Entangled rhythms on a conflicted island: Digging up the buried histories of Dominican folk music

Sydney Hutchinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The ongoing human rights crisis in the Dominican Republic has made it abundantly clear that antihaitianismo lives on in the island of Quisqueya. While most Dominican histories date such sentiments back to the 1822-44 Haitian "occupation" of the eastern part of the island, evidence seems rather to indicate that coexistence was relatively peaceful up until the Trujillo dictatorship (1930-1961). Over three decades, Trujillo institutionalized anti-haitianism and the merengue as key components of Dominican nationalism. Evidence of cross-border musical and cultural exchanges with Haiti were thus written out of the histories of merengue beginning to proliferate at the time. Today, as tens of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent are denied their fundamental rights, it is clear that such rhetorical moves have real effects. Rectifying the situation will require huge cultural changes, including the writing of histories that emphasize similarities and the shared humanity of both populations. This paper is such an exercise in activist historical ethnomusicology. As such, I analyze the myths surrounding the early history of merengue and pambiche rhythm, examine historical documents to uncover alternative histories, and present evidence supporting the entanglement of musical practices of Haiti and Dominican Republic before and during Trujillo's time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-154
Number of pages16
Issue number39
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • Antihaitianismo
  • Dominican Republic
  • Musicology
  • Nationalism
  • Racism
  • Rhythm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music


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