haitian’ genocide, Paulino refuses to settle for easy answers. Instead, Dividing Hispaniola illuminates the evolving political conditions that shaped, as well as were shaped by, a historically varying anti-Haitianism.”

—Richard Turits, William & Mary


An indispensable account that tracks the troubled contours of one of the bloodiest borders in the New World. Paulino’s scrupulously researched, vigorously argued history is a bridge that reaches back to our islands agonized past but also, hopefully, to its brighter future.”

—Junot Díaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for fiction


“Full of original scholarship, on-site interviews, and new perspectives, Dividing Hispaniola is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of race, of the Caribbean, of how nation states manipulate rhetoric and manipulate narratives to create division.”

—Julia Alvarez, author of A Wedding in Haiti and In The Time of Butterflies, winner of 2013 National Medal of Arts.

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