PROTEAN GODS: A RETELLING OF HISPANIOLA’S STORY THROUGH THE MAROON
Rivera, Ines Pastora
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This dissertation argues that an exploration of the maroon, or the runaway slave, in literature can be a means to acknowledging the too-often-repressed historical, political, and cultural connections between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and can also help us uncover more accurate and less restrictive versions of Hispaniola’s story. Hispaniola’s story is often told through the fatal-conflict narrative, reducing Haitian-Dominican relations to an unending cockfight. The fatal-conflict narrative paints the Dominican Republic and Haiti as two nations fated to regard one another as ultimate, foreign archenemies,destined to be in total conflict. It also paints the Dominican Republic and Haiti as two nations whose fight for Hispaniola and for the preservation of their respective cultures is fatal. The formation of the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti has bolstered the fatal-conflict narrative, silencing a shared history of resistance and cross-pollination. My work extends and contributes to existing scholarship by uncovering instances of cooperation and collaboration that suggest alternative views of a united island and that complicate contemporary political and social realities in the Dominican Republic. Rather than reaffirming a discourse of national difference through a focus on the border, I focus on the maroon as a protean figure who undoes the fatal-conflict narrative. I argue that these change agents, the maroons, anchor the island in what Cedric Robinson calls the Black Radical Tradition, the evolving resistance of African people to oppression. Maroon figures also reveal different angles to Hispaniola’s story through their forms of resistance and penchant for metamorphoses. I also examine twentieth and twenty-first century maroons found in Dominican and Dominican American literature. Like their counterparts from the past, modern-day maroons take flight, resist forms of enslavement and oppression, and undergo transformations that challenge conventional ways of thinking about Haitian-Dominican relations and the island of Hispaniola. Writers from the Dominican diaspora—among them Angie Cruz, Junot Díaz, and Nelly Rosario—have played a pivotal role in interrogating history, and more specifically, memories of violence and the repercussions associated with migration. Not only does this interrogation rewrite history, but it offers a means of forging a new, fuller story that erodes the border and expands the island’s boundaries, all the while magnifying the role of the Black Freedom struggle in the making of a whole Hispaniola.