Haitians, Dominicans go down to the river to trade

Relations between Haiti, Dominican Republic are historically tense, but economic interest trumps national grudges at a border-straddling market where $2 million in trade is exchanged weekly.

Melanie Stetson-Freeman/Staff
Every Monday and Friday the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti opens here so Haitians can come over to sell their goods. The Dajabon market is the third largest economic generator in the DR after tourism and sugar.

The crowd gathers before sunrise – Haitians on their side of the Massacre River, Dominicans on theirs. It is Friday, market day in the border town of Dajabón, in the Dominican Republic. At 8 a.m., guards walk onto the narrow bridge linking the two nations and unlock the metal gates.

Thousands of vendors and buyers push through. Some have sacks of goods balanced on their heads; some push wheelbarrows piled with everything from carrots to ice to toilet paper; others have nothing but their pesos and gourdes.

Some vendors try to get a head start: Instead of waiting for the official border opening, they wade across the river. They must often pay a “tax” to a rifle-wielding guard.

Relations between Haiti and the Dominican Republic are historically tense, but on Fridays and Mondays, economic interest trumps national grudges. Officials estimate nearly $2 million worth of trade takes place every week here, making the binational market one of the top economic engines in the Dominican Republic.

Stephanie Hanes’s reporting was funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.


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