Shared dreams

We Dream Together: Dominican Independence, Haiti, and the Fight for Caribbean Freedom
Anne Eller
2016, Duke University Press
380 pages, plates, paperback

THE DOMINICAN rebellion against restored Spanish control in August 1863 was one of the more hopeful stories to come out of the Caribbean in this period, beginning a popular guerrilla insurgency against a clumsy and fading power that had taken advantage of the US civil war to try and reassert its claims in the Americas. It was not to be, and in the so-called “Restoration War” the Dominican people – aided by a Haiti that could foresee Spanish designs on its own territory – booted out the Spaniards once more. It was messy, and victory in 1865 in which Spain finally annulled its annexation of Dominican territory had relied as much upon the unpopularity of the conflict in Spain itself as it had upon the Dominicans’ military prowess. But what this period in Hispaniola’s history does reveal is an underlying solidarity between Haitians and Dominicans that has not been explored by scholars. The central historical narrative of relations between Haiti and the Dominican Republic in this period has hitherto been one of conflict, in which Dominicans struggled for their independence from Haiti itself, then reverted to colonial status under Spanish dominion in 1861 just 17 years after having declared independence, ostensibly to protect the nation from another Haitian annexation. Until now that is. Anne Eller’s pathbreaking study provides the first social history of the Restoration War, moving purposefully away from elite accounts to explore what the Haitian and Domimnican people on the ground were thinking and feeling. In a carefully researched history, she argues that Haitians and Dominicans did not act out of pure self-interest but fostered a shared commitment to the anti-colonial struggle, wider Caribbean freedom, the abolition of slavery, and popular democracy. – GO’T