The southern border-crossing between the Haitian town of Anse-à-Pitre and the Dominican town of Pedernales is a microcosm of the conflicts that exist between the two nationalities. On a typical day, the talk of the towns revolves around the latest motorcycle that was confiscated by one side or another for lack of papers, or the pirating of small fishing boats navigating the Caribbean Sea to the south. Sometimes these escalate into violent episodes, such as a stabbing in February that took place in the river that divides the two towns, or the killing of a Haitian man by a Dominican border guard in 2009.
The mood was tense at the southern border when the earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010. Everyone—Dominicans, Haitians, and foreigners working in the area—agrees that Dominicans in Pedernales responded exceptionally well to the tragedy, opening the border to send food and supplies and travelling into Haiti to try and help any way they could.
Then, in October 2010, something changed at the Pedernales border. In the final days of that month, rumours arrived that a sickness that was killing Haitians in the central part of their country was indeed cholera, which had never before been recorded on the island. Within days, the Dominican Republic ordered the border crossing at Pedernales closed in an attempt to keep the bacterial disease from spreading to their side.