30 I Jorge Duany

key actors in the Dominican economy and politics, at the same time that they

have incorporated into the U.S. economy and politics. Finally, I suggest that

migration has reconfigured the national, ethnic, and racial identities of Do­

minicans in the United States and the Dominican Republic. The large number

of U.S. Dominicans who classify themselves as neither black nor white, but

rather as “other” has profound repercussions for racial and ethnic relations

in the United States and in their country of origin. In states like New York and

Florida, Dominicans and other Latinos already constitute a “third force” in

racial discourses, business enterprises, community organizations, interethnic

contacts, and cultural politics.

Go to page 35 to continue reading the article

Transnational Migration from the Dominican Republic to the United States / .3S

The Rise ofTransnational Communities

Since the 1960s, hundreds of thousands of Dominicans have moved

abroad. In 1997, nearly one out of ten persons of Dominican origin was

living in the U.S. mainland. Of these, 24 percent were born in the United

States, a figure that speaks of a growing second generation of Dominican

immigrants (U.S. Census Bureau 1998). In addition, substantial Dominican

communities have emerged in Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Curac;ao, Spain, and

the U.S. Virgin Is­lands over the past few decades (Duany, Hernandez

Angueira, and Rey 199 5; S0rensen 1996). Thus, the Dominican population

has become increasingly deterritorialized, with regard to nativity and

residence. The massive displace­ment of Dominicans to the United States

and elsewhere is popularly known in the Dominican Republic as irse a las

paises (literally, “moving to the coun­tries”). As I will argue later, the plural

and generic way that Dominicans refer to their current migration patterns

suggests the development of a translocal, diasporic, or transnational


A second feature of the Dominican diaspora is its extraordinary growth.

The number of Dominican migrants was so small until the mid-1960s that

the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) did not collect sepa­

rate data for them before 1930. In 1950, the Census Bureau found only

4,200 persons of Dominican birth in the United States (Graham 1998, 45).

Large­scale population movements from the Dominican Republic began

with the end of Rafael Trujillo’s dictatorship in 1961 and especially after the

civil war and U.S. military occupation in 1965. In turn, changes in the

U.S. economy and immigration policy fostered the Dominican exodus,

such as increasing demand for cheap labor in northeastern cities as well

as the abolition of immigration quotas by national origin in 1965. As a
result, Dominican mi­gration to the United States jumped from 9,897

persons in the 1950s to 93,292 in the 1960s. The outflow continued to

increase in the l 970s, when 148,135 Dominicans were legally admitted to

the United States. During the

Transnational ,ligration from the Dominican Republic to the Cnited States I 45

Caribbean and Latin America, Dominicans have been intensely criminalized

and racialized in the popular imaginary of the United States, Puerto Rico , and

other countries.

Transnationalizing Identities

A final issue is the transformation of collective identities as a result of trans­

national migration from the Dominican Republic to the United States. I

would like to approach this topic from two complementary angles: first, how

moving abroad sharpens the migrants’ awareness of their race and ethnicity;

and, second, how their prolonged residence in the United States alters pre­

vailing views of those two constructs. On the one hand, transnational migra­

tion can erode hegemonic discourses on race and ethnicity in both sending

and receiving countries. On the other, the racialization of Dominicans in the

United States-as well as Haitians in the Dominican Republic or Dominicans

in Puerto Rico-can harden fundamentalist concepts of cultural difference.

This section will concentrate on the immigrants’ dash with the dominant

system of racial classification in the United States.

Since 1980, the Census Bureau has asked U.S. residents to classify their

race separately from their Hispanic origin. In 1990, 29.2 percent of Domini­

cans responded that they were white, while 30 percent considered themselves

black. The most striking finding in this regard was the high proportion of

Dominicans choosing the “other” category-39.8 percent of the total (Rod­

rfguez 2000, 9). These figures parallel a general trend among U.S. Hispan­

ics-42.2 percent in 2000-who prefer the intermediary label ”other” to

describe their racial identity. (At the time of this writing, 2000 census figures

on the racial breakdown of specific Latino groups were unavailable.) In the

Dominican case, the prevalence of the “other race” category probably re­

flects the large number of people with mixed African and European ancestry,

usually grouped under the folk term indio in the Dominican Republic.

These statistics suggest three main patterns in the social construction of

race and ethnicity among Dominican migrants. First, many avoid the bipolar

model of racial classification into white or black, the so-called one-drop rule,

which still dominates in the United States. Rather, they continue to use a

tripartite system that recognizes a mulatto or mixed race location along the

color continuum. Elsewhere I have explored in more detail the profound

ideological transformation produced by the confrontation of the Dominican

model of race relations with the American classification system (Duany

1998). Other scholars have also noted the strong reluctance among Domini­

cans to label themselves as “black” in the United States. Most consider them­

selves to be neither black nor white, but other, such as Hispanic, Latino,

18 / Ernesto Sagas and Sintia E. Molina

Certainly, Dominican transnational migration has acquired a life of its

own. In spite of a stable-though not improved-economic situation in the

Dominican Republic, a languishing industrial sector in the U.S. Northeast,

and a rising wave of anti-immigrant discourses and policies in the United

States and Europe, tens of thousands of Dominicans still leave their home­

land every y ear. Thousands more travel back and forth between the

Domini­can Republic and foreign countries, often staying at any one

location for a few weeks or months, while others visit the country briefly to

see their rela­tives but maintain strong affective and economic links with

their country of origin. Throughout time, Dominican transmigrants have

established a web of social networks that now spans most of the Atlantic

world-and it keeps growing. The following section details how the

contributors to this volume explain this complex transnational migratory


End of article

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