Bateys and the Dominican Republic

Bateys are rural communities in the Dominican Republic that developed around the sugarcane industry. These towns began dotting the Dominican countryside in the early to mid-1900s as sugarcane plantations increasingly employed unregulated Haitian migrant labor.

Today many of the sugarcane plantations have disappeared, replaced by rice fields, tobacco fields, and other crops. Although companies rarely recruit labor from Haiti officially, many Haitians continue to immigrate to the Dominican Republic to find work in agriculture and construction. Bateys have remained, although the little support they once received from sugarcane companies and from the State Sugar Council has mostly disappeared. Bateys continue to have a large Haitian presence and are still among the most impoverished and isolated communities in the Dominican Republic.

Batey Libertad is a community in the Valverde Province of the Dominican Republic, a short ride from the municipality of Esperanza. The batey has a population that varies between 500 and 1000, depending on the time of year, since many migrants move with the agricultural season. The community consists of Haitians and Dominicans of both Haitian and non-Haitian descent. Batey Libertad’s residents work in agriculture, including rice, tobacco, tomatoes, beans, and plantains. Some work in the factories of Esperanza’s Free Trade Zone, and others find temporary work on construction projects. Batey Libertad is an impoverished community, with limited access to clean water, electricity, latrines, medical care, and stable sources of income.