‘All spirits are roused’: Citizenship and Migration Across the Mona Passage during the Haitian Unification of Hispaniola, 1822-1844

ANDREW WALKER — Department of History & Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, University of Michigan


In the late 18th century, Puerto Rican maroons (runaways from slavery) began to seek refuge across the Mona Passage on the eastern shores of Santo Domingo, while authorities on the two islands collaborated to apprehend and extradite them. Following Santo Domingo’s unification with Haiti in 1822, officials who had assisted slave hunters from Puerto Rico were now charged with carrying out the radical antislavery provisions of the Haitian constitution, which promised freedom and citizenship to people of color who reached Hispaniola. Focusing on the declarations of migrants who arrived in Haitian Santo Domingo, my paper explores a puzzle built into such sources. Authorities interviewed migrants in order to determine whether they could claim citizenship in the republic. Yet officials were discouraged from invoking enslaved status or racial categories- the very criteria that legally distinguished future citizens from ineligible migrants- in these records. Ultimately, migration across the Mona expanded the parameters of Haitian citizenship, as authorities permitted entry to a wide number of new arrivals- even those who professed no African descent and who had never been held as slaves.


Andrew Walker is a PhD Candidate in the History Department at U-M. His dissertation examines property ownership and the transition to Haitian rule in post-emancipation Santo Domingo. He has contributed and translated primary sources for an online collection of Haitian revolutionary manuscripts as well as for the PBS show Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr, and is currently working with an interdisciplinary team of researchers on the origins of three Creole languages.


Full paper — Walker 2017 (DOCX)

Slideshow — Walker 2017 Powerpoint, All Spirits are Roused (PPTX)