On October 8, Staff Writer Catherine Beckett attended the launch of the English translation of Nos Cambió La Vida, published by the Barnard Digital Humanities Center. The anthology makes the realities of being Dominican of Haitian descent available to an English-speaking audience.

Friday’s launch of the English translation of Nos Cambió La Vida, an anthology of memoirs by Dominicans of Haitian descent, came eight years after the Dominican Republic retroactively revoked birthright citizenship and left hundreds of thousands stateless. However, the significance of the anthology reaches far beyond the 2013 judgment. Activist and professor Javiela Evangelista opened the launch with a reminder that “not only is this issue not new, but it’s not finished.” She explained how the 2013 ruling is only a continuation of a century-long struggle rooted in anti-Blackness. 

Although rooted in history, the discussion also focused on the future of Dominicans of Haitian descent. The resilience present in the stories provided a source of hope for relations going forward. The anthology centers around lived experiences and day-to-day details. 

Writer Kleaver Cruz spoke to the power that such stories hold, for “in our voices live the stories and archives of not just the world we are in, but the many lives that have come before us.” His words embody the interconnectedness of the past, present, and future of citizenship in the Dominican Republic.

Three of the writers in the anthology, Estefany Feliz Pérez, Kendry Paulina, and Esther Bonnat Michel, shared their stories of growing up on bateyes—settlements surrounding sugar mills. Cruz, facilitating the discussion, found points of resilience that complicated popular narratives of the bateyes, such as finding a tight-knit community or attending school to become a math teacher. Bonnat Michel shared her family’s experience this summer, when her brother, Zacarías Bonnat Michel, won a silver medal for the Dominican Republic in the Summer Olympics. The win brought up questions of patriotism and identity amidst the Dominican Republic’s efforts to exclude those of Haitian descent. 

Today’s anthology was a collaborative effort, years in the making. Reconoci.do, a grassroots movement advocating for citizenship for Dominicans of Haitian descent, had facilitated the story-telling workshops in Santo Domingo that would lead to the anthology. We Are All Dominican, a New York-based collective made up of members of Dominican and Haitian heritage, worked to translate the stories into English. The group saw the new English translation as an opportunity to build solidarity across language barriers and throughout the African Diaspora. The organizations worked with the Barnard Digital Humanities Center, led by Miriam Neptune and Alicia Parker, to create the digital version. This version was designed to be both sustainable, taking up little physical server space, and easily accessible, with the ability to share this anthology both inside and outside the classroom. This digital space upholds the project’s goal of amplifying the individual voices impacted by Dominican policy.

Nos Cambió La Vida via Barnard LAIS