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"a border is a veil not many people can wear" :
b testimonial fiction and transnational healing in edwidge danticat's _the farming of bones_ and nelly rosario's _song of the water saints_
h [electronic resource] /
by Megan Adams.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
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Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2010.
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ABSTRACT: Drawing on recent attempts to reconcile the divergent nations of Hispaniola, I will examine the ways in which fiction by U.S. immigrant writers Danticat and Rosario looks back to the traumatic history of race relations on Hispaniola and the 1937 massacre as a means of approaching reconciliation and healing amongst the inhabitants of Hispaniola. As invested outsiders to their homelands, Danticat and Rosario may work, as Chancy suggests, in the capacity of actors for Hispaniola. Both Danticat and Rosario graciously admit that their writing is largely contingent on the relative freedom from censure that their American citizenship affords them. In this capacity, these immigrant writers are uniquely able to revisit a traumatic cultural past to give voice to its widely arrayed victims and to provide an interrogation of the makings of horrific brutality. Despite the largely U.S. American readership, these authors foster a form of reconciliation through their works by forcing the audience to move past dichotomous thinking about the massacre, but also about the boundaries between the two nations.
Advisor: Ylce Irizarry, Ph.D.
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Testimonial Fiction and Transnational Healing in Edwidge Danticat's The Farming of Bones and Nelly Rosario's Song of the Water Saints by Megan R. Adams A thesis submitted in partial f ulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of English College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Ylce Irizarry Ph.D. Shirley Toland Dix, Ph.D. Hunt Hawkins, Ph.D. Date of Approval: April 2 2010 Keywords: haiti, dominican republic, ethnicity, racial tension, h aitian m assacre, 1937 massacre, trauma immigrant novel, trujillo Copyrigh t 20 10 Megan R. Adams
Acknowledgements First, I would like to thank Dr. Ylce Irizarry for her interest in my academic success. From our first meeting, Dr. Irizarry has been an enthusiastic mentor, and h er guidance and suggestions have been an invaluable part of the process. T hank you to Dr. Shirley Toland Dix for first introducing me to the staggering bea uty of Edwidge Danticat s novels Her emphasis on structure has brought much more lucidity to my writing. I am also grateful also to Dr. Hunt Hawkins for providing support and guidance beginning with my undergraduate thesis in 2007. His suggestion s leave me with many projects to pursue in the future. And, last, I would like to thank my lovin g friends and family for all their support. To Kristen and Zach, thank you for the frequent use of your living room floor and constant reminders that there is life outside of my books. To Kur t and Steve thank you for countless late night conversations and reassurances. And, to Josh, for responding to my endless barrage of messages beginning with does this even mak e any sense?
i Table of Contents Abstract ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... ii Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 1 The Farming of Bones ................................ ................................ ................ 2 1 Song of the Water Saints ................................ ................................ .................. 4 6 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 7 2 References ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 7 6
ii Testimonial Fiction and Transnational Healing in Edwidge Danticat's The Farming of B ones and Nelly Rosario's Song of the Water Saints Megan R. Adams ABSTRACT Drawing on recent attempts to reconcile the divergent nations of Hispaniola, I will examine the ways in which fiction by U.S. immigrant writers Danticat and Rosario looks back to the traumatic history of race relations on Hispaniola and the 1937 massacre as a means of approaching reconciliation and healing amongst the inhabitants of Hispaniola. As invested outsiders to their homelands, Danticat and Rosario may work, as Chancy suggests, in the capacity of actors for Hispaniola. Both Danticat and Rosario graciously admit that their w riting is largely contingent on the relative freedom from censure that their American citizenship affords them. In this capacity, these immigrant writers are uniquely able to revisit a traumatic cultural past to give voice to its widely arrayed victims and to provide an interrogation of the makings of horrific brutality. De spite the largely U.S. American readership, these authors foster a form of reconciliation through their works by forcing the audience to move past dich otomous thinking about the massacre, but also about the boundaries between the two nations
1 become impossible and abnormal, it is the function of all culture, partaking of this abnormality, to be aware of its own sickness. To be aware of the unreality or inauthenticity of the so called real, is to reinterpret this reality. To reinterpret this reality is to commit oneself to a constant revolutionary assault against it ( Sylvia Wynter 31 ) Introd uction During the late days of September and early days of October 1937, General Rafael Lenidas Trujillo Molina ordered the purging of Haitians from the Dominican Republic. Centuries of strife on the island combined with increased anti Haitian rhetoric produced a massacre that lasted approximately four days. 1 Conservative estimates place the death toll at 12,000. 2 The majority of the violence occurred between October 2 and October 8. Using machetes weapons chosen to allow peasant participation in the kil lings government troops brutally massacred Haitians Dominicans of Haitian descent 1 Haiti Dominican Counterpoint: Nation, State, and Race on Hispaniola 2 Beginning in late September and ending on October 4 th 1937, the Dominican government ordered the massacre of between 12,000 and 25,000 Haitians (Hicks 112). Richard Turits observes that Haitian clergy and officials accounted for 12,168 victims immediately following the massacre, but also acknowledges estimates as high as 20,000, obtained through a comparison of parish records before and after the massacre (591). Other estimates place the death toll as high as 35,000 (Sags 46). Because of the nature of the executions and the diversity among the victims, estimating a death toll is particularly challenging.
2 and dark skinned people who could not prove they were not Haitians. 3 After the massacre, the river was renamed El Massacre, as it was rumored to have run red with the blood of the victims (Derby 488). The unprecedented brutality of these days left the nations on either side of the border in shock. Historically the island of Hispaniola has been divided along the Dajabn since Spain ceded a portion of its colony to France in 1697. Following the Treaty of Ryswick, the now French portion of the island became Saint Domingue and remained a colony until the successful Haitian Revolution in 1804. After the di vide, varying colonial and slave owning practices produced starkly different racial identities on either side of the island. In Saint Domingue, the French operated the land as an exploitation colony; exporting goods, but not settling within the colony. After the Haitian Revolut ion, few white French lived on the island. There was a racial caste system within Saint Domingue, as Stewart R. King notes in Blue Coat or Powdered Wig: Free People of Color in Pre Revolutionary Saint Domingue ; however, the stratification on the Spanish si de of the island was more visible. 4 While Saint Domingue remained populated by predominan tly African descended peoples, the population on the Spanish side of the island became increasingly intermixed and racially hierarchized. Eugenio Matibag notes that b eginning in the late 17 th century, blancos de la tierra 3 Specifically addressing the calculated choice of weapon, Eugenio Matibag notes the contrast between the official narrative of the slaughter and the government orchestration necessary to produce it. 4 King discusses the presence and economic and social significance of this small class of free peoples of color in pre revolutionary Saint Domingue.
3 which suggests that the history of Dom Matibag 45 ) This shifting did not reduce the degree to which Dominican society was striated along the color line, but did suggest a more intermingled ethnic group. In the from each of its former colonizers historians suggest a great degree of exchange and interplay existed between the developing nations Beginning in the mid nineteenth century and continuing until the 1930s, th e nations established an economic exchange as rising demand for sugar cane increased the demand for cane cutters ( Matibag 129) Further cultural and economic interchange occurred across the border and is evident in oral histories from the period. As Richa Many residents traversed the border repeatedly over the course of a single day ethnic Haitian children went to Haiti to attend school, crossed back to the Dominican Republic for lunch, then returned to school in back home to Dominican territory in great cross cultural contact in the borderlands, as vendors and customers would tr avel across the river to sell or procure goods. 5 Despite a history of interdependence, the events of 1937 polarized the island nations Although ethnic groupings on the island were almost entirely the remnants of colonial domination the extermination of la rge portions of the indigenous population, the importation of enslaved peoples through the Transatlantic trade, the intermarriage 5 The Farming of Bones also depicts this transnational activity in scenes of her
4 between Spanish or French colonizers and the indigenous or slave peoples, among other practices ethnicity and cultural purity emerged as concerns within the Dominican Republic after independence. In Race and Politics in the Dominican Republic Ernesto Sags argues that antihaitianismo the anti Haitian sentiment in the Dominican Republic, was a dual focused prejudice, in which Haitians were derided at once for being both a 5). In the Dominican Republic, as in much of Europe, Haiti was derided as a nation of slaves savage, unsophisticated, and threatening to the civilized culture across the border. 6 The cultural and linguistic divide on the island, established during the colonial period, provided Trujillo with much of the basis for his campaign of ethnic cleansing. 7 For the Trujillo regime, the Haitian massacre was part of a broader campaign of fascistic nationalism. Cultivating an ethos of antihaitianismo Trujillo demonized diasporic African cultural influence and elevated Spanish colonial heritage. As Eric Paul Roorda argues in The Dictator Next Door Trujillo capitalized on a history of Haitian invasion and occupations in drumming up anti Haitian sentiment (129). In attempting to forge a unifying national ide ntity for the Dominican Republic, Trujillo developed a ndary with Haiti and imposing on the eastern side of the order the kind of Dominican society imagined from the perspective of the consciously Hispanic 6 labor in Saint Domingue and Santo Domingo may provide some insight into the distinction Dominicans made between Haitians and Domingue slaves were normally sent to labor in the Domingo slaves were either set of slaves may likely have contributed to hierarchized notions of eth nicity post emancipation. 7 A complicated history of invasion during and after the Revolution and border struggles also contributed to tensions between Dominicans and Haitians.
5 population farther east Because of its high concentration of mixed heritage individuals, the borderlands between Haiti and the Dominican Republic became Although the ramifications were felt throughout the island, the violence was concentrated in the border towns near the Dajabn River where the populations were heavily integrated. According to Richard Lee Turits, government t roops entered the Cibao region, referred to by Dominicans as La Frontera which lies between Haiti and the Dominican Republic (590). This borderland present day provinces of Monte Cristi, Dajabn, Santiago Pedernales, Barahona, Independencia, and most of Baoruco, San Juan, and Elas Pia the border, this region experienced a long history of cultural intermingling. Generations of Haitian workers lived and often married amongst Dominicans in these towns and the people often interchanged Spanish and Kreyl depending on the company. Many of those killed had been born in the Dominican Republic or were children of families whose roots in that region extended several generations (Turits 590). W orkers on U.S. owned sugar plantations were generally spared during the massacre because was vital to its economy and, as a result, many others were harbored in these spaces ( Matibag 147 ) This exclusion also meant that a large percentage of those killed were small farmers of Dominican birth, who were, as Turits notes, Dominican citizens as defined by the Dominican constitution (590). Recognition of these victims alongside the Haitians kil led during the genocide is essential to any project of reconciliation.
6 During the days of the massacre, cultural authenticity became the deciding factor for survival. One of the primary methods of identification was a simple interrogation of the would be pronounce the word perejil the Spanish equivalent of the Kreyol pesi or the English parsley then he/she was sentenced to death. Language, not skin color, was the deciding factor in the purges. The necessity for language as a tool of authentication illustrates the nature of the intensely hybridized culture that existed throughout the borderlands between the nations. This form of cultural identification also speaks to the homogenization of non Dominican peoples during the event ; failure to properly pronounce the Spanish ere and jota in succession marks the speaker a non native Spanish speaker, but does not prove that he/she is Haitian. Turitus confirms this tendency to generalize all deemed motives but the perceived threat to Dominican cultural practices and mores became a buildi ng was the centrality and superiority of hispanidad and those who could not be made to fit this cultural identity simply had no place in the Dominican Republic. 8 The Haitian Massacre, one in the rash of ethnic cleanses during the twentieth century is of ten overlooked, or considered an isolated event; however, as Eric Paul Roorda argues in The Dictator Next Door: The Good Neighbor Policy and the Trujillo Regime in the Dominican Republic, 1930 1945 the 1937 massacre should be treated alongside other genoc idal atrocities including the Rape of Nanking and the German 8 Trujillismo state on the superiority of hispanidad
7 Holocaust. 9 Roorda notes a number of eerie similarities between the totalitarian governments of Generalisimo Trujillo and Fhrer Adolf Hitler. According to Roorda, party, greet each other (133). Parallels between the National Socialist Party of Germany and the Trujillato are fri g htening and perhaps bizarre strategic manipulation of racial tensions. As in Nazi Germany, genocide became a tool for opposition, rather than integration. Jingoistic rhetoric fomented and fostered pre existing racial tensions. 10 Although the historical connections between General Rafael Trujillo 9 Although Roorda notes these two genocidal events in discussing the Haitian massacre, a more developed inquiry into the frequency and intensity of genocides throughout the twentieth century might Looming Prairies and Blooming Orchids: The Politics of Sex and Race in Song of the Water Saints the U.S., Spain, and the Dominican Republic, connecting the Haitian massacre to racial riots in the United genocide to the 1994 Rwandan genocide of the compared to the genocidal campaign in the Biafra Civil War, 1967 70, 1978 in Zimbabwe from 1982 83, Al A nfal Campaign in 1986 89, and contemporary genocidal activities in the Darfur region of the Sudan. Placed in context with not only the German Holocaust and the Rape of N anking, but also with genocidal massacres prevalent in former European colonies post independence the Haitian massacre takes on particular significance. As in the other former colonies, divisions drawn by imperial powers became the source of conflict upon the island. 10 Richard Turits suggests that racial tensions on the island heightened dramatically in the years following the massacre. Although Turits holds that anti Haitian sentiment intensified greatly after 1937, he does not argue that the conditions o f genocide did not predate the massacre. Rather than forging a more
8 and Adolf Hitler are difficult to ignore, it is perhaps the broad scale suffering of those victimized during both the dictatorial regimes themselves and the broad scale ethnic cleansings that links Hispaniola to Europe. The geographic and cultural circumst ances of the 1937 massacre and the German Holocaust vary; however, the historical links and similarities between Nazi Germany and Trujillo era Dominican Republic permit an overlap in the theoretical framework used in discussing the traumatic repercussions of these events. Because the massacre left victims from both ends of the island, Holocaust studies provide a framework through which this act of genocidal violence may be understood as well. Remembrance and reconciliation have long been terms in discussion s of post War Europe, and should appear in this context as well. The question then becomes how to cultivate future relations while acknowledging the atrocities of the past. Because of this interdependent history, representations and discussions of the 19 37 massacre require a nuanced approach to bor der theory. T he recent trend in historical studies of this conflict is to broaden the approach, encompassing a wider array of interdependence and a more dialectical model for understanding relations Proposing a familiar story of hostilities, looking for particular connections to reveal a lesser known, holistic narrative of interdependencies and reciprocal influence that have shaped each co mode for understanding the historical and current relations between these conjoine d cohesive national identity, the purges heightened tensions between light skinned Dominicans and other Dominicans and polarized the beliefs of both nations involved in the cleanse.
9 nations (3). Matibag views the island not as an arena for conflict criticizing Michelle Why the Cocks Fight 11 for reductively doing so but rather as a complex Dominican Republic must confront one another in an ongoing contest for land, power, ) Matibag argues that a future T his instance of genocide in the world merits sig nificant interpretation, not only for its historical significance including the hows and whys of its occurrence but also for its continued relevance in contemporary Dominican Haitian relations. Indeed, as he story of the Haitian massacre i s also one of Dominicans versus Dominicans, of Dominican elites versus Dominican peasants, of the national state against Dominicans in the fron and, following the massacre, of newly hegemonic anti Haitian discourses of the nation vying with more cultur ally pluralist discourses and Domi nican identity developed after the massacre Although, as Turits observes, urrent representatio ns of the massacre speak to con te mporary problems of 11 Wucke a tradition central to both Haitian and Dominican culture as a dominating metaphor to explain the relations between the neighboring nations of Hispaniola. Citing the contained, ring like space, and the instigative role of worl d powers such as the U.S., Spain, and France, Wucker suggests that the tense relations on the island may be understood in much the same way as somewhat redu ctive in its suggestions of cause effect relations.
10 such diametric terms prior to 1937 (593) 12 In aspiring to reconciliation between the conjoined nations, it is perhaps instructive to examine the violent outburst that sits at the center of the conflict. of reconciliation was echoed in 2004 when Meridians hosted a roundtable discussion ent Anniversary of Independence (69). During this discussion authors representing both sides of the island spoke to the realities of the conjoined histories of Haitians and pectives by reading from recent creative works and engaging in public dialogue on the current crises facing Hispaniola Edwidge Danticat, Loida Maritza Prez, Myriam J. A. Chancy, and Nelly Rosario discuss the unique role of the woman writer to inter rogate and d ismantle factious nationalist rhetoric that pervade s discussions of Haitian Dominican borderlands. The discussion aimed to bridge gaps between cultures and to promote an interdisciplinary dialogue regarding the project of reconciliation on Hisp aniola. of borderlands and mestiza consciousness, these writers explicate their role as women writers and/or feminists in negotiating the unequal relations of power and influence on the island. Although many writers have engaged images of Trujillo and the days of the Trujillato, few fiction writers have confronted the Haitian Massacre. Haitian author 12 antihaitianismo in Race and Politics in the Dominican Republic. antihaitianismo ; it merely worked to escalate these preexisting notions.
11 Jacques Stephen Alexis General Sun, My Brother in 1955 (translated in 1999) former Poet Laureate of the Uni ted States in 1983 Dominican American author In the Time of Butterflies in 1994 Haitian author Louis Philippe Dalembert L'Autre Face de La Mer Roman 1998, and The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in 2008 all treat aspects of the Haitian Dominican relationship and to some extent the 1937 massacre. More direct treatments of the The Farming of Bones and Nelly Song of the Water Saints. D The Farming of Bones examines the days of the slaughter and the years of traumatic suffering that follow, while Song of the Water Saints embeds a truncated narrative of the massacre within a tri generational narrative of the lives of a family of Dominican women. In approaching the purpose of these works and the treatment of the massacre, the Meridians roundtable may provide some insight into the renegotiation of identity in the post Rather than viewing the island as two opposing nation s virulently pitted against one another in a struggle for dominance in the constricted space of the island, Danticat, Prez, Chancy, and Rosario anticipate a vision of the island as a whole, as Hispaniola. As Myria history and politics conspired to keep [Dominicans and Haitians] from a rticulating a sense of oneness on this little land mass, which is Hispaniola Because of this, home becomes very dif ficult to defi ne because [she] think [s] of home as Haiti but [she] always [has] th being
12 s part of a feminist vision despite her inability to enter Haiti as an outspoken feminist Chancy seeks an approach to intra island relations of models so that home bec will serve to heal wounds inflicted by centuries of strife. za Prez suggests that reminder of European imperialism and of the hostilities that ensue when two [colonial] entities lay claim to a single island physical and socio political division prevents the metaphor of island from being the most adequate for Hispaniola. It is not an entity unto itself, nor does its being an island 79). Although Prez emphasizes th e distinction between the two island nations in her description of Hispaniola she implies that conceptualizing the island for what it is would provide the type of transformative cons ciousness its would need in order to move forward from a history of bruta Haiti seems, at first, somewhat divisive, but is intended to produce peaceful coexistence, much as efforts to unite the island intend to create call for separat ion in the study of the island is the history of interdependence made 13 While the countries have two very different histories and 13 Pr ez conceptualizes Hispaniola using the border as a more adequate metaphor. According to
13 very different cultural origins, there is an undeniable history of reciprocal relations between the Dominican Republic and Haiti that suggests Hispaniola should also be conceived as a unit. Another central element to the discussion is the emigrant identity of its participants. Common to each author is the position as both cultural insider and outsider. Speaking for their role in the politics of their homeland, Chancy hopes that emigrant participating in being actors for the nation state ] American integral part of her upbringing in the United States to her writing of Dominican life (76). Attending not to a distance of spirit or mentality, but simply one of Rosario hopes to provide a voice for Dominican culture through her writing. Similarly, that delario 76). She that brings attention to Theirs is not a project of recolonization, but of forced recognition. Writing historically situated fiction, Danticat and Rosario recount events which have shape d the island and give voice to historically but also currently, what with so many from Hispaniola seeking to emigrate and being impede d negate or traverse borders remains centered around the notion o f division or, at least, distinction.
14 imagined figures within that history, yet they do not write def initive accounts of life in a particular place or period. Instead Danticat and Rosario write as emigrants, using their distance from the island cultures to enabl e them to address painful histories that remain unspoken. Their hope is to provide understanding of the nature of the conflict on Hispaniola, and to open discourse regarding the tragedy of 1937. David Cowart takes up this subject in Trailing Clouds: Immigr ant Fiction in Contemporary America as he discusses notions of hybrid cultural identity in the United States and those works that engage in identifying an immigrant culture or aesthetic while avoiding pitfalls of earlier generations. He argues that fiction by immigrant authors either transformed, sometimes, by the metastasizing mendacity of r Cowart concentrates much of his study on the negotiation of an immigrant American identity in the works he examines, his discussion of the theoretical frameworks first generation writers have received much attention from critics whose response tends to be modeled on ethnic and postcolonial theory, which emphasizes the conflicts that come with having to live on the margins and write in a non ese emphases, Cowart through ethnic or postcolonial theory, I engage what Cowart describes as post For Cowart, a post postcolonial approach
15 separateness, diversity, political 3). Writing from the United States, these authors look back to events on their home island the time being. Engaging the history of Hispaniola in their writing, Danticat and Rosario attempt to bear witness to the genocide without maintaining the dichotomy of some postcolonial thought. As emigrant writers turning back to the historical trauma of their homelands Edwidge Danticat and Nelly Rosario carve out a particular space within the realm of testimonial or human rights narratives. Their lim i nal position somewhere between ks of E mpathy: In terrogating Multiculturalism's G aze estimony calls for empathy as necessary to the comprehension of trauma, and necessary to extend cognition to its limits through histori her methods nizes its own limits, obstacles, ignorances and zones of numbness, and in so doing offers an ally to truth's representational cris y Testimony and human rights narratives provide space for the speaker to bear witness to traumatic experience, but do not end the discourse on the experience alone. As Shosana F completed statement, a totalizable account of those events ( Felman and Laub 5) anguage is in
16 process and in trial; it does not possess itself as a conclusion, as a constatat ion of a verdi c t or the self transpa (Felman and Laub 5). It is an account, an exploration, perhaps an expurgation of traumatic experience rather than a definitive source of verifiable data. For the reader, testimonial narratives present one way of understanding, one way of coming closer to the meaning of trauma without ending the discourse. Although the intended outcome of human rights and genocide narratives is to open discourse, provide understanding, and, ultimately, avoid the same t ype of atrocity from recurring, Megan Boler question s the efficacy and ethics of teaching genocide or holocaust literature(s) arguing that they have the potential to do little more than induce a form of passive empathy in the reader Eric Sundquist furthers this argument by discussing the ways in which the reader may come to delight in the suffering depicted in such accounts. Touching Evil as perhaps one of the oddest and mos t prescient pieces of Holocaust literature to testimony of survivor witnesses brought In their obsessive identification with the testifying Holocaust survivors, the American women serve as a warning against the sort of self gratifying ide ntification an audience disconnected from confronts us with the disturbing probability that t he atrocities of the Judeocide are seductive, a kind of
17 pornography t hrough which we los e our innocence, whatever the motive or epi phany, time and again Sundquist analyzes a type of reader identification which expands painful and delightful. Beyond discusses is a self edifying desire to subject oneself to ever more knowledge of atrocities, as though reading and knowing will be enough. argument s provide a critical framework for approaching narratives of genocide, I look to the more regionally specific notion of testimonio as a model for exploring these testimonial texts. n of testimonio than is traditionally afforded the genre. Combining traditional legal and anthropological definitions of testimonio with developments in the study of the ethics of narrative, Irizarry suggests that fictional Latina narratives specifically J In the Time of Butterflies and Dreaming in Cuban may be read as testimonio because of their clear, purposeful intervention in historicizing narratives of dictatorial oppression. Although bearing witness to atrocities such a s military death squads or strategic acts of genocide does not restore the lives or, even, the identities of the victims, Irizarry notes the importance of making government violations known to the international community. se remains an important and unfinished objective of testimonio testimonio fictional or nonfictional is an act of ethical intervention ( 268). In this sense, as one of the primary aims of testimonio is to make revisionist in terventions in the perception of Caribbean histories. Irizarry
18 highlights the emphasis on emerging nationalism and its relation to the oppressed as a primary mode of ethical intervention Through this revisionist project, testimonio novels reader in a reevaluation of what he or she knows about the Hispanic A Farming is the examination of emergent nationalism in the Dominican Republic, through its intim ate look at the victims of the ethnic cleansing under Trujillo. The novel is primarily focused on the suffering of working class Haitians during the massacre; however, r under Trujillo, chronicling the suffering of Seora Valencia, the wife of a Trujillista In Trujillato reads less as a condemnation of her complicity, and more an exploration of the means through which Valencia acts as an agent in her own survival. complicity of women under the Trujillato in their own oppression is instructive in analyzing the tension between be heroic actions during the massacre and her relationship to her Trujillista husband. obedience to her husband, and, thus, complicity in the Trujillo campaign. testimonio also elucidates my reading of Song of the Water Saints marke dly different approach to itten in Spanish, nor narrated by a wit ness to the massacre; instead, it is addressed to the North Ameri can community, and narrated in the
19 third person. The novel takes as its primary subject three underprivileged Dominican women. This focus allows Rosario to complicate notions of complicity an d survival throughout the novel. Although it does not, as a traditional testimonio does, convey the individual experience as an authentic narrative of the events, it does invoke a collective memory of the days of the Trujillo regime. Noting that t estimonio lways depicts novel through the framework of testimonio (6). In its exploration of the methods of self Song affords humanity to r epresentative characters struggling to survive under the Trujillato Read within the context of both testimonial narratives writ large and the specific tradition of testimonio The Farming of Bones Song of the Water Saints partic ipate in the creation of revisionist history, making interventions on the behalf of those whose lives were affected by Trujillo regime and the brutality it sanctioned. Directed at Anglophone audiences, both novels contribute to the project of informing the international, specifical ly the North American community, not only of the atrocities committed during this era, but also of the complex system of power relations that produced it. In the post script to In the Time of the Butterflies Julia Alvarez outline s a [Dominic ans] have endured and the heavy losses [they] have suffered of which [her
20 red As immigrant writers like Alvarez admittedly writing from places of economic and political stability, Danticat and Rosario are free to engage the imagination in this way, to re envision the past and begin the process of r einventing the future. To this end, n either Danticat nor Rosario provides a sweeping condemnation of those responsible for or complic it in the massacre, and neither presents a sentimental lament for its victims. In writing their fiction, Danticat and Rosario refuse to dismiss it as either an isolated incident of unimaginable brutality or a regrettable, but understandable tragedy. A negotiation of responsibility and compassion occurs in both novels as the authors seek to give voice to some way in which hybrid subjects such as Amabelle, Sebastien, and Mustaf receive voices in these novels forces a reexamination of the victim/victimizer dichotomy. Through compassionate representations of t he victimizers Mustaf who is at once victim and victimizer these novels force a reconsideration of historical memory. Emphasizing the degree to which all inhabitants of Hispaniola were n, these novels implicate the responsible and mitigate easily placed blame. Each approach implicates the complicit while exploring the material circumstances of that complicity.
21 nt to do is find a place to lay it down and again, a safe nest where it will neither be scattered by the winds, The Farming of Bones The Farming of Bones fictional fi rst person narrative told by a survivor of the days of massacre that fits squarely in the tradition of testimonial narrative, calls readers to reexamine the horrors of what was once an almost forgotten tragedy. 14 Beloved 15 14 testimonio memberi The Farming of Bones novel testimonio membering The Farming of Bones Shemak traces the correlations between the rising Caribbean tradition of testimonio an act of fictional re re conciles victim and victimizer in the novel come not only through the parallels Shemak traces, but also The Farming of Bones nuanced approach to the novel within the framework of testimonio looking both at the nonfictional genre nd what Linda Craft has called the testimonial novel (fiction sharing fundamental characteristics with non fictional testimonios ), even while it also attests to the strong converges between these two critical testimonio antihaitianismo after his life saving escape across th e border. 15 The Farming of Bones Beloved Susana Vega Gonzalez explores the connections of traumatic loss and memory in these novels. In her article,
22 traumatic experiences, that all that remains is the narrative. Farming begins in 1937, just days before the October massacre and voices character beginning with her encounter with the brutality of those days and following her through the beginning s tages of healing decades later. en; however, in so doing, she must also represent her experiences as one of thousands of Haitian refugees who fled during the massacre. Thus, the novel becomes a narrative of both testimony and healing. Addressing the intersections between testimonio and t estimonial fiction, Marta Caminero Santangelo suggests that both forms exhibit a ating ure to recover Sebastien in any real sense, the traumatic loss experienced by both nations. In so doing, Amabelle upsets stable notions of the functionality of testimonial fiction. Within the frame of the narrative Danticat represents the place of persona l trauma and loss in the national scale tragedy as the protagonist joins a small, ragged group of refugees in their flight to the border. re membering, as it were is achieved largely through the representat ion of the intersecting suffering of a vast array of people. Vega Gonzalez more thoroughly explores the notion of rememory and the implications of trauma narrative in both novels.
23 treatment of the brutality and its effect on Hispaniola. In her attempt to represent a history not directly her ow n, Danticat is primarily concerned with giving voice to those who suffered and those who died during this genocidal atrocity. Although she surrenders the concludes th e text with an acknowledgement in which she closes by dedicating her voice first in my memory, must be offered to those who died in the Massacre of 1937, to those who survived to testify, and to the constant struggle of those who still toil in the cane and second, to honor those who still suffer the same inhumane labor conditi ons as their massacred ancestors. A story out of the not so distant acknowledgements and dedication to those continuing to labor in the can e fields. Because Danticat is expressly uninterested in creating a fictionalized history lesson, she avoids the temptation to choose sides which would, essentially, further re divide the island. Instead, she gives an insightful view of the material condi tions of the transnational victims of the slaughter. In a more recent discussion of the novel in relation to testimonial fiction, Stephanie Scurto argues that Farming defies the Jamesonian purpose of the novel to
24 not find Sebastien; she is unable to officially give her testimony; her pilgrimage back to Alegra is disheartening; and in the final scene, she has resolved herself to the river, Yet, Scurto claims, it is precisely this lack of resolution which gives the novel its testimonial purpose. Li ke Scurto, I argue that the distinctly unresolved nature of the text speaks to the continuing struggle Danticat alludes to in the acknowledgements which conclude her text. As Scurto argues, the final words of the novel honor those whose lives are still gov erned by the inhumane conditions in the cane fields of the Dominican Republic. f testimonial fiction. In drawing attention to the divide on Hispaniola, Danticat is careful to present, in as nuanced a manner as possible, the intricate systems of relations which existed prior to the 1937 massacre. Farming introduces her reader to the daily realities of Haitian Dominican life. Although these days only comprise a short segment at the beginning of the novel, they provide a sense of the integral understanding of the nature of Haitian immigrant life in the Dominican Republic. Throug h Amabelle, we see how interconnected Haitian immigrant lives were with the Domi ni can people. Her narrative provides a sense of the acculturation of Ha i tian immigrants to life in the Dominican Republic, and the adaptations made to traditional Haitian custo ms. Although their economic and social standing left them vulnerable in the community, characters such as Amabelle identify the Dominican Republic as home above
25 Dominican life conveys both a sense of rootedness and a r eal understanding of the fragility of their living arrangements. Interdependent as purge. One of the primary modes of presenting this complex system of relations is Danticat long domestic servant. Despite the obvious class differences and racial prejudices that separated them, Valencia and Amabelle share an intimate, albeit unilateral, understanding bef ore the massacre forces Amabelle to repatriate. Throughout their interactions, Amabelle demonstrates an acute awareness of the dictums of class; afraid to leave for happen i n [her] absence, the worst of it being if a lady of her stature had to push that child Narrating this experience, Amabelle draws clear distinctions between the deman ds of the aristocratic like Valencia namely attendance during childbirth and the stark realities [she] had known [Valencia], [they] had always been dangling between bein g strangers Amabelle, as well as a clear ethnic divide. This ethnic divide is reinforced by the distinctions made between servants in Both Juana and Am abelle have had long standing in the house, Juana as a long time domestic servant and Amabelle as a companion and servant for Seora
26 Valencia since childhood. The Farming of Bones, s that Amabelle, as a black, domestic domestic servant role, Dhar suggests that Amabelle national space of the Dominican Republic (188). Unlike Juana, Amabelle is distanced by race as well as class, an element of the servan t employer relationship that Scurto overlooks in her analysis. Although Scurto addresses the variations in gender roles based on class, her essay neglects the distinctions made between Juana and Amabelle based on a racial hierarchy. As Lynn Chun Ink sugges the privileged position of Juana, the Dominican servan national ties take primacy over class status Although Amabelle is a childhood friend and the midwife for her Valencia chooses the older Juana over Amabelle to accompany her after her because of their common nationality and because she knows that Pico would approve As Dhar and Ink observe, class and racial dynamics produced a somewhat stable, but alway s strained position for Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic. The tenuous place Amabelle and others like her occupied in the Dominican Republic is epitomized in her relationship with Seora Valencia. Although the differences in class and the power relations between employee and employer cannot be overlooked as contributing factors in the familiar, but distant, re lationship between
27 Amabelle and Valencia their alienation from one another has as much to do with tense racialized relations as class distances malicious nor spiteful, yet her belief in her own racial superiority is clear. Upon the (11). In a s tartlingly nave comment, Valen c i a playfully suggests that perhaps her misguided use of racialized terms of endearment wonders what will happen if h peop recognize the inherently divisive racial hierarchy to which she ascribes. Her words are startling within the context of the novel because they demonstrate precisely the precarious situation in which Amabelle, Sebastien, and the others find themselves. Alongside the contemporary history of Dominican Haitian relations, Danticat exploitati represented within the text by the presence of the sugar woman. Acknowledging her participation in the heritage of violent oppression of Haitians Amabelle describes recurring dreams
28 tasked with cutting (132). the colle ctive history of Haitians working and living in the Dominican Republic and Haiti becomes one of A grandmothers, one of the many African descended women who serve as slaves or domestic servants in the Dominican Republic before Amabelle. Again, Danticat reminds her reader that cane cropping and domestic servitude are deeply entrenche d in the historical realities o f life in Hispaniola This long continue to be subjected to inhumane conditions in the fields. Amid this context, Danticat fashions the lov e story of Amabelle and Sebastien. For Amabelle, the act of narration becomes an outlet for reproducing the healing intimacy she once shared with her fiance, Sebastien Onius. She envisions her narrative as a space in whi ch she might reunite with Sebastien Amabelle interweaves abstract dream and memory sequences throughout the otherwise linear narrative as a means of inserting traumas, left incompletely healed by the ma ssacre, and new adult trauma, arising from the brutality which separates her from her fiance. From the beginning, Amabelle tells the reader of her love for Sebastien Onius, and the restorative nature of their relationship. From the beginning, the novel r goal, to crystallize some essential quality of his otherwise undocumented existence From
29 etched into the opening of the novel, and his role as healer is established. Lover to the psychologically wounded Amabelle, Sebastien would consists of two choices; for otherwise simply float inside these remembrances, grieving for who I was, and even more heal the childhood tra umas which orphaned them in the Dominican Republic. 16 Amabelle became an orphan during a tragic border crossing attempt; Sebastien lost his father to a hurricane and crossed the border into the Dominican Republic looking for work to support his family In as they attempt to cross back into Dajabn (51). There is little description of their deaths; wa tching her parents drown in the river, she At the bo rder, Amabelle becomes an orphan Without family, raised by employers, Amabelle is left alone to process her childhood tr auma until she meets Sebastien. yet in the slumbering d Although they have witnessed death and suffered losses, Amabelle and Sebastien have 16 Farming exploring the intersections between physic al and psychological trauma throughout the novel.
30 found a way to continue living together. Night time and sleep, for Amabelle and Sebastien, are threatening alone but together, they provide a reminder that death has not come for either of them yet. but Amabelle allows him to speak (67). Through their relationship, they begin to articulate the pain they have experienced. At his prodding, she talks of the kind of people her parents were, which in turn allows him to speak of his c arrying his dead father from the road, wobbling, swaying, stumbling under the weight. The boy with the wind in his ears and pieces of the tins roofs that opened crying or scr nd not go into the muddy ground (34). The act of witnessing a for Sebastien, but it allows him to begin to sleep again. For Amabelle, the relationship serves a similar function until they are separated. Cut short by their separation during the massacre this healing must be actualized some other way In reconstructing her own memories, Amabelle intersperses dream and memory sequences which refigure historical loss, lost parents, and, most centrally, her lost lover. T he aging Amabelle uses dream and me mory sequences in her text to immortalize her union with Sebastien. As these interruptions become less frequent through the text,
31 with no fall, a body in the sunlight narrative is incomplete and fragmentary; a partial representation of a man lost in the massacre. By way of explanation, Amy Novak suggests structures might settle and p Allowing Sebastien to speak through her dreams and memories, Amabelle testifies to his loss without appropriating his story; she writes, but has resigned herself to the impossibility of telling all of him and hi s loss. Because Amabelle will never learn the circumstances of and death after his disappearance, her narrative remains open. a space for his experience, for his essence, as she sees it, alongside her own by laying words down in a narrative. It is her return to Sebastien She affirms, in the narrative decisions allow her to eternalize his memory within the novel; because he is no longer present, she must write his name and his memory as a testimony to his life and his suffering. Amabelle attempts to write Sebastien into her experiences, reuniting her story
32 indicates a broader historical context for her pain, her treatment of the dream is also indicative of her attempts to insert Sebastien into her narrative. In the dream, Amabelle image of some jealous woman or the revenant of some dead love he carri es with him into claiming that Amabelle is her Amabelle reinterprets the cultural legacy of African slavery on the island of Hispaniola, and inserts Sebastien into that history. Sexual jealousy, in this instance, serves as the attempt to incorporate Sebastien into her dream, both as an assertion of his place in the tradition of Haitian suffering and as a way of explai ning her situation in a less pain filled way, is indicative of her attempts to recast the trauma she experiences throughout her life. After narrating the events of the massacre, Amabelle inserts fewer of the dream and memory sequences. As Mireille Rosell For Amabelle primary action of the novel progr esses toward the present for Amabelle, the dreams disappear because they are no longer framed within the context of the safe nocturnal space created by her exchanges with Sebastien in their nights together. Without Sebas ing w ith which to situate her early traumatic experience prior to the massacre. No longer free to dream those painful dreams, Amabelle suppresses their presence in the text. In the final dream sequence, Amabelle place in which they made love for the first
33 time, but her waking attempt to find the waterfall fails; she is unable to reunite herself with Sebastien and must turn to writing as a source of healing (283). Alone, Amabelle begins the process of writing her t estimony and memorial. participates in the tradition of testimonial fiction. One of the elements which identifies tradition of tes timonio Caminero Santangelo discusses the significance of the repeated instances of testimony in the novel. According to Caminero Santangelo, iterature of historical trauma, like testi monio is notable for its documentary impulse its efforts to enclose within its fictional narrative concrete references he concern with truth effect frequently takes the form of a reproduction of the very act ( Caminero Santangelo 7). In regard to Farming Caminero Santangelo notes the representation of these scenes of direct testimony in the novel compounds the preoccupation with the veracity of her own narrative. Similarly, Rosello highlights the emphasis on the act of testimony in the narrative itself. Rosello argues that A compatriots who testify to the emergency courts set up after the massacre are acutely aware of the problematic nature of their testimony. Although they are compelled to speak, the refugees are aware that their testimony, once recorded, may be use d to
34 preoccupation with truth and veracity (58). Their journey to the courts to be heard is an act of witnessing which occurs alongside the spontaneous witnessing Amabelle records from other members of her refugee group, Doloritas and Tibon, and the broken recitation of Father Romain. Danticat provides a poignant visual representat ion of the victims of the slaughter through the refugee group Yves and Amabelle join during their escape. As the refugees family, except for the two women who had coils of pumpkin Including two Dominican sisters, one of whom had been the lover of a Haitian man, the refugee group is comprised of domestic and mill workers from across the island. The group, formed out of necessity, is representative of thos e affected by the massacre; their experiences combined in this manner are representative of the whole. They are the displaced border crossers of an island divided. Their experiences come to represent the broad scale suffering of the short days of el corte By placing non Haitians in this group of displaced, traumatized persons, Danticat acknowledges the need for an island wide reconciliation instead of an attempt to heal the Haitian victims exclusively. Although the novel is primarily concerned with the Haitian cane croppers and immigrants maimed and murdered during the cleanse, it opens the project of reconciliation to members of both nations wounded and lost to the slaughter. To this end, Danticat provi des a Dominican counterpart for Amabelle in Doloritas. From her
35 word Il on eac Domin ican birth and racial identity have done little to protect her from suffering the same traumatic loss Amabelle endures. Both are lovers to Haitian men disappeared in the slaughter. fated love is also significant for its border crossing qual ity. Together six months, she and Ilestbien were forging a transnational identity. Residents of the Dominican Republic they both speak Spanish and identify as Dominican, yet before [they] visit traumatic schism forced between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, especially in the though it may be, serves a Amabelle continues to layer individual narratives to speak to the collective trauma ors she meets, tells stories of Haitian workers rounded up in trucks. Taken to a cliff, Tibon and 3). Describing victims; their blood becomes indistinguishable. Maimed or slain in t he violence, the
36 victims Tibon remembers are homogenized by their common fate; race, class, and ethnic people, and to his own wounding. Through Doloritas and Tibon, Amabelle receives models of the two types of testimony she will provide through her own narrative. Weaving these experiences into the narrative, Amabelle situates her suffering and loss as part of the collective trauma. of the refugee group are united by their struggle to reach the border. New traumas emerge in the collective setting, compounding the old. As the group flees, they smell the allows Amabelle to encapsulate the greater horror of th e massacre. As they relate the stories that lead to their flight, Amabelle notes that eventually the story telling stopped (177). Each tale of suffering becomes yet another means of re experiencing the horrors they had just bar ely survived. In claiming this personal connection to each narrative, Amabelle explains her inclusion of their stories within her narrative; their pain is her pain, and hers cannot be resolved without a ddressing theirs. Father Romain, left in a fugue state following the massacre, provides another form of testimony. Once a spiritual leader for Haitians living in Alegra, Father Romain is and allowed When Amabelle reunites with him several
37 months later Father Romain remains psychologically wounded. During this encounter, he prattles on with the of ( 260). Parroting the words his captors Father Romain bears witness to the dehumanizing rhetoric of antihaitianismo to which he was subjected in the prison: On this island, walk too far in either direction and people speak a different motherland is Spain; theirs is darkest Africa, you understand? They once came here only to cut sugarcane, but now there are more of them than there will ever be to cut, you understand? Our problem is one of d ominion. Tell me, does anyone like to have their house flooded with visitors, to the point that the visitors replace their own children? How can a country be ours if we are smaller in numbers than the outsiders? Those of us who love our country are taking measures to keep it our own 260) Through the manifestation of his deep psychological trauma, Father Romain testifies to the massacre by presenting a reportorial account of the systemic cruelty which undergirded the killings. His testimony, driven by an unconscious psychological wound, provides a stark, undiluted account of the atmosphere during the slaughter. Trujillista and former employer to Amabelle, a testimony of sorts of her own. As Danticat has done through Doloritas, she again acknowledges the traumatic impact of the and the near tive provides a glimpse
38 into the domestic life of a wife of the Republic. That the novel begins with such a scene aristocratic woman. April Shemak suggests that Valencia, th hampered by the death of her first born son (90). As Valen cia becomes merely a vessel in which the next generation of white Dominican men is nurtured, her role as wife to a Trujillista is clearly delineated. Furthermore, she fails to recognize the deleterious effect such thinking will have within her own familia lineage. Valencia, as the wife of a rising Trujillista building project. Addressing the antebellum United States, Amy Kaplan argues in complement the nation building impulse in the public sphere; a similar effect exists within the jingoistic era of the Trujillato Valencia must create the domestic environment that contrasts the violent, nation building endeavors that Pico undertakes; her home must serve as space of pure hispanidad to her own c hildren. As a commentary on the failure of this nationalist and patriarchal construction of in the novel is starkly contrasted against
39 hood. 17 different route to womanhood than Amabelle can take, and her journey leads to spiritual onfines of womanhood. 18 While Amabelle chooses a relationship of love over marriage, her Dominican counterpart in the novel chooses a hollow marriage to an absent lieutenant in which her needs are secondary to her duty as wife. Amabelle is concerned with tra dition, obedience of their customs. Acknowledging a desire for legitimacy, Amabelle admits that honor betrothed to Sebastien follows a traditional, patriarchal notion of leg itimate love, ceremony, the bearing of children as shared property. For me, it was just a smile I couldn moved from its traditional culture and the extended filial units that would necessitate and facilitate a 17 The Farming of Bones, characteristics in Sebastien over those of the patriarch Seor Pico. This contrast, although limited to the oppression. 18 llment of her role within this patriarchal system in The Farming of Bones failed marriage seems to be a broader commentary on the failure of patriarchal and militaristic structures to provide a stable social environment (36).
40 formalized courtship and wedding with more rigid restrictions on their behavior; as outsiders, Amabelle and Sebastien are free to choose their spouses rather than accept them as a family arrangement. In this manner, Amabelle escapes the psychological relationships is particul arly significant as it pertains to their treatment of trauma through romantic relationships. Amabelle does not depend exclusively on Sebastien for strength, but rather, on their relationship, on their shared understanding and mutual strength. Unlike Amabel le and Sebastien who turn to one another for comfort from their individual losses, Seora Valencia and Seor Pico cannot share in their suffering because their abrupt un nt upholds the dicta of masculinity imposed upon him by the patriarchal system of the Dominican Republic, yet fails to provide the support his wife relies on to maintain the integrity of their marriage. Presenting a direct critique of their relationship, Amabelle o implies an indirect critique of gender roles which are too rigid to allow the couple to heal after their
41 loss by commenting in her narration and by juxtaposing her relationship with Sebastien to the relationship between her employers. The inclusion of V marginalized role during the Trujillo era, her later testimony to her humanitarian effort during the massacre is compl icated by her complicity in the power structures of the more as an attempt at self assuaging than a legitimate rescue attempt (299). In a series of self congratulatory stat ements, Valenica lists the people she hid on her property, her face h longed for since her failure to save Amabelle from the brutality (299). Valencia views her reunion with Amabelle as an opportunity to assuage the guilt she has carried, despite her reading of her words would acknowledge her physical fragility after a difficult birth, and h er responsibility for her days old children; however, it would be a nave oversight to 19 because ks congratulation or recognition, but, as desires no heroic deeds serving desire to save would be victims 19 The Trujillato and Testimonial Fiction: Collective Memory, Cultural Trauma, and National Ide ntity in Edwidge Danticat's The Farming of Bones and Junot Daz's The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao own complicity (109).
42 from the massacre stemmed more from her personal attachment to Amabelle than from any motivating concern for human rights. While we may pity Seora Valencia her distant marriage which crumbles upon the death of the first male heir, it is more difficult to excuse her complicity in the regime which victimizes her childhood friend. Notions of racial superiority aside, Valencia seems to feel at least a personal duty to protect Amabelle or honor her memory, yet her actions are merely a vain at tempt at self consolation. When she fails, she excuses herself by asking what more she could do in her position as the wife of a prominent Trujillista reader, parti cularly as her pleas to Amabelle become less and less about admitting complicity, and more about providing a salve for her wounded pride. One might read from the slaughter, replacement (304). Like Amabelle, Sofie is a young Haitian child, rescued from devastating circumstances and protected in ways Valencia could not protect her own childhood servant compan ion. Seora Valencia does seem to feel a motherly attachment o f her complicate their relationship. Despite the horrific consequences of the racially and economically hierarchized social system, Valencia returns to her earlier behaviors, and Sylvie complies. Before she 3). The thought of asking
43 calculates her actions so as to be as unnoticeable as possible, bowing her head and speaking only when prompted by Valencia. Both Valencia and Sylvie have witnessed the brutal end product of this caste system, yet both revert to the master servant protocol Sylvie from the slaughter is highly suggestive. Sy l vie was not protected, rescued, or The threat of immediate death has been replaced by the certainty of exploitation. Before Papi died, all he cortes from all over the worl d. It is a marvel that some of us are still here, to wait and hope to die a natural powerfully connects the Haitian massacre to other purges of its kind, yet we are left questioning her credibility (300). Although her statement rings ironically tr ue, the Papi nor Valencia is portrayed as a ide in his ethnic heritage may try to insert herself in the narrative of trauma, but her self congratulatory attitude bars her from unqualified inclusion. Through Valenci
44 historically traumatic moment, as though such connection validates his/her existence. As Amabelle layers various forms of witness ing throughout her own narrative, victims. She gives voice to the countless victims of the massacre who survived and escaped to Haiti, but the silence of the dead victims re mains ever present in the novel. testimony of those Amabelle finds in Haiti can be only partial. The narrative of her search for Sebastien and Mimi or at least some trace of th eir presence highlights their absence, despite the stories of survival. Although Amabelle turns to narrative as a source of healing, writing is not glorified as a source of complete healing in the novel. end remains a palpable source of pain. She has immortalized her memories of Sebastien in fiction, but she has failed to recover Sebastien or Mimi. Returning to his waterfall, Amabelle feels no closer to Sebastien, knows nothing more of what happened to him and to Mimi. While Farming provides snippets of testimony from various witnesses to the 1937 massacre, the novel is perhaps most affecting because it allows national trauma to be Farming testifies to the collective trauma of massacre and gives voice to the surviving victims of the slaughter. Yet, the novel is marked by ab sence. Sebastien and Mimi are and Jol are dead. Countless others remain forever silenced. Their voices can never be recovered. In the end, Farming is not a celebration of the power of
45 narrative; it is not a poster child for testimonia l fiction or for testimonio itself. Danticat draws on the conventions to forge a memorial to the dead, and a call for a reevaluation of reinterpret the history of Hispaniola in order to envisage a future without exploitation and suffering.
46 She could not bring herself to understand how he had been enmeshed in the horror out west; the answer was painfully etched in his violet skin, in his inability to pronounce parsley Song of the Water Saints Song of the Water Saints (2003) is a tri generational exploration of in the Dominican Republic. Following the lives of Graciela, her daughter, Mercedes, and her great granddaughter, Lei la, the novel spans 83 years of Dominican history. Song of the Water Saints opens in 1916 during the days of U.S. occupation and ends in 1999 as its characters forge new identities in New York. The novel presents the 1937 Haitian massacre a mid an array of oppressive and exploitative historical relations from the sexual exploitation of Dominican women and children depiction of the genocide, she foregrounds two characters in particular one a Dominican girl, daughter to an absent mother and an adoptive father; the other, a Syrian merchant, owner of the local kiosk. Although an odd pairing and an even odder choice for the focal characters in a representation of October 1937, Mercedes and Mustaf provide a glimpse into the ev ents from a non Haitian pers pective. Rosario voices infrequent ly considered victims of the brutality of the Trujillo regime. Her characters
47 speak for themselves, and provide their understanding of the days of the slaughter. Rosario empowers her characters in this way, allowing them voice without subsuming it herself, speaking of their traumatic suffering without capitalizing on their pain. Song of the Water Saints voyeuristic gawking into which an audience may easily be tempted by such scenes of suffering as those throughout the novel. 20 Che agency in self expression is also particularly relevant to my reading of the novel. In line with Chevalier, I argue that Rosario combines this preoccupation with representation the visual and its textual equiva lent agency, seen through acts of self interpretation and acts of survival, to revise historical accounts of the Trujillo era. Through a complex examination of silence and speech, witnessing and voyeurism, Ros ario interrogates conventional interpretations of the Trujillo period in Dominican history and forces recognition of the continued legacy of massacre on the island. Rosario begins this interrogation by affording the reader a haviors and thoughts, not dismissing them as normal, but simply making them understood. In Song of the Water Saints t he massacre figures as a violent eruption of an already balkanized setting. The killings were not the work of one man and an evil 20 Although Chevalier focuses expressl decision to exclude them from the book, the same emphasis on the visual may be extended to her discussions of the 1937 genocide.
48 dictator ial regime alone; the conditions for genocide predated Trujillo. 21 Rosario chooses not to spend more paper blaming Trujillo and his regime, but, instead, distributes culpability. Song of the Water Saints is not a novel concerned with assuaging guilt or prov iding the illusion that what happened in 1937 was an isolated incident carried out by a few aberrant individuals. In brief scenes of racial tension or violence, Rosario provides an array of racial and racist sentiments throughout the town. The most detaile d sketches are of Mustaf and Mercedes, but minor characters in the novel provide balance to the representation. The mother of the child Mercedes beats during Carnaval, for instance, is outraged at the attack not for the shocking display of racialized rage but for the simple fact that she and her family are not Haitian and, thus, are not deserving of such aspect of her Through their reactions, Rosario exposes the pervasiveness of this type of thought; it is not the racism that is abnormal, but the violent outburst in th e wrong context. As a nation of mixed racial heritage, the Dominican Republic negotiates notions of race in particular ways, most notably during the post Trujillo era. In Black b ehind the Ears tities developed in era, hispanidad and antihaitianismo were operational terms for self identification; the 21 The very nature of the killings speaks to this historical reality as well; had the army not anticipated civilian involvement in the massacre, the weapons and methods of murder would not have been selected such that the peasants might take part in the killings.
49 whiter one could seem, the safer one was. Discussing the oppositional way in which Dominicanidad was developed in the early 20 th century, Candelario observes that dominant notions of degenerative and their self The nation of former slaves across the river provided a convenient means through which light skinned Dominicans could position themselves closer to their Tano or Spanish heritages. This history of uncomfortable silence around race surfaces throughout Ro Song of the Water Saints Race is directly confronted in a numb er of ways throughout the novel. D uring involv e the Dominican dhood as the nation is taken over by Trujillo and, later, as the1937 massacre breaks out in the west; and as Leila and her grandparents adapt to life in the United States Y et, not once is there an explicit ce and ethnicity become important in Mustaf identifies himself as the grandson of a enough, he does pride himself on his connection to S pain, the very characteristic Although Mercedes comes to identify strongly with her Dominicanidad white as she would have
50 everyone believe (Rosario 162). African, or Haitian, ancestry is a distinct possibility in desire to travel or flee 22 s racial heritage is never explicitly or fully discussed in the novel; however, the narrative provides the indirect suggestion that she has Haitian or African ancestry. In this and, later, racialized violenc e Within this highly racially stratified society, Graciela and Mercedes are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. As the postcard signals from the beginning, and her relationship with Eli Cavalier will later demonstrate, Graciela is cast, bec ause of her perceived blackness, as a hypersexual being, ready to be taken at will. As Eli sees Graciela, he begins to fantasize about her, comparing her to the series of women he has sexually exploited in the past. i prefers to When she meets Eli Cavalier on the train, nave Graciela consents to parti fetishistic sexual fantasies. Through this relationship Graciela becomes a prostitute at the brothel Eli frequents, and contracts syphilis from him. Because her mother falls victim to 22 It is significant that Rosario chooses a maroon ancestor for her line of Dominican women. While it denotes Haitian heritage if we are to believe the stories El Viejo Cuco tells it also references a history of slave rebellion. Although m aroon groups of e scaped slaves existed in many islands throughout the Caribbean t heir success in rebelling against slave owning societies varied. In Haiti, maroons contributed to the overthrow of the French colonial government small town, her inability to move beyond the constraints of class and race is all the more tragic.
51 the sexual escap ades of Peter West and Eli Cavalier, Mer cedes is initially left to the care of her stepfather, and eventually orphaned all together. Rosario humanizes Graciela and Mercedes by depicting both the conditions of their vulnerability and the methods through which they negotiate their vulnerability Song of the Water Saints directly engages the tradition of Caribbean testimonial fiction through the historical revision and the re voicing of the silenced. Although the novel is neither a direct testimonial nor a fictionalized first person narrative of su ffering, it may still be read testimonially because it, like historically situated in powe r relationships The novel, particularly in the 1937 section, reads almost as a collective testimony, designed to give voice to other expe riences of the October massacre. Very different from the Danticat novel, Song of the Water Saints traces the lives of three generations of women, depicting the massacre as one element of a long se quence of violence and oppression. In the Meridians discussi on, Rosario claims too much time on [Trujillo] 8). Yet, his regime and the massacre committed under his orders exists in an almost central point in the novel, occurring during the early adult life of the central woman in the lineage. While she, like Danticat, spends few words on Trujillo himself, Rosario does allow the focus of her novel to shift momentarily to the atrocities ordered and sanctioned during the oppressive regime. The violence of those October days is figured as one part of a history of trauma and oppression, one facet of the racial tension on the isle of Hispaniola Yet, her novel cannot ignore the historical
52 significance of those few weeks in 1937. Unlike Alvarez and to some extent Diaz, Rosario turns an unflinching and unapologetic eye to the brutal consequences of racism. Rosario accomplishes her historical revi sion in a number of ways throughout the novel, instilling a deceptively simple novel with deep historical and cultural resonance. On one level, Rosario situates the 1937 massacre within a cultural context. The massacre is not unexpected in the novel, as e xtreme racial tensions and conditions of oppression surface prior to the reports of genocide on the border. As part of this much broader context, she fashions two characters, Mustaf and Mercedes through whose perspectives the reader will come to understan d the massacre. Mustaf, for his exotic ethnicity, comes painful silence that surrounds the event. His suffering, though ironic, provides a point of identification return, affords Rosario the opportunity to explore other aspects of the era. Through Mercedes, Rosario gives an identity to those who suffered under the brutality of the Trujillato and responded through any number of self preservationist actions. As defense; campaign of hispanidad Beyond the character centered narrative, scale, journalistic account of the events along the border, and in this way, forces the reader to confront the stark reality of the atrocity. Throug h the central figure of Mercedes, Rosario explores the silenced voice of the Dominican woman and her place in the atmosphere forged by the Trujillato. Tracing her
53 development from childhood to grandparenthood, Rosario affords Mercedes a full representation. The reader sees Mercedes turn toward violent displays of racist anger during a Carnaval celebration soon after disappearance and return, her rise to c may balk at the brutality Mercedes is capable of unleashing in various scenes throughout the novel, but can, in no way, dismiss her as inhuman or abnormal. Conversely the reader is prevented from dismissing her as a product of her environment. Circumventing both forms of dismissive response, Rosario provides a figure who is both relatable and distant to our imagination. She exists as an agent within a human environme nt, affected, but not controlled, by her surroundings. As a child, Mercedes displays a latent racism which provides another glimpse into the complex relations on the island. During the Carnaval celebrations, Graciela discovers redirected familial anx iety triggered by the sudden return of her mother from her unexplained, prolonged absence. In isolation, this rather disturbing act might simply remain a violent childhood outburst brought on by extenuating family circumstances; however, Mercedes does not curb this racist behavior as she comes into adulthood. The Dominican culture, even in the more provincial sections, was racially stratified.
54 Although this tense environme nt required the catalyst to erupt, the preconditions for creates a character himself destined to be a victim of the violence who gains the thy by taking Mercedes under his guidance and protection, but simultaneously alarms a cautious reader as he spouts bitter anti Haitian rhetoric. Upon catching a young Haitian boy stealing food from his stand, Mustaf, a Syrian merchant behave or compare herself to people like that little boy, ever to act so hungry, so slave island, Mus year rule, their sav a notion of ethnic superiority with a sense of unjust dispossession. Racist thought, for Mustaf, is a complex, learned behavior conditioned by historical precedent. Mustaf displays a shockingly uncharacteristic outburst of racial prejudice, yet his treatment of the young boy is even and fair. He uses physical violence in the moment of capture, but once the boy relinquishes the stolen macaroon, Mustaf releases him. M package of macaroons. Restraining his anger and giving the boy food, Mustaf
55 he does not blame the child or wish the child physical or psychological harm. His generalized feelings of hatred do not extend to the individual or at least to this particular individual. The merchant seems to recognize that the circumstances of the ctate his behavior, and does not hold him individua l l y accountable for his produced by his outburst. Although Rosario allows the reader to condemn his anti Haitian sentime nt, she tempers that reaction through this instance of discretion and mercy. Mustaf deeply believes in a generalized system of racial stratification which places him above the Haitian boy, but he does not allow this belief to be translated into cruelty. Rosario creates this character, who it a racialized environment. During this kiosk scene, Mercedes reacts with pleasure at seeing the boy suffer er mentor exposes his own racial superiority emerge during the incident at M
56 caught up in the voyeuristic pleasu racist views are tied up with an extreme sadistic streak. For Mercedes, watching the boy in pain conjures a feeling of superiority that has previously been denied her; she learns, akness and her relative power favor that casting herself as superior to the Haitian boy and all other Haitians affords her a small feeling of security. 23 Preceded by the Carnaval outburst, this moment in the novel highlights one of the strategies of adaptation Mercedes begins to use. Although her adoptive father Casimiro seems to dismiss the Carnaval incident as childish acting out, Mercedes does not surrender her anti Haitian sentiment as an adult. In fact, her racist sentiment does not seem localized in personal experience, but rather in the generalized racist rhetoric that pervaded the time. She exclaims that has no ju stification for these notions (181). For the adult Mercedes, news of the massacre is evidence that God has purged the Dominican Republic of pollution; she believes that alwa 23 Marion Rohleitner discusses violent antihaitianismo refer specifically affirming notion of racial superiority and privilege. In a marginal space herself, Mercedes feels markedly less disenfranchised when she can witness the suffering of a person she has deemed a racially inferior other.
57 (181). Hers is an internally justified form of hatred, based on the rhetoric that Trujillo circulated during the period. The sadistic inclinations that Mercedes demonstrated as a child have been concretized within a schema of twisted religiosity. In her ability to serve as synecdoche for particular sections of Dominican society at this time, but he r individual sadism and almost hyperbolic fervor prevent her from representing the broader community. the massacre only as a threat to her person. As news filters into the town about the d, then with revulsion; he speaks of mass murder and unthinkable brutality, yet Mer cedes can Despite or perhaps because of the possibility of African ancestry in her family, Mercede s observes Desiderio with disdain. She is repulsed by his need to lament these casualties, and Otherwise, [his]blood wo uld have blended As her thoughts turn to the massacre, she thinks not of
58 Mercedes does not feel for the victims of the massacre; instead, she coldly contemplates survive prior to and under the Trujillato Song of the Water Saints complicity in not only the Haitian massacre, but also i n the oppression exacted on the n of terror, at least as long as throughout the novel, but never attributed to a direct cause; instead, the reader is meant to infer that her orphan status leaves her feeling intensely vulnerable. Coming of age during method of security and survival (Rosario 160). on by her syphilitic fever. Although no one is quite sure whether to trust her ravings, a military In an economically and socially precarious situation, Mercedes comes to fear not only her
59 neighbors, but also the rising dictatorial reg turns to religion as a means of self preservation (159). Merging her newly fervid religious commitment with the sense of secur ity she finds in self proclaimed racial superiority, Mercedes produces the vituperative rhetoric she spews during the days of massacre. In addition to Anti Haitianism Mercedes affects a fervid Trujillista Doctor Rafael erecting an altar featuring a smaller Trujillo portrait (187). Adapting her personal care, both marker s of prosperity and to her beauty regime (188). 24 Her complicity in the Haitian policies is a survival tactic. As outspoken as Mercedes is in her views of race, her actio ns do little more than isolate her from the dangers she could face at the hands of the Trujillat o. Managing the kiosk, Monte Cristi does she have to face the brutality directly. Given the uncertainty of her own protection is perhaps more understandable. Her to the actions of those in the Trujillato and those who participated directly in the slaughter on the border. 24 Ginetta B. Calendario discusses the significance of hair straightening and styling techniques to Blac k behind the Ears. Calendario provides an extensive discussion of identity for many women.
60 fear for the kiosk, the character centered narrative soon shifts to the return of a physically and spiritually maimed Mustaf. Upon his return from his vacation in Monte Cristi, Mercedes learns that Mustaf has become a victim of th e brutality in the west. Despite the glaring irony that Mustaf is injured during the massacre of the same people for whom he demonstrates such virulent hatred, Rosario refuses to allow the reader to view these circumstances as a satisfying form of divine retribution. To this point, Rosario has cultivated a sense of empathic identification with Mustaf, through his ethical and generous business practices, the loss of his wife, and his tender treatment of the young Mercedita. Especially as his kiosk becomes a place of Trujillo worship after his death, the reader cannot but register the painful irony. While he is not a blameless victim, s fragility upon his return. When Mustaf finally returns from his flight to Monte Christi, his eyes are where his left hand had been, and the gash on his crown [is] stil spective may be, even to her, the lost hand communicates the emotion Mustaf feels upon returning from the site of the
61 (183). Silence engulfs the wound, but skin, in his inability to pronounce parsle y an inability to speak properly at least is significant. As the cause of shame inducing wounds, his malformed r and jota are the cause of his suffering, and are also linked to the for the fragility of his remaining dignity, their silence regarding the traumatic event further reinscri bes its horror. H i s trauma remains unspoken; unacknowledged, it distances Mustaf from his protg. Represented in the physical wounding of Mustaf, this sense of loss and the psychological ramifications become palpable within the text. Using the s ame synecdochic modality Caminero Santangelo identifies in Farming poignancy of this moment, but also to represent the silence surrounding the greater tragedy. 25 It remains ano ther open secret among the population, known but not acknowledged. Still harder to acknowledge is the way in which the Trujillo regime turned against its own, against dark skinned or ethnically other Dominicans during the campaign of antihaitianismo. If Mu the homogenization of non native Spanish speakers under the Trujillo regime, then his 25 Documentos del Conflicto Dom nico Haitiano de 1937 Ernesto references to the massacre before, during, or after it
62 the model of hispanidad intended victims are his too dark skin and his inability to trill an r or pronounce the jota. As testament to those less acknowledged victims of the massacre, Rosario includes Mu staf, a non Haitian Dominican of otherwise foreign ancestry. He is Dominican by birth, but ethnically Syrian; his cultural identification is neither primarily Dominican nor Haitian. Mustaf allows Rosario to revise the official history of the massacre, in which as a visible testament to the border violence; a physical representation of the silenced r the loss the nation suffe red that, until recently has remained largely unacknowledged. the massacre victims, but it is perhaps significant that Rosario chooses not to give her reader any extended co ntact with a Haitian character; after all, the only Haitian identified moment in whi ch Mustaf returns from the west bearing wounds presumably suffered to silence the victims of the tragedy, supplanting their suffering with that of the people indirec tly responsible for their deaths. But, I fear that would be too simple a reading. Hers is, after all, a decidedly Dominican novel set not in a border town where most of the violence occurred, but on the outskirts of Santo Domingo. Its emphasis on non Haiti an characters is not an oversight. Attending to Dominican identified figures, Rosario
63 exposes the degree to which all those living in Hispaniola were affected by the violence an events also acknowledges the extent to which the massacre affected Dominican families families with Haitian, part Haitian, or dark unflinching in its account of the methods and consequences of the killings. Within a very condensed section, the novel provides a striking account of the horror of the genocide. Like Danticat, Rosario also broadens her depiction of the traumatic repercussions of the massacre by offering not only character perspectives on the events, but also by embedding the killings within the context of decades of trauma and exp loitation at the hands of foreign governments and dictatorial regimes. T hroughout the 1937 section of the novel Rosario carefully regulates the exposure her audience receives to the suffering caused by the massacre. In limiting these scenes of inhuman abus e and catastrophic suffering, Rosario avoids two potential problems of testimonial fiction. First, she prevents the reader from the type of self edifying as she intertwines the cha racter the e vents of the tragedy writ large, Rosario balancing the pathos inducing character narratives with succinct, journalistic representa tions of the massacre.
64 character centered story and begins to detail the events of the slaughter, becoming almost reportorial in sections. These interruptions begin with the announc ement that Trujillo had come into power in the last seven years. Summing up the events of the past seven years, the text provides a brief report El Generalisimo Doctor Rafael Lenidas Trujillo Molina, Benefactor de la Patria y Padre de la Patria Nueva began his thirty year rule on about the details of political corruption and di ctatorial oppression, the text informs the reader that Trujillo last seven years, many Mercedes included feigned devotion toward the man god whose portrait was require 26 Rather than expound on the effects of the regime change, the text returns to the seemingly objective statement The focus of the narrative has sh ifted slightly, informing the reader of the historical milieu surrounding context. Here, as through what is left unsaid. 27 As the novel turns to the days of the October massacre, it spends very little space recounting the details; yet, there is a sense of urgency and gravity to the telling. None of 26 In th e Time of the Butterflies provides an extended treatment of th i s p h e n o m e n o n i n t h e a v e r a g e D o m i n i c a n h o u s e h o l d u n d e r T r u j i l l o 27 Discussing the quintessential work of testimonio Me llamo Rigoberta Mench Doris Sommer silences in the metaleptically the apparent cause of the refusal: our craving to know Further, she claims that efore she denies us the satisfaction of learning her secrets, we may not be aware of any desire to grasp them
65 the central characters in the text are killed, yet the d eaths of thousands are mourned in the narrative. The scale of the tragedy is apparent in the narrative, as Rosario opens the section: t he month of October opened with thirty six hours o f carnage in which drunken Dominican soldiers, on orders from Trujillo took their machetes and built a damn of human bodies in the western Dajabn River. Reports filtered into the kiosk by word of mouth; the news arrived all the quicker wit h the many terrified Haitians seeking refuge from the horror in a yanquis owned sugar mill a town away. (181) The urgency of the narrative increases as it begins to discuss the amassing death toll. The tone in these sections is at once matter of fact and emotionally charged. In its bluntness, the narrative presents a stark testament to the atrocities committed. Explaining pieces of During the slaughter, murderous crowds were ind killings happened within Dominican families with Haitian, part Haitian, or dark The brutality, chaos, and confusion characterized the days of massacre are somberly Confirming histor ical fact for her reader, the journalistic narrative affords a greater sense o f the realities of the massacre. For a novel as preoccupied with the visual, focusing, as Chevalier notes, on representations and voyeuristic tendencies, Song of the Water Saint s gives a tellingly sparse account of the violence of the massacre. Writing the 1937 section, Rosario does not lavish ink on overblown descriptions. Instead, the stark horror is plain in the brevity
66 forces the reader to recogniz e the stark brutality of the in ian Dominican border towns but the effect remains understated in the text itself (181). Unembellished, the words throughout this section carry the weight of the tragedy. As in the scenes of sexual exploitation in which the erotic postcards are described but not shown, the massacre here is described in stark terms, but not provided elaborate visual representation. Chevalier, ekphrasis the exchange and circulation between the v isual and textual modes of representation, ekphrasis that Rosario avoids by circumventing the possibility for voyeuristic engagement with the scenes of brutality. which sh arply There can be no voyeuristic or sadistic enjoyment of these descriptions of massacre; they are too stark, too abru Touching Evil, that the
67 wrong (66) Sundquist also notes the possibility of narcissistic obsession with the study of Holo caust or, by extension, genocide narratives as a means through which one might much time on Trujillo or his hold on the nation speaks to a desire to testify blunt ly and succinctly without being caught in the sort of obsessive fascination she sees throughout contemporary Dominican political consciousness. While she allows Old Man Desiderio a few of his pornographic descriptions, Rosario casts them almost as a violat ion of sorts, a gratuitous plea for attention or outrage rather than a significant recording of events. In conjunction with the journalistic narrative, t starkly contrasts the descriptions Desiderio offers second hand of the massacre. Although Rosario allows characters from within the town to gather around Old Man Desiderio at surfaces in the novel (181). Desiderio was neither victim nor direct witness of the violence in the west. His would. s left to imagine or try not to imagine the cause. Rosario does not provide her readership with what Susan Sontag 28 28 In Regarding the Pain of Others Susan Sontag explores the ethical implications of photography and photojournalism, particularly in regard to depictions of wartime and genocide victims. Although the emphasis on representation and the visual.
68 wound precludes further exploitation at the hands o f the author or of the reader She preserves the little dignity that remains to him, refusing to allow him to become a spectacle for the perverse edification of the audience. In th e 1937 section of Song Rosario cleverly avoids yet another problem of tes timonial fiction the tendency for excessive character focused empathy which does little to evoke a change in perception or action. presentation of the facts in this section allows for a type of understanding unavailable through fictionalized, cha racter not conditioned by a sense of identification or sympathy with a protagonist. Addressing the problematic nature of readerly empathy, Megan Boler discusses her s reactions to the reading of MAUS MAUS is an appropriate representa tion of the incommensurability of his t ories and empathy: to read MAUS is to walk the b order of mesmerizing pleasure, the apotheosis of the pleasure of the text, alongside absolute horror. Empathetic identification is not nece ssarily with the Holocaust survivor (259). e, the which Boler descri identification for its ultimate inability to move the reader to any action approaching
69 justice. Song provides the empathy inducing character wounding and the humani zing character moves away from these characters to force a recognition of the historical realities of survival under the Trujillato In this way, Rosario approaches what Boler describes as a reflective Song provides an incisive look into the material circumstances of the Trujillo era in Dominican history, and the power relations which existed within it. Reminding the reader R osario enables a recognition of the relative powerlessness which undergirds her feelings of ethnic and racial superiority. reinforms an international audience of the Haitian mass acre, government responsibility, civilian complicity in exchange for survival, and the heterogeneity among the victims. Sontag argues that images of genocide generally send to a Western audience (Sontag 71). Song humanizes the victims, casting them as victims and victimizers, and removes the voyeuristic stance necessary to see the suffering of another as inherently distinct from
70 the kinds of atrocity that occurre d under Trujillo, and to use that knowledge to work toward a greater understanding of contemporary Haitian Dominican relations. Through repeated reference to Yanqui regime, Rosario also calls U.S. intervention int o question for its ability to overlook dictatorial brutality, directed against the nation massacre and the suffering of Graciela, Mercedes, and others in the community are not isolated as problems within the island communi ty itself. Rather than isolating these events, Rosario implicates the broader American community for its complicity in the events. Exploring the connections between Hispaniola, the United States, and the Spanish es and Blooming Orchids: The Politics of Song of the Water Saints U.S. intervention are captured in the novel, specifically, the 1916, 1937, and 1961 comes clear that strong implications of U.S. involvement frame the 1937 chapter. Although Rohrleitner draws parallels between spread of HIV, the strongest indictments o f U.S. involvement seem to come in the other two chapters she analyzes. In fact, the stark and historically accurate absence of U.S. forces during this time highlights the degree to which the U.S. redirected attention from its neoimperialist endeavor durin g the Trujillo era. Rosario interrogates the relationship between speaker and listener, exploring the power and vulnerability of the speaker. Because the novel is targeted at a primarily U.S. American readership, is directly concerned with the position of the
71 audience relative to the stories of suffering contained within it. It is by complicating notions of proximity and distance, guilt and innocence that Rosario hopes to revise the conventional historical record of the Haitian massacre. By expanding the historical record, Rosario tears down misconceptions and provides a new schema for approaching future relations. Her readers cannot cordon off the guilty from the innocent in this novel, and cannot simply dismiss t he events as the wretched occurrences of some distant, backward place or time. Instead, w e are forced to reckon with the implications of racism, neoimperialism, and genocide; we cannot turn away, and we cannot simply take pleasure in continued awakenings.
72 ( Borderland s / La Frontera, Gloria Anzalda 101) Conclusions Given the still divided nature of the island, earnest recognition of the losses on both sides of the massacre may assist in the process of reconciliation. Seriou s consideration, in line with that performed by the Truth and Reconciliation Committee in post apartheid South Africa, is needed to reunite the fracture d island and to eliminate continued forms of racialized exploitation. In keeping with the project of reconciliation, you must live / sin fronteras racial and cultural boundarie s between peoples on Hispaniola is vital to a project of self reinve ntion. If, as Richard Turits and others argue, the intense antihaitianismo present in the Dominican Republic in 1937 wa nation buildin g agenda, a reinterpretation of the days of massacre is vital to a reinvention of the island as a safe space for its inhabitants. 29 Assuming that a great deal more fluidity and cultural accommodation existed in the borderlands prior to 1937, it is then nece ssary 29 Antihaitianismo persists in the Dominican Republic to this day, the product of what Richard
73 to examine the conditions which allowed for a genocidal atrocity like the Haitian massacre, particularly one in which the population was not only complicit, but actively campaign is a primary concern for both writers as they publish novels focused on either side of the Dajabn. As U.S. immigrants, both Danticat and Rosario po sition themselves as outsiders who speak as a bridge between their island of origin and their new home. The emigrant status of both authors may generate questions surrounding the politics of representation; yet, Danticat and Rosario negotiate the problems of voice and cooptation masterfully in these pieces. While Danticat gives license to a narrator wh o is herself a writer, Rosario into the suffering of her characters. Both writers express concerns regarding their place representing the histories of their home island, but simply cannot allow the silence surrounding the tragedy to remain. Their position somewhere between cultural insiders expression not available on the island itself. At th e close of Farming, Danticat leaves us with a subject without a nation. As Sandra Cox observes, r eaders n are left with the image of a subject forged and drifting in the border between two nations, belonging totally to neither Amabelle, born in Haiti and raised in the Dominican Republic, speaks Spanish and Kryol, finds a home in both countries and mourns the loss of loved ones 123). r
74 Dominican Republic, a space of flux, a transitional spac e rather than a border (310 ). Stripped of a monolithic concept of national identity or perhaps granted a sense of mestiza identity Amabelle is left to consider the healing space between divided nations. Danticat leaves her narrator in this aqueous space on the border the location of her because A mabelle, and others like her, have no home until the island rift is healed. Song By the end of the novel, Mercedes has become the grandmother to an emigrant great granddaughter who s e identifi cation with the Dominican Republic is in question. Through its representation of massacre, both the character centered and journalistic representations, the novel forces recognition of the tragedy but no resolution is offered. Like Danticat, Rosario compl icates the Haitian Dominican divide which may be so easily and erroneously imposed on an understanding of the massacre. Her narrative voices one previously unheard victim of the violence, complicating the color line in the Dominican Republic. Through Musta f, Rosario ensures that the reader can no longer view the massacre as a clash between two entirely separate nations. Although the politics of witnessing pose a series of ethical dilemmas and obligations, Danticat and Rosario both engage the Caribbean trad ition of testimony to voice the suffering of the island under Trujillo. Both implicate their readers in the process s must also avoid the audience
75 gratifying form of pornography Sundquist identifies. In their attempt to balance these demands, Danticat and Rosario succeed in revising the historical record of the massacre; their character focused narratives generate an em otional response from the reader, but the sense of urgency within these novels motivates the reader to move beyond the feel good methods of seeing. Danticat notes in her acknowledgements that the conditions of exploitative labor still exist for the Haitian population in the Dominican Republic still employed by sugar racial purity, and both demand reconciliation. Strict political reparations will not suffice in ameliora ting the damage caused in 1937. Racial and cultural divisions, demarcated, as Loida Maritza Prez argues, along lines established by European colonization, must renegotiated in order to restore the reciprocal system of relations. Although seventy three yea rs have passed since the slaughter, recognition of human loss is necessary to ensure future peace on the island.
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