Trinity College Student Studies Migration along Border of Haiti and Dominican Republic

Yisbell Marrero ’20 Received Grant from Trinity’s Center for Caribbean Studies

​Hartford, Connecticut, April 2, 2018—As Yisbell Marrero ’20 traveled across the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the bus she was riding on was stopped 23 times in two hours as guards checked passports to search for illegal migration. “One Haitian family made it past four checkpoints before getting caught and taken off the bus,” Marrero said. She was confused at first about how anyone could make it through four checkpoints, until she realized there may have been discreet transactions taking place. “As I brought out my phone to snap pictures of the road, one of the guards told me to put my phone away,” she said. “Afterwards I realized he was afraid because guards usually take money from undocumented persons to be let past the checkpoints.”

This experience was just one small part of the field research Marrero conducted during the January break between semesters, as she studied Haitian migration along the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic thanks to a grant from Trinity College’s Center for Caribbean Studies. The research grants offered by the center fund opportunities for students and professors to broaden their knowledge and understanding of the Caribbean and its people.  

Marrero—who is double-majoring in political science with a concentration in comparative politics and international studies with a concentration in global politics—said that her field research helped her to gather information to critically analyze migration along the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic and avoid pre-conceptions and bias. “By being on the grounds of Ouanaminthe Arrondissement in Haiti and Dajabon in the Dominican Republic, two border towns, I was exposed to the factors related to the Haitian migration, including the main economic activities in this region and the people themselves,” she said. Marrero interviewed people of all ages about their opinions of allowing Haitians legal citizenship and working visas. “The results increased my understanding of ethnic and economic situations that Haitian and Dominican citizens experience in the border zone,” she said.

Marrero first became interested in politics after learning about the political culture in the Dominican Republic and because of the experiences she had growing up in New York City’s Washington Heights. Her focus on this particular research subject began last summer when she interned at the Dominican Republic Mission for the United Nations. “I dug into files and learned more about what the countries are doing to develop a migratory agreement and found many interesting things that I wanted to see with my own eyes,” she said.

The grant presented Marrero with the opportunity to pursue her research interests and study politics first-hand. “The goal of my journey to the border zone of the Dominican Republic and Haiti was to dig deeper into the migration of Haitians to the Dominican Republic and the racial, ethnic, and economic consequences,” Marrero said. “The Center for Caribbean Studies offered this opportunity at the perfect time since it will inform my potential senior thesis and become the basis for more future research.”

Professor of Fine Arts Pablo Delano, who is a co-director of the Center for Caribbean Studies, said that Marrero’s project stood out when she was first applying for the research grant. “It was clear that Yisbell had been thinking about the issues she wanted to explore in the project for a long time and had already done a lot of thinking and preparatory work on the issues involved,” Delano said. “Yisbell was familiar with the region and had multiple high-level contacts there so we were confident she could safely pursue this project.” Delano added that Marrero’s research focuses on an important subject that the center wanted to bring attention to. “The Caribbean has a unique and complex culture and a very diverse group of people calls the region home. In a world where migration is more and more common, people from very different backgrounds will have to learn to get along with each other,” Delano said.

Eligible students or faculty members may apply for grant awards of up to $3,000. The Center for Caribbean Studies considers funding projects that may increase the visibility of the Caribbean region or focus on inter-Caribbean connectedness, encourage partnerships between academic programs at Trinity and local community groups, partner with groups or organizations in the local Caribbean community for collaborative learning, and demonstrate the potential to serve as an innovative model for future projects or the potential for further growth. For more information about the Center for Caribbean Studies, click here.

Written by Lexie Axon ’19