Liminal lives : Haitian migration to the Barrio of La Zurza, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic




Rubio-Zepeda, José Daniel

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Immigration by Haitians to the Dominican Republic is a long-standing phenomenon, and today, an estimated 210,000 Haitians live as undocumented immigrants in the Dominican Republic. Immigration from Haiti has been driven by a variety of factors, including historic labor programs designed to attract cheap labor; and poverty, political turmoil and lack of economic opportunities in Haiti. In the Dominican Republic, Haitians tend to primarily live in ethnic enclaves, including a high concentration in the capital, Santo Domingo, and particularly in the informal settlement of La Zurza. Using the concepts of “black sense of place,” liminality, and maroonage, I contend that Haitians in La Zurza have built support networks that create community and a sense of solidarity, serving as a source of resilience to contend with the precarious conditions they encounter in La Zurza daily. A survey conducted with two dozen Haitian-born residents of La Zurza shows that Haitians remain in the community for several years, suggesting that their informal support network helps them contend with racialized violence in places such as the Duarte Market in La Zurza, which serves as the principal source of employment for Haitians. However, while Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent have thus created a black sense of place through the constant (re)negotiation of their identities, their liminal, undocumented status also serves to reproduce their state of displacement and placelessness. In particular, their vulnerable position has been exacerbated by the passage of Law TC 168-13 in 2013, retroactively stripping Dominicans of Haitian descent of their citizenship and further intensifying anti-Haitian rhetoric. Undocumented Haitians thus must contend with an ambivalent legal status, which limits their social and geographic mobility and their access to economic opportunities


LCSH Subject Headings