A group of Haitian sugarcane cutters sit under the shade of a tree outside a workers’ barrack in Batey Experimental, a batey — or sugar workers’ town — in San Pedro de Macorís, a province located in the eastern part of the Dominican Republic. Workers, young and old, slowly saunter down the unpaved roads, with long machetes dangling from their sides and rubber boots sliding through the dirt, heading home after another long, grueling day cutting sugarcane. The batey is surrounded by miles of sugarcane fields, as far as the eye can see.
“I came here to work on anything I could find,” says Ulvick Vernette, a twenty-three-year-old cane cutter. He is sitting on a rubber tire with his back against the shaded tree, as several other workers cluster together to listen to his story. Vernette speaks in Haitian Creole, as he has trouble communicating in Spanish.
He arrived in the Dominican Republic “under the fence,” or irregularly, about a year ago. He took a bus from his home in Jacmel, a town on the south coast of Haiti, to Ouanaminthe, known as Juana Méndez in Spanish, a border town that lies on the Haitian side of the Massacre River, which partially divides Haiti from its Spanish neighbor on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.
From there, he and ten other Haitians walked for nine days until they reached the northern Dominican city of Santiago. It is a route taken by scores of Haitians each year, who migrate to the Dominican Republic to escape widespread poverty and political instability.
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