In 1937 tens of thousands of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic were slaughtered by Dominican troops wielding machetes and knives. Dominican writer and lawyer Freddy Prestol Castillo worked on the Haiti-Dominican Republic border during the massacre, known as “The Cutting,” and documented the atrocities in real time in You Can Cross the Massacre on Foot. Written in 1937, published in Spanish in 1973, and appearing here in English for the first time, Prestol Castillo's novel is one of the few works that details the massacre's scale and scope. Conveying the horror of witnessing such inhumane violence firsthand, it is both an attempt to come to terms with personal and collective guilt and a search to understand how people can be driven to indiscriminately kill their neighbors.
“Freddy Prestol Castillo's testimonial-novel, You Can Cross the Massacre on Foot, is a key text in understanding the thirty-one-year dictatorship of Trujillo and the little-known racist massacre that occurred in 1937, the slaughter of 10,000-40,000 Haitians who found themselves on the wrong side of the border. (The total is still under debate—as corpses cannot report on casualties, many of them thrown in the sea.) Had it not been for an American journalist, Quentin Reynolds, who reported on the massacre in Collier's Magazine, the world might not have known about this atrocity. Even so, international attention was focused on Europe and the rumors and rumbles of the oncoming war. The Trujillo regime repressed all reporting, so the massacre was never officially or sufficiently addressed or redressed.
Julia Alvarez, author of
Until the publication of Prestol Castillo's novel thirty-six years later in 1973, no Dominican writer dared tackle this atrocity. The value of Prestol Castillo's book is its basis in the eyewitness reporting of the author who at the time of the massacre was a judge stationed at the border. Troubling and eye-opening, the novel displays the origins of such genocides and the complicity of all those who remain silent. It's why the telling of the story is so important, as we consider the pervasive racism and violence towards others that persists throughout our hemisphere and within our own borders.
Margaret Randall turns her considerable talent and compassionate imagination to a translation of this work, continuing in the footsteps of Quentin Reynolds and her own trajectory as author-translator-activist who has spent a lifetime giving voice to the silenced stories of our América. Her work has been instrumental in introducing many North American readers to our neighbors to the south, their history, literature, and struggles.”
In the Time of the Butterflies
“Freddy Prestol Castillo's account of the 1937 massacre, which effectively conveys the horror of the raw violence of slaughter and the claustrophobic fear so very characteristic of life under the Trujillo regime, is a provocative read.”
Lauren H. Derby, author of
The Dictator’s Seduction: Politics and the Popular Imagination in the Era of Trujillo