DAJABÓN is the biggest of the border towns, and unsurprisingly holds the largest formal crossing and best regional market. The Spanish had a fort here from the mid-sixteenth century, but it was little more than a collection of small farms until 1794, when Touissant L’Ouverture slaughtered most of the locals and resettled the spot with Haitians (the river that flows along the border here has been called the Massacre ever since).
Dajabón is now firmly Dominican, but hundreds of Haitians pour into town on market days, typically held within the eight square blocks bordering the bridge (Mon–Fri 9am–4pm). Freelance Dominican entrepreneurs come from as far as Santo Domingo – buying bulk quantities of grain and produce from Dominican farmers, swapping them to the Haitians for clothing and household goods and then selling the Haitian wares to individual clothing and department stores in the major cities; many of the “designer” labels that you’ll find on the streets of Santo Domingo are actually Haitian counterfeits. The Haitians come across the “Friendship Bridge” at the western end of town – the women balancing huge bushels crammed with gym shoes on their heads while the men lift impossibly loaded wheelbarrows – and claim small patches of pavement for their impromptu shops.