This dissertation involves a dialogue between the experience of Haitians in the Caribbean region and 19th and 20th century narratives from Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. This study rests on the idea that following the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804), the white elite of the region successfully and strategically reinterpreted this great achievement as nothing short of a barbaric act carried out by an "uncivilized" mass of vodoun-possessed blacks. Since that time, Haitians have been viewed as radically Other, and have come to embody all the negative stereotypes associated with blackness.
This study investigates the manner in which Haiti and its people have been inscribed into the Caribbean literary cannon. I am interested in seeing whether literature presents Haiti in terms of its victories (the spectacular revolution of 1791) or solely based on its failures (economic and political unrests). Indeed, I analyze whether it challenges or endorses the demeaning images mentioned above.
In general, narratives of this region present both negative and positive images of Haiti. One chapter centers on Victor Hugo's The Slave King (1833) and Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda's Sab (1841). Hugo's novel mirrors the negative portrayal of Haiti following 1791. I read Sab in light of Hugo's novel, which is based on the Haitian Revolution, and show how it conditioned the "antiblack aesthetic" that is present in Sab.
Another chapter deals with Freddy Prestol Castillo's El masacre se pasa a pie (1973). I explore the role that race plays in the Haitians' rejection, and uncover the author's own racism as it relates to Haitians.
In other cases, however, Caribbean texts document Haiti's mistreatment, but often from a satirical point of view, examples of this would be Antonio Benítez Rojo's "La tierra y el cielo," (1968) and Ana Lydia Vega's "Encancaranublado" (1982).
In Tú, la oscuridad, Mayra Montero reverses the Haitians' rejection by reverting to the Carpentierean model, and re-presents vodoun as a valuable and complex worldview.
In many cases, the authors not only reveal that race plays a significant role in how Haitians are treated, but denounce the Caribbean's mistreatment of this important nation.