What is a Batey?

Batey (plural bateyes) is a term used to refer to a rural community of sugarcane workers in the Dominican Republic. Although the Dominican economy has been heavily dependent on sugar production and export since the 1500s, the 20th-century batey system was formally established by dictator Rafel Trujillo in the early 1930s as a way to import cheap and dispensable Haitian migrant workers during the seasonal cane-cutting harvest.

While the original bateyes were low, one-story barracks surrounding the mill complex as temporary housing for the Haitian migrant laborers, over time many workers began bringing their families and staying throughout the year, effectively making the bateyes permanent. In September 1998, Hurricane Georges devastated the DR, wiping out nearly all sugarcane production and stranding the batey communities with no public services, no legal protections, and no economic opportunities. Nearly twenty years later, even in bateyes with recovered sugarcane harvests, conditions remain severe.

It is with these most permanently ravaged batey communities that TBF works.