Cradling plastic candles casting orange light in their hands, students stood solemnly on the steps of Samuel Phillips Hall to participate in the Border of Lights Vigil last Friday night. The event was held to give students a moment of silence to honor the lives lost in the Parsley Massacre.
Started by Dominican writer Julia Alvarez AA ’67, the Border of Lights Vigil pays tribute to the 1,000 to 12,000 Haitians who died in the Parsley Massacre the Dominican Republic in 1937.
This year’s vigil marks the 80th anniversary of the genocide and the third time Alianza Latina — a club dedicated to representing Latin culture and students as well as educating the Andover community — has held the vigil on campus in hopes of raising awareness of the tensions between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
“I think it’s good to just take a little time to reflect on any border disputes between countries. We are planting a seed in a way — to spread awareness [of the massacre],” said Carmen Muñoz-Fernandez, Instructor in Spanish and co-advisor of Alianza Latina.
At the vigil, board members of Alianza Latina explained the history and significance of the Parsley Massacre before sharing poems that explored the events and implications of the genocide. The students gathered in remembrance of the victims as well as others who have suffered as a result of border conflicts.
Cindy Espinosa ’18, a board member of Alianza Latina, said, “It’s often these types of events that are not taught in history lessons, and I think it’s important not to whitewash history. This is one way to acknowledge [the history of people of color].”
The 1937 Parsley Massacre was named after the way Dominicans identified Haitians. Following the order of former Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, soldiers at the country’s border asked people to pronounce the word “parsley” in Spanish. Dominicans, who pronounced parsley as “perejil,” were allowed entry, while Haitians, who pronounced it “persil” as a result of their Creole accents, were singled out and killed.
“I think there were a few things that were really upsetting to me, like [the deaths of] the few thousands of people, and just some of the little details, like the word they chose — ‘parsley.’ [We can] see how simple a word it may have seemed, but now I am sure it must have such an impact on [everyone] on the whole island,” said Sydney Mercado ’19.
Teagan Thompson ’18 hopes that the annual Border of Lights Vigil will encourage more community involvement in the future.
“I think it’s really important just to come out to events like this, just to learn about what has happened and just be together in remembering the lives that were lost. I do wish that there were more people in the community that would come out to this event [to] learn about it. I see the same people every time and I wish more people would get involved,” said Thompson.