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March 2007
Slaves in Paradise
Featured Photographer: Céline Anaya Gautier

 

In Dominican Republic, Uncle Tom’s cabin never did disappear. Close to private luxury resort beaches, hidden by an impenetrable curtain of sugar cane, there are wooden insalubrious barracks grouped into Bateys. These improvised villages, with no water, no electricity, shelter entire Haitian families. After entering the Bateys, you cannot escape its misery: men work until exhaustion in the sugar cane plantations, women try to ensure their families’ survival, children born from Haitian parents are condemned to be slaves themselves… —Slaves in Paradise

Each year, approximately 20,000 Haitians cross the border into the Dominican Republic to work on sugar cane plantations, whereupon they are subject to forced labor, restrictions of freedom, inadequate living environments and dangerous working conditions. The U.S. is the largest consumer of Dominican Republic sugar.

In 2005, photographer Céline Anaya Gautier and sound engineer Esteban Colomar spent three months documenting the lives of sugar cane braceros and the inhabitants of the Bateys. They were accompanied by two Catholic priests, Father Christopher Hartley and Father Pedro Ruquoy, who have been working endlessly to address issues of modern slavery in these fields.

Combining Céline’s photo exhibition with Esteban’s sound collection of Haitian songs chanted by the sugar cane workers, an international project on modern slavery was created. The exhibit will run in Paris from May 15 to June 15 and is accompanied by a conference at La Sorbonne, addressing the Dominican sugar cane industry. Furthermore, the project was transformed into a book Esclaves au Paradis (Slaves in Paradise), featuring 80 of Céline’s photographs and a bonus CD of songs from the sugar fields recorded by Esteban. The photographs and recordings are also featured in the documentary The Price of Sugar (Uncommon Productions, 2007).

The two are also planning an International Day Against Slavery event on May 10, to support the work carried out by Fathers Hartley and Ruquoy.

The following is a sampling of Céline’s work documenting the lives of slaves in paradise. Reprinted with permission.

For more information visit www.esclavesauparadis.org and www.thepriceofsugar.com.

 

The burning sugar cane fields of the Guatemaltèque family.
Vehicle transport of Haitians to Dominican Republic, December 2004. Region of San Pedro de Marcoris, Viccini Family plantation.Every year, more than 20,000 Haitians cross the Dominican Republic border to work in the sugar cane plantations, persuaded by traffickers to find a well paid job. They arrive in the plantations, after a one week journey, without knowing what awaits them. Their identity papers are taken away from them during the cutting season, and are often never returned to them.




 

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