Dominican Republic: The Border

Mondays and Fridays are market days in Dajabon, the small frontier town in the northwest of the Dominican Republic on the border with Haiti.

At 8 a.m., border officials open the gates between the two countries, and anyone from either side can cross. Thousands of Haitians do, carting everything from blue jeans and mangoes to cooking pots and crushing bags of carrots. Most come via a bridge that spans the muddy Rio Masacre – so named because of the 17,000 to 30,000 Haitians killed along the border in 1937 by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. Others just ignore the gun-toting border agents cross through the river itself – especially before 8 a.m., when there are good bargains to be had.

This Haitian shoe seller, Jonas Oba, walks an hour to the market with his bags of sneakers to make the equivalent of about $12 a week. Although this open-door border policy started eight years ago as a way to boost inter-country solidarity (as well as commerce) Oba says he regularly gets shaken down by Dominican border officials.