Race and Voodoo in the Dominican Republic

By Mikaella Worthy, Xavier University

The Dominican Republic is the oldest European settlement which neighbors Haiti. The two were once one called Hispaniola before Haiti declared its independence in 1804. Although the two were once one, they resent one another. Though they went their separate ways, they still share some of the same practices and beliefs. The main religion in the Dominican Republic is Roman Catholicism. The dominant religion in Haiti is Voodoo. A large number of Dominicans practice voodoo, or “Las 21 Divisiones” which is Dominican voodoo. Dominicans do not identify their African roots, so they have created their own voodoo which is accepted of those who practice it and viewed different from Haitians’ voodoo practices

The Dominican Republic and Haiti may be close together however, in the Dominican Republic, Haitians are not fully accepted. The Dominicans demonstrate hatred towards Haitians and those who are dark and display their African roots. Because of the Dominicans’ failure to recognize and accept their African roots, they have determined their class system based on skin tones. The lighter your skin is, the more European you look and the higher your class is. The darker your skin is, the more your African roots are noticed and the lower you fall under social class.

Because of the different social classes based on skin tones, there are different levels of wealth. The lighter people who are more accepted tend to be living a middle and upper class lifestyle. Those who have dark skin tend to fall in the lower middle class category and the poor category. Roles change as class statuses change. The people living a middle and upper class life have a male figure for the dominant role. The male is the main source of income and the head of the house, while the woman is usually submissive and at home. However, those living at the lower end tend to have roles switched. The mother is usually the head of the house and the only source of income. Many times this is because the male may have another family and does not stay in the house, or because it is easier for women of the lower class to find work than it is for the men.

Color and race not only determine Dominicans views of people on a social status scale, but also religiously. Because the Dominicans and Haitians were once integrated, they share some similar practices. The Haitians as well as some Dominicans practice voodoo. Voodoo is often linked with putting plagues and curses on people or making dolls and pushing pins in them, however this is not the religion of voodoo. Voodoo is an actual religion that goes beyond the thoughts of black magic. Voodoo is broken into two parts. There is Rada, which is peaceful voodoo; and there is Petro, which is black magic and happens to be rarely used within the Dominicans’ practice of voodoo.

Since Voodoo was the Haitians’ dominant religion practiced, some Dominicans thought the practice of Voodoo was not acceptable of the people of the Dominican Republic. Because of the controversy of whether it should be accepted or not, the Dominicans established there own voodoo practice. This practice of voodoo is known as “Las 21 Divisiones”, or Dominican Voodoo. This form of voodoo is accepted by Dominicans.

Dominicans have modified the voodoo religion and identified it as Las 21 Divisiones in order to make it Dominican’s own and not the same as Haiti because Dominicans do not like Haiti. Las 21 Divisiones is similar to Haitian voodoo however the two also have their differences. In the Dominican Republic the main religion is Catholicism although large numbers of people practice Dominican Voodoo. Dominican Voodoo is not the main religion and is therefore not as strict as it is in Haiti. In the Dominican Republic and in Haiti, those who practice Voodoo believe in one God. However in the Dominican Republic, the voodoo religion is more flexible. Haitians believe that when calling for a spirit, or a Loas, a specific music must be played along with certain dancing and then that particular spirit will come down and possess you (good spirit not bad spirit). On the other hand, Dominicans believe that there is not a specific type of music that must be played. You can call spirits through not only music, but also through tarot cards and hand palms as well as shells. They also believe that while you are calling for one spirit to come down, a different one can come down and possess you. Voodoo in the Dominican Republic is also less structured than in Haiti. “Unlike Haitian Vodou, Las Divisiones has no fixed doctrine, or defined temples and ceremonies” (DR1).

The Dominican Republic and Haiti are two very different countries. The two countries do not like one another however, they are not totally different. They may dislike each other and look different however, when comparing the two they have similarities. Because they were once integrated, the Dominicans have adopted Haitian voodoo religious practices and Haitians have adopted the Dominicans Roman Catholic religious practices. Each group has combined the two to make their own accepted religion.

They may have combined their religious beliefs however they still resent one another. The Haitians in the Dominican Republic are not treated equally. Also those who look Haitian or of African decent are looked down upon and forced into a low social class. Their wealth and status are based and determined on their skin color.


3 thoughts on “Race and Voodoo in the Dominican Republic

  1. I just want to make something clear because i find some things to be LIES..I am dominican myself so i am able to say that we do not hate haitians,nor “dark people”,and we accept haitians into our country without having problems with them. Also voodoo is not a religion, it is a practice that haitians do. Another thing is that we dominicans know where we come from and majority of us dont deny it…I HAVE AFRICAN IN ME AND I AM PROUD TO HAVE IT!!!!!! And haitians wealth and status are not based and determined by their skin color, its is determined by education and work. My opinion on this whole thing is it is based on an ignorant person who needs to do more research on his/her work!

  2. My sister is dating a Dominican and he himself said that Dominicans cannot stand Haitians..my baby daddy is hation and thats what brought it up. So y’all must think differently or something

  3. tolerated maybe, accepted i dont think so. and voodoo IS a religion. i suggest you read so spoke the uncle by jean price mars, you quick to talk about other peoples ignorance what about your own? and telling me dark skin people are not segrageted in R&D would be a lie too. do YOUR reseach

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