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Why The Cocks Fight

Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola
Hill & Wang
Published 1999; paperback 2000; Kindle edition 2014

Like two roosters in a fighting arena, the Dominican Republic and Haiti are encircled by barriers of geography and poverty. They share one Caribbean island, Hispaniola, but their histories are as deeply divided as their cultures: one French-speaking and black, one Spanish-speaking and mulatto. And just as the owners of gamecocks contrive battles between their birds (a favorite sport in both countries) as a way of playing out human conflicts, Haitian and Dominican leaders often stir up nationalist disputes and exaggerate their cultural and racial differences as a way of deflecting other kinds of turmoil.

Michele Wucker’s vivid account of these struggles both on Hispaniola and in the United States takes us to the haunted mountains where, sixty years ago, the Dominican dictator Trujillo ordered 30,000 Haitians to be killed; to Vodou rituals in Dominican sugarcane fields where Haitians work as virtual slaves; and to the ringside of cockfights in all three countries. She focuses especially on the features in Caribbean history that are still affecting Hispaniola today, including the often contradictory policies of the United States toward both nations.

Wucker’s report on the life of Dominican and Haitian migrants in the United States is essential if we are to understand their contribution to the politics of our hemisphere.

Why the Cocks Fight

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REVIEWS

“A complex exploration of the cultural divide between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Wucker . . . weaves together five centuries of tragic conflict with a subtle picture of the island today.”  The New York Times

“A marvelous immersion experience in the clash and conciliation of cultures on a small, embattled island next door.”  Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“I have not read so spellbinding a book in a long time.” Alastair Reid

“Richly textured… A powerful cultural analysis.” Kirkus Reviews

“This is a delightful yet disturbingly relevant book; it deeply illuminates the absolute essences of human nature.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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3 Responses

  1. [...] both fiction and non-fiction, including The Farming of the Bones by Edwidge Danticat and Why the Cocks Fight by Michele Wucker. These readings will provide a historical foundation on which to base  [...]

  2. [...] of the complex and painful history between Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the West, read Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola by Michele Wucker. And numerous hurricanes and tropical storms have leveled this country in the past without any [...]

  3. [...] Republic was needed by a public shaken by devastation in a country they barely knew. Her book 1999 Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispanola was hailed by the New York Times as a “complex exploration of the cultural divide between [...]

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© Michele Wucker