Reimagining with RayjonInternational Cooperation in Haiti & the Dominican Republic
Episode 1: The Right to a Nationality and a Name:The Reality of Statelessness in the Dominican Republic
To many Canadians, the Dominican Republic is known for its sandy beaches, but there is a story that runs deeper than the clear water along the coast. In the Dominican Republic, a 2013 legal change stripped hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent of their Dominican nationality, leaving them stateless. Rayjon speaks with Activist Rosa Iris Diendomi Álverez and Partner organization ASCALA members Sister Maria Eugenia Vazquez and Lawyer Michael Abreu about the reality for those who remain stateless ten years later.
Listen in English
Escucha en español
Rosa Iris Diendomi Álvarez
Is an international human right’s lawyer who started off her career with the Shepardists of Mobility, now known as ASCALA. She is a poet and essayist and currently serves as an activist. She sees herself as a loyal advocate of human rights. She is also the protagonist of the documentaries “Statelessness” and “Our lives in Transit” as well as a social worker.
“And I don’t want this to be misunderstood. Every person has the right to recognition, despite anything. This doesn’t make immigrants less than others.”
Is a lawyer who graduated two years ago from the Central University of the East in law. Since graduating, he has been working with ASCALA on their legal team on statelessness and other human rights cases. Before ASCALA, he had been working with the civil and commercial chamber of San Pedro de Macoris. His work with ASCALA focuses on the legal side of work, with particular regards to undertaking lawsuits.
“To understand that a person without documentation is a person without a civilian life. They cannot develop civilly. Also, to understand that what the constitutional tribunal did was a civilian genocide.”
Sister Maria Eugenia Vazquez
Is a Scalabriniana religious sister at ASCALA who has been in the Dominican Republic and working with the organization ASCALA for six years.
“A life that has a document, a family, kids that have documentation, that is a solution, it is an answer. It saves lives and provides access to rights.“
Artist & Artwork
The feature painting for this episode is from a two-part series titled “Celebration in Batey” and “Conversation in Batey” by Haitian-American artist Samuel “Sammo” Augustin.
Bateyes (sugar cane plantations) captured Sammo’s attention as a young child in Haiti, as he saw so many people, including loved ones, leaving Haiti every year to go cut sugar cane in the DR. He wanted to see for himself the living conditions of his brothers and sisters, and through many visits became well-acquainted with life on the bateyes.
“When I visited Batey, I found out that regardless of the living conditions, the people still found times to celebrate the Haitian culture. I had the privilege to see them in action, meaning playing and dancing voodoo songs, dancing all the rhythms you can imagine just to occupy their minds from the suffering of being far from their families. That is the reason I titled the series: “Celebration in Batey.” – Samuel “Sammo” Augustin
We invite you to experience more of “Celebration and Conversation in Batey” through the gallery of Sammo’s work below. For more information or to purchase paintings, please contact the artist directly at [email protected]
English Language voices:
Is a Canadian Palestinian Muslima with storytelling inclinations leaning left toward the impassioned, philosophical and lunatic side of funny, thought-provoking stuffs. Maha is an author, whose work spans political analysis, long-form essays, and poetry. Most recently, she had two poetry collections published. Read more of her work here: onefemalecanuck.com/about
Is a graduate student at Carleton University who specializes in research and writing, within the fields of human rights and justice in areas related to conflict-induced migration, memory, and identity.
Is a graduate student at Carleton University in Migration and Diaspora studies. Josh has a passion for travelling and languages.
Additional thank you to all of our volunteer translators who made the podcast possible.
Let’s continue learning together. Begin to learn more and take action with the resources below.
Stateless Documentary by Michèle Stephenson on NFB – https://www.nfb.ca/film/stateless/
Minority Rights’ breif on statelessness – https://stories.minorityrights.org/dominican-republic/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2016/01/Dominican-Republic-Haitian-Descent-Infographic.pdf
PBS News story on statelessness in the DR – https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/citizenship-shift-leaves-dominican-haitians-stateless
Border Drawn in Blood – https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2017/10/07/555871670/80-years-on-dominicans-and-haitians-revisit-painful-memories-of-parsley-massacre?t=1648740630440
Take action by joining the UNHCR’s #IBelong Campaign to end statelessness – https://www.unhcr.org/ibelong/
Partnership Between ASCALA and Rayjon
ASCALA provides support through the provision of legal law suits, advocacy and administrative support to the different groups trying to secure documentation and reclaim citizenships. In addition to legal services, ASCALA also provides mobile medical health services that people without documentation are prevented from accessing. Often there is overlap between the legal and other programs–for example, in the case of pregnant women, prenatal care is needed but without the accompaniment and advocacy of the ASCALA team, pregnant women are at risk of deportation when they seek services from Dominican hospitals. ASCALA also has various programs under the themes of alternative livelihood strategies and leadership skills. Rayjon provides financial support to various aspects of ASCALA’s work and continues to forge a strong partnership for the years to come.
“They didn’t want to recognize me as a Dominican.”—Darío Masiy Bigamos
Darío lives by the idea that if there is something that he has been told he couldn’t do based on his heritage or class, he will prove them wrong.
Read Dario’s full story and how securing his documentation allows him to lead in his community as the President of the Association of Neighbourhood Boards surrounding Bario 41
This episode of Re-Imagining with Rayjon is hosted in English by Allison Kingston.
Allison is a Graduate student at Carleton University in Migration and Diaspora studies focusing on statelessness as well as Rayjon’s newest board member. When she is not reading or working away she has a passion for travel, language learning and boxing!
This episode of Re-Imagining with Rayjon is hosted in Spanish by Karla Salgado-Navarrete.
Karla is a Graduate student at Carleton University in Migration and Diaspora studies. She is highly enthusiastic about migratory patterns, stories of diaspora, and settlement studies; including Latin American communities in Canada.
About Our Podcast(s)
“A Right to a Name and a Nationality: The Reality of Statelessness in the Dominican Republic” is the first episode in our new podcast series “Reimagining with Rayjon”.
Prior to starting our very own podcast, Rayjon contributed two episodes to the Tapestry 2030 podcast series in collaboration with the Ontario Council for International Cooperation. If you haven’t already listened to the episodes featuring Rayjon, please go back and listen at the link below.
Rayjon’s Impact on the World
Vaccinations for children and adults
Children educated from preschool to grade 13
Pairs of prescription eyeglasses prescribed & fitted in 9 countries
Elementary, secondary & post-secondary students received tuition support/scholarships
Malnourished children received life-saving treatment
Women received loans & training to start small businesses
Adults learned to read & write
Empowerment of Women
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