The Imagined Island

History, Identity, and Utopia in Hispaniola

By Pedro L. San Miguel

Translated by Jane Ramírez

208 pp., 5.5 x 8.5, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5627-7
    Published: September 2005
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-7699-2
    Published: May 2006

Latin America in Translation

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In a landmark study of history, power, and identity in the Caribbean, Pedro L. San Miguel examines the historiography of Hispaniola, the West Indian island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. He argues that the national identities of (and often the tense relations between) citizens of these two nations are the result of imaginary contrasts between the two nations drawn by historians, intellectuals, and writers.

Covering five centuries and key intellectual figures from each country, San Miguel bridges literature, history, and ethnography to locate the origins of racial, ethnic, and national identity on the island. He finds that Haiti was often portrayed by Dominicans as "the other"--first as a utopian slave society, then as a barbaric state and enemy to the Dominican Republic. Although most of the Dominican population is mulatto and black, Dominican citizens tended to emphasize their Spanish (white) roots, essentially silencing the political voice of the Dominican majority, San Miguel argues. This pioneering work in Caribbean and Latin American historiography, originally published in Puerto Rico in 1997, is now available in English for the first time.

About the Author

Pedro L. San Miguel is professor of history at the Universidad de Puerto Rico, Río Piedras, and author of several Spanish-language books on Caribbean history.
For more information about Pedro L. San Miguel, visit the Author Page.


"A necessary and fairly refreshing companion to any study of the history of the Dominican Republic and to broader considerations of the writing of history itself."--Hispanic American Historical Review

"This book has begun to change the way in which Dominican and Caribbean historiography is written. San Miguel establishes a relationship between the intellectual production of Haiti and the Dominican Republic that transcends current paradigms based on confrontation, enmity, and excluding identities. San Miguel's paradigm is based on dialogue, on finding common ground, and on a new historical relationship between the two countries. His book is innovative, particularly in its political and ethical grounding and its methodological, theoretical, and conceptual approaches."--Félix V. Matos-Rodríguez, Hunter College

"San Miguel's book has the potential to be adopted in a wide range of graduate and undergraduate courses. La isla imaginada would be of great interest to teachers of Caribbean, Latin American, and 'diaspora' history and culture. It could also be used in methodology, historiography, literary, cultural, and postcolonial studies courses."--Eileen J. Findlay, American University