It’s a bitter story of laborers who are descendants of former African slaves who find themselves in conditions approaching that of their ancestors. Sometimes workers’ IDs are taken, effectively imprisoning the workers and keeping them from leaving the plantations. Their earnings are barely sufficient to buy food for their family, which is usually purchased at expensive company stores.
The toughest job at the plantations is that of the picadores – the sugarcane cutters. Long days under a scorching sun in very unhealthy conditions: the cane fields are burnt so that they can be cut more easily. Workers are hired for the season, afterwards they stay around to find other work. The picadors sometimes live on the complexo, such as the one at Consorcio Azucarero Central, close to Batey 5 in the district of Vicente Noble. A fenced-off area where a number of dorms have been built, housing 420 workers. Otherwise workers live in barracks in the what are known as bateys – ‘villages’ around the plantations, often without electricity or running water. Workers pay to rent this inadequate housing, usually paying their rent to the sugarcane company who owns the barracks.
Haitian children born on the plantations are stateless – they do not have Dominican or Haitian nationality. A law intended to fix this situation and give the children Dominican nationality, was revoked.