Travel Tuesdays: Dajabon

March 19, 2013

Once upon a time, during my short-term missions trip to the Dominican Republic, we had the opportunity to take a "day trip" to Dajabon. Dajabon is the only marketplace available on the border between Haiti and the Dominican. Because of their intense history, the Haitians and the Dominicans are filled with distrust and tension. Think: the Dominicans feel about the Haitians the way many Americans feel about illegal immigrants. In the DR, they will stop your car frequently at any given road and check to make sure there are no Haitians. And while Americans think that the DR is a second-world country deserving of aid and support, in comparison to Haiti, Haitians think the DR is a land of wealth and opportunity. Dajabon is only open (granted, haven't been there for four years so forgive me if this is outdated info) two days a week for four hours each day.

What does this result in? Mayhem. For the Haitians who visit the market, their livelihood depends on those eight hours a week. There is no one who will (or can) buy their goods in Haiti, so they are desperate to get as many goods over the border and sold to the 'wealthy' Dominicans as possible. They run back and forth over one bridge with cart after cart of goods, dumping it at a family stall before running back for more. Literally, running. I saw men pushing huge horse carts or dragging trailers behind them.

There is one central road for all the traffic to go across the bridge. It is literally one lane wide, but since the market is only open for four hours people rarely care about that. It is a sea of humanity. You look to your left, there's a horse cart. Look to your right, trailer. Look above, the bags of goods people are carrying on their heads jilt with their steps and threaten to fall on your face. Look behind you, people are pushing against you--desperate to get more, more, more sold. Look ahead, there is no end in sight. A constant stream of desperate people running. I kept watching for cameramen from the Discovery Channel or National Geographic.

Aerial shot of the bridge leading from Haiti to the market
If your lucky, things on top of their heads are in soft bags. Or, like this man, they're just straight up dangerous. A wheel barrow? On your head?!?

Of course, my friend Nikki and I got separated from the group (would you expect anything less?). The road had erupted into even more chaos, because there was a full-blown military truck coming down the single-lane road. Military truck, meet horse carts. Horse carts, meet the military truck that does not care if your sole means of transportation/work is crushed by it's overbearing wheels. Because there were so many people in the road, we had plenty of time to watch the truck role towards us at a slow speed. We saw women try to squeeze sideways between carts and truck, getting hit in the chest by the side-mirror or barely escaping with all toes intact. Needless to say, panic started rising. We couldn't go left, we couldn't go right, people were crushing into us from behind and we certainly couldn't go forward because the only thing waiting for us there was the front of a truck. Suddenly, a small, dark hand wrapped around my wrist and pulled me smoothly between two people and behind a horse cart he was pushing. He wrapped my hands around the cart handle and held them tightly for a few seconds, as if to say "stay here." The cart was like a boulder in the sea of humanity. People flowed around us, and for a few seconds, I felt like I could breath again. The man started smiling and singing chipper songs (which of course we couldn't understand) until the truck safely passed us and we could go back to our group.

Maybe this is why I'm not scared (enough) of strangers. Because in the end, it always works out. He only had eight hours a week to make his living at this chaotic, insane, dangerous market. And he spent ten of those precious minutes helping me, a stranger.

Helene in Between

If you like, I have many more stories from the DR that I can share =) 
Don't forget to link up with Helene and share your stories!
Also, these photos are from good ol' Google. Apparently the majority of my DR photos 
didn't make it on the trek from MI. I have some cute ones of the kiddos though for future use =)


  1. wow, i had no idea! that is so interesting. although I think I would have been a little scared, you're awesome!

  2. Dajabon isn't the only marketplace between the two countries. I have also visited Pedernales-Anse A Pitres and an international market has been set up at the border


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