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This chapter situates the Dominican Republic in the context of the nineteenth-century Caribbean. In the face of tremendous foreign pressures, Dominican politicians attempted to build a state. Many elites maligned Haiti as the antithesis of Dominican national identity and “progress,” and they masked their racism with raceless republicanism. However, common Dominicans’ worldview was explicitly in conflict with these constructions of Dominicanness. Their consciousness of race and racism, everyday sociality with neighboring Haiti, and fierce independence from ruling interests of the capital were in pronounced conflict during the period. They were particularly wary of foreign threats. From the capital, strongmen presidents, or caudillos, fought each other fiercely for power. Wealthy men from the Cibao valley also vied for control. Occasional mobilizations from Haiti disturbed the peace; simultaneously, some center-island residents looked to Haiti as an ally. As the Dominican state collapsed, an ambitious president turned to Spanish annexation.

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