When Trujillo was elected president he defined the DR as a Hispanic nation, Catholic and White, as opposed to Haiti, which was Francophone, practiced vodou, and Black. He portrayed Haiti as both a threat and the antithesis of the DR. He feared the growing influence of Haitian culture in Dominican territory. His dread of Haitian "darkening" of the Dominican population led him to conduct a policy of "Dominicanness." Trujillo undertook to define Haitians as racially separate from Dominicans. Under Operation Perejil, Trujillo killed thousands of Haitians and dark skinned Dominicans residing on the border zone. These people were asked to pronounce the word "perejil," believed to be hard for Haitians because of the "r" and the "j". Everyone who failed at the test was systematically killed.
The event was motivated by three of Trujillo concerns: his desire to firmly establish a clear border separating the two nations; homogenize the furthest stretches of the country in order to bring the region into the social, political and economic fold; and to cleanse his republic of Haitians. Trujillo suffered from an extreme case Antihaitianismo, a racist bias against Haitians and descendants of Haitians. Under pressure from Washington, Trujillo agreed to a reparation settlement in January 1938 that involved the payment of US$750,000 but was reduced to US$525,000, which amounted to 30 dollars per victim, of only a fraction actually went to survivors, due to mismanagement and corruption in the Haitian bureaucracy.
The Dominican president and Trujillo’s ideological heir, Joaquim Balaguer, continued his policy of discrimination and racism against the Haitians. In his book, La Isla al Reves, he outlined his hopes and fears for the Dominican nation. This book is a testament to the fear that Haiti, as an Afro-Caribbean nation, instilled both in the author and the Dominican people. It warns of Haitian imperialism as a "plot against the independence of Santo Domingo and against the American population of Spanish origin." Haiti is a threat primarily for "biological reasons," its people multiplying themselves "nearly as rapidly as plants."
But perhaps more than anything else it was motivated by the history of the two nations. Haiti and the DR had been in a long-standing border disputes. Trujillo reasoned that if large numbers of Haitian immigrants began to occupy the less densely populated Dominican borderlands, the Haitian government could make a claim to the land. In addition, contraband passed freely and without taxation in these areas, thus depriving the DR revenue. Furthermore, the Dominican Government claimed Haitians were stealing cattle and crops from Dominican residents and that this affected the income of the Dominicans.
Of course Haiti and the DR have a history. On November 30, 1821, Jose Nunez de Caceres announced the colony’s independence under the name of Spanish Haiti, and sought to gain admission to the State of Gran Colombia created by Simon Bolivar. But before this transpired, in 1822, Haitians led Jean-Pierre Boyer invaded the newly independent nation. One of the first things the Haitians did was abolished slavery. Boyer encouraged the production of cash crops, reformed the tax system, and allowed foreign trade. He also nationalized most private property, including all the property of landowners who had left in the wake of the invasion. Though the new system produced a boom in sugar and coffee production it was widely opposed by Dominican farmers.
Boyer also took step to lessen the influence of Spanish culture in the DR. He believed like most Haitians that to protect their freedom the entire island must be one political entity. Thus, he sought to secure his control of the DR by the destruction of its Hispanic culture. He closed the university and starved the educational system. This caused the DR educational system to collapse. With schools lacking both resources and students, many young Dominican men were drafted into the Haitian army. Further severing the ties to Spanish culture, Boyer prevented contact between the Dominican Church and the Catholic hierarchy in Europe. Much of the Church property and all property belonging to the Spanish Crown was confiscated. Haitian occupation troops, who were largely Dominicans, were unpaid, and thereby encouraged to "forage and sack" from the Dominican middle class.
Many whites Dominicans fled to Puerto Rico, Cuba, Venezuela, and elsewhere. In the end the economy faltered as taxation became more onerous, eventually leading to Dominican ex-slaves or freedmen rebelling against Haitian rule. Ultimately, Haitians at home and Dominicans worked together to oust Boyer from power.
The root of antihaitianismo is clear: it derived from the Haitian invasion and more specifically, from Boyer’s policies aimed at destroying the DR’s Hispanic heritage. Following the overthrow of Boyer in 1843, a number of anti-Haitians movements, some pro-independence, pro-Spanish, others pro-French, pro-British, still others pro-United States, developed. In 1844, the DR’s first Constitution, which was modeled after the United States Constitution, was adopted. However, Haiti would return, continuing to threaten the nation's independence with recurring invasions in 1844, 1845–49, 1849–55, and 1855–56. Yes, Haiti and the DR have history.
In the early twentieth century, both countries had a comparable economy, but while the Dominican economy grew, Haiti's diminished as a result of factors such as internal power struggles, and rapid population growth. Add to this, environmental degradation, embargoes, and stigmatization over HIV, and today Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Hence it is only after the economic fortunes of the two nations changed that the DR’s rise was accompanied by a political show of force—bordering on historical revenge--a la the Parsley Massacre.