Words by Anna Gronewold
Photos by Andrew Dickinson
Crossing into a new country is as easy as five steps and avoiding about eight casual checkpoints. For all the concern about illegal immigration from Haiti to the Dominican Republic, the actual divide changes as quickly as the laws surrounding it.
La Linea, or “The Line,” is a 60+ km stretch of road that divides the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The road itself, blotted with potholes, puddles and donkeys is nobody’s land. “Una linea no existe,” Lilian, one of our translators, told me.
“The actual line doesn’t exist.”
The two countries, squeezed together on a single island, somehow sit apart. To the east of La Linea, mountains rise, lush and green; to the west the same dusty mountains shrink, barren from deforestation. To the east, the promise of a better life; to the west, slow and fruitless cultivation of land that is mostly rock.
We visited Fanilia Gerneus, a 54-year-old woman who lives in the Haitian border town Los Cacaos. Her husband and five sons slung mud on the sides of their 12-square-meter house while dozens of grandchildren and neighbors watched.
Fanilia said life is better in in Los Cacaos than in the mountains where she used to live in isolation. But finding food is difficult. Rain is so rare.
Even with two daughters in Santo Domingo and rumors of a better life just across La Linea, Fanilia won’t leave Haiti.
“I am proud to be Haitian,” she said, trying to avoid Andrew’s instruction to ignore the camera. “If you are from here, you are from here.”