Title: Land use and landscape change along the Dominican-Haitian borderlands /
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00098295/00001
 Material Information
Title: Land use and landscape change along the Dominican-Haitian borderlands /
Alternate Title: Landscape change along the Dominican-Haitian borderlands
Physical Description: xi, 224 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Palmer, Ernest Charles, 1943-
Publication Date: 1976
Copyright Date: 1976
Subject: Land use -- Haiti   ( lcsh )
Land use -- Dominican Republic   ( lcsh )
Agriculture -- Haiti   ( lcsh )
Agriculture -- Dominican Republic   ( lcsh )
Geography thesis Ph. D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Geography -- UF   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis--University of Florida.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 216-223.
Statement of Responsibility: by Ernest Charles Palmer.
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00098295
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000174449
oclc - 03007668
notis - AAU0912


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Without the constant help and encouragement of my

wife Ann this project would have been impossible. Her en-

thusiasm for the field work never faltered. She cheerfully

walked the nineteen kilometers from Belladere to Lascahobas

when the road was impassable by jeep. During our year in

the field her rapport with the townspeople in both Elias

Pina, Dominican Republic, and Belladere, Haiti, opened doors

which I would never have known existed. In Haiti she was

my French teacher and, on our many visits to government of-

fices in Port-au-Prince (where good French is highly respect-

ed) she served as interpreter. Her ideas and suggestions for

the study were invaluable. During the writing stage of the

dissertation she helped with the typing, editing and revi-

sions. And when the project seemed to weigh most heavily,

she reminded me, ever so gently, that life's ultimate issues

were not, after all, at stake. For all of these reasons she

deserves a great deal of credit for any merit which is found

in this dissertation.

I wish to express my appreciation to the dissertation

committee--Dr. Gustavo A. Antonini, Chairman; Dr. David L.

Niddrie, Dr. Raymond Crist, Dr. Richard A. Edwards and

Dr. Clark I. Cross, Chairman of the Geography Department.

Dr. Antonini was most generous with his time and guidance

from the first draft of the proposal, through the field

work, to the editing of the final manuscript. Special

thanks are due Dr. Niddrie for ideas which he stimulated

in the classroom and for both substantive and stylistic sub-

gestions for the manuscript.

Many friends in the Dominican Republic and Haiti de-

serve a note of thanks. Engineer Jose J. Hungria, Director

of the Instituto Geogrifico Universitario in Santo Domingo

provided invaluable help and advice for the Dominican portion

of the field study. In Port-au-Prince, Messrs. Julio Silva

and Roland Roy of the Organization of American States were

most helpful. My wife and I are also grateful to our many

missionary friends who frequently gave us lodging. And

finally, we are appreciative of the hospitality extended to

us by the townspeople of Elias Pina and Belladere.

The field research was made financially possible by

a grant from the Organization of American States. The Na-

tional Science Foundation provided a supplementary grant for

the purchase of a jeep, which was indispensable. In addition,

the Tinker Foundation of New York provided assistantship

funds for three months during the preparation stage and later

for six months during the writing.



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . . . . . . . . . .

LIST OF FIGURES . . . . . .

ABSTRACT . . . . . . .


Purpose and Scope . . . . .
Historical Background . . . .
Field Methods . . . . . .
Plan of Presentation . . . .


Location and Extent . . . .
Climate . . . . .
Geomorphology and Natural Subregions
Natural Vegetation . . . . .
Physical Features and Land Use . .

COLONIZATION: 1492-1789 . . . . ... 37

Early Settlement . . . . . . ... 38
Ascendancy of the French . . . . ... 43
The Livestock Trade . . . . . ... 48
The Landscape: 1789 . . . . . ... 51
Government Policies as Key Landscape 54
Determinants . . . . . . ... 54

ITS AFTERMATH: 1790-1899 . . . . ... 59

Dispersion of the Haitian Population ... . 60
Livestock Raising and Border Trade . . .. 62
Population Decline . . . . . ... 64
Haitian Dominance in the Central Plain . .. 67
Types of Landholdings and Land Tenure . .. 71
The Landscape: 1899 . . . .. . . 75
Government Policies as Key Landscape
Determinants . . . . . . . .. 78


. . . vii

. . ix

. . . 1

. . . 1

. . . 17




1900-1961 . . . . . . . . .. 83

Settlement of the Border Dispute . . .. 84
Trujillo's Dominicanization Policies . .. 85
Estimd and Development of the Haitian
Frontier . . . . . . . ... 91
Settlement and Population . . . ... 97
Changing Land Use: 1900-1961 . . ... 102
From Cattle Raising to Farming . .. 102
Early Cash Crops . . . . .. 104
Agricultural Land Use under
Trujillo ... ... ... .... 105
From Subsistence to Commercial
Farming in Elias Pifa . . ... 111
Land-Use Change in Belladere ..... 112
Changes in the Physical Landscape:
1900-1961 . . . . . . . . 114
Government Policies as Key Landscape
Determinants . . . . . . .. 118

SETTLEMENT: 1962-1974 . . . . . .. 122

The Balaguer Development Program:
1966-1974 . . . . . . . .. 123
Transportation and Isolation . . . .. 125
Population Trends . . . . . . .. 127
Settlement Patterns . . . . . .. 131
Internal Migrations . . . . . ... 133
External Migrations . . . . . .. 136
The Border: An Ineffective Barrier ... . 141

LAND USE . . . . . . . ... 145

Land Ownership and Tenure . . . ... 145
Types of Crops . . . . . . ... 149
Farming Practices . . . . . ... 158
Cooperative Farm Labor . . . . .. 161
Superstition in Agriculture . . . ... 163
The Farm Fallow . . . . . . ... 165
Responses to the Shortening Fallow ... . 167
Contrasts in Farming Systems . . ... 175

CONCLUSION . . . . . . . .. 179

Summary: Government Policies as Long-
term Landscape Determinants . . . .. 179


Discussion . . . . . . . ... 184
Conclusion . . . . . . . ... 191


SAN JUAN VALLEY . . . . . . .. 198

PANIOLA . . . . . . . . ... 200


PINA AND BELLADERE . . . . . . .. 207



MARCH 29, 1975 . . . . . . . .. 214

BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . ... . . . . 216

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . . ... 224


Figure Page

1 Aerial Photograph of the Border between
Elias Pina, Dominican Republic, and
Belladere, Haiti . . . . . . . 2

2 The Study Region . . . . . . . 6

3 Monthly Rainfall in the San Juan Valley-
Central Plain (in Millimeters) ..... .'. 19

4 Topographic Barriers to Precipitation,
San Juan Valley-Central Plain . . .. 21

5 Surface Drainage, San Juan Valley-
Central Plain . . . . . . .. 24

6 Natural Subregions, San Juan Valley-
Central Plain . . . . . . ... 26

7 Natural Vegetation, San Juan Valley-
Central Plain . . . . . . ... 30

8 Scattered Pine Trees near Belladere . . 32

9 Interrelationships among Geology,
Natural Subregions, Vegetation and
Land Use . . . . . . . ... 35

10 Colonial Hispaniola . . . . ... 39

11 Settlement and Land Cover, San Juan
Valley-Central Plain: 1789 . . . ... 53

12 Settlement and Land Cover, San Juan
Valley-Central Plain: 1899 . . . ... 77

13 Boundary Changes and Disputed Terri-
tory: 1929-1935 . . . . . ... 86

14 Trujillo Mansion in Elias Piaa . . .. 92

15 Club Hotel in Belladere . . . . .. 95

16 Land Use-Land Cover, Elias Pina-
Belladere: 1900 . . . . . ... 98

Figure Page

17 Land Use-Land Cover, Elias Piia-
Belladere: 1958 . . . . . ... 99

18 Animal-powered Sugar Mill in Belladere . 106

19 Government-built Irrigation Canals ... . 107

20 Transportation and Settlement . . .. 110

21 Charcoal Making near Belladere . . ... 116

22 Population Growth and Density in
Belladere and Elias Pina . . . . .. 128

23 Land Use-Land Cover, Elias Pifa-
Belladere: 1974 . . . . . ... 132

24 Irrigated Rice Cultivation in
Elias Piia . . . . . . . ... 151

25 Hillside Terracing in Belladere . . .. 169

26 Steep Slopes being Prepared for Culti-
vation near Elias Piia . . . . .. 173


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the
Graduate Council of the University of Florida in Partial
Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of
Doctor of Philosophy



Ernest Charles Palmer

June, 1976

Chairman: Gustavo A. Antonini
Major Department: Geography

This research project traces the evolution of the con-

trasting Haitian and Dominican landscapes along the border-

lands of central Hispaniola. Primary emphasis is on the role

of public policies as determinants of land use and settlement


Past landscapes are cartographically reconstructed

based on information from historical documents, sequential

aerial photography, and field interviewing. The resulting

settlement and land-use maps are analyzed to explain the

evolution of the frontier landscape.

The study region consists of a portion of the Artibo-

nite River watershed in the Central Plain (Haiti)--San Juan

Valley (Dominican Republic). Detailed field research was

confined to the area immediately adjacent to the internation-

al border in the municipality of Elias Piha, Dominican Repub-

lic, and the commune of Belladere, Haiti. The region was

selected for study because of the Dominican government's

interest in expanding irrigation systems westward to the bor-

der and because of the interest on the part of the Haitian

government in protecting the Artibonite watershed upstream

from the large man-made reservoir, Lake Peligre.

Results of the study indicate that government policies

from the early colonial period to the present have, indeed,

played a significant role in the development of the contrast-

ing frontier landscapes. The most far-reaching of these

policies included the following: the early Spanish colonial

policy of neglect for Hispaniola which led to the loss of the

western third of the island to France; the Spanish policy of

reserving the frontier for extensive cattle raising on large

land grants as opposed to the Haitian policy of encouraging

subsistence farming through the distribution of small land-

holdings; Haitian militarism during the first half of the

nineteenth century which maintained the Dominican frontier in

an underpopulated state and, in effect, retarded the processes

of deforestation and soil depletion; and the Dominican fron-

tier development programs of the Trujillo and Balaguer govern-

ments as contrasted to the Haitian government's general poli-

cy of laissez faire toward rural development.

In recent years mechanized agriculture, irrigation

and modern communication and' transportation have transformed

the Dominican borderlands while the Haitian frontier has re-

mained little changed and isolated from national life. Com-

mercial agriculture has become the dominant economic activity

on the Dominican side while subsistence farming has remained

the way of life for the great majority of Haitians.

Despite their differences, however, the Dominican and

Haitian borderlands are facing the same problems of growing

population pressure, declining soil fertility and shortening

fallow. In Haiti, where soil depletion is more advanced, the

fallow has been practically eliminated. Deprived of the

fallow as a means of restoring soil fertility, the Haitian

farmers have expanded their system of intercropping and

developed additional techniques including hillside terracing,

mulching, composting and contouring by which they are able to

maintain their land in continuous production. Immediately

across the border, however, where the forces of population

pressure and soil depletion are less extreme the Dominican

farmers have yet to resort to similar labor-demanding intensi-

fication techniques.


Purpose and Scope

This study concerns man's impact on the landscape

along the Haitian-Dominican border of Central Hispaniola.

Evolving settlement and land use activities and their

impact on the physical resource base of the region are

evaluated for the period 1492 to 1974.

The border which separates Haiti and the Dominican

Republic bisects a land of common physical resources, yet

man's influence on the land has been so different from one

side of the border to the other that striking contrasts

have developed. Along many portions of the border the

landscape changes abruptly from relatively dense forest on

the Dominican side to deforested and virtually barren land

on the Haitian side (Figure 1). The change is so marked

that upon first glance it appears that the border must

follow a physical feature such as a high ridge which might

cause a sudden climatic change; however, this is not so.

The differences in vegetation and soil erosion from one

side of the border to the other are merely the results of

man's activities on the land.

Figure 1: Aerial Photograph of the Border between Elias Piia,
Dominican Republic, and Belladere, Haiti

Conceptually, the geographical contrasts along the

border are viewed in this study not simply as the results

of historic accidents, but rather as products of contrast-

ing public policies which have differentially affected land

use and settlement. These differing patterns of settle-

ment and land use over time have altered the physical re-

source base and have led to the contrasting agricultural

potentials apparent on the contemporary landscape. By

relating historical changes in settlement and land use to

specific public policies, this study demonstrates both the

long and short-range effects of man's activities on the

land. Such an approach is particularly useful as it il-

lustrates empirically the inter-relatedness of factors

influencing landscape change through time and thereby can

provide a basis for planning future policies related to

agricultural development in the region.

The historical-geographical approach used in the

present study is termed "landscape evolution"; it is based

on concepts first stated by Sauer and the University of

California, Berkeley School of Geography, and more recent-

ly by Niddrie at the University of Manchester, Antonini

at the University of Florida and Webb at Columbia University.

Sauer, whose ample research reflects his appreciation of

an historical perspective, based this approach on his con-

viction that an understanding of present settlement patterns

is possible only through a reconstruction of past land-

scapes.1 Niddrie used a comparable historical approach

in his study of land use in Tobago.2 Webb termed such

an historical perspective on settlement geography "land-

scape evolution" and noted that any present cultural

landscape represents a selective accumulation of past

determinants as well as contemporary influences.3 Antonini

enlarged upon these concepts empirically and in quantitative

terms by applying the "landscape evolution" concept to his

historical interpretations of landscape change in the

Dominican Republic.4

The landscape evolution approach is a conceptual

framework which places the physical resource base within

a dynamic continuum of interacting cultural processes

termed "determinants." The present study includes such

determinants as settlement patterns, farming practices and

methods of land preparation. In order that the study may

have practical future applications, emphasis is on specific

iCarl O. Sauer, "Forward to Historical Geography,"
Annals of the Association of American Geographers 31
2David L. Niddrie, Land Use and Population in Tobago,
The World Land Use Survey, Monograph 3 (London: A. P.
Taylor & Co., 1961).
3Kempton Webb, "Landscape Evolution: a Tool for
Analyzing Population Resource Relationships," in Geography
in a Crowding World, ed. Wilbur Zelinsky (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1970), pp. 218-234.
4Gustavo A. Antonini, Processes and Patterns of Land-
scape Change in the Linea Noroeste, Dominican Republic
(Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1968).
Katherine C. Ewel and Howard M. Tupper,
Population and Energy: a Systems Analysis of Resource Utili-
zation in the Dominican Republic (Gainesville: University
Press of Florida, 1975).


cultural determinants and landscape features which are the

product of both direct and latent public policies.

The study region, known as the San Juan Valley in

the Dominican Republic and the Central Plain in Haiti, is

an area of approximately 4,000 square kilometers located

almost entirely within the Artibonite River drainage basin

in Central Hispaniola5 (Figure 2). The primary criterion

for selecting this region for study is its current importance

to both the Haitian and Dominican governments. Haitian

officials are concerned with the region because it forms a

part of the Artibonite watershed immediately upstream from

Lake Peligre, the large man-made reservoir which was com-

pleted in 1950. These officials, concerned with prolonging

the life-span of the Peligre Hydroelectric Project, clearly

see the need for controlling siltation in the lake by

instituting soil control measures and land management

programs upstream from the dam. The Dominican government's

interest in the study region stems from its need to extend

irrigation and to diversify agricultural production in the

western portion of the adjacent San Juan Valley. Recently,

Haitian and Dominican leaders have come to realize the

importance of collaborative efforts for protecting their

common physical resources within the borderlands. These

5"Artibonite" is the French spelling; "Artibonito" is
the Spanish spelling. In this study the French spelling
is used as it more closely approximates the English pro-

government officials have participated in unprecedented

discussion of cooperative programs between the two govern-


All in all, the unique cultural characteristics of

the borderland, relaxed political relations between Haiti

and the Dominican Republic, and the strong interest by

both governments in fostering development within the

region provided strong motivation to carry out the present


Historical Background

Descriptive, historical literature formed a corner-

stone of the research in compiling land-use and settlement

maps. From original records it was possible to define

historical periods in the evolution of the present land-

scape and to represent each time period cartographically.

The following periods are delineated: 1492 to 1789, the

time of Spanish and French colonization; 1790 to 1899, the

era of recurrent revolution and political strife; 1900 to

1961, the period of modernization and development; and 1962

to 1974, the contemporary period.

Events in Haiti were especially well documented

during the French colonial period owing to the great im-

portance of the colony's sugar production to the French

economy. During the nineteenth century, scholars and

6Listin Diario (Santo Domingo), 5 August 1972.


curiosity seekers alike investigated the phenomenon of

the first black republic and published their reports which

were often more like travelogues than objective studies.

Twentieth-century anthropologists, geographers and other

social scientists, not to mention missionaries, social

workers, and foreign technicians, have been attracted to

Haiti for a variety of reasons and have published innumer-

able reports. In general, the Dominican Republic has been

less researched. During the colonial period, the lack of

interest was the result of the colony's small population

and relative unimportance compared with Spain's other

possessions in the New World. More recently, the Dominican

Republic has simply lacked the sense of the exotic which

attracts so much attention to Haiti.

Despite the mass of literature on the two countries,

there is relatively little pertaining directly to the long-

neglected central borderlands. An account of preconquest

cultures of Hispaniola is found in Krieger's essay on "The

Aborigines of the Ancient Island of Hispaniola."7 Although

containing no information on the western part of the island,

the works of Las Casas and Oviedo are invaluable for an

understanding of the early years of the Spanish colony.8

7Herbert W. Krieger, "The Aborigines of the Ancient
Island of Hispaniola," Annual Report, 1929 (Washington:
Smithsonian Institution, 1930), pp. 473-506.
8Bartolom6 de las Casas, La apolog6tica historic de
las Indias, 13 vols. (Madrid: Nueva Biblioteca Aut6noma
Espahola, 1909).
Gonzdlez Ferndndez de Oviedo y Valdez, Historia
general y natural de las Indias, 4 vols. (Madrid: Academia
Real de la Historia, 1851-1855).

Several useful essays, parts of which deal with the study

region, have been reprinted in volumes edited by the

Dominican historian Rodriguez Demorizi; of particular

value are the accounts of Ldpez de Velasco, Araujo y Rivera,

and Alcocer, dealing with the Spanish colony in the six-

teenth and seventeenth centuries.9

The work by Vassibre contains valuable information

on the French colony of Saint Domingue.10 The best account

of the buccaneers, who played an important though indirect

role in the development of the central part of the island

from about 1630 to the 1690s, is found in the excellent work

by Oexmelin.11 Unquestionably the single most important

source for any geographical study of eighteenth-century

Hispaniola is the four-volume study by Moreau de Saint-Mery,

two volumes of which are devoted to the Spanish colony and

two to the French. As the central borderlands were entirely

9juan L6pez de Velasco, "Geograffa de la isla es-
pahola, 1574," in Relaciones geograficas de Santo Domingo,
2 vols., ed. Emilio Rodriguez Demorizi (Santo Domingo:
Editora del Caribe, 1970), pp. 13-32.
Fernando Araujo y Rivera, "Descripci6n de la isla
espafola o de Santo Domingo, 1699," in Relaciones hist6ri-
cas de Santo Domingo, 3 vols., ed. Emilio Rodriguez
Demorizi (Ciudad Trujillo: Editora Montalvo, 1942-1957),
Ger6nimo Alcocer, "Relaci6n sumaria, 1650," in Re-
laciones hist6ricas de Santo Domingo, 3 vols., ed. Emilio
Rogriguez Demorizi (Ciudad Trujillo: Editora Montalvo,
1942-1 57), 1:197-268.
Pierre de Vaissiere, Saint Domingue, la soci6t6
et la vie creole sous l'ancien regime, 1629-1789 (Paris:
Librairie Acad6mique, 1909).
11Alexandre-Olivier Oexmelin, Histoire des avanturiers
flibustiers qui signalez dans les Indies, 4 vols. (Travoux:
Par la Companie, 1744).

Spanish territory at the time of Saint-Mery's writing, the

area of interest in this study is included in his volumes

on the Spanish colony.12 The primary source for informa-

tion on the generally neglected subject of overland trade

between the Spanish and French colonies is the eighteenth-

century study by Raynal.13

Useful information about nineteenth-century Haiti

is found in a series of books written by Europeans, some

of whom went to Haiti to oversee investments, or to confirm

the widespread accounts of the decline and chaos which had

followed the expulsion of the French. Of particular note are

the accounts by Harvey, Franklin, Brown, Candler, and

Hazard.14 The little-known work by Thoby is of interest for

any study of land use in Haiti.15

12M. L. E. Moreau de Saint-Mery, A Topographical and
Political Description of the Spanish Part of Saint Domingo,
2 vols., trans. William Cobbett (Philadelphia: By the
Author, 1796).
13Guillaume Thomas Frangois Raynal, A Philosophical
and Political History of the Settlements of the Europeans
in the East and West Indies, 10 vols., trans. J. Justamond
(London: T. Cadel, 1776).
14William W. Harvey, Sketches of Haiti from the Ex-
pulsion of the French to the Death of Christophe (1821;
reprint ed., London: Frank Cass and Co., 1971).
James Franklin, The Present State of Haiti (1828;
reprint ed., London: Frank Cass and Co., 1971).
Jonathan Brown, The History and Present Condition
of St. Domingo, 1837 (1837; reprint ed., London: Frank
Cass and Co., 1972).
John Candler, Brief Notices of Hayti with its Con-
dition, Resources and Prospects (London: Thomas Ward and
Co., 1842).
Samuel Hazard, Santo Domingo, Past and Present:
with a Glance at Haiti (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1873).
TbArmand Thoby, La question agraire en Haiti (Port-
au-Prince: n.p., 1888).

The only non-polemical studies of the Dominican-

Haitian boundary are by the Dominican historian Peha Batlle

and the Dominican geographer Tolentino Rojas.16 Unfortu-

nately, only one volume of Peia Batlle's projected two-

volume study was published and it included material only

to the year 1900. It is said that government censorship

and intimidation during Trujillo's thirty years in power

prevented the publication of the second volume. That this

might indeed have been true is suggested by the extremely

polemical nature of the several border studies which were

published during the Trujillo regime. Lamentably, most

border studies by Haitian authors during the present century

are equally polemical.

The physical geography of the central borderlands

has received scant attention in the literature. Geological

reports on the Dominican Republic by Gabb, although very

detailed for some regions, include little information on

the central borderlands.17 The two most complete studies

covering the border region were carried out by the United

16Manuel Pefa Batlle, Historia de la cuesti6n fron-
teriza Dominico-Haitiana (Ciudad Trujillo: Luis Sdnchez
Andujar, 1946).
Vicente Tolentino Rojas, Historia de la division
territorial, 1492-1943 (Ciudad Trujillo: Editorial El
Diario, 1944).
17William M. Gabb, "Notes on the Geology of Santo
Domingo," American Journal of Science, ser. 3, art. 36
"On the Topography and Geology of Santo
Domingo," Transactions of the American Philosophical So-
ciety, 15 (January, 1881) :49-260,


States Geological Survey under the direction of Woodring

and Vaughan during the United States Marine occupations of

the two countries.18 The more recent geological study of

Haiti by Butterlin draws heavily on the work of Woodring.19

The recent Organization of American States natural resource

inventories of both Haiti and the Dominican Republic have

proved to be useful sources.20

Three contemporary studies which have dealt with

border areas of Hispaniola are Crist's article on the cul-

tural dichotomy along the southern border, Wood's interpre-

tation of land use and settlement in northern Haiti, and

Antonini's historical study of northwestern Dominican

Republic.21 No published study exists dealing concurrently

with the central borderlands of both the Dominican Republic

18Wendell P. Woodring, John D. Brown and Wilbur S.
Burbank, Geology of the Republic of Haiti (Port-au-Prince:
Geological Survey of the Republic of Haiti, 1924).
Thomas Wayland Vaughan et al., A Geological Re-
connaissance of the Dominican Republic (Washington, D.C.:
United States Geological Survey, 1921).
19Jacques Butterlin, G6ologie g6nerale et rdgionale
de la Rdpublique d'Haiti (Paris: Institut des Hautes
Etudes de l'Am6rique Latine, 1960).
20Organization of American States, Reconocimiento
y evaluacidn de los recursos naturales de la Repdblica
Dominicana (Washington, D.C.: Organization of American
States, 1967).
Organization of American States, Haiti, mission
d'assistance technique int4gr6e (Washington, D.C.: Or-
ganization of American States, 1972).
21Raymond E. Crist, "Cultural Dichotomy on the Island
of Hispaniola," Economic Geography 18 (1952): 105-122.
Harold A. Wood, Northern Haiti: Land, Land Use and
Settlement (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1963).
Antonini, Processes and Patterns of Landscape

and Haiti. The logistics of such a study, particularly the

difficulty for many years of obtaining freedom of passage

back and forth across the border, have discouraged potential

researchers. Relaxation of political tensions over the

past four years has made the present study possible.

Field Methods

The area selected for detailed field study comprises

the Dominican municipality of Elias Piia and the adjacent

Haitian Commune of Belladere.22 Administrative units were

chosen for comparison so that the study could benefit from

census information on population and agriculture. Criteria

for selecting the areas for comparative study were their

adjoining locations, approximate equal area, and marked

changes in land use from one side of the border to the other

as indicated on aerial photographs,23

Field research consisted of mapping land use and

conducting structured interviews with both village elders

and local farmers. Land-use mapping was carried out using

compass traverse methods and the information verified on

2The entire San Juan Valley-Central Plain was
studied from a historical perspective with reconnias-
sance-level field work but the more detailed field re-
search including aerial photographic interpretation, field
mapping and interviewing was limited to a much smaller,
representative region adjoining the border. Both the
municipality and commune are roughly equivalent to a coun-
ty in the United States.
23The commune of Belladere covers an area of 300.37
square kilometers and the municipality of Elias Piha 357
square kilometers.

aerial photography taken in 1958, was plotted directly on

the 1:50,000 scale topographic maps covering the region.

Interviews with older residents were designed to

elicit responses describing changes in such landscape

features as location of towns, types of crops grown, changes

in agricultural methods, and changes in forest cover which

have occurred within their period of memory. Only those

people who were recognized leaders and who were old enough

to remember at least as far back as the early years of the

present century were interviewed. A minimum of two inter-

views was conducted in each of the fourteen rural sections

(the smallest administrative unit) on the Dominican side of

the border. On the Haitian side, the same total number of

interviews was conducted (Appendix 1).

Interviews with local farmers were designed to

elicit information on current agricultural practices and to

verify land use patterns. Data obtained from these inter-

views along with information gleaned by direct observation

was intended to complement and explain the information

recorded on the twentieth-century land-use maps. The in-

corporation of such information assisted in completing

the account of landscape evolution to the year 1974. Inter-

views based on a twenty-eight item questionnaire were

conducted throughout Belladere (Appendix 1). A sample size

of 1 percent of the heads of households, for a total of

sixty-two interviews, was used basing household size on the

figure of five persons per house.24 These interviews were

based on a random sample on a uniform grid; the sample

design was stratified by approximate population density

in the region. Comparable data for Elias Piha were ob-

tained from the Dominican Population Census of 1970 and

the Dominican Agricultural Census of 1971.

Plan of Presentation

Following this introduction, Chapter II is con-

cerned with the physical setting of central Hispaniola,

its climate, landforms, and vegetation. Chapters III and

IV deal with settlement and land use during the historical

period from the discovery of the island to the beginning

of the Haitian revolution in 1790, and then from the

Haitian revolution to the end of the nineteenth century,

respectively. Chapter V, based on oral history accounts,

covers the period 1900 to 1961, the time of most rapid

landscape change. Chapter VI deals with population and

settlement trends from the death of the Dominican dictator

Rafael Trujillo to 1974. These historical chapters are

accompanied by land-use and settlement maps which, when

examined sequentially, illustrate the changes which have

occurred in the study region from one period to the next.

Chapter VII relates contemporary agriculture and land use

24Household size is based on figures from the Service
of Malaria Eradication, Port-au-Prince.



on both sides of the border to present-day landscape con-

ditions. Chapter VIII is a summary of the results of the

study and concludes with general considerations regarding

possible future changes within the region.


Location and Extent

The study region consists of the San Juan Valley in

the Dominican Republic and its westward extension, the

Central Plain of Haiti. This northwest-southeast trending

physiographic region, one of the largest interior plains of

Hispaniola, covers about 2,000 square kilometers on each

side of the border. The northern limit of the Valley-Plain

is the south-facing escarpment of the Cordillera Central

(Massif du Nord), the island's principal mountain range,

while its southern boundary is the north-facing escarpment

of the Sierra de Neiba (Montagnes Noires). To the east,

the region narrows near the confluence of the San Juan and

Yaque del Sur rivers where spurs from the Sierra de Neiba

and the Cordillera Central extend out onto the valley floor.2

iMoreau de Saint-Mery referred to the Haitian portion
of the study region as the Plain of Guava. The name Central
Plain was first used by William F. Jones in "A Geological Re-
connaissance of Haiti," Journal of Geology 26 (1918):720.
2The eastern limit of the valley is sometimes said to
be near the town of Padre las Casas further to the east.
Although this additional area falls within the same drainage
basin, its mountainous terrain precludes it from inclusion
in the same physiographic region. The Central Plain-San
Juan Valley is sometimes included with the Azua Plain as a
single physical region. It appears, however, that the two
are sufficiently separated physiographically to warrant
separate classification.

The western limit is defined by outliers from the Massif du Nord

and Montagnes Noires. As a whole, the study region varies in

width from sixteen kilometers at Hinche to forty kilometers along

the international border; it measures approximately 150 kilome-

ters from east to west. Elevation above sea level ranges between

300 and 400 meters with a slight downward slope from west to east.


Topographic barriers, the Northeast Trade Winds and both

the continental and Atlantic high-pressure systems are the pri-

mary climatic influences all of which combine to influence devel-

opment of a bi-modal precipitation pattern in the study region.

The seasons of highest rainfall, April to June and September to

October, occur when the Trades are most laden with moisture and

the two high-pressure systems have declined. The two dry seasons,

from December to March and to a lesser extent, from July to August,

occur as a result of the dominating influence of the high-

pressure systems and relative lack of moisture in the Trade Winds.

Rainfall in the study region is generally unreliable and varies

greatly from year to year (Figure 3). The region is subject to

frequent droughts.3

Despite universal belief in the study region that
drought is a recent phenomenon, precipitation figures for
the past 35 years show no decline (Appendix 2). Colonial
writings indicate that the San Juan Valley has long been
subject to droughts: "In the Canton of San Juan they raise
many animals, but the region is subject to severe droughts
...." (Saint-Mery, Topographic and Political Description of
the Spanish Part of Saint Dominqo, 1:259.)



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The northwest-southeast trending mountain ranges

act as a partial barrier to precipitation (Figure 4). As

the mountains decrease in height from east to west, mean

annual rainfall increases from 949 mm in San Juan de la

Maguana to 1,633 mm in Elias Pina and 1,902 mm in Maissade.4

Temperatures in the study region show little seasonal

variation. Mean monthly temperatures in San Juan de la

Maguana are 26.4C for August and 21.50C for January. These

temperatures increase slightly to the west. Mean monthly

temperatures in Hinche are 28.80C for August and 22.50C in

January.5 High temperatures are associated with high evapo-

transpiration rates which, along with high soil permeability,

lead to the semi-arid conditions in much of the region.

Geomorphology and Natural Subregions

Geomorphic characteristics of the present landscape

can be explained by an outline of events in the geologic

history of the region. Indications are that during an ear-

lier geologic era drainage of the entire Central Plain-San

Juan Valley was in a southeastern direction through the

organization of American States, Reconocimiento y
evaluaci6n de los recursos naturales de la Republica Domini-
cana, p. 2.
Organization of American States, Haiti, mission d'
assistance technique integrde, p. 448.
organization of American States, Reconocimiento y
evaluaci6n de los recursos naturales de la Rep6blica Domini-
cana, p. 437.
Organization of American States, Haiti, mission d'
assistance technique int4gr6e, p. 463.


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present-day San Juan Valley and out to sea via the channel of

what is today the Yaquedel Sur River. During that time,

Pliocene sediments were laid down throughout the length of

the San Juan Valley.6 With the change in course of the Artibon-

ite River, most of these sediments were eroded away leaving

only remnants. The accordant summits of these Pliocene ero-

sion remnants gradually decrease in altitude from west to

east constituting evidence of the previous drainage system.7

The San Juan Valley owes its relatively high fertility to

this earlier southeastward drainage system.

The diversion of the Artibonite River from its east-

ward course to its present channel has not yet been ex-

plained but stream piracy by a southwest-flowing stream

in the Artibonite Valley was probably involved. By a

process of headward erosion, the smaller stream eventually

captured the waters of the Artibonite and diverted them

through the Montagnes Noires.8 The principal effect of

this change in drainage was the lowering of the base level

thereby increasing the rate of down-cutting in the entire

drainage basin, particularly in that part of the region

nearest the Artibonite. Less resistent Pliocene and Miocene

sediments were removed leaving remnants of the resistent

6Woodring, Brown and Burbank, Geology of the Republic
of Haiti, p. 381.
8Ibid., p. 382.
Harold A. Wood, "Stream Piracy in the Central Plateau
of Hispaniola," The Canadian Geographer 8 (1956):46-54.

Miocene conglomerate which account for the rugged terrain in the

central portion of the region. The eastern portion of the San

Juan Valley continued to be drained in a southeastward direc-

tion and therefore was spared the increased stream erosion

which produced the hilly topography further to the west.

The study region currently contains two separate

watersheds with the western two-thirds draining in a south-

west direction through the Artibonite River and the eastern

portion draining to the southeast by means of the San Juan

and Yaque del Sur Rivers (Figure 5). The drainage divide,

consisting of a ten-meter-high gravel bench, is located

three kilometers east of the town of Pedro Corto. The

principal tributaries of the Artibonite are the Macasia

River in the San Juan Valley and the Guayamouc River in

the Central Plain. Other than the above-mentioned rivers,

the only streams providing a perennial water supply adequate

for irrigation are the Mijo and El Llano rivers of the San

Juan Valley and the Honde Vert River in the Central Plain.

Groundwater is of little potential use owing to its high


Woodring described the Central Plain-San Juan Valley

as a southeast plunging syncline broken by occasional

secondary synclinal and anticlinal folds.9 Throughout the

region, rocks dip in toward the center of the Valley-Plain

at about ten to fifteen degrees. Sedimentary rocks underlie

9Woodring, Brown and Burbank, Geology of the Republic
of Haiti, p. 161.




the entire region with the exception of a limited zone of

basalts and andesites which emerge onto the valley floor

from the mountains north of Las Matas de Farfan. The

underlying sedimentary strata vary in age from Eocene to

Recent. Rocks of Eocene age are limited to the limestone

mountains to the south of Elias Pina. Oligocene limestones

are found in the same mountains as well as in the northern

and southern borders of the syncline. Miocene strata con-

sisting of limestones, sandstones, schists, clays and

conglomerates are the most common types of country rocks

found within the study region. Pliocene sediments, con-

sisting principally of unconsolidated sands and gravels,

underlie the vicinity of Elias Piia. Rocks of Recent age

compose the gravel terrace found in the eastern end of the

San Juan Valley.10

The study region may be divided into four natural

subregions based upon landforms and surficial lithology

(Figure 6). Subregion I consists of alluvial plains and

terraces. In Haiti, narrow floodplains adjoin the present-

day rivers, while to the east in the San Juan Valley,

alluvial soils and related landforms are found both near

the Haitian border at Elias Pina and El Llano, and in the

extreme east on the high gravel terrace near San Juan de la

10Organization of American States, Reconocimiento y
evaluaci6n de los recursos naturales de la Repdblica Domini-
cana, Mapas.
Organization of American States, Haiti, mission d'
assistance technique intdgree, Cartes.

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Maguana. Subregion I has deep, dark brown calcareous soils

of high potential productivity. An impermeable strata under-

lying the soils near San Juan de la Maguana provides the

pedalogic conditions suitable for intensive irrigated rice

production. Near El Llano, to the west, reduced water

retention and increased soil permeability make irrigated

rice cultivation a marginal endeavor.

Subregion II is a slightly undulating interior

plain with stream-derived Pliocene gravels and silts resting

on Miocene sedimentary rocks. Loamy soils broken by occasion-

al patches of sand characterize this subregion. These soils

are considered cultivable, but without irrigation they are

not highly productive. The intermittent nature of the

streams restricts the use of surface water for irrigation.

Subregion III covers most of the Valley-Plain; itis

an area of ridge and terrace topography which becomes in-

preasingly rugged in the vicinity of the Artibonite River.

Local relative relief varies from five to thirty meters

near Hinche in the central west. Around Belladere relative

relief increases to 150 meters; in this area stream dis-

section has caused advanced erosion and has created a bad-

lands topography. Soils in Subregion III are generally

clayey in texture and vary from light to dark brown in

color. Deforestation and continued cultivation have had a

degenerative effect on the soils. The steeper slopes and

summits have been denuded of their forest cover and soils

have been eroded in many places exposing the underlying

rocks. Subsistence farming is the principal land use on

the gentler slopes and on the colluvial slopewash of the

gullies and depressions. As a rule, lack of soil moisture

is the primary limitation to agricultural productivity

in this subregion.

Subregion IV consists of folded and faulted moun-

tains. At higher elevations, limestone outcrops often form

a weathered, honeycomb pattern. This karst topography

includes sinkholes and caverns. A most spectacular karst

feature is the underground course of the Honde Vert River

which emerges onto the plain from a cavern at the base of

the escarpment near the Haitian town of Croix Fer about

eight kilometers northwest of Belladere Town.

A permeable limestone country rock and higher amounts

of rainfall due to orographic lifting have produced soils

favorable for forest growth. Although fertile in an un-

disturbed state, the shallow soils are subject to rapid

erosion where the vegetative cover is removed. On the

Dominican side there still exist forested areas which, when

initially cleared, are highly productive for food crops.

On the Haitian side, however, the region is very sparsely

forested with the remaining trees being used as a shade

canopy for coffee growing. The most abrupt contrasts in

natural vegetation between Haiti and the Dominican Republic

consequently are found in this mountainous subregion.

Natural Vegetation

Four natural vegetation zones occur within the study

region: open grassland; mixed grassland and thorn scrub;

thorn scrub; and mixed coniferous-deciduous forest (Figure

9). It should be noted that this zonation is not always

as abrupt as it appears on the map; in most instances

there is some mixing of vegetation types in the transition

from one zone to the next.

Zone I consists of open grassland located in the

northwest portion of the Central Plain. It is one of the

most extensive areas of this vegetation type on the island.

The grassland is broken only by occasional narrow bands

of scrub and small trees along the stream banks. Large

trees are rare. Historical descriptions indicate that

this grassland has remained relatively unchanged since

early Spanish settlement.

In Zone II, the grassland becomes mixed with low thorn

scrub. Among the characteristic scrub varieties are the tabac

cimaron (Buddleja domingensis), guisimo (Guazuma ulmifolia),

and the cactacea raqueta (Euphorbia lactea).llAs recently

as the 1930s, mesquite or bayahonda (Prosopis juliflora)

was the most common scrub, but it has been largely elim-

inated as a consequence of charcoal making. Principal

lIn describing the vegetation on the Haitian side, the
Creole terms are used; for vegetation on the Dominican side,
the Spanish is used. The Latin equivalent is given only the
first time the term is used.

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grasses are the madame michel (Themeda quadrivalvis), zeb

a cotd (Panicum elepliantipes) and zeb guinde (Panicum

maximum). Of these, the six-foot-high madame michel is

the most characteristic and, because it is extremely coarse,

the least valuable for grazing. Madame michel is dominant

in the most rugged terrain and is considered an indicator

of poor soil. It was relatively uncommon early in the

present century before soil erosion became acute.

Zone II, unlike Zone I, was once forested; most of

the deforestation has in fact occurred within memory of

the older residents of the region. Common trees in the

past were the pine or bois pin (Pinus oxidentalis), mango

(Mangifera indica), candel6n (Acaia scleroxylon), campeche

(Haematoxylon campechianum), bois cayman (Lonchocarpus

ehrenbergii), bois de chen (Catalpa longissima), bois cabrit

(Croton sidifolius), and guayacan (Guajacum officinalis).

Joday, the mango is by far the most common, having been

spared because of its value as a food source. Most of the

other trees can be found only in very small quantities.

Several varieties, including casser hache (Aiayphus rhodoxy-

lon), taverno (Lysiloma latisliqua) and bois de chen have

disappeared entirely. In some parts of Zone II only oc-

casional solitary pine trees stand amidst the scrub and

grasses as reminders of the former forest cover (Figure 8).

The division between Zones II and III corresponds

closely to the international boundary as the mixed scrub-

savanna of the Haitian side abruptly changes to simply scrub

Figure 8: Scattered Pine Trees near Belladere

growth in Dominican territory. According to older Domini-

can informants, this dichotomy is of relatively recent

origin; many parts of Zone III, particularly in the less

fertile hilly terrain, were savanna-covered as recently

as the 1920s. The disappearance of grassland on the

Dominican side is the result of normal ecological succession

under prolonged grazing and slash-burn cultivation. The

contrast between Zone II and Zone III can be explained by

the fact that much of the scrub on the Haitian landscape

is continually cut back allowing the grasses to dominate.

Present-day scrub varieties in Zone III include baya-

honda, tabaco cimarr6n, and guasimo. Of these, the bayahonda

is the most characteristic. The raqueta and cayuco (Cereus

hystrix) are the most common cactaceae in this zone.

Formerly, the low-lying alluvial soils of Zone III

were covered with monteria or deciduous forest. Common

trees in the past were the mango, caoba (Swietenia mahagoni),

chicaro (Cassia grandis), alm6cigo (Bursera simaruba), palo

burro (Andira jamaicensis), jobo (Spondias purpurea), capS

(Petitia domingensis), roble (Catalpa longililiqua), cedro

(Cedrela odorata), and nogal (Juglans jamaicensis). Of

these the cedro and nogal have entirely disappeared and the

roble, chacaro, caoba, capa and cajuil have become extremely

rare. The remaining forest stands are found on the river

banks where they have long been protected by law. Character-

istic varieties on the present landscape are the mango,

candel6n, and guayacdn.

Zone IV is a mixed coniferous-deciduous forest

located in the south-central mountains of the study region.

The most characteristic indicator of this zone is the

pine; most lowland hardwoods are found here as well. De-

forestation on the Haitian side has been extreme, but

fortunately, coffee production has necessitated leaving

a minimum number of trees for shade. Saw mills operating

on the Dominican side during the early 1960s made inroads

on the forest cover, but as clear-cutting was not practiced,

the forest was not extensively damaged. The most destruc-

tive agent has been man, clearing off fields by burning.

Physical Features and Land Use

Lithology and geologic structure lead to distinctive

landforms which, when acted upon by climate, produce

characteristic vegetation zones. The use of the land, in

turn, is dependent upon all of these factors. This may be

illustrated in a systematic fashion by showing the inter-

relationships among geology, natural subregions, natural

vegetation zones and land use in the study region (Figure


It will be noted that the natural vegetation and

land-use portions of the diagram show cross-border differ-

ences. The ridge-terrace terrain of natural subregion III,

for example, yields vegetation which, because of inter-

ference by man, has developed quite differently in Haiti



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and in the Dominican Republic respectively. Similarly,

the forested mountain zone is used on the Dominican side

for subsistence agriculture and on the Haitian side for

commercial coffee production. The designation "disturbed"

in column I of the diagram indicates that the natural

vegetation of the alluvial plains and terraces has been

largely eliminated throughout the region. This is ac-

counted for by the fact that the land is used for intensive

agriculture and is in continual cultivation.


Events in the central borderlands during the period

1492 to 1789 were shaped primarily by the decline of the

Spanish colony, the rise of the cattle trade along the

western frontier, and the development of the French colony

of Saint Domingue on the western third of the island.

After a brief period of economic prosperity lasting until

approximately 1530, the Spanish colony of Hispaniola de-

clined rapidly owing to the exhaustion of its gold deposits

and the decimation of the Indian labor supply.1 Beginning

in the 1530s and lasting throughout much of the period from

1492 to 1789, the colony suffered a steady loss of popula-

tion to Spain's more prosperous possessions in Cuba, Peru

and Mexico. With the growing importance of Spain's other

colonies, Hispaniola fell into neglect and was relegated

IThe aborigines called the island Hayti or Quisqueya.
Columbus named the entire island Espaiola and this name
was used until 1536. From 1536 until 1697, the island was
called Santo Domingo. Then, with the ceding of the western
part to France in 1697, the island was variously called
Santo Domingo, Hispaniola or Saint Domingue. The name
Hispaniola was used by some writers as early as the fif-
teenth century. In this study, to avoid confusion, the
word Hispaniola will be used throughout.

to the role of a rest station for Spanish ships en route

to Cuba or the American continent.

Many of the Spanish colonists who remained on Hispaniola

turned to livestock raising as a less labor-intensive endeavor

than mining, and this new industry rapidly became the economic

mainstay of the colony. Stray cattle from the Spanish herds

provided a livelihood for the buccaneers, groups of foreign ad-

venturers, predominantly French in origin, who had taken refuge

on Tortuga Island off the northwestern coast of Hispaniola in the

early 1630s (Figure 10). French influence in western Hispaniola

increased to such an extent that by the Treaty of Ryswick (1697)

Spain ceded to France the western third of the island. From its

beginning in 1697 until the Haitian Revolution of the 1790s, the

French colony of Saint Domingue influenced events in the study

region through growth of the sugar plantation economy and the

development of overland trade between the two colonies.

Early Settlement

At the time of the Spanish Conquest in 1492, there

were an estimated 1,200,000 aboriginal inhabitants on the

island of Hispaniola, most of them living near the coasts.2

Sauer quotes Peter Martyr as setting the number of
aborigines at 1,200,000. (Carl Sauer, The Early Spanish
Main [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California
Press, 1966], p. 202.)
Sherborn F. Cook and Woodrow Borah, "The Aboriginal
Population of Hispaniola," Essays in Population History
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), 1:376-410.











1 101


According to the early chroniclers, the central part of

the island was sparsely populated and there is no evidence

that the landscape had been significantly altered by man

before the arrival of the Europeans.3

Earliest Spanish settlements on Hispaniola were con-

centrated in the gold-mining areas on the northern slopes

of the central mountain chain in the Cibao Valley. The

founding of the capital city of Santo Domingo on the more

protected southern coast reduced the dominance of the

northern settlements. The central portion of the island,

however, remained of little importance during the early

years of settlement and was known primarily as a link in

the royal road or camino real which connected the northern
and southern coasts.

The first Spanish settlements in the study region

were San Juan de la Maguana, Banica and Hincha (originally

named Guaba, Nueva Guaba or Nueva Guayaba), all founded

as frontier outposts in 1503 by Diego de Velasquez.5 Al-

3The following remarks by las Casas are typical of
the early descriptions of the landscape of the island:
"This land is a marvel to see because of its beauty and
freshness and joy, fertility for all the crops which are
produced here as well as for all of those from Castile,"
(Bartolom4 de las Casas, La apolog6tica historic sumaria
[Edmundo O'Gorman, ed., Mexico: Universidad Nacional Aut6no-
ma de M4xico, 1957], p. 31).
40ne of the few colonial maps which shows the camino
real is found in the following atlas:
M. L. E. Moreau de Saint-Mery, Recueil de vues des
lieux principaux de la colonie frangaise de Saint Domingue
(Paris: M. Ponce, 1791).
5Saint-Mery, A Topographical and Political Descrip-
tion of the Spanish Part of Saint Domingo, 1:253.

though none of the three settlements was listed among the

cities and towns (ciudades y villas) existing in 1505-1506,

they were relatively prosperous in the early years of the

sixteenth century.6 San Juan de la Maguana owed its

prosperity to the establishment of several sugar mills in

the region in the 1550s.7 All three of the first settlements

were listed in 1588 as parish seats; however, by that time

they were declining along with the rest of the Spanish

colony. L6pez de Velasco, in 1574, listed San Juan de la

Maguana among the depopulated towns of the colony.

Settlement in the study region was greatly reduced

by an edict from the Spanish Crown in 1603 and 1604 ordering

the evacuation of a large portion of the western and north-

western parts of tne island in order to combat contraband.

With broad authorization to destroy all suspected centers

of illegal trade, colonial officials forced the evacuation

of most of the Central Plain.9 Only Banica remained as an

isolated settlement in the San Juan Valley throughout the

seventeenth century.

6Antonio Sanchez Valverde, Idea del valor de la isla
Espanola (Ciudad Trujillo: Editora Montalvo, 1947), p. 94.
7Mervyn Ratekin, "The Early Sugar Industry in Espaio-
la," Hispanic American Historical Review 34 (February 1954):
8L6pez de Velasco, "Geografia de la isla Espafola,
1574," 1:25.
9The principal centers of contraband were the north-
west sea ports of Monte Cristi and Puerto Plata and the
western town of Santa Maria de la Vera Paz, located on the
site of Port-au-Prince. These towns were evacuated in 1604
and most of their inhabitants either emigrated to Cuba or
formed the new towns of Monte Plata and Bayaguana near
Santo Domingo city. In order to complete the evacuation of
the Central Plain the following Royal Order of March 10,

Settlement of the study region proceeded at a much

more rapid pace in the eighteenth century owing primarily to

the establishment of the French colony of Saint Domingue

in the western third of the island. After ceding the

western territory to France in 1697, the Spanish government

attempted to prevent further spread of French settlement

by establishing new towns and outposts in the frontier

region. As trade between the two colonies increased, fron-

tier towns were founded as commercial centers. Hincha was

reestablished as a cattle raising center in the early 1700s

and by 1724 it reportedly had a population of 4,500 per-

sons.10 San Juan de la Maguana was resettled in the early

1700s as a center where the surrounding ranching population

might gather for religious services.11 The towns of Las

Matas de Farf6n and Pedro Corto were established in the late

1770s as ecclesiastical dependencies (ermitas or oratorios)

in order to give the scattered population access to Mass.12

B6nica, due to the attraction of its thermal baths, grew

in population throughout the 1700s and was well known as a

health spa.13

1605 was issued: "... that in order to eliminate the settle-
ments of the smugglers which were not included in the origi-
nal orders, do the same with all the rest, .. .so that not
a trace will remain which might encourage our enemies to
return to populate or fortify the region." (Emilio Rodri-
guez Demorizi, "Las devastaciones de 1605 y 1606," 2:123.)
10Saint-Mery, A Topographical and Political Descrip-
tion of the Spanish Part of Santo Domingo, 1:249.
lilbid., 1:253.
13"The springs are surrounded by about 40 houses for
the use of the persons who go there to take the baths the
majority of whom are French." (Danial Lescallier, "Iti-

Early population counts illustrate the growth of

settlement in the region during the eighteenth century. In

the 1780s, the parish of San Juan de la Maguana reportedly

had a population of 6,000; Binica, along with its ecclesi-

astical dependencies of Las Matas de Farf6n, Pedro Corto

and Las Cahobas, had 9,000 inhabitants.14 The population

of the area including Hincha, San Miguel de la Atalaya and

San Rafael was estimated at 12,000 in 1785.15 Moreau de

Saint-Mery estimated the total population of the Central

Plain and San Juan Valley in the 1780s to be 25,000.16

Ascendancy of the French

The evacuation of the western and northwestern parts

of Hispaniola provided the opportunity for the French to

extend their influence and to eventually gain possession

of the western third of the island. French influence in

western Hispaniola began in 1629 when a group of French and

English adventurers established themselves as cattle hunters

nario de un viaje por la parte Espanola de la isla de Santo
Domingo," in Relaciones geogrificas de Santo Domingo, ed.
Emilio Rodriguez Demorizi ISanto Domingo: Editora del
Caribe, 1970], p. 136.)
So important were the baths to the French that dur-
ing border negotiations in 1776, the French insisted that
free access to Banica be included as a clause in any border
treaty. (Saint-Mery, A Topographical and Political Descrip-
tion of the Spanish Part of Saint Domingo, 1:262.)
14Antonio del Monte y Tejada, Historia de Santo Domin-
go, 3 vols. (Santo Domingo: Garcia Hermanos, 1890), 3:91.
15Sinchez Valverde, Idea del valor de la isla Espano-
la, p. 150.
16Saint-Mery, A Topographical and Political Descrip-
tion of the Spanish Part of Saint Domingo, 1:279.

on the northwest coast of the island and began selling

smoked meat to traders en route from Spain to the American

mainland. They became known as boucaniers or buccaneers,

a word derived from boucan which referred to the type of

fire or wooden frame which they used for curing meat.17

By the middle of the seventeenth century the buccaneers

had spread inland throughout the western portion of the

island in search of stray cattle from the Spanish colony.18

A visitor to the island in 1678 wrote that, "... from Cape

Lobos, which is in the middle of the island to Cape Tiburon

which is in the far western extreme, one sees no other peo-

ple but hunters."l9

By 1650, the Spanish government considered the buc-

caneers such a danger that residents of the Spanish colony

were prohibited from traveling to the west and northwest

without government permission.20 The Spanish sent numerous

campaigns against the buccaneers but none was successful as

they had become dispersed throughout the western interior

of the island. In an effort to deprive them of their live-

lihood and thus drive them from the island, the Spanish

sent troops to exterminate the wild cattle. This, however,

had the unexpected effect of forcing the buccaneers to

17In present-day Haitian Creole the word boucan means
a brush fire which the Haitian peasants use to burn the
dried vegetation in their garden plots.
18Alcocer, "Relaci6n sumaria, 1650," p. 209.
190exmelin, Histoire des avanturiers flibustiers qui
se sont signalez dans les Indies, 1:70.
ZOAlcocer, "Relaci6n sumaria, 1650," p. 209.

establish agricultural communities. With the beginning

of agriculture, the permanence of the new settlers was


Although the original groups of French and English

buccaneers had been joined by adventurers of Dutch and

Portuguese extraction, by the mid 1600s the French had

become dominant. In 1665, the French government, recog-

nizing the agricultural potential of the region, began

sending administrators to govern the unofficial colony

and, after gradually extending its influence France gained

legal possession of the western third of the island through

the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697.22

The French colony of Saint Domingue rapidly developed

into France's most valuable overseas possession. In 1699,

long before the colony reached its height, no fewer than

forty frigates traveled between Saint Domingue and France,

while during the same period the Spanish colony of Santo

Domingo was visited by an average of only one Spanish ship

every three years.23 By 1790, the population of Saint

21Raynal, A Philosophical and Political History of
the Settlements of the Europeans in the East and West In-
dies, 3:289.
22Tolentino Rojas, Historia de la division territorial,
1492-1943, p. 35.
France, the Netherlands, England and Spain signed the
Treaty of Ryswick on September 20, 1697, ending the War
of the Palatinate between England and France, and in so
doing, acknowledged William II as King of England and Anne
as his successor, restored the conquests of England and
France in America and allowed France to retain Alsace in
23Raynal, A Philosophical and Political History of the
Europeans in the East and West Indies, 3:22.

Domingue had risen to 534,000 (480,000 black slaves, 24,000

free mulattoes, and 30,000 whites); in the same year, the

population of the Spanish colony was about 125,000 (110,000

whites and 15,000 black slaves).24

The population centers of Saint Domingue, located

primarily on the coastal plains which were appropriate for

plantation agriculture, had little direct influence on the

interior. By the late 1700s, however, the borderlands were

settled in part by escaped slaves or maroons from the French

sugar plantations. It was estimated in 1751 that over 3,000

maroons inhabited the mountains of the interior.25 Although

they were scattered throughout the mountains, most of the

escaped slaves lived in the vicinity of the present-day

Dominican towns of Neiba and San Jos4 de Ocoa. Because of

their contraband activities and other lawlessness, they were

24Brian Edwards, An Historical Survey of the French
Colony of St. Domingo (London: J. Stockdale, 1797), p. 2.
Saint-Mery, A Topographical and Political Descrip-
tion of the Spanish Part of Saint Domingo, 1:49.
Vaissidre gives the following population figures for
San Domingo in 1789: 30,000 whites, 450,000 blacks. (Pierre
de Vaissidre, Saint Domingue, la socift6 et la vie crdole
sous l'ancien regime, 1629-1789 [Paris: Librairie Acad6mique,
1909], p. 153.)
25Theodore Lothrop Stoddard, The French Revolution in
San Domingo (Boston and New York: Riverside Press, 1914),
p. 63.
Yran Debbash, "Le marronage: essai sur la desertion
de l'esclave antillais," L'Annde Sociologique 3 (1961):1-112,
Gabriel Debien, "Les esclaves marrons & Saint Domingue
en 1764," Jamaican Historical Review 142 (1961):9-20.
Richard Price, ed., Maroon Societies: Rebel Slave
Communities in the Americas (New York: Anchor Press, 1973),
pp. 135-429.

considered a menace by the French government and were

frequently pursued and dispersed by military force. Al-

though not specifically documented, it is most likely that

some of these maroons took refuge in the hills and canyons

of the central borderlands. Whatever their origins,

settlers from the French colony were by the late 1700s

the predominant influence in the western end of the Central

Plain. In the 1780s Moreau de Saint-Mery noted about the

towns of San Rafael and San Miguel de la Atalaya that, "...

the Spanish racial features which originally occupied those

lands have disappeared without leaving a trace in the


Throughout the eighteenth century it was the practice

of each outgoing Spanish colonial governor to make a recon-

naissance of the border to ascertain if there had been any

French incursions during his administration. Often, however,

this precaution was neglected and there resulted a gradual

spill-over of settlers from the French to the Spanish side

of the border. Thus began the illegal migrations to the

Spanish territory, a process which was to continue into the

twentieth century and become the chief source of friction

between the two island nations.

The Treaty of Ryswick did not precisely demarcate

the boundary between the two colonies. The new border was

to follow the division between Spanish and French possessions

26Saint-Mery, A Topographical and Political Descrip-
tion of the Spanish Part of Saint Domingo, 1:255.


as they existed at the time of the signing. This was inter-

preted by the French as granting them the territory up to

the Guayubin River, located about thirty-five kilometers

within the territory of present-day Dominican Republic.

The Spanish, however, insisted that the presence of long-

established cattle ranches in that region made it part of

the Spanish colony.27 The disputed territory was the site

of frequent violence until the signing in 1777 of the

Treaty of Aranjuez, shifting the boundary line westward to

a mutually agreeable position (Figure 10). Under the terms

of both treaties, however, it was clear that the entire

Central Plain was Spanish territory.

The Livestock Trade

The livestock trade, which supported the buccaneers

and thereby led indirectly to the division of the island

into two separate colonies, had its beginning soon after

the Spanish conquest. The Spanish Crown granted reparti-

mientos de indios, or the rights to the use of Indian

laborers, for livestock raising as well as for mining.28

By 1504, cattle raising had become an important economic

enterprise, and colonists as well as many Spaniards who

never expected to leave the mother country were soliciting

27Monte y Tejada, Historia de Santo Domingo, 1:255.
28Ibid., 2:33.

royal land grants or mercedes for cattle ranching.29 The

early cattle ranchers shipped cowhides to Spain and provided

cured meat for outfitting Spanish exploration ships.

Early cattle grazing was limited to the mining areas

of the Cibao Valley and the vicinity of the settlement of

Santo Domingo. The San Juan Valley became a livestock

producing region only after a government expedition of 1508

reported on its high grazing potential.30 Rapid growth of

the cattle trade occurred in the 1530s and 1540s as it

replaced mining as the chief economic enterprise of the

island. With the decline of the Indian population, cattle

grazing offered the advantage of requiring relatively little

labor. By the mid 1600s, the San Juan Valley was one of the

major livestock regions of Hispaniola noted especially for

its horses, mules and herds of wild and semi-wild cattle.31

Cattle herding was on an extensive basis. Large numbers of

cattle strayed from the Spanish herds across the Central

Plain and throughout the western part of the island, thus

providing an easy prey for the buccaneers.32

30Ibid., 2:81.
31Alcocer, "Relaci6n sumaria, 1650," 1:203.
32Numerous colorful and intriguing descriptions of the
early livestock herders have been preserved. It was re-
ported that some of the herders owned their animals and
others worked on a share basis, keeping a percentage of the
new calves. Many lived on hog ranches and relied on trained
dogs to guard the animals by day and return them to corrals
at night.
"Their common exercise is to fight with wild animals,
killing bulls with lances to get hides, domesticating wild
horses and mules and killing hogs for meat. This type of
life makes the people almost inhuman and rough, very few

With the founding of the French colony and the

establishment of a growing plantation economy, there devel-

oped a reliable and expanding market for Spanish Santo

Domingo's cattle and animal products. The French converted

even their few grazing areas into cultivated zones.33 As

a result, the economy of the Spanish colony became increas-

ingly dependent upon the livestock trade located along the

western frontier. In return for horses, cattle (both for

slaughter and for work), smoked beef, bacon and hides, the

Spanish received such items of European manufacture as

stockings, hats, linens, guns, hardware, and clothing.34 In

effect, an economic interdependence developed between the

two territories.

There can be no doubt as to the importance of the

livestock trade to the colony of Santo Domingo. Describing

the Central Plain and San Juan Valley in the 1770s, Moreau

de Saint-Mery wrote the following: "All that we have tra-

versed and described from St. Raphael to the little Yaque

(Yaque del Sur River) ... is at present for no other use

than for breeding and raising cattle, intended in great part

of them plant even a small garden. Only those who have
slaves plant any crops at all .... They live in the woods
and fields in a barbarous manner in places which they call
bugios." (Araujo y Rivera, "Descripci6n de la isla EspaBo-
la o de Santo Domingo, 1699," 1:305.)
33Monte y Tejada, Historia de Santo Domingo, 3:67.
34Raynal, A Philosophical and Political History of the
Settlements of the Europeans in the East and West Indies,

for the provisioning of the French colony ....' 5. Sanchez

Valverde, in 1785, urged the Spanish government to support

the cattle industry noting that it had been "... from the

time of the beginning of our decline the only support for


Coincident with the development of the livestock

trade was the evolution of hatos or grazing ranches as the

most prevalent type of landholding in the central border-

lands. Livestock ranches were dedicated to the raising of

horses and cattle on the open range. Moreau de Saint-Mery

described the hatos simply as, "... immense possessions ...

where horses and cattle are raised with little care."37 In

addition to grazing land, the hatos often included small

subsistence agricultural plots, woodlands for supplying

timber, palm groves for providing shade and food for the

animals, and streams for watering the stock. Given the

isolation of the study region, each hato had to be as self-

sufficient as possible. It has been estimated that by the

year 1650, one-third of the island was covered by hatos.38

The Landscape: 1789

In the late 1700s, Lescallier traveled through the

San Juan Valley and recorded his impressions of the land-

3Saint-Mery, A Topographical and Political Descrip-
tion of the Spanish Part of Saint Domingo, 1:279.
JbSinchez Valverde, Idea del valor de la isla Espano-
la, p. 85.
37Saint-Mery, A Topographical and Political Descrip-
tion of the Spanish Part of Saint Domingo, 1:65.
-3Monte y Tejada, Historia de Santo Domingo, 3:17.


scape. He noted that San Juan de la Maguana was, "... quite

important because of the large number of cattle and horses

which grazed on the natural grasses of its beautiful savan-

nahs."39 He further observed that the eastern end of the

valley was completely devoid of forest cover. There was

no evidence of any type of cultivation. To the west of San

Juan near Pedro Corto, the grasslands were gradually re-

placed by scrub (Figure 11). The aridity increased to such

a point between Las Matas and B6nica that the landscape

became "... a confusion of small, sandy and arid hills which

formed a region so sad and monotonous as to make one dis-


The town of Banica was described in the 1780s as

surrounded by a very small savanna which, in turn was

surrounded by a high forest.41 Because of its aridity and

poor soil, the region was considered less desirable for

livestock than the grasslands of San Juan or those further

to the west.

Descriptions of the Central Plain in the late 1700s

mentioned the wide savanna stretching southeastward from

San Miguel de la Atalaya. At a point between Maissade and

and Hinche, where the topography becomes more rugged and

the floodplain gravels and silt of the valley floor give

39Lescallier, "Itinario de un viaje por la part
Espafola de la isla de Santo Domingo," 1:136.
40Ibid., 1:137.
41Saint-Mery, A Topographical and Political Descrip-
tion of the Spanish Part of Saint Dominqo, 1:65.



o "



,. ,'..1 -.' ,' '.2

.,, .o,, C ,
o ~ ~~~ 0 r I Ir
: I '": .+: ..." '. :.

o ; a .
a C

= 3
-"? II
.- E


* 0.l


way to limestone hills and ridges, a sparse forest of hard-

woods and pines became evident and extended eastward into

Spanish territory. These woodlands were interspersed with

grasslands which provided excellent forage for the open-

range cattle. Heavily forested areas were limited to river-

banks and to the margins of the Plain.

Government Policies as Key Landscape Determinants

Government policies played a major role in the evolu-

tion of settlement and land use in the study region from

1492 to 1789. Although many of these policies were never

intended to affect the borderlands, their effects were so

far reaching that they have produced a long-lasting imprint.

Many of the Spanish colonial policies hampered the

development of Hispaniola and contributed to its decline.

Mercantilistic trade restrictions forbade trade with all

but Spanish ships and limited commerce to the Spanish port

of Seville.42 Ironically, it was in protecting their

shipping monopoly in the Caribbean that the Spanish first

routed the buccaneers from their illegal trade center on

St. Kitts Island, from which place they fled to Tortuga

Island and colonized northwest Hispaniola. Early popula-

tion growth was inhibited by laws limiting immigration to

42This was not entirely consistent. For example,
between the years 1548 and 1555 the port of Puerto Plata
was also used by Spanish ships. (Rodriguez Demorizi, "Las
devastaciones de 1605 y 1606," 2:111.)

the Spanish province of Castile. Concentration on mining

and the failure to develop a yeoman farmer class left the

island's economy ill-prepared to survive the precipitous

decline of the Indian labor supply. Although a principal

cause of the extermination of the Indians was the intro-

duction of European diseases, the callous Spanish labor

policies also played an important role. The economic

decline of the Spanish colony and the discovery of silver

on the American mainland led to a general policy of laissez-

faire by the Spanish government. Given the much greater

potential of Mexico and Peru and the declining capacities

of Spain to manage its expanding empire, the neglect of

Hispaniola was inevitable. The result was the loss of

western Hispaniola to the French.

Perhaps the policy which most directly affected the

evolution of settlement in the study region was the evacua-

tion of western and northwestern Hispaniola by the Spanish.

Although the Spanish government recognized its mistake and

reestablished the major towns in the eighteenth century, the

over-all effects of the 1603-1604 depopulation edicts were

long-lasting; the depopulated landscape of the San Juan

Valley encouraged the expansion of French settlement. The

evacuation of the Central Plain was responsible for the

almost complete disappearance of Spanish influence in the

study region.

Efforts by the Spanish government to drive out the

buccaneers through a policy of exterminating the wild cattle

had the reverse effect and forced the French cattle hunters

to begin relying on agriculture for a livelihood. This

change to sedentary agriculture ensured the permanence of

the buccaneers and attracted the attention of the French

government to the agricultural possibilities of the island.

The western territories had been of little value to the

Spanish and constant clashes with the French usurpers had

been a drain on the colonial economy. Growth of the new

colony of Saint Domingue, however, soon surpassed even

French expectations; after the late 1700s, settlers from

the expanding French colony began to dominate the central

borderlands. From that time onward, events in the study

region were shaped by the juxtaposition of the two cultures

Reliance on the livestock trade of the western

frontier as the mainstay of the Spanish colonial economy

set a precedent which was to continue in the study region

throughout the succeeding nineteenth century. Open-range

grazing continued throughout this period and little changed

from past colonial practices. The exchange of cattle and

animal products by the Spanish colonists for European

manufactured goods from French Saint Domingue was a com-

mercial pattern which remained virtually unchanged into the

twentieth century. Livestock ranching encouraged dispersed

settlement which came to characterize the region. The

Spanish preference for herding or grazing--the tradition of

the caballero--to the neglect of cultivation, was well es-

tablished by the eighteenth century in the San Juan Valley

and has continued as is evidenced by the presence of large

cattle ranches in the most fertile parts of the valley

floor to the present day.

French policies were also important in shaping

landscape development in the study region. Government

encouragement of early buccaneer activities in the western

part of Hispaniola led eventually to the establishment of

the French colony of Saint Domingue.

The French colonial policy of focusing entirely on

sugar production to the neglect of livestock raising had

two effects on the borderlands. First, it greatly en-

couraged the frontier livestock industry of the Spanish

colony. And second, by centering population entirely on

the coastal plains, the French left the interior unexploited

and available as refuge for the maroons.

The dispersed settlement pattern characteristic of

the study region had its beginning not only with extensive

cattle raising, as described above, but also with the flight

of blacks from the harsh slave policies of the French.43

Even those maroon bands located on the Spanish side of the

border were composed almost entirely of escaped slaves from

the French plantations rather than from Spanish establish-

4According to Edwards, slavery was more severe in the
French colonies than in either the British or Spanish colo-
nies because the slaves were considered public property.
As such, they were subject to the authority not only of
their immediate master, but of any white. (Edwards, An
Historical Survey of the French Colony of St. Domingo, p.


ments. Slavery in Saint Domingue was much more severe than

in the Spanish colony where the slave was often a cattle

herder and was given considerable freedom of movement. The

severity of slavery in Saint Domingue--an official policy

established only after long debate as to the relative

economic advantages of mild and harsh treatment of slaves--

led to the early dispersion of population into the most

remote recesses and instilled in the Haitian peasant a

preference for the dispersed rural settlement pattern which

characterizes the landscape to the present day.


The period 1790 to 1899 on Hispaniola was marked by

a complex series of political events, frequent changes of

sovereignty and invasions by foreign powers (Appendix 3).

Events in the study region were forged primarily by the

Haitian Revolution which began in 1790 and by its aftermath

of militarism and political turmoil.1 The revolution brought

about a new social order and a new system of landholding

which radically altered the landscape of the Central Plain

and indirectly that of the San Juan Valley throughout this

historical period.

The Haitian Revolution was a complex social phenomenon

the details of which go far beyond the scope of this study.

In the fourteen years between the initial slave uprising in

1790 and the Haitian declaration of independence in 1804,

the blacks of Haiti either killed or expelled most of the

white plantation families, repelled an invading British

army, briefly occupied Santo Domingo and withstood an at-

tempt by Napoleon Bonaparte to regain the colony for France.

The state of upheaval continued during the greater part of

iFor a well-researched study of the Haitian Revolu-
tion see Stoddard, The French Revolution in San Domingo.


the nineteenth century as the new Haitian Republic, under

constant alert for a possible return of the French, at-

tempted to ensure its independence and buttress its de-

fenses against outside intervention. During much of the

period, Haiti carried out a policy of aggression against

the colony of Santo Domingo, launching repeated invasions

from 1801 to 1856. This period of continued hostility set

the stage for the second half of the century during which

time the study region was the site of frequent border in-

cidents and served as a refuge for bandits and revolution-

aries from both nations.

Dispersion of the Haitian Population

The Haitian Revolution and its succeeding repercus-

sions fostered migrations from the coastal plantations to

the interior mountains and plains. Great numbers of newly

freed slaves did not return to their home plantations after

the initial uprising. Others returned only to find that

the destruction of many of the irrigation systems during

the revolt had left the plantations less capable of sup-

porting dense populations.

Migrations continued under the first two Haitian

rulers, L'Ouverture and Dessalines. Both rulers maintained

a plantation system based on obligatory labor in an effort

to restore the economy to the prosperity enjoyed under the

French. All rural inhabitants were required to work on


With each generation the landholding system became more

confused, and although a nation-wide cadastral survey was

proposed as early as 1870, it was never carried out.37

By the late nineteenth century, Haiti was known as

a land of the small proprietor. Little if any arable land

remained unused. The study region, along with the rest

of the country, had been divided into ever smaller private

properties. As late as 1861 in a publication designed to

attract immigration by former slaves from the United States,

it was stated that large tracts of state-owned land were

still available in the Central Plain near Las Cahobas.38

By the turn of the century, however, state lands were rare,

and most of those that could be found were occupied by


By the late nineteenth century the landholding pat-

tern of the Dominican Republic was only slightly less

chaotic than that of Haiti. Beginning in the seventeenth

century, hatos, as well as other properties, had been passed

from generation to generation in the form of communal lands

or terrenos comuneros.39 Under this system of inheritance,

rather than receiving a specific portion of an estate, each

37In addition to the small size of the holdings, there
were other complicating factors which made it difficult to
trace titles or prove ownership. Illigitimate children
often took their mothers' names rather than their fathers'.
Very often men transmitted their first names rather than
their last names to their children. It is said that family
names were often forgotten after several generations.
(Renaud, Le regime foncier en Haiti, pp. 146-147.)
38James Redpath, A Guide to Haiti (1861; reprint ed.,
Westport, Connecticut: Negro University Press, 1970),p. 112.
39Monte y Tejada, Historia de Santo Domingo, p. 19.

the forced labor system of Christophe who ruled in the

northern part of Haiti after the death of Dessalines in

1806. Interior settlement during these early years of

Haitian independence followed the same dispersed pattern

begun by the maroons during the time of the French colony.

Beginning with the rule of Petion (1806-1818),

settlement of the interior received government support.

Petion and his successor Boyer (1818-1843) set a precedent

for subsequent Haitian rulers, by distributing land through-

out the interior as gifts to supporters and to soldiers in

lieu of salary. In this manner new lands were opened to

agriculture and, by mid-nineteenth century, all but the most

uninhabitable regions were occupied.

Livestock Ranching and Border Trade

Livestock ranching along the frontier and the overland

trade which had developed between the French and Spanish

colonies were both almost eliminated during the period of

Haitian invasions between 1801 and 1855.5 The invading

forces lived off the spoils of the land by requiring each

village to supply food and animals. The principal towns

of the study region were repeatedly razed and the livestock

5Haitian strategy generally called for a two-pronged
attack with one army invading through the Cibao Valley and
the other through the Central Plain and San Juan Valley.
Early invasions occurred in 1801 under L'Ouverture and in
1805 under Dessalines. Haitian forces occupied the entire
island from 1822 to 1844; after being expelled from Santo
Domingo in 1844, they again invaded in 1849, 1851, and 1855.


slaughtered by the Haitian armies both on the advance and


The majority of the cattle ranchers or hateros

either emigrated to other colonies or withdrew to the rela-

tive safety of Santo Domingo City. The hatos were abandoned

and the cattle were allowed once again to revert to a wild

state.7 Travelers to the island in the 1820's, during the

Haitian occupation, reported that overland trade had all

but disappeared.8

The spread of Haitian settlement eastward and the

efforts of the occupation government to encourage mis-

cegenation and spread Haitian influence on the island had

its greatest effect on the cattle-raising areas of the

borderlands where a blending of skin color, language and

customs gradually began to dilute ethnic differences.

Cattle herding by the 1830s was no longer limited to those

6The town of Comendador (later renamed Elias Pina)
was the site of intensive fighting in 1845. In 1849, San
Juan de la Maguana and Las Matas de Farfan were burned by
retreating Haitian armies under President Solouque. Fight-
ing occurred again in San Juan and Las Matas in 1851 and
1855. The final defeat of the Haitians came at the Battle
of San Tom6 situated to the west of San Juan in December,
7It was estimated that the invasions of 1801 and 1805
cost the Spanish colony 30,000 head of cattle, including
breeding stock. (Jos6 Francisco de Heredia y Mieses, "In-
forme presentado al muy ilustrisimo ayuntamiento de Santo
Domingo, capital de la isla EspaRola, en 1822." In Inva-
siones haitianas de 1801, 1805, y 1822. Edited by Emilio
Rodriguez Demorizi. Ciudad Trujillo: Editora del Caribe,
1955, p. 161.
"Many cattle were slaughtered during this period to
provide meat for the slaves in Cuba. Such jerked meat was
known in Cuba as tasajo. (Franklin, The Present State of
Haiti, p. 297.)


of Spanish descent. A contemporary observer commented on

the black cattle herdsmen of the frontier and described

their way of life in the following manner: "In the vast

solitudes of the interior the former (herdsmen) reside con-

tinually on horseback, with a lasso at their side, and a

small case of cigars and a bottle of aguardiente at their

saddle bow. The flesh of their cattle serves them for

food, and the hides are sent to the different towns upon the

coast to be exchanged for their favorite luxuries."9 With

the abandonment of the hatos, frontier cattle ranching had

reverted to a state only slightly more refined than the

cattle hunting of the buccaneers. In overall terms the

borderlands had retrogressed. A North American passing

through the region in the 1830s noted that, "... a traveler

can get nothing to eat because there is nothing to spare."l0

Population Decline

The Haitian Revolution and the invasions that followed

had a serious effect on the population of both Haiti and

Santo Domingo. The Haitian population decreased by an esti-

mated 100,000 persons between the years 1791 and 1805.11

In order to increase the agricultural labor force, Dessalines

and Christophe encouraged the return of blacks who had fled

9Brown, The History and Present Condition of Santo
Domingo, p. 288.
T0Ibid., p. 286.
llHarvey, Sketches of Haiti from the Expulsion of the
French to the Death of Christophe, p. 234.

with their masters to other islands or to Mexico and of-

fered a reward to ship captains for each black whom they

brought back to Haiti.12 Free blacks from the United States

were encouraged to immigrate and an unknown number did


The colony of Santo Domingo lost a much greater

percentage of its population. Mass emigration began with

the first Haitian invasions of 1801 and 1805, the majority

of emigrants fleeing to Venezuela, Colombia, Puerto Rico

and, especially, to Cuba.14 During the French rule in

Santo Domingo, exiles were encouraged to return by a guar-

antee of secure land titles. After a short time the

properties of those who did not return were confiscated.15

An account written in 1812 of the depopulated condition of

13The best source on black immigration from the United
States is Ludwell L. Montague, Haiti and the United States,
1714-1938 (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press,
14The Cuban critic Manuel de la Cruz wrote about "those
sons of the neighboring island of Santo Domingo who, upon
immigrating to our country in the last years of the eigh-
teenth century, were for some areas, particularly for Cama-
gUey and Oriente, virtual civilizers." (Pedro Henriquez
Urefa, "La cultural y las letras coloniales en Santo Domingo,"
Obra Critica (Mexico and Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura
Econdmica, 1960), p. 363.
15The following was written in 1810 about the effects
of the French occupation: "The grazing grounds were de-
populated and laid waste, the dwellings suffered to decay,
the negroes sent to other islands to be sold, the church
plate melted down and the poor Spaniard bent under the rod
of oppression." (William Walton, Present State of the
Spanish Colonies, including a Particular Report of His-
paniola, 2 vols. [London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and
Brown, 1810], 1:198.)

Santo Domingo noted simply that, "All of the Spanish popula-

tion decided to emigrate to other lands, and the only ones

who did not leave were those who absolutely could not do

so."16 The exiles took with them their capital and many of

those who later returned left their savings safely in foreign

countries.17 Emigration continued during the Haitian oc-

cupation as the occupying government forced out large

property owners in order to confiscate their holdings. Many

exiles returned to Santo Domingo after 1844 only to flee

again in the face of later invasions.18

Overall population figures for the colony of Santo

Domingo indirectly indicate conditions in the San Juan

Valley. For the colony as a whole, population fell from an

estimated 125,000 in 1789 to about 63,000 in 1819.19 The

16Heredia y Mieses, "Informe presentado al muy ilus-
trisimo ayuntamiento de Santo Domingo, capital de la isla
Espaola, en 1822," p. 162.
17"The island lost the greater part of its civilized
and hard-working population, and almost all of the capital
which circulated in the colony and encouraged its industries
was lost with them." Ibid.
18The following is from a dispatch by Jonathan Elliot
to United States Secretary of State Buchanan during the
Haitian Invasion of 1848: "The Haitian Army are close upon
us. Almost all of the foremost merchants have packed up
their goods and shipped them to the neighboring islands
before leaving with their families. The town is filled with
women and children from the country and famine is to be
apprehended .... The President has told me that it is his
intention to set fire to the place in case they cannot hold
out against the Haitians." (Sumner Wells, Naboth's Vine-
yard: The Dominican Republic, 1844-1924, 2 vols. [Mamaroneck,
New York: Paul P. Appel, 1966], 1:89.)
19Saint-Mery, A Topographical and Political Descrip-
tion of the Spanish Part of Saint Domingo, 1:3.
The figures for 1819 are from the census of 1819 as
reported in Harmannus Hoetink, "Materiales para el studio


number had risen to 130,000 by 1841 as a result of immi-

gration of Haitians during the occupation.20 By 1863, the

population had climbed to an estimated 207,700, indicating

a rapid growth after the last of the Haitian invasions or

perhaps an indication that emigration had been less massive

during the later invasions than during the earlier hostili-

ties.21 The San Juan Valley, unprotected and in the direct

path of the invasions, was practically abandoned by mid-

nineteenth century. By the 1860s, however, a process of

resettlement had begun.

Haitian Dominance in the Central Plain

As a result of the Haitian Revolution and subsequent

invasions, Haiti gained possession of the entire Central

Plain. As noted earlier, Haitian influence was evident in

the extreme western portion of the plain as early as the

1780s. By 1794, the Haitians were in control of San Miguel

de Atalaya and San Rafael, and by 1809, the two towns were

entirely Haitian.22 In 1821, the Central Plain was included

de la Repdblica Dominicana en la segunda mitad del siglo
XIX," Caribbean Studies, vol. 5, no. 3 (1965):3.
2UCandler, Brief Notices of Hayti with its Conditions,
Resources and Prospects, p. 132.
21Estimate made by an ecclesiastical tribunal, re-
ported in Hoetink, "Materiales para el studio de la Repub-
lica Dominicana en la segunda mitad del siglo XIX," Carib-
bean Studies, vol. 5, no. 3 (1965):3.
z2The following letter written by a Spanish resident
of the area in 1794 confirms the early Haitian influence:
"The negroes are in charge of San Rafael and San Miguel;
those places are desolated; they go without opposition in

in a new division of the Republic of Haiti.23 When the

Haitian armies were driven from Santo Domingo in 1844,

they remained in control of the towns of Hincha, Las Caho-

bas, San Miguel de la Atalaya and San Rafael, and a wide

area of the Central Plain which had been entirely within

Spanish territory under both the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697

and the Treaty of Aranjuez in 1777.24

Preoccupation with internal political turmoil during

the latter half of the nineteenth century prevented the

Dominican government from launching the kind of protest which

might have dislodged the Haitian settlers.25 By the last

the mountains and could well take over Hincha, Bdnica...."
From a letter written by Don Esteban Polomares to Marques
de Casa Calvo, reprinted in El Sol, 8 March 1972.
23Mois4s Garcia Mella, La cuesti6n de limits (Santo
Domingo: n.p., 1923), p. 44.
4Haitian claims to the Central Plain were based on
the contention that when the area was first occupied by
the Haitians, the entire island was united under French
rule (Toussaint had maintained nominal allegiance to France)
and that previous border treaties were, therefore, nullified.
A more persuasive argument was that the region had been
abandoned by the Spanish colonists. Authorities in Santo
Domingo, however, insisted that the Central Plain towns
of Hincha, Las Cahobas, San Rafael and San Miguel had
regularly sent representatives to the constituent assem-
blies in Santo Domingo, thus proving their loyalty to the
Spanish colony and indicating that they were never abandoned.
In addition, in 1867, the two countries signed an agreement
which read in part, "A special treaty will be worked out
later to demarcate the limits of both countries. Meanwhile,
they will maintain their current possessions." The Domini-
can point of view was that by signing this treaty the
Haitian government was conceding that the boundary was only
temporary. (Garcia Mella, La cuesti6n de limits, pp. 11
and 49.)
25After gaining its independence from Haiti in 1844,
the former Spanish colony went through a period of extreme
political vacillation and was finally annexed again to
Spain in 1861. After five years, however, independence was

decades of the century, it had become clear that this fron-

tier territory would remain under Haitian rule. The problem

then became one of arriving at a settlement which would

recognize the Haitian hegemony over the region but at the

same time would provide adequate indemnity to the Dominican

government. Attempts at arbitration in the closing years

of the century failed to arrive at such a solution.

The eastern fringe of Haitian settlement did not end

in the Central Plain but continued eastward into the San

Juan Valley as well. In 1885, Bon6 warned that the frontier

was, "exposed to a perpetual and progressive invasion of

foreigners (Haitians) which is daily reducing the influence

of the Dominicans who, unarmed and exhausted, will dis-

appear completely from that region."26 In response to this

warning, Billini suggested that the Haitian influx be

stopped based on the same grounds used by the United States

for limiting Asian immigration.27

Haitian immigration to the Dominican Republic in-

creased between 1875 and 1900 as a result of the moderniza-

tion of the sugar industry. The war in Cuba had encouraged

once again achieved. In this study, to avoid confusion,
the name Dominican Republic will be used for the country
after it regained independence in 1865.
26Emilio Rodriguez Demorizi, ed., Papeles de Pedro F.
Bon6 (Santo Domingo: Editora del Caribe, 1964), p. 251.
27Hoetink, "Materiales para el studio de la Repdblica
Dominicana en la segunda mitad del siglo XIX," Caribbean
Studies, vol. 7, no. 3 (1967):17.


many Cuban sugar growers to settle in Santo Domingo and they

had brought with them their technical know-how and capital.

As had already happened in Cuba and Puerto Rico, the tra-

ditional animal-powered sugar mills were replaced by modern

factories or ingenios which required great amounts of

seasonal labor. Because of the lack of roads, organized

transport of Haitian cane workers was by ship; however, in-

creasingly Haitian job hunters began making the overland

trek across the border to the Dominican sugar fields. Many

of these seasonal cane cutters established subsistence farms

along the frontier. In this manner Haitian influence con-

tinued to spread eastward.

As the central borderlands became increasingly Haitian

in culture during the nineteenth century, a most important

fact became evident which was to greatly influence the

course of future events in the region. The borderlands

were located closer to the population centers of Haiti than

to those of the Dominican Republic. Port-au-Prince, located

only two days by horseback from the western end of the San

Juan Valley, became much better known to valley residents

than their own capital city of Santo Domingo which was five

to six days' journey away. Until good roads were built

linking the San Juan Valley with Santo Domingo City, fron-

tier commerce would be directed much more to Port-au-Prince

and Cap Haitien than to Dominican population centers.

Types of Landholdings and Land Tenure

The Haitian Revolution brought about significant

changes in landholding patterns. After initial attempts

to maintain the plantation system, Haitian presidents,

beginning with Petion in 1806, followed a policy of distrib-

uting state lands in plots as small as six hectares.28

Petion made such grants primarily as payment for military

service.29 Following Petion, Boyer offered to all farmers

clear title to lands which they had in cultivation.30 As

a single farmer was capable of cultivating only one or

two hectares at a time, these land grants were very small.

Later presidents, particularly Saget (1870-1874) and

Solomon (1879-1888), distributed plots as small as four


The rationale for the abrupt change from a planta-

tion system to an emphasis on small properties was three-

fold. Ownership of land was thought to promote loyalty to

the government and to instil in the people a love of country.

28"Haiti abounds with these small proprietors, their
patches of land, with their huts upon them, are generally
situated in the mountains, in the recesses, or on the most
elevated parts, on spots, as the poet has described, 'The
most inaccessible by the shepherds trod'." (Franklin, The
Present State of Haiti, p. 345.)
29Petion authorized the following land grants: 35
carreaux to batallion leaders; 30 carreaux to captains; 25
carreaux to lieutenants; 20 carreaux to sub-lieutenants; 5
carreaux to common solders (one carreau = 1.29 hectares)
(Thoby La question agraire en Haiti, p. 9.)
UFrank Marino Herndndez, La inmigracidn haitiana
(Santo Domingo: Ediciones Sargazo, 1973), p. 15.
31Raymond Renaud, La regime foncier en Haiti (Paris:
F. Loviton & Co., 1934), p. 42.

In addition, it was believed that public lands were being

abused and that by putting these lands in the hands of the

people as proprietors they would be maintained and pre-

served.32 Finally, dividing the land into small parcels

was viewed as insurance against a return to a foreign-

dominated plantation economy.

It has been estimated that between 1807 and 1843

Petion and Boyer created over 8,000 new landholdings of

six hectares each.33 A contemporary observer estimated the

number of small properties in 1841, without giving the

individual size, to be 46,610 and stated that one out of

three heads of family was a landowner.34 The same writer

noted that, "land was given on mountain passes, where no

cultivation had ever before been carried on," an ominous

portent of the future effects of such land distribution.35

Under the system of equal inheritance, adopted from

the French Napoleonic Code, landholdings were increasingly

divided by each subsequent generation. Further fragmenta-

tion occurred as a result of a law stipulating that ille-

gitimate children were entitled to a much smaller percent-

age of the inheritance than were legitimate children.36

32The following is from a Senate speech by Petion,
April 26, 1814: "... to augment the number of landowners is
to give a real and solid existence to the fatherland."
(Thoby, La question agraire en Haiti, p. 8.)
33Renaud, La regime foncier en Haiti, p. 93.
34Candler, Brief Notices of Hayti with its Conditions,
Resources and Prospects, p. 122.
36Renaud, La regime foncier en Haiti, p. 147.


With each generation the landholding system became more

confused, and although a nation-wide cadastral survey was

proposed as early as 1870, it was never carried out.37

By the late nineteenth century, Haiti was known as

a land of the small proprietor. Little if any arable land

remained unused. The study region, along with the rest

of the country, had been divided into ever smaller private

properties. As late as 1861 in a publication designed to

attract immigration by former slaves from the United States,

it was stated that large tracts of state-owned land were

still available in the Central Plain near Las Cahobas.38

By the turn of the century, however, state lands were rare,

and most of those that could be found were occupied by


By the late nineteenth century the landholding pat-

tern of the Dominican Republic was only slightly less

chaotic than that of Haiti. Beginning in the seventeenth

century, hatos, as well as other properties, had been passed

from generation to generation in the form of communal lands

or terrenos comuneros.39 Under this system of inheritance,

rather than receiving a specific portion of an estate, each

37In addition to the small size of the holdings, there
were other complicating factors which made it difficult to
trace titles or prove ownership. Illigitimate children
often took their mothers' names rather than their fathers'.
Very often men transmitted their first names rather than
their last names to their children. It is said that family
names were often forgotten after several generations.
(Renaud, Le regime foncier en Haiti, pp. 146-147.)
38James Redpath, A Guide to Haiti (1861; reprint ed.,
Westport, Connecticut: Negro University Press, 1970),p. 112.
39Monte y Tejada, Historia de Santo Domingo, p. 19.

heir was given a share of the property known as a peso de

posesi6n which entitled the owner to use any portion of

the land not already occupied. Several factors led to the

system of communal lands, among them the scarcity of sur-

veyors and the high cost of surveying. The principal

reason, however, was the difficulty of dividing a large

hato into smaller units while still retaining the necessary

constituent parts of grasslands, timberlands and water in

each of the smaller land parcels.40

By the eighteenth century many hatos had evolved into

communal lands with numerous owners or shareholders. With

each generation land titles and boundary lines, many of

which were ill-defined in the beginning, became more vague.

Land titles were further confused as non-family members

were allowed to purchase shares of communal lands. In the

central borderlands, however, owing to the abundance of land

and the sparseness of population, the chaotic landholding

pattern caused fewer problems than in the more populous

areas of the island.

The Church and the State were the largest landholders

during the nineteenth century in the Dominican Republic.

The State acquired large tracts when, after the expulsion

of the Haitians in 1844, all lands expropriated by the occu-

pation forces were transferred to the new government.41

40Hazard, Santo Domingo, Past and Present with a Glance
at Hayti, p. 483.
41Harmannus Hoetink, El Pueblo Dominicano: 1850-1900
(Santiago, Dominican Republic: Universidad Catdlica Madre
y Maestra, 1971), p. 20.

Another type of landholding, the ejido, was the property

of the municipal governments or ayuntamientos, and it was

often rented to individual farmers. The traditional hato,

a few of which covered as much as 400 hectares, remained

the most important economic form of landholding and the

one that covered the largest area. Numerically, however,

the most common type of landholding by the 1870s was the

small property.42 By the late nineteenth century, there-

fore, although extensive cattle ranching still characterized

the landscape of the San Juan Valley, small landholdings

devoted to subsistence farming and sugar cane growing, were

becoming activities of increasing importance in the Domini-

can borderlands region.

The Landscape: 1899

Owing to political problems and frequent border inci-

dents along the frontier during the late nineteenth century,

there are relatively few detailed descriptions of land use

and settlement during that period. The American geologist,

Gabb, was unable to work in the San Juan Valley in the

1870s because of the disturbed political condition and was

able to report only that President Baez had described the

region as covered with lush grasses. The United States

42U.S. Commission of Inquiry to Santo Domingo, Informe
de la Comisi6n de Investigacidn de los Estados Unidos en
Santo Domingo en 1871 (Ciudad Trujillo: Editora Montalvo,
1960), p. 469.

Commission of Inquiry which was sent to Santo Domingo in

1871 avoided the frontier region because of Haitian outlaw

bands. Contemporary Dominican geographers treated the

region very briefly and described it as used primarily for

livestock raising. As mentioned earlier, it is known that

subsistence farming had been introduced into the region

changing the principal land use from simply grazing to

mixed grazing and agriculture. There is no evidence, how-

ever, of significant changes in the patterns of land cover

in the San Juan Valley between 1789 and 1899.

In contrast to the Dominican side of the frontier,

the Central Plain of Haiti had undergone widespread land-

scape change. Rapid population growth had led to the de-

forestation of a large portion of the region (Figure 12).

Much of the woodlands zone which had stretched from near

Maissade eastward to the Dominican border had been con-

verted to scrub or grassland mixed with sparse forest

growth.43 As on the Dominican side of the border, the

principal land use on the Haitian side was mixed grazing

and subsistence agriculture with each subsistence plot

carefully fenced against the freely-ranging cattle.

4Woodring, Brown and Burbank, Geology of the Republic
of Haiti, p. 64.


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Government Policies as Key Landscape Determinants

Government policies from 1790 to 1899 had long-ranging

effects on the contrasting patterns of land use and settle-

ment in the central border region. Most policies were re-

lated to the Haitian Revolution and the period of Haitian

aggression. Events during that time produced the physical

and cultural changes which continued to affect the border-

lands inhabitants throughout succeeding periods.

Although the Haitian Revolution cannot be attributed

to any single cause, its sanguinary nature and the complete

rejection of the plantation system were unquestionably re-

lated to the severity of French colonial policies. Just

as flight from slavery gave rise to the early maroon activi-

ties in the borderlands, so too flight from possible return

to the plantation system led to further settlement of the

interior and the gradual dominance of Haitian culture within

the Central Plain.

Dispersion of settlement was further stimulated by

the forced labor policies of the three Haitian rulers

L'Ouverture, Dessalines and Christophe. Succeeding rulers,

beginning with Petion, legitimized settlement of the interior

by distributing small landholdings throughout the new nation.

Dominican government policies, particularly regarding

conscription into the army, encouraged dispersed settlement

patterns to the east. Under the conscription laws of the

late nineteenth century, all unmarried men over fifteen

years of age were subject to military service. According

to one contemporary observer, efforts to avoid military

service led to the abandonment of agricultural land near

population centers as "the inhabitants built their dwellings

dispersed and in the most impenetrable regions."44

Evolution of the small property as the dominant form

of rural landholding set Haiti apart from most other coun-

tries of the Western Hemisphere including the Dominican

Republic. Small holdings proliferated in the Central Plain

and most were used for subsistence farming under a slash-

and-burn system of land preparation. The combination of

very small holdings, primitive methods, precipitous terrain

and government neglect promoted deforestation and accelerat-

ing soil erosion which has characterized the landscape to

the present time.

The San Juan Valley was spared such depletion of

its natural resources because of its more level terrain,

sparse population and emphasis on large-scale ranching as

opposed to small-scale subsistence farming. The origin of

the large landholdings can be traced to the Spanish land

grant policy. Perpetuation of the large property system was

encouraged indirectly during the Haitian occupation by the

Rural Code obligating all non-landed peasants to attach

44Emilio Rodriguez Demorizi, Hostos en Santo Domingo,
2 vols. (Ciudad Trujillo: Imp. J. R. Garcia, 1939), 1:285.

themselves to large or medium-sized agricultural properties

as salaried laborers. The law had little effect on land-

holdings in Haiti where the small property was already

dominant, but in the former Spanish colony it significantly

retarded the development of a system of small landholdings.

It was only in the late nineteenth century that small

holdings grew in number and subsistence farms began to en-

croach on the open range. The development of large land-

holdings within the San Juan Valley, as opposed to the small

holdings of the Central Plain, was of utmost importance in

the evolution of land use and settlement patterns in the

study region.

The aggressive policies of the early Haitian govern-

ments contributed to the continued decline of the Spanish

colony by causing large-scale out-migrations. In effect,

the San Juan Valley, in its depopulated and under-utilized

condition, was held in reserve. The processes of deforesta-

tion and soil erosion, which were beginning to occur in the

more heavily settled Haitian areas, were delayed on the

eastern side of the frontier.

The eastward movement of Haitian settlement and the

Haitianization policy, by which the occupation forces at-

tempted to thoroughly miscegenate the two peoples, created

a racial, cultural and linguistic assemblage which was es-

pecially well-defined and long-lasting along the frontier.

With the evacuation of the San Juan Valley by a large number

of the Spanish-speaking settlers, the spread of Haitian in-

fluence was unopposed. After the Haitian occupation of the

Central Plain, such Spanish place names as Hincha and San

Miguel de la Atalaya along with dozens of others were al-

tered to more closely approximate their French or Creole

pronunciation, as in "Hinche" and "Saint-Michel-de-l'Ata-

laye." With the exception of the Spanish-derived place

names, Spanish influence all but disappeared from the re-


Haitian aggressions and particularly the Haitianiza-

tion policy during the 1822-1844 occupation, left a legacy

of distrust and animosity, especially in the Dominican at-

titudes toward the Haitians. This attitude has seriously

affected border relations from that time onward. All ef-

forts at cooperation between the two sides, whether on a

national or local scale, have had to contend with such ante-

cedent, negative attitudes.

Agricultural development in Haiti was severely re-

tarded by the militaristic policies of the early Haitian

governments. Money which might have been used to support

agriculture was spent for arms to supply a large army.45

Conscription of males between the ages of sixteen and sixty

took thousands of farmers away from their fields. An ob-

server in the 1830s noted the following: "While columns of

45Brown, The History and Present Condition of Santo
Domingo, p. 268.

ragged soldiers are traversing the country in battle array,

agriculture lies desolate and cultivated tracts grow up into

a waste of thicket."46 Throughout the nineteenth century

agriculture was allowed to develop with little or no govern-

ment direction or control. A policy of inaction toward the

farm sector was thus established.

460bservers in the nineteenth century noted the ap-
parent haphazard approach to agriculture of the Haitian
peasant. "There is nothing regular in his system; it is an
anomaly, a strange incongruous method of proceeding having
no tendency either to improve the soil or benefit himself
.... He considers not whether one field is better adapted
for the production of canes than another but plants indis-
criminately in bad or good soil, in heavy or light; in fact
he knows not whether it ought to be planted in canes or
cotton, or it would be wise to allow it to become common
The same author commented that coffee trees were no
longer tended but were allowed to grow wild, a condition
which has continued to the present day. (Franklin, The
Present State of Haiti, p. 351.)


The period of relative political tranquility which

began with the Dominican ruler Heureaux (1880-1899), con-

tinued during the early years of the present century and en-

couraged a rapid influx of settlers along both sides of the

frontier. In the early years of this century, farming

gradually replaced ranching as the principal economic ac-

tivity. By the late 1930s the cash cropping of rice and

peanuts had become dominant along the valley near Elias


In Belladere, on the other hand, subsistence agri-

culture continued to dominate farming activities in the

lowlands, while commercial coffee production became estab-

lished in the mountain zone. Among the factors which in-

fluenced the evolution of these land-use patterns were the

final demarcation of the boundary, the expulsion of the

illegal Haitian aliens from Dominican territory, the fron-

tier policies of the Trujillo government, and the short-

lived frontier project of the Haitian government. The in-

fluence of the Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo, was so

pervasive during the 1930 to 1961 period, that the end of

his regime marked a turning point in the development of the

borderlands region.

Settlement of the Border Dispute

Frontier problems, particularly the question of legal

control over the Central Plain, remained unresolved during

the first three decades of the present century despite ar-

bitration by the Pope (1895 and 1901) and by the World

Court in 1911. Open warfare was narrowly averted during

the Dominican revolutions of 1911 and 1912 when revolution-

aries used the disputed territory as a refuge. The United

States arbitrated the matter in 1912, declaring valid the

boundary line as it existed in 1905, that is, roughly the

limit to which the Haitians had withdrawn in 1844. Both

nations accepted this temporary settlement until such time

as a mutually agreeable boundary could be determined.

In 1929, after long negotiations, Dominican and

Haitian officials reached agreement on a new international

boundary. The treaty recognized Haitian hegemony over the

Central Plain but called for the return of Macasia, an area

of about sixty square kilometers, to the Dominican Republic.

Although both governments agreed to the treaty, the joint

commission which attempted to demarcate the new boundary in

the field was unable to reach agreement on several critical

points. At the same time, public opinion in Port-au-Prince

was strongly against the treaty because it was known that

Haitian engineers had been equipped with inadequate maps of

the border region (Figure 13).

The two governments arrived at a final settlement

in the "Protocol of 1935" which demarcated the border as it

stands at present. All of the Dominican demands were met

and Macasia became Dominican territory. Yet in practical

terms there was no immediate change; the border remained

open and overland trade continued as before. The new border

agreement caused no displacement of people from one side

of the border to the other.

Although both Haiti and the Dominican Republic rati-

fied the protocol agreement, succeeding Haitian governments

have been dissatisfied with the results. The official

position of the Duvalier government has been that Haiti

was unrightfully deprived of 60,000 hectares of national


Trujillo's Dominicanization Policies

Haitian influence spread unchecked into the San Juan

Valley until the late 1930s. Haitian Creole became the

lingua franca within the valley; indeed, in the town of

Elias Pina there were relatively few native Spanish speakers.

Older residents affirm that Elias Pifa had become, in effect,

a Haitian village.

1Francois Duvalier, Oeuvres essentielles: 6lments
d'une doctrine, 2 vols. (Port-au-Prince: Presse Nationale,
1968), 1:460.





Los Do.


H oi i

SDi.pu.td T reilary: 1929-1935
-- Boundary Agreement of 1935
"* De Focio Boundory Before 1929 (opproimoat.)

0 1 2 5 4 5




' f-*- Morgoeto


\ :

Bolledera \


Figure 13: Boundary Changes And Uispuled Territory 1929-1935

1 so'






e, g BIrConcilo

'-- <


I*o '-


( ^O




' i



With the spread of Haitian settlement, concern grew

among Dominican leaders. In 1900, Hostos proposed that the

government erect a living wall of colonists along the fron-

tier to prevent further Haitian incursions.2 The Dominican

Congress passed a law in 1907 allocating funds to encourage

white colonization along the frontier.3 In 1925, the Domini-

can government created a commission to select sites for

agricultural colonies; in its report the commission wrote

the following: "The purpose of populating the frontier is

found in the necessity of containing the steady advance of

the Haitian population into our own territory."4

In an effort to counteract Haitian influence along

the frontier, the Trujillo government elicited the aid of

the Catholic Church. In 1936 the Society of Jesus cooperated

in the founding of the Misi6n Fronteriza, a program which

sponsored numerous chapels and elementary schools in the

border region and was aimed at spreading Christianity and

Dominican culture.5 Regardless of the program's success,

the number of Haitians in Dominican territory continued to


A second attempt by Trujillo at stopping Haitian

incursions into the Republic took the form of a ruthless

2Manuel A. Machado BAez, La dominicanizaci6n fron-
teriza (Ciudad Trujillo: Empresora Dominicana, 1955),
p. 230.
4Ibid., p. 231.
5Antonio L. de Santa Ana, Misidn fronteriza (Dajabon,
Dominican Republic: By the Author, 1957), p. 21.

purge. Without warning, in October of 1937, Dominican

military forces killed an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 Haitians

illegally residing within the Dominican borders.6 Many

thousands of Haitians fled back into Haiti. In October,

1937, the border was closed.7

The massacre of 1937 was only one phase of a six-

year effort to expel the Haitians from the Dominican border-

lands. Officially the program called for the Dominican

government to deport the illegal aliens only after paying

an indemnity for improvements the Haitians had made on

their lands. It is impossible to know how frequently Domini-

can officials followed this procedure. Between 1937 and

1944, however, many thousands of Haitians crossed the border

into Haiti. After having been ignored for 300 years, the

border became a barrier to further migration.

6Robert Crassweller, Trujillo, Life and Times of a
Caribbean Dictator (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1966),
pp. 149-164.
The following explanation for the massacre was given
by an elderly Dominican of mixed Dominican and Haitian
parentage: "Trujillo made a horseback tour of the frontier,
and when he saw that the Haitians were doing better than
the Dominicans (cuando el vi6 que los Haitianos eran m6s
caballeros que los Dominicanos) he decided to get rid of
7Local accounts of the expulsion of the Haitians
vary, apparently according to whether or not the informant
was involved. Some contend that it was entirely peaceful
and orderly; others say that it was a bloodbath. The
Dominican government paid an indemnity of $750,000 to
Haiti for damages. With this money the Haitian government
founded three agricultural colonies designed to prevent
further migrations into the Dominican Republic. They soon

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