Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 848
The Massacre River runs along the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic; it is named for a conflict that took place between France and Spain when they were the colonial powers on Hispaniola. Amabelle is an orphan whose parents accidentally drowned in the river when she was very young. She was found by Señora Valencia of Alegría and her father, Don Ignacio (Papi). She has grown up with the Valencias, working as their servant. Amabelle’s lover Sebastien, a Haitian cane worker, came to Alegría, Dominican Republic, with his sister Mimi after their father died in a hurricane.
Amabelle acts as a midwife for Señora Valencia in the birth of her first children. They are fraternal twins: a boy and girl. Rosalinda Teresa is born with a caul over her face and is darker than her brother, Rafael (Rafi), who is very fair. Señora Valencia notes this difference, hoping that her daughter will not be mistaken for one of Amabelle’s people. The Valencias’ doctor, the Dominican Doctor Javier, runs a clinic at the Haitian border. He later offers Amabelle a position there.
One day, Señor Pico Duarte, Señora Valencia’s husband, is going home to see his children. He drives too fast and hits one of three cane workers walking in the road. The man hit, Joël Lorier, is the son of Kongo, the most senior cane worker in the Haitian community. Joël lands in a ravine and dies. Papi desires to meet with Kongo and pay for Joël’s funeral. Amabelle gives Sebastien cedar planks from Papi’s store of wood to give to Kongo for a coffin, but Kongo carries Joël off and buries him in the earth. Three days later, Rafi dies suddenly, an event that some consider a return for Joël’s death.
Rumors circulate that Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo, the Dominican dictator for whom Rafi was named, is speaking against Haitians and desiring to force Haitians to leave the Dominican Republic or even to kill them. Amabelle and others agree that Haitians in the Dominican Republic are not respected as fellow people, even those whose families have lived there for generations, but they dismiss these rumors.
Sebastien and Amabelle make plans to marry. Hearing that General Trujillo has ordered Haitians to be removed from the country, Amabelle, Sebastien, and Mimi become convinced of the urgency of leaving. They plan to meet at a church where Doctor Javier has told Amabelle that he and Father Romain will drive a group across the border. They arrive late, and Amabelle hears that all those who were there on time were taken to a border prison.
Amabelle and Yves travel to the border, encountering many dead and injured along the way. In Dajabón, the prison border town, Yves, Amabelle, and others fail a test designed to separate Dominicans from Haitians: Unable to pronounce the Spanish word for parsley, perejil, they are made to eat handful after handful of parsley and severely beaten or killed. Amabelle, Yves, and another couple, Wilner and Odette, cross the river back to Haiti, but Wilner is shot and Amabelle accidentally drowns Odette while trying to silence her.
After slowly recovering at a border clinic, and receiving...
(The entire section contains 848 words.)
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