Contributed by: Dr. Megan J Myers
Dr. Megan J. Myers is an Assistant Professor of Spanish and Latino/a Studies. She studies the Hispanophone Caribbean and is one of the organizers and co-founders of Border of Lights, an annual event on the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Learn more about the cause here, and learn more about Dr. Myers’ other work here.
Chicana scholar and feminist, Gloria Anzaldúa, adopts the term “nepantla” in her foundational study Borderlands/La Frontera to talk about liminal zones or “in-between” spaces. She describes nepantla as the point after one has crossed over point A, but before entering point B. Best described as “no man’s land” or the Spanish equivalent, “tierra de nadie,” the nepantla concept relates directly to a contemporary understanding of borders. The modern geopolitical border with which I am most familiar – between the Dominican Republic and Haiti on the island of Hispaniola – hosts its own nepantla, an unclaimed space between worlds. In one of the most important economic and political border communities, with Dajabón on the Dominican side and Ouanaminthe on the Haitian side, the two countries are split by metal gates on both sides of the border. The “in-between,” then, is a bridge that crosses over the Massacre River. If you enter Haiti from the Dominican side, once you pass the border control authorities, you have an (approximate) two- or three-minute walk before you pass the gates and formally enter Haiti. Border of Lights, a collective that for the past five years has come together to commemorate the 1937 Massacre of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic, is planning to memorialize the Massacre for the 80th anniversary of the ethnic genocide in October of 2017. As one of the founders and organizers of Border of Lights (borderoflights.org), the group of scholars, artists, writers, and activists signaled this aforementioned “in-between” space as the most logical for a physical tribute to the 15-20,000 lives lost. While a memorial, possibly a statue or mural, in the “tierra de nadie” speaks to a standstill or pause in respect to geopolitical boundaries, it also pays tribute to the incessant motion between the two border communities. On Tuesdays and Fridays, market days, vendors and buyers can cross without a passport or visa, provided they stay within 100 yards of the border. Constant movement, chatter (in both Spanish and Kreyol), and chaos pervades the border communities on market day; the porosity of the border defines the border space(s) and those spaces in-between as fluid and ever-changing.