Little Bits of History

Parsley Massacre

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 2, 2014
Rafael Trujillo

Rafael Trujillo

October 2, 1937: Rafael Trujillo gives a speech. Trujillo was born in 1891 in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic. He was a politician and soldier who ruled the Dominican Republic from February 1930 until his assassination in 1961. Part of that time he was a duly elected President and part of that time he was the power behind figurehead presidents. His nickname was El Jefe or the chief or boss. His tyrannical rule was responsible for the deaths of more than 50,000 people (by some accounts) and his is one of the bloodiest regimes in the Americas. The greatest of these atrocities was the Parsley Massacre which began on this day.

Hispaniola is an island in the Greater Antilles, second largest of the group after Cuba. It is the tenth most populous island in the world (22nd largest in size) and has a land mass of 29,539 square miles. It is divided between two sovereign nations with the Dominican Republic covering 27,750 square miles while Haiti covers 10,714 square miles. El Jefe sanctioned the murder of all Haitians living within the borders of the Dominican Republic. Included in this were the many who lived in the borderlands of Haiti. The massacre was also called El Corte by the Dominican Republicans which means the cutting and as Kouto-a (the knife preferentially used) by the Haitians.

Trujillo ordered the killing of anyone even of Haitian descent even if they had been born within his borders. People were approached with a sprig of parsley and asked what it was. How the person pronounced the word determined their fate. The Spanish word for parsley is perejil. French and Haitian Creole have difficulty pronouncing the word. If the word was pronounced with a trill, the person was considered Dominican and was allowed to live. If the trill was not included, they were considered to be Haitian and executed on the spot. This is the story put forth after the event, but there is some speculation that the story is myth.

Regardless of how it was determined, Trujillo was vehemently anti-Haitian. On this day he was at a dance in his honor in Dajabon and gave a speech telling how the Dominicans had been telling him they wished their country to be rid of the Haitian menace. He vowed to fix this “problem” by killing the invaders, stating that 300 were already dead in Banica and stating “this remedy will continue.” There is a wide difference of opinion as to how many Haitians were actually killed during the next five days. Numbers range from 547 to 25,000. Since that time, there has been much movement of people and agricultural pursuits in the area and so far, not one mass grave has been found that would account for anything close to the higher number of casualties.

For some months, I have traveled and traversed the border in every sense of the word. I have seen, investigated, and inquired about the needs of the population.

To the Dominicans who were complaining of the depredations by Haitians living among them, thefts of cattle, provisions, fruits, etc., and were thus prevented from enjoying in peace the products of their labor, I have responded, ‘I will fix this.’

And we have already begun to remedy the situation. Three hundred Haitians are now dead in Bánica. This remedy will continue. – Rafael Trujillo’s infamous speech

We reject and deplore this situation. – Rafael Trujillo

Also on this day: HMS Beagle – In 1836, Charles Darwin returned to England.
Forgiveness – In 2006 Charles Carl Roberts murdered five young girls at an Amish schoolhouse.
Queen Mary vs Curacao – In 1942, the two British ships collided.
Aw, Nuts! – In 1950, Peanuts began.


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