The author precisely describes the tense, fickle, changeable atmosphere during sociopolitical up war between the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Eller describes the opposition of the people who had, finally become used to freedom able to enjoy liberty throughout forty years after enforced long years of slavery, exploitation and abuse, to then be confronted and threatened with drastic, pro colonial, racist ideals shared by Dominican elites who supported the creation of a nation heavily influenced with European, colonial exemplary. Eller focused on describing how imposing, discriminatory, overriding, coerced principles of race between Haitians and Dominicans impacted the course of history, events such as the First Republic, followed by the Annexation phase, and finally the war of Restoration. The conflicting history of Dominican emancipation to independence during 1882 through 1885 is a reflection of the multifaceted political culture against colonial European customs. Eller studies sources, records, reports, poetry, and archived findings from the Caribbean, Europe, and the United States to help narrate elites’ construction of Dominican republic’s true conflict during such period where blackness and African decent was a rejected characteristic, also perceived to be a threat to the civilized, cultured white elites. Dominicans developed and felt superior to Haitians whose African root and heritages prevailed over European, Spanish enforced customs. What the people thought to be true, a difference of perspectives amongst diverse groups who together formed part of one whole society stood to be the leading cause for the dividing line between the restoration of colonial power or the emancipation of the country. Author conveys Haitians and Dominicans shared sense of duty for freedom in the Caribbean, the abolition of slavery and a state of democratic rules, laws, and rights. Dominican anti colonial battle is vital to grasp how courses of events majorly weighs on the overall liberation of the Caribbean, and how such historical events also impacted the broader Atlantic.
Overall, Eller suggests a distinction amongst two major events, the elites who urged colonial, racist, European like nation commending battle in gains for more political authority, power, and control versus resistance of the people whose African origins and way of being reigned over and rejected any European like tendencies, also fought against the threat, possibility of re-enslavement. Women played an important role during this time period, also in political life as well. Women gained official exemption from licenses which included the code reforms took place in 1863 still, restricted to low capital ventures such as selling fruits, vegetables, and alcohol amongst other occupations such as midwifery. Eller mentions women confronted all manner of new measures, civils and religious.
The mancebinas, women who lived informally, not married under the catholic church with their partners, such position was most common in small towns and rural areas of the republic. This went against reformed catholic marriage principles which sought to instill restricted ideals of female propriety and gender differences. Town couples developed small commercial enterprise by selling cash crops. Eller mentions when Spanish priests arrived to the area holding larger demands than translated to new paid labor opportunities for women such as cooks, washerwomen, and ironers, mostly as domestic servants which did not have to seek a license, midwives did for a cost of 20 pesos. Author notes that Spanish personnel entrusted their laundry to enterprising local women, this occupation later permitted significant public presence and source of income for urban women, gains in civil society. Washerwomen frequently interacted with their clients in different towns and army outpost allowing a less restricted, enclosed labor existence.
Women also held influential roles in fighting by organizing and sharing larger critiques of colonial abuses through direct and sometimes even personal relationships with the targets of resistance, also considering their own lives were at stake. Those fighting knew to not trust forma army nor await any kind of help, rural women committed to the mobilizations independently and continued to manage homestead agriculture during the fighting. The towns on the verge of battle, some women left to forts and those who remained behind were involved in the fast moving development of guerrilla confrontation, rural women created the neural pathways of revolt because due to their information armed fighters were sent to each town warning of the loyalist troop movement speculating on the consequences of rebel fighting. Women facilitated men’s mobility and embodied a vital information network besides facing threats of violence and severe lack of provision.
Eller mentions how women, after sacrifices and struggles did not receive equal recognition of heroism as men did, replication of dominion of male entitlement. Eller mentions how women were able to navigate the increased tensions in loyalist towns, laundry work forged noisy, public, feminine spaces where women’s labor monopoly earned them bargaining power with other municipal officials however such public position made them targets. Many women were punished for initiating the inquest, others faced death threats for having relation with Spanish men. Since the beginning of the revolution, the Dominican provisional government stepped up its diplomatic efforts directly to the Haitian people asking why the Haitians did not come to help given the lack of arms and munitions during such warfare, while Haitians continually asked themselves why Dominicans did not call upon them, Eller suggests Haitian government played a role in Haitian – Dominican relations becoming strained. Considering the likeness of the two nations, people shared same race, same political interests (to not revert back to colonialism and slavery), and ruled by republican conventions, also have coexisted as great friends. The idea of one not helping out the other, looking at each other with indifference when one is in danger, the question whether the downfall of Dominican Republic will also be the doom of Haiti, meaning if the Dominican people fail, how can such not perpetuate the fall of the Haitian republic as well.
Eller mentions such way of thinking was understood by the Haitian people, only its own government did not. The majority of Haitian and Dominican people interacted, accepted, and lived amongst each other peacefully sharing many common interests. An urge for an island wide alliance, author emphasizes the popularity of the anti colonial fight and solidarity, political and racial that existed between Haitians and Dominicans, support for the rebellion would symbolize universal sympathy. The Haitian people desired to help Dominicans brothers and sisters, yet the Haitians government’s indifference and neutrality towards Dominicans struggle for freedom tainted the natural bond that existed between Haitians and Dominicans whom once were neighboring nations unedified together by the tightest friendships for common political and racial reason have been born to be brothers. Summer of 1864, the provisional government proposed an outright federation, a letter to president Geffrad suggestion a treaty of goodwill and political plan to integrate the two states. The letter expressed to Haitian government that supporting them will a step to protect Haiti’s political existence.
The firm rejection to the treaty and federation plans offered by the Dominican government was greatly influenced by news of a revolutionary scheme to take down Geffrad, rumor from the Spanish consul, Dominicans emissaries were expelled. Haitian government said they had nothing to ask Spain, while the Dominican people desire independence. Also, the support and loyalty to the rule of the Queen of Spain, accusing the Dominican government of attempting to drag Haitian society in the same danger they were in, finally stated a continuous strict neutrality. Even though Haitian government rejected helping Dominicans, the popular opinion of the people differed. Fears of re-enslavement worked politically and militarily because it got people to come together and fight back, fight for emancipation of Spanish rule.
The overwhelming support in Haiti for the anti colonial rebellion and threat of Spanish might made Haitian authorities fearful, because any collaboration would ally the Haitian state with the Dominican state which was poorly armed, still ready to face an unequal and fatal fight. Additionally, Spanish warships remained docked near distance, a hanging threat. The Haitian people, especially in the northern coats helped with boats, collaboration increased when demands became greater and radicalization of the anti Spanish fighting, military mobilization tactics never before seen. The fear to become an enslaved republic made Haitians realize that Dominican Independent would also mean their own sovereignty.
Opposition to President Geffrad increased, such made tensions worst. The white elites were the most attracted to colonization, they share racist white supremacist ideals and urged a pro colonization nation. Reinstating slavery meant total control, power, and economic wealth for them. Rumors played a major role during the abolition of slavery, colonialism and fight for independence. When troubling rumors often spread, the anxiety and foreign aggression fed off each other and made people unstable, susceptible to make irrational decision that could impact the course of history, a great example of such is when Haitian administrators heard of a Revolution tactic to take down president Geffrad, such rumor greatly impacted the decision of the Haitian government to continue strict neutrality and deny support to Dominicans fighting Spanish power. Rumors disturbed public order, instilled fear and distress amongst people who feared Spanish government, rumors that Geffraf would cede the island to a foreign country or to France in order to settle Haiti’s debt were plentiful.
Abundant rumors of renewed chattel slavery emptied whole towns and rural areas before fighting became widespread. The slavery prediction was durable and spread everywhere, including specific warnings of who might be targeted. Rumors were persistent and held weight in the desperate anti colonial struggle, and led to intense debates, secret meting and discussions of the possible, probable, and the potentially disastrous, the idea of re-enslavement. Such rumors led to unease, rising anxiety, and concern.
Rumors were a leading cause which led to the Restoration. Spanish general solidified their political careers n Havana to return to top position in Spain, considering Cuba was Spain’s’ most important possession and the economic heart of Spanish empire. Cuba also played a role in the Haitian Dominican struggle for independence since Spanish crown wished to convert Dominican Republic into a model copy of the ever faithful Cuba, same laws, rights, and way of life that had existed for over fifty years under colonial rule. Cuba and Spanish officials urged for annexation of Santo Domingo and expansion of colonial power in the Americas. The Cuban governor wished for a resurgent united overseas Spain, rather than simple colonies that produce benefits, Spain would make Caribbean’s feel truly Spanish.
Havana based officials along with the Cuban governor Serrano mobilized and advocated to annexation, all Dominicans wanted was to keep slavery abolished, however Serrano described Cuba’s code would not allow for such rights, and the majesty’s wish was to rule a province by the same laws as those of Cuba, empowering rich white elites of Santo Domingo, and slave holders. The Cuban governor became the voice of Spain, and the crown playing a role of intermediaries, urging for Spanish dominion in the Caribbean. After the fighting ended, many Spanish colonists wished to be sent to Cuba, however Habana governor rejected such request. Santana and his supporters who urged the Spanish crown to expand annexation in order to avoid abolition of slavery in Cuba, however Dominicans realized being a colony of Spain was taking a risk to be enslaved. Dominican independence was of major significance to the Caribbean because it showed people from other parts of the Americas who had allied with Dominicans opposing annexation such as Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela, and even the Unites States, a hanging threat to Spanish rule. The power in anticolonial efforts and abolishing slavery majorly impacted the course of history.
Also eliminated ideals of annexation, expansion and colonial European power within the Caribbean, instilled hope to those enslaved and controlled by Spanish rule. The idea of imperial power such as Spain, and pro-colonial supporters such as the elites whom proposed reinstatement of such ideals could endure a greater downfall and be defeated. The course of history reflected the power of being unified, coming together while sharing a common fear, to never ever be enslaved again. Dominican independence was a ray of hope to the oppressed of the world.