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10 - Borderlands of the mind: present, past, and future

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 July 2017

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Summary

Frank Báez, ‘Ahora es nunca’ (2007), Jacques Stephen Alexis, Les arbres musiciens (1957), Carlos Mieses, El día de todos (2008), Junot Díaz, ‘Monstro’ (2012)

The previous chapter closed with harrowing images from the film Jean Gentil depicting the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti on 12 January 2010. The earthquake was also felt in the Dominican Republic, where, although the seismic activity was much reduced and did not cause any serious damage, its occurrence was a compelling reminder of the inescapable, but often disavowed fact that Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island. After the catastrophe, many Dominicans performed gestures of solidarity towards Haitians in need; one of the most publicized stories was the case of Sonia Marmolejos, a young Dominican woman who, on 14 January, was in the Darío Contreras hospital of Santo Domingo with her new-born daughter. Marmolejos became famous because she decided to breastfeed wounded, hungry, and dehydrated Haitian children who had been admitted to the hospital after the disaster. The Dominican government capitalized on this story, defining Marmolejos as a heroine, and used her actions as a metaphor to illustrate the charitable response of the country towards neighbouring Haiti. Formerly considered a country where Haitian immigrant workers were denied their human rights, after the earthquake the Dominican Republic was determined to change its international reputation and refashion itself as Haiti's ‘Good Samaritan.’

Marmolejos's gesture has also been praised by the Dominican–American writer Junot Díaz in a long article entitled ‘Apocalypse: What Disasters Reveal,’ in which he acknowledges the prompt mobilization of the Dominican government and the generous response of Dominicans towards Haitians in need. In his article Díaz points out that the word ‘apocalypse’ derives from the Greek apocalypsis, meaning ‘to uncover,’ ‘to unveil,’ and, using James Berger as his springboard, he calls the earthquake ‘an apocalypse of the third kind’ – that is, ‘a disruptive event that provokes a revelation’ and unmasks pernicious discourses ‘that we as a society seek to run away from [and] hide behind veils of denial.’ In the context of the Dominican Republic, some of these pernicious veils of denial are simultaneously the product and the origin of anti-Haitian propaganda.

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Publisher: Liverpool University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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