Alianza Latina Brings Border of Lights Vigil to Andover

Solemnly cradling plastic candles, students gathered on the cold granite steps of Samuel Phillips Hall on Saturday night to participate in the first Border of Lights Vigil at Andover.

Started by Dominican writer Julia Alvarez AA ’67 in 2012, Border of Lights is an international human rights collaborative that commemorates the 1937 Parsley Massacre in which 1,000 to 12,000 Haitians were killed in the Dominican Republic under the rule of then Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo, according to an introductory speech at the vigil.

Alianza Latina decided to hold a Border of Lights Vigil at Andover this year in hopes of bringing awareness of the massacre to campus and reflecting on the issue of border tensions.

“We gather here today not only to recognize the border tensions between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, but also border tensions around the world, because this is something that happens,” said Samir Safwan ’16, Co-Head of Alianza Latina.

At the start of the vigil, students learned about the historical background behind the Parsley Massacre and read some sections of the poem “Parsley” by Rita Dove. Afterwards, students observed a moment of silence for not only the victims of the genocide, but for victims of border conflict around the world.

The Parsley Massacre began when Trujillo ordered his soldiers to keep Haitians from entering the Dominican Republic. To differentiate Haitians from Dominicans, the soldiers carried a bag of parsley and asked each person migrating to the Dominican Republic to say parsley in Spanish, or “perejil.”

Since the Haitians spoke Creole, they would instead say “persil” and be shot immediately by Trujillo’s soldiers.

Carmen Muñoz-Fernández, Instructor in Spanish and Co-Advisor of Alianza Latina, said, “It is so tragic, and something that still affects the relationships between the two countries.”

Angelica Lara ’16, Co-Head of Alianza Latina, said that she wanted the vigil to bring attention towards different countries also suffering from border issues.
“[The vigil] gave me more hope because we are commemorating events like these. This not only commemorates the 1937 massacre, but it also honors all other border troubles around the world,” said Lara.

Sarah Langr ’18 said that the vigil was important in helping students recognize that some people in other countries do not have the same access to freedom as Andover students.

“Knowing that other people out there who currently are still not allowed to say and be who they want [to be] upsets me. And recognizing that people have died just [so] that other people can live and express their culture. People need to recognize that,” said Langr.

Clara Isaza-Bishop, Chair of the Spanish Department and Faculty Advisor to Alianza Latina, noted that the damaging consequences of Haiti-Dominican Republic border issues are lessons that Andover and its neighboring town, Lawrence, can learn from.

Isaza-Bishop said, “I like to think about our own border with Lawrence, because Lawrence sometimes seem so far away. If [people from Lawrence] don’t look like the way most people do at Andover, unfortunately [they] might get stopped by the police. So there is also a tension between Andover and Lawrence.”

The Parsley Massacre is commemorated in many places all over the world through lectures, arts, exhibitions, and education projects. Last year, Alianza Latina celebrated Border of Lights by going to the Border of Light’s Vigil in Lawrence.