Observations and ideas about race, ethnicity and mixing.

Tag: harneyk

An Island Divided In The Time of the Butterflies

The relevance of this course in my everyday life has manifested again in the form of tying in with my English class. Lately, we have done several readings about identity and some history about the Caribbean, including watching the documentary Haiti and Dominican Republic: An Island Divided. In my English class, we recently read In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez which is also set in the Dominican Republic. While the documentary discussed Trujillo, the book focused much more on the impact of Trujillo, specifically on the Mirabal sisters (three revolutionaries who were assassinated under Trujillo’s orders and one sister that survived). Watching this documentary was interesting because the novel focused heavily on gender roles under his reign and did not focus on race or even discuss the Haitian genocide. For example, it mentions the fact that Trujillo wears makeup, but it did not explain that he wore makeup in attempt to make his skin look lighter. The makeup was only brought because Alvarez was describing Minerva Mirabal slapping Trujillo’s face after he made unwanted sexual advances (which happened in real life). The novel is important because of the light it sheds on the plight women under Trujillo, but the exclusion of the persecution of an entire people is disturbing. Both reading the novel and watching the documentary helped paint a fuller picture of the atrocities committed by Trujillo.



Alvarez, Julia. In the Time of the Butterflies. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2010.

Photographs and Susan Sontag

Since our last class on Thursday, I have not been able to stop thinking about the photographs we examined in class of indentured laborers in Trinidad. Being able to actually see snapshots into the lives of a group of people that we have been learning about was very eye-opening. Instead of abstractly thinking about the function of Indian laborers in society in the Caribbean, the photographs served as a concrete source of proof, a snapshot into their daily lives. Being able to see these women stooped over the rice paddies was much more impactful than just imagining it; it strengthened my understanding of indentured labor.


This weekend I started reading On Photography by Susan Sontag, and her ideas allowed me to view the experience of seeing those photographs in a different light. Sontag claims that “[p]hotographs furnish evidence” (5), and I certainly found that to be the case regarding my learning about the Coolies.


Works Cited

Sontag, Susan. On Photography. Picador, 2010.

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