Do you know about the Parsley Massacre? This month (October 2012) marks the 75th anniversary of the massacre, which occurred on the island of Hispaniola, home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
I learned about the massacre by reading Edwidge Danticat‘s fiction. One of her novels, The Farming of Bones, is set before and during the massacre. Danticat helped plan the Border of Lights event earlier this month to acknowledge the massacre and honor the victims.
You can read more about the massacre here and here. The second link is an interview with Danticat and Julia Alvarez. Alvarez is Dominican, so it’s interesting to hear both author’s perspective on the history.
This is one of many reminders for me of how important it is to find out and teach the history that we do not teach in schools. Hidden history, when revealed, tells so much about what and who is deemed important, what our society/culture is ashamed of and why our contemporary lives are the way they are.
Linguistics plays an important (perhaps a better word would be terrible) role during the massacre. People working in the Dominican Republic who were suspected to be Haitian immigrants were asked to pronounce the Spanish word for parsley. Their pronunciation was the thing that identified them either as Dominican (and allowed to live) or Haitian.
As many as 20,000 Haitians are believed to have been killed.
In most of our lives today, linguistics doesn’t have life and death consequences, thankfully. It still affects our lives, though and it’s important to understand the roots of culture and language as identification.