The Cuban black was told he was black. The Dominican black was told he was Indian,” said Dominican historian Celsa Albert, who is black. “I am not Indian. That color does not exist. People used to tell me, ‘You are not black.’ If I am not black, then I guess there are no blacks anywhere, because I have curly hair and dark skin.”
Using the word Indian to describe dark-skinned people is an attempt to distance Dominicans from any African roots, Albert and other experts said. She noted that it’s not even historically accurate: The country’s Taino Indians were virtually annihilated in the 1500s, shortly after Spanish colonizers arrived.
Researchers say the de-emphasizing of race in the Dominican Republic dates to the 1700s, when the sugar plantation economy collapsed and many slaves were freed and rose up in society.