Dajabon: a market like you’ve never seen

One of our stops in the Dominican Republic was to the International Market Dajabon, which is located in the town of the same name, on the border between Haiti and the DR. The market is only open Mondays and Fridays, starting at 8am. Aerial footage at opening shows hundreds of Haitians making their way across the bridge that spans the Massacre River to get a spot at the market. The river is named after a fight between the Spanish and the French, when they both still had influence over the island in the earlier 1900s. Later on, the river was also the sight of Trujillo’s “Parsely Massacre,” targeting all Haitians living on the Dominican side of the border.

While we arrived well into the day, the amount of people (and things) was over-stimulating enough to stop you in your tracks. Dajabon is not for the faint of heart, especially in the rain. The torrential downpours of the morning meant large puddles accumulated all around the market’s covered structure – the outdoor stalls had tarps that sagged with rainwater and occasionally burst, streaming water onto someone’s unlucky head. As we waded through the muddy water, I noticed the noise level – horns honking, vendors yelling, trucks revving – and was jostled by the various men pushing wheelbarrows. They were taking empty ones to Haiti to fill with goods and bringing full ones to unload at the market.

The “goods” are all things imaginable – clothes, shoes, sheets, pillows, underwear, children’s toys, mattresses, beauty products, salted fish, flour. If you’re looking for something, you can probably find it at Dajabon. We saw brand new pairs of Timberland boots, Sam Edelman heels, Converse and Vans that had probably been donated by somebody, being sold for a fraction of what they cost in the US. Not to mention my favorite attraction: rather than using bags to transport goods, merchants were tying off the sleeves of double- or triple-XL shirts and stuffing them with all they could get in there (which is a lot). I know people probably donated them out of the goodness of their heart, but chances are there aren’t many XXXL-sized people in a struggling third-world country after a natural disaster.

Which leads me to the lesson I learned on our market visit (apart from the reminder that I am fortunate beyond words): do not assume you know what people require in their time of need. Sure, you may think “the earthquake in Haiti destroyed their house – we should give them clothing or sheets.” However, this market demonstrates what the real need is; in most cases, Haitians are bringing these donated goods over to get money to buy food. Shirts and shoes, while nice gestures, are not going to fill empty stomachs. As lifehacker suggests, “send money, not stuff.” After doing some research on Charity Navigator, these are the top 5 organizations to donate to if you want to help Haiti. And of course, if you know of any other reputable choices, please leave a comment!

*Note: I have no photos from our visit because I didn’t feel right taking pictures, but if you want to know what the market looks like, simply Google “Dajabon International Market.”


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