A Visit to a Dominican Republic Border Town

Communications Officer Sara Fajardo is in the Dominican Republic reporting on CRS programs and sharing her experiences with us.

A six-hour ride through cities, rice fields, and shantytowns on a bright blue and yellow Caribe Tours bus and my traveling companion Rosalba Gómez and I find ourselves in Dajabon. We are picked up by our partners from Solidaridad Fronteriza (Border Solidarity) on the standard mode of transportation in this town, motorcycles.

My cumbersome suitcase filled with 17-days worth of clothes sticks up like a banana from where, Avellino, our partner, has wedged it between the handlebars and the long flat seat. I hop on behind him and feel graceless as I’m pushed back by the weight of the camera equipment I’m carrying. It’s a balancing act. My gear pushes me in one direction, but common sense dictates I lean into Avellino and attempt to cling on as the bike rattles in between cars and over potholes.

We drop off our gear and head straight to Fronteriza’s office. It’s a white three-story colonial building where Creole and Spanish are spoken interchangeably. You can see the Haitian border from the third floor. It’s so close a brisk 3-minute walk will deliver you to the banks of el Río Masacre (Massacre River) that divides the two countries.

As an organization founded in 1997, our friends at Fronteriza work to defend the rights of refugees and migrants on several fronts: gender equality, migrant associations, legal counsel, human rights observers, monitoring, and creating savings cooperatives, to name just a few.

Dajabón is like many border cities and has a high disparity in income and standard of living, one that is compounded by the extreme poverty on the Haitian side of the border. Dajabón sees a high influx of undocumented Haitian immigrants crossing the river on to Dominican soil to seek a better life in the Dominican Republic. Solidaridad works to create legal venues for Haitian migration and inroads to cross-border commerce.

Such is the case of the newly formed Asociación Mujer Nueva Esperanza de Dajabon, (ASOMUNEDA New Hope of Dajabon Women’s Association). These women who specialize in the sale of used clothing have their wares confiscated or they would be charged exorbitant fines in order to pass freely between countries. They would take dangerous clandestine routes in order to make it to the market where they could eek out a meager living.

Each woman was left to fend for herself, until Solidaridad stepped in and helped them build a united front. The women, along their supporters, staged a sit-in that completely blocked the border-crossing gate for a couple of days. No one could get in our out of the country. Millions were lost in commerce. This prompted the government to change its policy toward the women. They have been given the proper documentation, are allowed to bring over 80 kilos of clothes free of charge and are allowed to move freely between the borders.

Tomorrow I’ll visit the Mercado Fronteriza (Border Market) where many of those same women sell their wares. The market is open twice weekly and takes up several city blocks. Monitors on one bridge that leads from Haiti to the D.R. counted 10,000 sellers and consumers crossing into Dajabon to visit the market in just one day. Rough estimates calculate that at least $1 million is pumped into the economy every time the market opens.

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3 Responses to “A Visit to a Dominican Republic Border Town”

  1. Tracy Barnett Says:

    Thank you, Sara Fajardo, for giving us a little window into places and people we know so little about. Catholic Relief Services does such important work in these countries and I’m really looking forward to seeing more of that work through your eyes.

  2. Alisa Booze Troetschel Says:

    Thanks for sharing, Ms. Fajardo. Cheers for the ASOMUNEDA New Hope of Dajabon Women’s Association. Their courage makes a good story.

  3. David M Barreda Says:

    Thank you for your report. It is helpful to see these experiences through such observant eyes. Stats and reports do the stories little justice. May the united strength of ASOMUNEDA thrive.

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