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  • Writer's pictureKami

Bateys for Days

Sugarcane, sugarcane, sugarcane fields for days. What's that about?

Well, it's got quite a story you probably aren't expecting.

True, the landscape and climate in the Dominican Republic is ideal for sugarcane production.

However, Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo, created the batey system during his rule nearly 100 years ago.

What's the batey system?

It's a system that brought workers from Haiti to cut sugar-cane for the harvest season in a time where there was a high demand.

However, the conditions for the Haitian workers were horrendous.

They lived in rural communities with little access to water, electricity, education, or legal rights.

After this system concluded with Trujillo's reign, many of the displaced Haitians were stranded.

They had no citizenship in the country they now resided and no identifying documentation to get it.

These descendants often still don't have access to water, electricity, education, or legal rights.

They are living in desperate conditions with minimal options for change.

Did you know?

Many of the communities Water at Work Ministry's water plants serve are bateyes. The people living in them are now Dominican by birth but there is still great disparity between them and native Dominicans.

These people are still carrying the burden of oppression from nearly a century ago.

But things are starting to change. The government is now acknowledging bateyes as formal communities.

So, if you are in the Dominican Republic and drive by a sugarcane field, consider the cost of the product.

And have hope. The story is changing. And clean water is a part of it.

. . .

Aubert, Solene. “Bitter-Tasting Sugar: The United States, Haiti and Racism in Dominican Bateyes.” Harvard International Review, Harvard International Review, 27 Nov. 2020,

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