For forty years, on the second Sunday of August, 10,000 of the approximately 1.2 million Dominican migrants living in the United States, predominantly in New York and New Jersey, cross the Hudson River or travel downtown from their neighborhoods in Washington Heights and the Bronx to march through the streets of midtown Manhattan.
The joyous annual parade of floats, brass bands, and dancers in festive regalia is a celebration of national pride and heritage, cheered on by onlookers waving the Dominican flag in appreciation of their vibrant culture.
But less visible within the masses of Dominicans who live and work in the United States is a small group of ultranationalists who call themselves Antigua Orden Dominicana (the “Old Dominican Order”).
Less than 2,000 strong, they operate both in the Dominican Republic and in the United States. Though they promote themselves as a group advancing the return to the somewhat nebulous “lost Dominican values” and sport insignias proclaiming “God, Country, Liberty,” they have a history of being credibly accused of sending death threats to those they oppose, especially those upholding the rights of Dominicans of Haitan descent and Haitian migrants.
In 2018, they had a public event in New York City to show support for their government’s rejection of a United Nations migratory pact meant to offer a pathway toward a resolution of ongoing tensions between Haitians and Dominicans, two peoples who share a common island. The group had some ugly confrontations on the streets of New York City with supporters of journalist Marino Zapete, whose life they’d threatened.
Fast forward to April 2, 2022, weeks before veteran human rights activist Ana Belique was slated to present her debut children’s book, La muñeca de Dieula, or Dieula’s Doll, at her publisher’s bookstall at the International Book Fair in Santa Domingo. On that day, the Old Dominican Order published an announcement on Facebook requesting that their supporters show up to shut down Belique’s book talk, publicly inviting them to “bring their matchsticks.”
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