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On the EdgeWriting the Border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic$

Maria Cristina Fumagalli

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781781381601

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781381601.001.0001

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Servants turned masters: Santo Domingo and the black revolt

Servants turned masters: Santo Domingo and the black revolt

Chapter:
(p.107) Chapter Four Servants turned masters: Santo Domingo and the black revolt
Source:
On the Edge
Author(s):

Maria Cristina Fumagalli

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9781781381601.003.0005

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses Carlos Esteban Deive's historical novel Viento Negro, bosque del caimán (Black Wind, Bois Caiman, 2002), which deals with the slave revolt of 1791 and its consequences for the Spanish side. Deive chronicles Toussaint Louverture's entrance to Santo Domingo and his decision to immediately abolish slavery, recasting it as a fugitive but glorious moment in the shared history of Hispaniola. He reconstructs the effects of the rebellion on Santo Domingo and depicts the borderland as a site for rich cross-cultural exchange. In recasting of Hispaniola's past, Deive revisits dominant discourses related to the magical world of the island and to the representation of Vodou, one of the many manifestations of the process of creolisation which shaped the life and culture of the slaves. In the Dominican Republic, Vodou has long been associated exclusively with Haiti.

Keywords:   slave revolt of 1791, Carlos Esteban Deive, historical novel, Toussaint Louverture, Santo Domingo, slavery, Hispaniola, borderland, Vodou, slaves

Carlos Esteban Deive, Viento Negro, bosque del caimán (2002)

The texts analysed in the previous chapters highlight the existence of areas overlapping with the current borderland of Hispaniola which, like the chiefdom of Jaragua and the indigenous strongholds in the Bahoruco mountains, were characterized by a rebellious ethos before and after the two European colonies established themselves on the island. The same can be said, as we have seen, for the ‘borderland from below’, which played a decisive role in the 1791 slave uprising and the Haitian Revolution that followed it and erased forever the French colony of Saint Domingue from the world map. Unavoidably, these events also had social, political, racial, and religious repercussions on the Spanish side of Hispaniola. Esteban Deive’s Viento Negro, bosque del caimán (‘Black Wind, Bois Caiman’, 2002) reconstructs the effects of this earth-shattering historical moment on Spanish Santo Domingo – a usually neglected perspective – while recasting the borderland as a site for rich cross-cultural exchange. Born in Spain in 1935, Deive moved to Santo Domingo in 1955 and, ten years later, was given Dominican nationality. Deive lives in Santo Domingo and is currently a member of the Academia Dominicana de la Lengua; he is the author of many books on Dominican history and cultural anthropology as well as of novels and plays for which he has received numerous awards – among others, Premio Nacional de Literatura in 1962 and 2001; Premio Nacional de Ensayo in 1976 and 1981; Premio Siboney de Literatura in 1978; and Premio Alonso de Suazo de Historia in 1980.

Deive’s Viento Negro criss-crosses Hispaniola at a crucial time in its past and from the point of view of a problematic and tense present, and insists that a better future for the island depends on a transcolonial and transnational understanding of its history and on the elimination, once and for all, of xenophobic nationalism. A revisitation of dominant discourses (p.108) related to the magical world of the island and to the representation of Vodou plays an important part in Deive’s recasting of the past and in his creative narrative which, in a way like Vodou itself, aims to go beyond differences and previous enmities to highlight and gain strength from connections, mutual influences, and shared (but disavowed) empowering experiences.1

Vodou is one of the many manifestations of the process of creolization which shaped the life and culture of the slaves: its lwas (spirits) are a fusion of African and creole gods, syncretized manifestation of Catholic saints and the spirits of deified ancestors and, as we have seen, it played an important role in the history of resistance and emancipation of the island.2 However, despite Vodou’s contribution to the liberation struggle, in 1804 it was the colonists’ religion and not Vodou that was made the official religion of the state, partly to secure international acceptance of Haitian independence. Yet, if Vodou was forbidden by law, the services of Vodouisants continued to be solicited in matters of health and politics.3 The Catholic Church, which did not wish to work with the new Haitian state, left Haiti in 1805 and did not return until 1860, enabling Vodou to further establish itself in the absence of competing official religions. When Catholicism returned to Haiti, the repression of Vodou was high on its agenda and persecutions also intensified during the American Occupation of Haiti (1915–34). So-called ‘anti-superstition campaigns,’ promoted by the Catholic Church, were organized in 1896, 1913, and 1941: temples were destroyed and Vodou practitioners slaughtered by the hundreds.4 During the Duvalier era, in order to control local institutions, the national religious space, and, ultimately, the Haitian masses, the dictator adopted the strategy of openly supporting Vodou. Many Vodou priests, coopted by the regime, became powerful Tontons Macoutes and influential (p.109) community leaders and Vodou temples were used to propagandize and gain support for the government.5 Catholicism, however, remained the official religion of Haiti until 1987, when a new Constitution recognized freedom of belief, but the post-Duvalier era (1986–93) was also characterized by fierce persecutions of Vodouists, especially because of the links that they had established with the Duvaliers. Vodou and Catholicism coexist in Haiti and are both practised by the majority of Haitians who, for the most part, do not see any conflict between the two.6

Vodou has always been an important factor in the demonization of Haitian culture as brutal, primitive, savage, and, ultimately, ‘other’ and, in the Dominican Republic, Vodou has long been associated exclusively with Haiti. Contrarily to what Hispanophile discourses purport, however, Dominican Vodú exists and has existed for a long time but some prefer to refer to it as ‘folk religion.’7 As an Afro-Caribbean syncretic belief, Dominican Vodú testifies to Glissant’s open insularity and to Paul Gilroy’s Black Atlantic, but it also points to the occluded cross-cultural exchanges that characterize the island itself. The origins of Dominican Vodú, in fact, are difficult to establish: it is possible that it originally developed independently from Haitian Vodou as a result of slavery. Deive and other anthropologists have observed that in Dominican Vodú there is a category of luases (a morphologic variation of the Haitian lwa) which, apparently, is not to be found in Haitian Vodou: they are the luases of the Division India or of the Water, which comprises real or imaginary caciques among whom, for example, we find Anacaona herself but also, as counterparts of the Haitian lwa Monsieur Polisson, the Dominican luases Polizón and, crucially, Polizón Frontié (Border Policeman) and Cabo Polizón Frontié (Captain of the Border Police).8

It is important to remember, however, that the border between the two colonies has always been porous: those slaves who were bought, sold, and borrowed across the border and escaped from French Saint Domingue to Spanish Santo Domingo obviously carried to their destination their system (p.110) of belief, which then changed according to the circumstances in which they found themselves.9 In the Dominican Republic the Catholic Church has not resorted to extreme repressive measures such as those adopted in Haiti during the anti-superstition campaigns, but Vodú is still considered illegal and its practitioners can be prosecuted. The current law which outlaws Vodou is a legacy of Trujillo’s regime (it was passed in 1943) and is characterized, predictably, by anti-Haitian sentiments. Vodou is described as ‘absolutely alien’ to the Dominican way of life and those who are caught practising it can be fined, put in jail, or even ‘deported,’ suggesting that they are, ultimately, Haitians and not Dominicans.10 Moreover, the complex socio-religious system of Gagá, a Vodou-derived cult practised in the Dominican Republic which has developed mainly along the Dominican borderland and in the areas with a high presence of Haitians working in sugar mills,11 constitutes an important example of Haitian–Dominican syncretism and a local version of the ‘culture of the poor’ which has established itself in situations of marginality throughout the Caribbean.12 Incidentally, in the last ten years, scholars have confirmed that Dominican Vodú is on the rise and that also members of the diaspora tend to resort to it often in order to solve migration-related and other problems.13

Haitian Vodou appears prominently in the chapter of Viento Negro which describes the role played by Boukman, Jean François, Biassou, and Toussaint Louverture during the famous windy night of 22 August 1791 in Bois Caiman. Toussaint is present at the assembly as a double agent. We are told that he is entrusted by French royalist conspirators with a falsified document which promised the slaves two days of rest per week and the abolition of the use of the whip.14 He had been instructed to foment a rebellion the royalists thought they could easily put an end to once they had defeated the whites of Saint Domingue, who followed revolutionary ideas and threatened the status quo. Toussaint, however, had his own emancipatory (p.111) agenda.15 In Viento Negro the assembly of the conspirators is followed by a Vodou ceremony: like the accounts on which it is based, the ceremony described by Deive takes place in the midst of a terrible storm, is officiated by Boukman and a female priestess, and includes the killing of a sacrificial pig and an inspirational oration by Boukman – not reported but referred to as ‘short but vibrant’ (p. 68).16 Despite his somewhat irreverent approach – at some point, the forcefully evoked Ogun Ferraille arrives, seemingly in person, on his (literal, not ritualistic) horse and accepts three bottles of rum and some money as a tribute (p. 68) – Deive’s inclusion of Bois Caiman in his novel suggests that he considers it to be at least a crucial and inspirational symbol of the insurrection if not an actual, verifiable event.

Being a novela, Viento Negro features fictional characters alongside historical figures and, while relying heavily on established chronology and facts, it also alters them in significant ways. As a historian, anthropologist, and novelist, Deive knows well the role that narrative plays when one tries to map the relationship between past, present, and future and must be particularly conscious of the ‘content of the form’ – that is, of the effects that genre and formal features can have on the understanding, shaping, and transmission of history.17 The relationship between genre and the Haitian revolution has been recently investigated by David Scott, who has observed that, owing to the anticolonial organization of the relation between past, present, and future, the transition from colonialism to postcolonialism tends to be presented predominantly as a romance – that is, as a story of overcoming and vindication, of salvation and redemption.18 Using C.L.R. James’s Black Jacobins as a springboard, Scott argues that tragedy might be a more useful narrative frame to assess the Haitian revolution, as it is ‘not driven by the confident hubris of teleologies that extract the future seamlessly from the past, and [is] more attuned at the same time to the intricacies, ambiguities, and paradoxes of the relations between actions (p.112) and their consequences, and intentions and the chance contingencies that sometimes undo them.’19

Deive’s Viento Negro constitutes a departure from both romance and tragedy. It might instead be categorized as a sui generis comedy or even as an opera buffa, if one considers that the narrative is constantly underscored, often in a contrapuntal manner, by the arias of the soprano Angiolina Falconelli, who criss-crosses the island of Hispaniola singing for the French, the Spanish, and the Black Jacobins. At the outset of the 1791 rebellion, for example, it is Falconelli’s performance of Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona (The Maid Turned Mistress) which provides the ironic soundtrack to historical events in Le Cap (p. 71). Comedies, it is well known, can be intrinsically conservative and ultimately support the reconstitution and conservation of the order they seem to disrupt. Admittedly, therefore, the comedic genre of opera buffa might not be an obvious choice for a historical novel which, as we will see, aims to make important points about Hispaniola’s past and present while fostering a much-needed transformation of the ways in which Haiti and the Dominican Republic perceive one another and themselves. Furthermore, references to The Maid Turned Mistress might initially suggest that readers will be exposed to a (Dominican) mockery of the Haitian revolution and its leaders, but I would argue, instead, that Deive adapts the comedic template of the opera buffa to serve his purpose of reimagining the future of Hispaniola, disallowing what Reinhardt Koselleck has called ‘futures pasts.’20

Unlike tragedies but like romances, comedies and opere buffe tend to ‘end well.’ Unlike romances, however, comedies and opere buffe do not dramatize the victory of good over evil and do not stage the ‘ultimate transcendence of man over the world in which he was imprisoned by the Fall.’21 Initially written to work as intermezzi given in the long waits between the acts of the opera seria and considered to be inferior to it, opere buffe treat serious matters with humour. Like Scott’s tragedies, they are full of intricacies and ambiguities and thrive on paradoxes and reversals of fortune, but their protagonists lack the stature of tragic heroes and heroines and are instead everymen and women who operate in everyday situations. As for ‘the confident hubris of teleologies,’ opere buffe tend to follow rather closely the pattern that White has identified for all comedic texts, where, he writes, ‘hope is held out for the temporary triumph of man over his world by the prospect (p.113) of occasional reconciliations of the forces at play in the social and natural worlds.’22 ‘Temporary’ is the key word here. Aptly, in Viento Negro, authority, finality, and irreversibility are forcefully undermined but, I will argue, the novel’s ‘happy ending,’ despite its momentariness, functions as a stepping stone towards an effective rejection of a deterministically bleak view of the future. The novel, in fact, does not support the reconstitution of a previous order and does not solicit nor obtain the reader’s sympathy for the dominant social interests which upheld that order: ultimately, the emphasis falls on the emancipatory aspects of the (momentary) resolution and revolution and not on their ephemeral status and inherent contradictions.23

Viento Negro begins with a comedy sketch which introduces us to the profound religious, cultural, and social changes that the French Revolution brought about in the Spanish colony. On 27 November 1790, we are told, Guy Millon, a self-defining French scientist–philosopher just arrived from Le Cap, held a spectacular demonstration in the central square of the capital city of Santo Domingo. He shared his discoveries on ‘medicinal electricity’ with his audience and allowed them to buy ‘at a very good price’ a number of essential products such as ‘water of light,’ ‘vitriolic ether,’ and ‘poultice for hysterical paralysis’ (p. 19). At the end of the show, Millon was planning to fly over the capital city in a balloon. Millon’s announcement created great excitement and expectations: in particular, we are told that Joaquín García y Moreno, governor of the Spanish colony, planned to attend the show because he hoped to apply the Frenchman’s findings to military weaponry, become a successful inventor, and leave Santo Domingo once and for all (p. 22). Deive is careful to point out, however, that not everyone in Santo Domingo shared García y Moreno’s enthusiasm for Millon’s work. Fray (p.114) Fernando Portillo y Torres, archbishop of Santo Domingo, was extremely anxious about the arrival in the Spanish colony not only of Millon but of all kinds of ‘fetishists, necromancers, miracle-workers [and] swindlers’ (p. 23).

After the French Revolution, in fact, Spanish Santo Domingo as a whole and its border region in particular had been radically transformed by the continuous influx of refugees from Saint Domingue. In Viento Negro the northern border town of Dajabón, where most of them were housed, becomes a huge market where all manner of things – including a mud replica of a famous vampire – were bought, sold, and exchanged (p. 42). In Montecristi, situated by the border on the northern coast, a local priest proclaims the Declaration of the Rights of the Man and Citizen to be the only revealed truth and establishes the Culto Teodóxico Universal, a civic–religious brotherhood which soon becomes extremely popular and spreads to other border areas (Hincha, Bánica, Neyba y San Miguel de la Atalaya). Among its followers the Culto counts Sor Transfiguración des Citoyens, formerly Sor Eufrosina de la Perpetua Consolación (p. 113), and the above-mentioned Guy Millon who, tired of Portillo y Torres’s persecutions in the capital, decides to move to the border area where he can thrive unmolested. The reference to the Culto Teodóxico Universal is one of Deive’s many deliberate anachronisms: it was actually an esoteric and freemasonic cult funded in 1824 by Antoine Fabre d’Olivet and is conflated here with the activity of a real-life priest called Quiñones (as is Deive’s character), who tried to combine Christianity with French Republicanism.24 Deive’s implicit reference to freemasonry is reinforced by the – also anachronistic – appearance, in the novela, of Martinez De Pasqually, the controversial historical founder of the order Elus Cohens (a mystical Masonry) who died in 1774, perhaps in Saint Domingue. In Viento Negro, Deive’s narrator insists that his real name was Eleuterio Martínez Pascual, that he had travelled to France to become better acquainted with esoterism and then moved to the island of Hispaniola, where, with Jacques Cazotte (another real-life esoterist who was to become one of his followers and who was beheaded in France 1792), he had settled in Spanish Santo Domingo (pp. 56–7).

Freemasonry was well established in the New World: apparently, in French Saint Domingue there was at least one lodge in every major town and, owing to its generally equalitarian ethos, freemasonry might have played a crucial role in the uprising of the French colony.25 Most white Masons (p.115) fled or were killed in the aftermath of 1791, but it has been suggested that some of those who survived and stayed on the island continued their practice – in Viento Negro, De Pasqually joins the army of the rebels after their abolition of slavery (p. 107) – and, among others, they inducted (clandestinely) Toussaint Louverture.26 The reference to De Pasqually and his esoterism also brings to the fore the fact that the much vilified Vodou assemblies were not the only ‘hieratic sites’ on the island: Vodou, in fact, had been described by a commentator of the time as ‘a sort of religious and dancing masonry.’27 Intriguingly, in the cosmologic diagrams for Haitian Vodou scholars have identified, interspersed along vévé ground signs, the secret signs of freemasonry (such as, for example, the compass-upon-the-square)28 and, as Susan Buck-Morrs insists, ‘we cannot be blind to the possibility of reciprocal influences, that the secret signs of Freemasonry were themselves affected by the ritual practices of the revolutionary slaves of Saint-Domingue.’29

Deive’s freemason De Pasqually lives in the region of La Vega, ‘a desolate landscape where only mad people, maroons and the souls of the dead walked about’ (p. 54). The majority of the maroons referred to here were probably fugitives from Saint Domingue and, in the early 1790s, Deive’s narrator informs us, the area around La Vega was plagued by the presence of one of these maroons from Saint Domingue, who was perpetrating ‘atrocious crimes’: the well-known Voras Carnefice or Negro Incógnito or Comegente (‘Voracious Torturer’ or ‘Unknown Negro’ or ‘Cannibal’ p. 53). Historically, the criminal activities of the Negro Incógnito were first recorded by the Spanish authorities in March 1790, when they received the news of various murders and the disappearance of two children. His killings (p.116) were accompanied by arsonist attacks, rapes (of bodies and corpses alike), mutilation of genitalia, and cannibalism. A reward of 200 pesos was promised to those who could assist in the criminal’s capture and almost one thousand soldiers and civilians were mobilized to bring him to justice. In the course of this operation twenty-four maroons, thieves, and vagrants were apprehended by the authorities but, since the Negro Incógnito proved impossible to locate, he was declared to be a legendary figure conjured up by the people’s fantasy. In 1792, in Cercado Alto, near La Vega, a man who was identified as the Negro Incógnito was captured by some hunters with the help of their dogs. Despite this, the colonial authorities continued to deny that the Negro Incógnito ever existed and concluded that all the crimes that had been attributed to him had either been committed by French fugitive slaves who lived in the area or were otherwise ‘inspired’ by their presence, which provided a very bad example for the blacks of Santo Domingo.30

In Viento Negro ‘ocular witnesses’ explain the elusiveness of the Negro Incógnito with the fact that he had learnt his witchcraft from a Carabalí slave in a plantation in the Limbé district of Saint Domingue (p. 53). Limbé is a place with a symbolic significance because some historians believe that the 1791 revolt in Saint Domingue began ‘unofficially’ with the activities of some slaves from Limbé who either misunderstood the final instructions imparted by the leaders or were too impatient to wait for the established date to begin the uprising.31 In other words, here Deive attracts our attention to those discourses which, creating spurious links between disparate events, aimed to criminalize the 1791 revolt, the Haitian Revolution, and, later Haiti and the Haitians as a whole. Crucially, the narrator reports that, according to the same ‘ocular witnesses,’ the pitch-black ferocious killer could rely on the unconditional protection of a ‘galipote’ (p. 53).

On the Spanish side of the island, the theatre of the Negro Incógnito’s rampage, the word ‘galipote’ is a Haitianism which (still) describes a magical shape-shifter who makes a pact with the devil and turns into animal, plant, or rock or, more rarely, into a human being, and who can therefore become impossible to capture and almost invulnerable.32 Galipotes are also (p.117) foregrounded when the novel returns to the border town of Dajabón in 1793, when Spain and France were at war and the island was in complete turmoil. During a visit to Padre Vázquez, the priest of Dajabón, Commander don Andrés de Heredia, comes across ‘a creature on a leash with a semblance of a human’ (p. 143). This creature is in fact a galipote and, as Vázquez explains to a puzzled de Heredia, galipotes are ‘the bodyguards of Barón Samedi, loa of the cemeteries’ (p. 143): coming from beyond the grave, they are fluorescent, and wander around villages and fields looking for people to tear apart with their tentacles.33 Ocular witnesses, he adds, have seen them rape young girls, sodomizing women, and steeping in pickle old females they could not do much more with (p. 143) – that is, engaging in crimes not dissimilar from those perpetrated by the Negro Incógnito, with whom they also share Haitian provenance. In Viento Negro Deive’s narrator explains that de Heredia considers Padre Vázquez to be a good but superstitious man, inclined to believe in the sortileges of the ‘black behiques’ (p. 144) – a ‘behique’ is a Taíno shaman or witch doctor. However, De Heredia himself (and, indeed, the narrator) must be under a sort of a spell too, because in the novel the galipote is actually described as a real presence (p. 43).

The ambivalent matter-of-factness with which the galipote is introduced also alerts us to the fact that, rather than being a vestige of the past, galipotes still play a role in contemporary Dominican society.34 For example, in 1974, two centuries after the 1791 rebellion, the newspaper El Caribe reported accounts of black-skinned people who had signed a pact with the Devil, insisted that those who could turn themselves into animals or inanimate objects were Haitian in origin, and repeatedly qualified Haitians as galipotes.35 However, if anti-Haitian ideology is still a powerful reality, real life – what (p.118) Scott calls ‘the intricacies, ambiguities, and paradoxes of the relations between actions and their consequences, and intentions and the chance contingencies that sometimes undo them’ – does not always chime with it.36 In his 1996 account of his childhood in Loma de Cabrera, near Dajabón, the Dominican writer and journalist Sergio Reyes offers a perspective on galipotes which seem inflected more by class than ethnicity or race. In the Dominican borderland the shape-shifting galipote seemed frightening because he watched over the property and life of the rich landowners and wealthy personalities of the area, rather than because of his phenotype, colour, or Haitian provenance.37 Haitian influences, moreover, have always been part of the cultural and spiritual syncretism which characterizes the Spanish side of the island (especially the rural and popular segments of society), despite the fact that certain sectors of the Dominican elite have always tried to minimize or even demonize them.38 The dynamics of acceptance and rejection of such influences are complex but their very existence testifies to the fact that, by focusing exclusively on dominant discourses, one can hardly get the full picture. In Viento Negro, for example, in order to prevent the galipote from spreading the evil eye and in order to protect himself from the traps prepared by his followers, Padre Vázquez sets fire to some tobacco leaves, spreads a handful of flour on the floor in a circular shape, and then blesses it three times. This ritualistic spreading of powders echoes Vodou practices, while tobacco firmly signposts Taíno agriculture. In Vodú y magia en Santo Domingo Deive argues that the Taíno influence is stronger in Dominican Vodú than in Haitian Vodou; in Viento Negro, De Heredia’s reference to ‘behiques negros’ (emphasis mine p. 144), capitalizing on the multiple meanings of the word ‘negro’ in Spanish, seems to gesture towards this transcultural aspect, which here firmly characterizes the northern borderland of Hispaniola.39

In line with his decision to recount historical events following the genre of comedy, Deive’s narrator undercuts all his characters, from the French and Spanish colonial authorities to the leaders of the revolution. For example, Joaquín García y Moreno, governor of the Spanish colony, Fray Fernando Portillo y Torres, archbishop of Santo Domingo, and Léger-Félicité Sonthonax, the civil commissioner in charge of the French troops during part of the Haitian Revolution, are ferociously ridiculed and their weaknesses and pettiness unmercifully revealed. Boukman is impressive and revered by his (p.119) companions (including Toussaint) but during the assembly at Bois Caiman he drinks clerén because, he explains, ‘“Gren mwe frét” […] “My testicles are cold”’ (p. 65).40 When they arrive in Ouanaminthe on 24 December 1792 the impossibly vain ‘Generalísimo’ Jean-François and the ‘Vicerrey’ Biassou rush to the tailor to get a new set of extravagant and flamboyant clothes, issue an edict which abolishes, among other things, ‘black magic,’ ‘black shadows,’ ‘black dirt under fingernails,’ and ‘the black behind the ears,’41 because they are ‘derogatory, fallacious, racist and contrary to the rights of man’ (pp. 97–8), and also declare as public holidays dates which are ‘Gregorian, revolutionary […] patriotic, […] Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist, because here we discriminate nobody’ (p. 99).

Toussaint is also caricatured: we are told that, in order to allocate to the leaders of the rebel army the most comfortable houses of the occupied villages, he requisitioned properties proffering sincere apologies (p. 100). Overall, however, Touissant is taken very seriously by Deive: from the beginning he is described as an astute, opportunistic, inscrutable, persuasive strategist, and as a statesman-in the-making (p. 227). He is also depicted as ‘enigmatic as a sphinx’ – that is, exactly like Francisco Sopo (p. 132), the leader of a slave insurrection described in Viento Negro and which took place in Boca Nigua, on the Spanish side of the island, a few years after the 1791 revolt in Saint Domingue. The fact that, in his turn, Sopo is once identified with the Negro Incógnito (p. 196) highlights the continuities and discontinuities that exist between spontaneous reaction and organized rebellion, survival strategies and emancipatory agendas, not only within each colony but also across the island’s border.

Sopo appears for the first time in the second chapter of the novel. Here we follow the Boca Nigua slave-holder and plantocrat Ignacio de Oyarzábal crossing the border before 1791 in an attempt to accelerate the arrival, in the Spanish colony, of a new era that ‘would forever bury as a most remote memory this repetitive time of sacristies and confessionals’ (p. 28). This is a rather problematic statement to process because the modernization that de Oyarzábal is welcoming so warmly must coincide with the opening of Santo Domingo to the slave trade in 1786; yet de Oyarzábal is very ambivalent towards slavery, the practice of which, he believes, creates ‘the most miserable and despicable world one could possibly imagine’ (p. 27). His disquiet notwithstanding, de Oyarzábal crosses into Saint Domingue to visit the Bréda plantation of Haut-du-Cap in order to study the technical (p.120) innovations which Count Noé, the owner of the Saint Domingue habitation, had enumerated to his father in a Parisian café where (ironically) the revolutionary theses of the sans-culottes were being discussed at the same time. De Oyarzábal is hosted in a luxury grande case with a Pompeian façade and tapestries from Damascus and, during a tour of the ingenio with Francisco Sopo, his favourite slave who had accompanied him from Boca Nigua, he meets a certain Touissant, who was working there as an overseer. Touissant and Sopo do not speak to one another but Deive’s narrator points out that they share the same resentment towards slavery and ‘a dangerous disposition, a craving painfully dragged along for years’ (p. 32).

Historically, the Boca Nigua revolt took place in October 1796, when the plantation had about 200 slaves: it was the largest and best run in Santo Domingo, it was fairly new (probably set up after 1786), and was managed by a certain Juan Bautista Oyarzábal (who shares his name with the father of Deive’s Ignacio de Oyarzábal), the nephew of the absentee owner, the Marqués de Yranda.42 The four different sources which relate the historical revolt identify its origin in an act of revenge on the part of a black slave driver called Francisco Sopó, who had recently lost two godsons at the hands of the plantation’s white staff – the distiller had falsely accused one of his godsons of stealing rum (the youth had committed suicide as a result), while the other had died in the plantation hospital. However, when the date for the uprising had been set, Sopó changed his mind, approached the white distiller and informed him of the rebels’ plan; later, he also revealed it to Oyarzábal himself. During the rebellion Sopó allied with the whites and protected their escape from the plantation. When the news of the revolt in Boca Nigua reached Santo Domingo, fifty troops were dispatched to re-establish the order, the uprising was quickly crushed, and all but two of the rebelling slaves were recaptured and sent to the capital’s hospital or jail. Sopó and the chiefs of the rebellion were sentenced to death and hanged, beheaded, and quartered: their arms and legs were cut off and nailed up in public places in the city, while their heads were sent back to the plantation for display.43

Contemporary historians disagree on whether Sopó’s revolt was an authentic cry for freedom and equality.44 It is undeniable, however, that the (p.121) Saint Domingue revolt was influential in the Boca Nigua uprising because it provided a precedent the rebels wanted to learn from.45 The connection between the 1791 uprising in the French part and the rebellion in Santo Domingo is further strengthened by Deive when he informs us that, just before the revolt, one of the Boca Nigua conspirators had gone to Marmelade ‘to find out the details of what happened in Bois Caiman from Touissant Louverture in order to act in the same way’ (p. 196).46 However, despite Toussaint’s alleged prompting, Sopo’s uprising, unlike the 1791 rebellion but like Sopó’s revolt, is crushed by governmental forces and he is sentenced to death. Deive’s foregrounding of the rebellion of Boca Nigua is an effective move which demystifies anti-Haitian historiography: the very existence of the conspiracy calls into question the long-rehearsed claim that the slaves from the Spanish part preferred to ‘remain […] slave[s] under the Spaniards than to be free along with the Haitians who, led by Toussaint and Dessalines, attempted to make the island “one and undivided”’.47 In order to make this point as forcefully as possible, Deive also introduces some crucial alterations to historical facts.

Sopo (unlike the historical Sopó) never betrays his comrades and is seen leading the blacks in their attack against de Oyarzábal’s house. Deive’s decision to change Sopó’s betrayal into Sopo’s determination is also to be regarded as part of his ongoing effort to undermine the representation of Spanish Santo Domingo as a safe haven and a place of freedom for blacks and to reject what he calls an ‘idyllic image of slavery,’ according to which master and slave relations were generally predicated upon humanitarian sentiments – slavery in Santo Domingo, he insists, ‘operated exactly as in other countries.’48 In order to offer as diversified a picture as possible of the (p.122) predicament of black people in the colony, the novel begins with the voice of black women selling their produce in the streets of the capital (p. 7). In the city both free blacks and slaves enjoyed greater freedom than their companions in the sugar mills49 but, in the following chapters of Viento Negro, Deive foregrounds the predicament of the latter by focusing on the Boca Nigua plantation before the revolt. We are invited to witness the agony of the slave Filemon Congo, who was a ‘victim of the exhaustion caused by days of hard work’ (p. 129), and the deep effect it has on Sopo. Sopo, whom de Oyarzábal describes as the most faithful and trustworthy of his slaves, according to Agripiliano Brizuela, a former Jesuit who administers the Boca Nigua plantation when Oyarzábal travels to the capital, is instead ‘as enigmatic as a sphinx’ (p. 132). Before the revolt, Brizuela warns the excessively trustworthy Oyarzábal with these truly prophetic words: ‘do not forget the black wind which, not long ago, blew in Bois Caiman. You cannot trust any of them, not even their mothers’ (p. 132).

Brizuela’s words are central to the novel because they contain Deive’s title and, most importantly, because they point to the existence of a libertarian impulse which geopolitical borders could not stop: at the outset of their revolt the insurgents of Boca Nigua hoped that their rebellion was going to bring slavery to a permanent end and believed that it sanctioned the beginning of a new life (p. 195). In Viento Negro, moreover, toponymy allows Deive to trace a continuity between eighteenth-century anti-slavery rebellion and sixteenth-century marronage: the city gate where Sopo is executed is called the ‘puerta de Lemba’ (‘Lemba’s gate’) because it was the place where Sebastián Lemba Calembo, a powerful maroon leader who burned and ransacked his way from Higüey to the Bahoruco, was (allegedly) executed in 1548 and his severed head hanged as an example to others who would dare rebel against their white masters. A statue of Lemba is now to be found in front of the Museo del Hombre Dominicano alongside two others that embody Enriquillo and Bartolomé de las Casas. The three figures are meant to represent the three components of Dominican identity (African, Indio/a and Spanish) but the inclusion of Lemba did create some opposition because not everyone considered it appropriate to celebrate the African heritage.50

Deive here seems to propose not only Lemba but also Sopó as valiant ancestors who fought for the right values and who deserve the utmost respect (p.123)

Servants turned masters: Santo Domingo and the black revolt

Figure 8. Statues of Lemba, Bartolomé de las Casas and Enriquillo in front of the Museo del Hombre Dominicano, Santo Domingo. The three figures are meant to represent the three components of Dominican identity: African, Spanish and Indio/a

(photograph: Maria Cristina Fumagalli).

of contemporary Dominicans. Crucially, while Sopo is being beheaded, the viento negro is still blowing (p. 200) and García y Moreno is (anachronistically) informed that Touissant has reached San Rafael de la Angostura and San Miguel de la Atalaya and that Spain has ceded the colony of Santo Domingo to France with the Treaty of Basle (p. 201). Deive’s altered historical chronology – in his account the Boca Nigua revolt precedes rather than follows the Treaty of Basle – draws his readers’ attention to the profound political repercussions that the 1791 revolt and the viento negro had for the island as a whole.

Altered chronologies and anachronisms contribute to highlighting how this historical novel, like most historical novels, is preoccupied with the present and with present – not only past – forms of social injustice.51 For example, we are told that one of the characters, the vizconde de Fontanges, is stuck in the Spanish part of the island because, at the onset of the rebellion, he found himself in the spa of La Surza, close to the border town of Bánica (p. 84). In 1791 Bánica’s thermal waters had been famous for over forty years (p.124) and Saint-Méry explains that the French used to go there in considerable numbers: in 1776, for example, the spa could accommodate more than sixty people at one time, some of whom went there purely for pleasure rather than for health reasons.52 However, Saint-Méry adds that in 1776 French travellers began to avoid Bánica’s thermal waters because, while on their way there, all too often they were being ‘disturbed’ by the Spanish authorities, who were trying to contain across-the-border contraband.53 Aware that Bánica’s spa could constitute an important source of income, however, the Spanish did all they could to allure as many ‘health tourists’ as possible from the then richer side of the island. An article from the Gazette du Cap dated 18 September 1776 and quoted in full by Saint-Méry informs the citizens of Saint Domingue that all abuses perpetrated against French voyageurs will be suspended. Moreover, it explains that four new residences will be built and the wood around the spa will be felled to create a much more picturesque view and a pleasant path through the savane where one will be able to find some ‘pretty gardens’ and herbs for hair treatment. Most importantly, all the French will be able to cross the border with their servants and property and will have the right to hunt and fish in the area.54

The plan to transform this portion of the Spanish borderland into a French enclave where the French could behave as if they were in Saint Domingue seems to pioneer the creation of those all-inclusive destinations which are currently spoiling the coast of the Dominican Republic and the rest of the Caribbean. Permeable and impermeable borders are fundamental to these tourists’ heavens: impermeable boundaries keep out undesirable realities and people, while permeable ones erase, or at least minimize, the difference between ‘home and away’ by allowing the familiar to comfortably intermesh with a domesticized unfamiliar. In 1776 similar forms of occlusion and disavowal informed the proposed landscaping of the borderland around Bánica as the plan to grant special rights to a selected group of foreigners was an attempt to deny the tensions brought about by the existence of a colonial frontier separating an affluent French colony from its poorer Spanish counterpart – tensions that Deive clearly highlights by focusing on the privileged experience of de Fontanges. Nowadays, La Surza has been claimed back by the population of the borderland and, far from being an exclusive all-inclusive, has become an important holy site where an Indian spirit called Rey del Agua, or King of the Water, is worshipped.55

(p.125) Deive ends his novel when Toussaint’s glory is at its highest point: that is, with his triumphal entrance in Santo Domingo on 26 January 1801, when, against Bonaparte’s will, he finally brought Santo Domingo de facto under French domination as stipulated by the Treaty of Basle. As soon as the keys of the city are in his hands Deive’s Toussaint decrees, to their utter delight, that all the slaves of Santo Domingo are free men and women (p. 243). This is historically accurate: approximately fifteen thousand slaves were freed on that day. We also know that Toussaint soon abolished all colour distinctions, so that the mulattos could gain entry to those higher levels in the power structure which had previously been reserved for the whites. Touissant encouraged the white men of Santo Domingo to marry their concubines and also promised security of land tenure to the hateros (the owners of pastures and woodland).56 The plantocrat Ignacio de Oyarzábal, one of the people who witness Toussaint’s arrival in the capital, is astonished when he realizes that the supreme and only authority on the island is in fact the former overseer he met during his visit to the Bréda plantation. In other words, as prophesized in 1791 by Angiolina Falconelli’s performance of Pergolesi’s opera buffa, servants, here, have literally turned masters and, crucially, the novel seems to suggest to his readers that this is a positive outcome.

The novel’s last words are García y Moreno’s, who points out that ‘never before had Santo Domingo been so festive’ (p. 244). This is most appropriate for an opera buffa: as White has pointed out, the temporary reconciliations and happy endings which characterize comedies ‘are symbolized in the festive occasions that the Comic writer uses to terminate his dramatic accounts of change and transformation.’57 Historically speaking, however, this festive mood was soon to end. In his position of supreme command, Toussaint called for the formation of electoral assemblies to choose deputies to a central assembly that would write a constitution for the entire island. According to the July 1801 constitution Toussaint abolished slavery, became governor-for-life with the power to name his own successor, and established that, despite the fact that Hispaniola remained part of France’s colonial Empire, no French representative was allowed to play any role in the colony’s administrative structure. However, Toussaint also disallowed the political and economic participation in the new social order of the formerly enslaved masses. Controversially, he was determined to maintain the plantation system of large holdings and sanctioned, in his constitution, that all citizens (p.126) owed their services to the land that fed them.58 In other words, those who were no longer slaves were still required to work in the plantations and to surrender their individual freedom to the new state in order to support, paradoxically, what was, fundamentally, a project of emancipation.59 Predictably, Toussaint’s agrarian reforms were met with hostility; in addition, his abolition of Vodou did not prove to be a popular decision among the former slaves.60

In Spanish Santo Domingo, despite the equalitarian measures which gained him the distrust of most of the Spanish Dominican oligarchy, Toussaint did not enjoy for long the unconditional support of all freed blacks and hateros. In fact, he tried to convert the Dominican economy of hatos into a plantation-based one and, in order to counteract the parcelization of the territory, he proscribed the unauthorized sale of land, thus making it very difficult for the emancipated slaves to acquire their own small properties; he also devalued the peso and, as we have seen, instituted an unpopular compulsory labour system.61 In 1802, after the arrival of the French army whose aim was to expell the black insurgents from the western part of the island, the Dominican elites reinstated slavery and the latifundist economy of the hateros. Touissant was captured, taken to France, and imprisoned in the castle of Joux, where he finally died while different armies continued to fight, reducing Spanish Santo Domingo to a devastated war zone.62 Deive knows that what happened after Toussaint’s triumphal entrance to Santo Domingo is well known to his readers, and especially to his Dominican readers: decades of anti-Haitian propaganda have urged them to think of the Black Jacobins’ domination, but also of Boyer’s occupation, of the existence of Haiti across the border, and of the presence of ‘needed but unwanted’ Haitian migrants on the territory of the Dominican Republic as an unfolding tragedy.63 All this, however, is omitted from the narrative: the emphasis is decisively on the emancipatory potential of Toussaint’s arrival and not on the controversial nature of his subsequent reforms or on his tragic demise. Deive’s novel leaves its readers with a sense of elation and possibility, as if the entire island were on the brink of a new era predicated upon racial equality and social justice rather than racism, discrimination, and privilege.

(p.127) Deive’s decision to end his novel with a ‘happy ending’ which coincides with the French domination of Hispaniola is therefore noteworthy and a sign that he is not afraid to venture into dangerous territory. It is true that French domination is not the same as Haitian domination – in 1801 Haiti did not exist yet and Toussaint was, at least officially, still acting on behalf of Bonaparte – but the ‘une et indivisible’ question in the Dominican Republic is still a very delicate matter as testified by the furore caused by Haitian President Michel Martelly’s fumbled response to a question on the unification of the island posed to him by a Dominican journalist during his 2011 election campaign.64 In 2008 the historian Frank Moya Pons devoted two chapters of his La otra historia dominicana to the ‘one and undivided’ issue in which he insisted that, contrarily to what the anti-Haitian propaganda maintains, the Haitian constitution does not actually sanction that the island is one and indivisible and therefore does not contain an implicit threat to Dominican sovereignty. The Haitian constitutions that have used such terminology, Moya Pons explains, deployed it to declare that the Republic of Haiti (not the island) was one and indivisible. The only exception is the 1806 constitution, which did not contain the expression une et indivisible but defined the entire island as Haitian territory following the 1801 colonial constitution promulgated by Toussaint, which mirrored the territorial unification legitimized by the 1795 Treaty of Basle.65

That Deive’s ‘happy ending’ revolves around the origins of what anti-Haitian discourse has promoted and still promotes as the Dominican’s tragedy and nightmare par excellence – the Haitian invasion – is not only provocative but chimes with Franklin Franco’s invitation to revisit relations between Haiti and the Dominican Republic by starting from their colonial roots.66 (p.128) Franco also pointed out that the Haitian and Dominican people had been made to interiorize conflicts which originated instead with the dominant classes of both nations and for the dissemination of which the ruling classes adopted all the available media.67 These reflections, published in 2003, were included in a paper that Franco delivered in 1986 in Haina, at the Coloquio domínico-haitiano de educadores; almost thirty years later there is still a lot of work to be done to counteract this pernicious anti-Haitian influence and to promote rapprochement, solidarity, cooperation, and mutual understanding between the two nations. Deive’s resolve to terminate the continuum of his narrative by presenting the arrival of Toussaint in Santo Domingo as a happy moment in the history of the island as a whole is not an attempt to simplify otherwise complex border dynamics or to smooth the rough edges of history; it derives instead from the realization that it is crucial to reject what Raymond Williams, in Modern Tragedy, had distressingly called the ‘slowly settling loss of any acceptable future.’68 In this context, therefore, Deive’s opera buffa clearly emerges as a counterhegemonic tool which attempts to demystify the past in order to recast and confront the present and, hopefully, reimagine the future of Hispaniola.

Notes:

(1) ‘The millions of slaves brought to the New World […] were […] varied in language, religion, customs and political institutions […] While it is true that the massive influx of slaves to Saint-Domingue […] were shipped predominantly from the coasts of the Kongo and Benin, they were brought there from multiple locations in the interior as prisoners of war waged against and among each other […] It was the shared trauma of defeat, slavery, banishment, and the horrors of the Atlantic crossing and plantation labour that Vodou, in a burst of cultural creation, transformed into a community of trust’: Susan Buck-Morrs, Hegel, Haiti and Universal History (Pittsburgh, PA: Pittsburgh University Press, 2009), pp. 125–6.

(2) Margarite Fernández Olmos and Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert, Creole Religions of the Caribbean: An Introduction from Vodou and Santería to Obeah and Espiritismo (New York: New York University Press, 2003), pp. 102–3.

(3) Michel Laguerre, Voodoo and Politics in Haiti (London: Macmillan, 1989), pp. 18–21.

(7) Dagoberto Tejeda Ortíz, Cultura popular e identidad nacional (Santo Domingo: Consejo Presidencial de Cultura-Instituto Dominicano de Folklore, 1998); Carlos Esteban Deive, Vodú y magia en Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo: Fundación Cultural Dominicana, 1988), pp. 9–19; pp. 160–61; Martha Ellen Davis, ‘Vodú of the Dominican Republic: Devotion to “La Veintiuna División”’, Afro-Hispanic Review, 26.1 (2007), pp. 75–90.

(10) Dagoberto Tejeda Ortíz, El Vudú en Dominincana y en Haití (Republica Dominicana: Ediciones Indefolk, 2013), pp. 91–102.

(11) June Rosenberg, El Gagá: Religión y Sociedad de un Culto Dominicano: Un Estudio Comparativo (Santo Domingo: Universidad de Santo Domingo, 1979), p. 37.

(13) Davis, ‘Vodú of the Dominican Republic’, pp. 86–7; Cristina Sánchez-Carretero ‘Santos y Misterios as Channels of Communication in the Diaspora: Afro-Dominican Religious Practices Abroad’, Journal of American Folklore, 118.469 (2005), pp. 308–26.

(14) Carlos Esteban Deive, Viento Negro, bosque del caimán (Santo Domingo: Editora Centenario, 2002), p. 65. Subsequent references to this novel will be given in parentheses in the text.

(15) For more on Toussaint as a double agent see Fick, Making of Haiti, p. 92.

(16) For an account of the ceremony see Fick, Making of Haiti, pp. 260–66. The woman is erroneously identified by Deive as Romaine la Prophétesse, who was instead a man who used to dress up as a woman – see Chapter 2 and Fick, Making of Haiti, pp. 127–8 – and conflated with the mambo Cécile Fatiman, who is supposed to have participated to the historical ceremony: see Dubois, Avengers of the New World, pp. 99–100 and Fick, Making of Haiti, p. 93.

(17) I am echoing Hayden White, The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009).

(18) David Scott, Conscripts of Modernity: The Tragedy of Colonial Enlightenment (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004), pp. 7–8.

(20) Reinhardt Koselleck, Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985).

(21) Hayden White, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973), pp. 8–9.

(23) The ‘happy endings’ of Picquenard’s two novels are not very different from Hugo’s unhappy ones but they all support (like Saint-Méry’s texts) the pre-revolutionary status quo. In both versions of Bug-Jargal Pierrot/Bug-Jargal is unjustly executed, Maria is lost (she dies when Le Cap is pillaged), and, in the second version, D’Auverney is also killed in battle on European territory. Most importantly, the island of Hispaniola and its all too permeable border is left behind as an Eden turned into chaotic hell and as the site of a personal and political nightmare too horrible to be dealt with. The protagonists of Adonis and Zoflora can only find peace and happiness by leaving the Caribbean island and its colonial frontier which has contributed so much to shatter Picquenard’s (alleged) dream of racial and social equality and move to other places, namely Virginia, Philadelphia (incidentally, where Saint-Méry published his Descriptions), and then France itself. D’Herouville, his family, Adonis, and his wife find refuge in Norfolk, Virginia, while Justin, his family, and the faithful Zoflora go to Philadelphia and later to France.

(24) Carlos Esteban Deive, Heterodoxia e inquisición en Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo: Editora Taller, 1983), pp. 318–19.

(25) André Combes, ‘La Franc-Maçonnerie aux Antilles et en Guyane Française de 1789 à 1848,’ in La Période Révolutionnaire aux Antilles: Images et Résonances, Actes du Colloque International Pluridisciplinaire, 26–30 November 1986, ed. Roger Toumson (Faculté des Lettres et des Sciences Humaines, Université des Antilles et de la Guyane: GRELCA, n.d.), p. 162, quoted in Sybille Fischer, Modernity Disavowed, Haiti and the Cultures of Slavery in the Age of Revolution (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004), pp. 51–2.

(26) Combes, p. 162 quoted in Fischer, Modernity Disavowed, pp. 51–2. Fischer, however, suggests that we should take some of Combes’s data with a degree of scepticism, considering that his institutional affiliation is the Institut d’études maçonniques in Paris (p. 311).

(27) Dayan, Haiti, History and the Gods, p. 251; Lettre annuelle de l’Ordre de Notre Dame, qtd in Fick, Making of Haiti, p. 265.

(28) See Buck-Morrs, Hegel, Haiti and Universal History, p. 70 fig. 1 and pp. 123–4 fig. 2 and Alfred Métraux, Voodoo in Haiti (New York: Oxford University Press, 1959), p. 140.

(30) Carlos Esteban Deive, La mala vida: delincuencia y picaresca en la colonia española de Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo: Fundación Cultural Dominicana, 1997), pp. 233–5.

(32) Sergio Reyes, Cuentos y leyendas de la frontera (Santo Domingo: Editora Universitaria-UASD, 1996), pp. 254, 41–2. Like Reyes, Pedro Henríquez Ureña describes the word as a ‘Haitianismo’ and places the ‘galipote’ firmly in the Domincan villages on the border with Haiti: see Diccionario dominicano (Santo Domingo: Editorial del Nordeste, 1983). Deive also defines the term as a Haitianism in his Diccionario de dominicanismos (Santo Domingo: Ediciones Librería Trinitaria/Editora Manatí, 2002). The galipote’s zoomorphism reminds one of the powerful rebel maroon and houngan Makandal who, incidentally, worked in the Limbé plantation fifty years or so before the 1791 revolt and who, according to a well-known legend, escaped his execution by flying away from the burning stake as a fly or a mosquito (see Chapter 8).

(33) In Viento Negro Deive uses loa instead of lua, the preferred term in Vodú y magia en Santo Domingo.

(34) Emilio Jorge Rodríguez, Haiti and Trans-Caribbean Literary Identity / Haiti y la transcaribeñidad literaria (Philipsburg, San Martin: House of Nehesi Editores, 2011), p. 202, makes an interesting comparison between the ‘Haitian’ galipote and the ‘indigenous’ ciguapa and argues that ‘in the course of time […] the overlapping and mutual influence of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, has modified folkloric figures first attributed to aboriginal or Afro-Haitian culture […] submitting them to a process of creolization with the resulting encroachment of geographic, cultural and mental borders.’

(37) Reyes, Cuentos y leyendas, p. 41. See also Chapter 7.

(38) See Deive, ‘The African Inheritance’, p. 87 and Sergio Reyes, Sincretismo: Formas de Expresión en la Frontera (Santo Domingo: Editora Universitaria-UASD, 1999), p. 5.

(39) ‘Negro’ is used to describe black people and the colour black.

(40) Clerén is a Haitian alcoholic drink.

(41) An expression which means that one person who can ‘pass’ for white has instead black ancestors.

(42) David Geggus, ‘Slave Resistance in the Spanish Caribbean in the Mid-1970s’, in A Turbulent Time: The French Revolution and the Greater Caribbean, ed. D.B. Gaspar and D.P. Geggus (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2003), pp. 131–55, p. 141.

(44) For a positive assessment see, for example, Blas Jiménez, Africano por elección, negro por nacimiento (Santo Domingo: Editora Manatí, 2008), pp. 75–81 and Deive, Los guerrilleros negros, p. 22, where he asserts that the historical rebellion ‘aimed to proclaim freedom for all the blacks of the colony and to establish a popular and revolutionary government’; David Geggus instead insists on the fact that Sopó’s revolt was not characterized by a libertarian rhetoric: ‘Slave Resistance’, pp. 147–8.

(45) Despite his reservations, Geggus is happy to concede as much: see ‘Slave Resistance’, p. 147.

(46) In reality, Sopó did approach, for advice, three former soldiers of Jean-François’s auxiliary army who were working nearby and asked them to take him and some of his fellow conspirators to Saint Domingue, but the former soldiers refused to get involved in the plot: see Geggus, ‘Slave Resistance’, p. 142.

(48) Deive, ‘The African Inheritance’, pp. 107, 99, 108. Deive also insists on the importance of endoculturation, a mechanism by which an individual is encouraged not only to adopt the culture that is imposed on him or her but to consider it superior to his own (p. 91). What he calls ‘the dual and often contradictory psychological processes that made slaves oscillate between servility and rebellion’ (p. 107), which can be seen at work in the behaviour of the historical Sopó, might be explained, at least partly, by the influence of endoculturation.

(50) David Howard, Coloring the Nation: Race and Ethnicity in the Dominican Republic (Oxford: Signal Books, 2001), p. 8.

(51) For more examples of anachronisms see Rita de Maeseneer, Encuentro con la narrativa dominicana contemporánea (Madrid: Iberoamericana, 2006), note 27 p. 39.

(52) PE, vol. I, p. 279.

(53) PE, vol. I, p. 279.

(54) PE, vol. I, pp. 279–80.

(55) Jan Lundius and Mats Lundhal, Peasants and Religion: A Socioeconomis Study of Dios Olivorio and the Palma Sola Movement in the Dominican Republic (London: Routledge, 2000), p. 368.

(63) I am borrowing the title from Bridget Wooding and Richard Moseley-Williams, Needed but Unwanted: Haitian Immigrants and their Descendants in the Dominican Republic (London: The Catholic Institute for International relations, 2004).

(64) See ‘Haitian President Michel Martelly wants to unify Haiti and Dominican Republic’, Martelly interviewed by Nuria Piera, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvaU-4zZwis [accessed 27 November 2014]. Martelly decided to do this interview with Nuria Piera for Dominican television without an interpreter but did not appear too sure-footed and it is at least debatable if he really advocated the ‘unification’ of Hispaniola, as some have argued. For the controversy which followed see ‘Have you guys read what lunatic said?’, Dominican Republic Forums (DR1), http://www.dr1.com/forums/generalstuff/112313-have-you-guys-read-what-lunatic-said.html [accessed 27 November 2012]. In 2002, the same year in which Deive’s novel was published, Silvio Torres Saillant pointed out how José Quezada, ex-consul General of the Dominica Republic in New York still ‘maintained’ that the Haitian constitution explicitly undermined Dominican sovereignty: see El tigueraje intellectual (Santo Domingo: Editora Manatí, 2002), p. 27.

(66) Franklin Franco, Sobre racismo y antihaitianismo (y otros ensayos) (Santo Domingo: Sociedad Editorial Dominicana, 2003), p. 67.

(68) Raymond Williams, Modern Tragedy (London: Verso, 1979), p. 209.