History and Politics

Reclaiming Our History I: Dominican Rebels and Other Leaders and Revolutionaries You Should Know

Mural by Reynaldo García Pantaleón

*The title of this story was updated at 4:30pm on March 7th, 2016 to reflect Non-Dominicans mentioned in the article.*

This is part I of a two-part series. 

Written by Amanda Alcantara and Gerald Lopez 

The Dominican Republic’s popular history tends to be taught in very simple terms without a look at popular resistance movements or without highlighting the voices of the oppressed. We all know of Los Padres de La Patria, but we often don’t know of other people whose names need to be remembered, especially black Dominicans and women. You see, Dominican history isn’t as simple as “Cristobal Colón, Ocupación Haitiana, y Trujillo”. There’s much more to it. In this two-part series, we’re out to tell the truth, bust some myths, and share already known-knowledge about our people. Part I begins with the Natives inhabitants of the island and extends up to the early years of Trujillo’s dictatorship. This list is divided in sections in order to show that these folks were part of a larger struggle and not the sole members of many of the movements that they led or were in. While we tried to include everyone, the truth is that many names are unknown and some of these are recognized due to their positions in society.

Do you know of any names that aren’t here? Please leave a comment below, or tweet using the hashtag #DominicanRebels.

Aboriginal Peoples of the Island 

Before the brutal colonization of the island of Hispaniola, there was a neolithic group that settled as far back as 9,000 years ago, likely coming from Central America. This group has been hard to study due to their low numbers during Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the island. They are often referred to as Ciboney/Guanajatabeyes and were likely hunter-gatherers at first and later farmers. Subsequent migrations from South America would have brought the people who we today call “Tainos” of Arawak descent, bringing us words like hurakan and foods such as yuka (yucca).

These people were of the island, yet there wasn’t a sense of nationality at the time. They weren’t Dominican nor Haitian. It is said that they used the words Ayiti or Kiskeya to describe the area where they lived; Kiskeya is highly contested. Below are the names of some Taíno heroes and fighters who fought colonization on the eastern side of the island, known today as the Dominican Republic.

Sources: Historia de Santo Domingo, Issue 71 By: Luis Padilla D’Onis


Anacaona. Source http://sanjuanenimagen.blogspot.com/
Anacaona. Source http://sanjuanenimagen.blogspot.com/

Anacaona, “The Golden Flower”, is a shared heroine between the Dominican Republic and Haiti because, as previously mentioned, there was no Dominican Republic or Haiti at the time and she was from an area that is along the border today. She had 300 caciques under her and absolute power over Jaragua and Maguana.  These numbers were big at the time and definitely challenge many of the present gender barriers regarding women in combat. Junot Diaz, in his fictional novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, writes that when she was captured by the colonizers, they offered her the chance to be spared death if she married one of them. Diaz writes, “Anacaona…was reported to have said, “White men, kiss my hurricane ass!”. Very little is known of Anacaona except for some oral history and written accounts written by the colonizers of the time. Sources: Casas, Bartolomé de las. (1552). A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies. Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wonddrous Life of Oscar Wao.


Enriquillo. Source: dorisan.wordpress.com
Enriquillo. Source: dorisan.wordpress.com

Enriquillo fought a fierce war against the Spanish for many years, alongside other indian indigenous caciques such as Ciguayo, Tamayo, Villagran, Matayco, IncaQueka, Gascon, Vasa and Maybona. He also fought. Also alongside Marooned Africans in the mountains.

One of the books that many Dominicans are asked to read in school is El Enriquillo. There’s a lake in the Dominican Republic named after him (it’s in fact, the largest lake in the Caribbean). Sources: La resistencia indígena ante la conquista by Josefina Oliva de Coll


 Tamayo was the right hand man of Enriquillo and very skilled in the war against the Spainards. He is said to wear a necklace full of ears of maimed or killed Spanish soldiers and would say, “The Spanish don’t need these to hear us”. They would say that he was much fiercer than Enriquillo in battles against the Spanish, not returning prisoners of war, always put Taino families first and evacuating children and elders from battle areas. Sources: La resistencia indígena ante la conquista by Josefina Oliva de Coll. Also http://www.encaribe.org/es/article/tamayo/467

El Cigüayo

El Cigüayo fought alongside Enriquillo as well in the fierce war against the Spainards. He was one of the last members of his ethnic group “Tthe Ciguayos, ”, which was a non-Aarawak speaking group on the island. Sources: La resistencia indígena ante la conquista by Josefina Oliva de Coll

Cimarronajes and Black Resistance

We come from a history of strong black resistance.

The story of the Dominican Republic’s blackness is presented in one of two ways: omission or trivialization. The omission refers to a lack of a black narrative for the Dominican Republic. The trivialization pertains to the ongoing debates and critiques of how the Dominican people view their blackness – a narrative of Dominicans “denying their blackness” that has been greatly exploited without a look at the history of Black resistance in the Dominican Republic nor seeking a deeper understanding on how colonialism is to blame for this paradigm. Dr. Silvio Torres-Saillant, Dominican professor and scholar, named these two ways of viewing Dominican blackness. He writes, “This might seem a strange lot indeed for a people whose land must be called ‘the cradle of blackness in the Americas’” (Torres-Saillant 2010)What is known today as the Dominican Republic was the first place where enslaved Africans arrived after the brutal Trans-Atlantic journey. It comes as no surprise that the very first rebellions were also in that area in 1522. Maroon communities began forming either 1502 or 1503. These communities were called manieles. (Source: “The tribulations of blackness: stages in Dominican racial identity” by Silvio Torres-Saillant (1998). “Introduction to Dominican Blackness” by Silvio Torres-Saillant, 2010).

Here are the names of some of the leaders of those rebellions. We know these names because these were the women and men who were caught. Otherwise, it is unknown how many other names managed to escape and live in maroonage or were murdered without any written documentation.

Maria Olofa and Gonzalo Mandinga

They were the first known cimarrones of the Americas. Maria Olofa and Gonzalo Mandinga held the first rebellion in all of Latin America on December 25th, 1522, in Diego Colon’s plantation located in the outskirts of what is today Santo Domingo; he was the son of Cristobal Colon. It is said that they chose that date precisely because the Spaniards where distracted by the holiday season. They had formed part of the Mandingas and the Wolofs from Guinea. Source: Los Guerrilleros Negros y Esclavos Fugitivos by Carlos Esteban Deive

Luis Angola and Lucrecia Biafara 

Luis was of the Ndongo ethnic group in the Kongo-Angola empire and Lucrecia was a native of Guinea-Bissau of the Biafada ethnic group. Both were enslaved by Andres Cevallos in Monte Plata. They managed to not only escape but helped many other enslaved Africans for a handful of years in the area of Puerto Plata after fleeing from Monte Plata. With them they brought others who helped with the escapes, such as Francisco and Anton Angola. Source: Los Guerrilleros Negros y Esclavos Fugitivos by Carlos Esteban Deive

Sebastian Lemba

Book cover depicting Sebastian Lemba. Source: http://www.bibliotecadigital.gob.do/img/ampliada/1917
Book cover for “Los Guerrilleros Negros” by Carlos Esteban Deive. Source: http://www.bibliotecadigital.gob.do/img/ampliada/1917

Lemba was an enslaved African who was born either in the Kingdom of Kongo or in the Limba empire of Guinea-Bissau. He rebelled against his masters in 1532, taking with him hundreds of other Africans to refuge in the steep and rough terrains of the mountains of Bahoruco in the south-west of the island near Barahona and San Juan de la Maguana. He and his people became a village with a strong military resistance against the Spanish colonizers. This included metallurgy and very advanced war tactics that protected the village for a little over a decade. He served as a huge inspiration to episodes of maroon resistance that would last until the 1800s. Source: Los Guerrilleros Negros y Esclavos Fugitivos by Carlos Esteban Deive

Diego Ocampo

Diego Ocampo was a maroon leader who headed a resistance camp in La Vega, but also operated in Santiago and southwest parts of the island. A mountain peak stands in his honor in the outskirts of Santiago called “Pico de Diego Ocampo”. Interestingly enough there is a hill in close proximity to “Pico de Diego Ocampo” called “El Congo”, perhaps denoting the ethnic group of some of the maroons in this area which were saved by him. Source: Los Guerrilleros Negros y Esclavos Fugitivos by Carlos Esteban Deive

Ana Maria

Mural in Nigua depicting a rebelling black woman. Source diarioaragones.com
Mural in Nigua depicting a rebelling black woman. Source diarioaragones.com

Ana Maria was one of the last maroons on the island who headed the last known rebellion in the area of San Cristobal known as Nigua on the 30th of October in 1796. Ana Maria served as the leader and later queen of a group of more than 200 slaves. They formed a sophisticated government that even had organized military infantries to protect them from the Spanish. Source: Los Guerrilleros Negros y Esclavos Fugitivos by Carlos Esteban Deive. Also http://www.lacult.org/sitios_memoria/Sitios.php?pageNum_Recordset1=4&totalRows_Recordset1=5&nav=idsm&value=4&lan=en  and http://www.elcaribe.com.do/2013/08/10/insurreccion-boca-nigua

Busting myths before 1844

During this part of the Dominican history, there were several battles fueled by wars in Europe between the Spanish colonizers who sought to maintain control over the east side of the island and the French colonizer who took control of the west side of the island (what is known today as Ayiti). The eastern side of the island was also impacted by the Haitian revolution and several failed attempts in 1804 by Jean Jacques Dessalines to occupy the region. He tried to free the slaves through towns like Monte Plata, Cotuí, Santiago and Moca when the east side of island was occupied at the moment by France under General Jean Louis Ferrand; the first attempt at freeing the slaves occurred in 1801 under Toussaint L’Ouverture at a time when he was allied with the French due to their abolishment of slavery in Saint-Domingue (west). We pick up with some important names less to make the case about why they need to be remembered, and more to bust some myths about who they were and what they looked like. (Source: The Dominican Republic: A National History by Frank Moya Pons, Second Edition, 2006).

Toussaint L’ Ouverture

L’Ouverture’s ancestry has roots in Alladah, Benin, He was the first to attempt to abolish slavery on both sides of the island, characterized for having very advanced war strategies as well as being persistent since the beginning of the Haitian Revolution. While he occupied Santo Domingo with his military, there was little resistance. When he entered Santo Domingo, one of the first things that he tried to do was abolish slavery. Still, the moment was short lived as he had to turn his attention back to Haiti, where he would later be kidnapped and sent to France to die in jail. Although he occupied Santo Domingo with intentions of abolishing slavery in it’s entirety, he was not there long enough nor had enough power to do so during his attempt in 1801. Source: The Memoir of Toussaint Louverture By Toussaint Louverture, Philippe R. Girard

José Nuñez de Cáceres

By Unknown/Desconocido - http://members.fortunecity.com/soledad3/nunezcaceres.jpg, Public Domain.
By Unknown/Desconocido – http://members.fortunecity.com/soledad3/nunezcaceres.jpg, Public Domain.

Credit is given where it is due. Nuñez de Cáceres makes our list for becoming the first one to declare a country with no ties to Spain, though the reasons behind them could raise eyebrows. He was the lieutenant governor of Santo Domingo during the time known as España Boba, where Spain reoccupied the east side of island but practiced little rule while the non-country/territory suffered from poverty. Historian Frank Moya Pons describes that at this time, people wanted one of two options: Haitian rule (which many colored folks and those on the border favored) or unification with la Gran Colombia and the movement for emancipation in Latin America (which might be of interest to those of you who hold Simon Bolívar to idealistic standards though he never recognized Haiti as an independent country). Nuñez de Cáceres, heading the creole elite, led anti-Spanish conspirators in secret. Many of his followers were military officers and bureaucrats who, Moya Pons notes, “had already decided to proclaim the independence of Santo Domingo and seek confederation with the Gran Colombia under Simon Bolivar’s leadership”. On November 15, 1921, pro-Haitian groups proclaimed independence from Spain in Dajabón and Montecristi. The news of this momentum got to Nuñez de Cáceres and he expedited his plans to provoke a coup and create the “Estado Independiente del Haití Español”. This “ephemeral republic” lasted less than a year before Jean-Pierre Boyer sent a letter to Nuñez de Cáceres letting him know of changes in the border and the “impossibility of maintaining two separate independent governments in one island”. Source: The Dominican Republic: A National History by Frank Moya Pons (Second Edition, 2006).

Pablo Alí

Pablo Alí was a man of Haitian descent who joined the army on the east side of the island after the Haitian Revolution and led the prestigious “Batallón de Morenos.” Alí served as chief military commander of the creoles (led by Nuñez de Cáceres) who declared independence from Spain in 1821. Torres-Saillant notes, “This illustrates the importance of the ex-slave in the armed forces of Santo Domingo at the time”. Sources: Evolución cultural dominicana, 1844-1899 by Ciriaco Landolfi. Introduction to Dominican Blackness by Silvio Torres-Saillant (2010). 

Jean Pierre-Boyer

This Haitian leader makes our for being the person who succesfully abolished slavery when the entire island was under his rule. The emancipation is very clear in legal documents and Catholic baptism/marriage certificates from 1821 to 1822 where ex-slaves appear as “Liberated by the Republic”. He also abolished the racial and class categories in favor of the unifying term “citizen” as a sign of equality. Despite there being claims that he forced pro-French and anti-Spanish laws in things such as language and customs, none of this was ever enacted. One valid criticism is that he did try to pay France “for liberation from slavery”, using both Saint Domingue and Santo Domingo’s resources. According to Quisqueya H. Lora, during this time period “some ex-slaves chose to stay with their masters…but as free folk, while others chose to join Boyer’s military”. Source: Transición de la esclavitud al trabajo libre en Santo Domingo: El caso de Higüey(1822-1827) by Quisqueya Lora H.

The Trinitarios and 1844

Juan Pablo Duarte

Juan Pablo Duarte is known across the country as being “El Padre de la Patria”. There are streets, a day, and monuments named in his honor. He has gotten a lot of attention for leading the Trinitarios against the unification with Haiti. We bring his up specifically to note how his image has also been co-opted to signify a sort of anti-Haitian racial view. Duarte, in fact, didn’t express anti-Haitian views and preached for racial equality (Silvio Torres-Saillant). He is quoted as having said, “I admire the Haitian people from the moment when, cruising the pages of history, I see them struggling desperately against exceedingly superior powers, and I see how they triumph and how they come up from the pitiful condition of servitude to constitute itself as a free and independent nation”. Source: Introduction to Dominican Blackness by Silvio Torres-Saillant (2010).

Francisco del Rosario Sanchez

Francisco del Rosario Sanchez was born of two parents with African roots and integrated deeply into the Trinitario movement as its second founding member. He is remembered for working along with Juan Pablo Duarte and Ramon Matías Mella, to fight for independence from Haiti, and later fought and paid for his life in the fight for independence from Spain. He was murdered by Pedro Santana who was a Dominican general that sided with the Spaniards after they tried to reoccupy the country post-independence. In his battles, he was said to have always been fierce and determined, even after he was exiled by the Spanish and almost drowned in a boat with Mella; he washed up shores of Ireland and from there went to the U.S then to Curacao until he was able to return to the Dominican Republic and continue his assault against Spanish rule in the name of a truly independent nation. Interestingly, in relation to the relative Eurocentricity of much of Dominican historians, his image is often shown as being lightened or having straighter hair but it’s obvious the man is of visible African descent.

He looked like this:


Not like this:

The RD$5 bill with Sanchez’ face was printed during the Joaquín Balaguer era. Source: http://www.bancentral.gov.do/billetes_monedas/historia_billetes.html
The RD$5 bill with Sanchez’ face was printed during the Joaquín Balaguer era. Source: http://www.bancentral.gov.do/billetes_monedas/historia_billetes.html

Los Hermanos Puello

One of the brothers, Jose Joaquin Puello. By Unknown - Enciclopedia de Historia y Cultura del Caribe.
One of the brothers, Jose Joaquin Puello. By Unknown – Enciclopedia de Historia y Cultura del Caribe.

The Puello Brothers were three brothers of African origins who joined the fight for independence and fought under the direction of Juan Pablo Duarte. They fought literally until their deaths at the hands of Pedro Santana because they refused to bow to the Spanish empire. Source: Comisión Nacional Dominicana de la Ruta del Esclavo (UNESCO)

Juana Saltitopa “La Coronela”

Image is public domain
Public Domain

In a piece for La Galería Magazine, Aquiles A. Sanchez Villaman writes, “In the Dominican Republic, the same thing that happened during the Mexican Revolution occurred: women were not only excluded, but also marginalized and unappreciated, as much in history as in literally. All because the very idea that the female sex has the capacity of serving society in the same way as men offends male virility”. Indeed, Juana Saltitopa is a name that one rarely hears in Dominican popular history, if one knows it at all. Her birth name was “Juana Trinidad”; “Saltitopa” was a nickname given to her for her fervor, enthusiasm, and because she was always hopping (saltando) as a child. She was a soldier during La Batalla de 30 de Marzo, one of the battles that was crucial in the Dominican Republic remaining independent. In this battle, she is said to have participated in gun battle while also going to the river to get water for the rest of the troops. Saltitopa was from La Vega. After this battle and before her assassination in 1860, which some speculate could’ve been politically charged, she is said to have enjoyed life dancing, and enjoying life as she pleased. Sources: http://hoy.com.do/juana-saltitopa-juana-trinidad-la-coronela/ and https://lagaleriamag.com/la-mujer-al-marg…-juana-saltitopa/

Santiago Basora 

Within hours of gaining independence from Haiti, Santiago Basora led a rebellion to make sure that slavery continued to be abolished. Because of his rebellion, the new nation had to reaffirm the abolition of slavery “forever”. The very first decree of the Junta Central on March 1st was the immediate abolition of slavery. The government also had to outlaw slave traffic and rule that any slave that entered the Dominican Republic would immediately gain freedom. He was born in Guinea in Africa and was baptized by a Portuguese priest in Santo Domingo with the surname Basora upon arrival. He had the upmost respect of the colored class of the now Dominican Republic, and his fierce stance against slavery and Spanish rule helped the Trinitarios win over the colored class. Sources: Introduction to Dominican Blackness by Silvio-Torres Saillant (2010) and Blacks, Mulattos, and the Dominican Nation By Franklin J. Franco

La Restauración and Late 1800’s

We continue with La Guerra de La Restauración, which occurred after Spain tried to re-annex the Dominican Republic with the support of some elites. Some Trinitarios continued fighting against the Spaniards and several died at their hands. Furthermore, this period of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s is marked by some revolutionary changes in education and women’s rights as well as the U.S. Occupation of 1916.

Gregorio Luperón

Public Domain
Public Domain

 Luperón was born in Puerto Plata. He was one of the fiercest generals during the war against Spain. , he was to succeeed but at the same time this would not be an easy feat. He was exiled in Haiti, the United States, and Curazao in his quest for total and absolute freedom. He fought for the purest form of independence in the Dominican Republic, not only legally but monetarily. When one of his compatriots became president (Ulises Heureaux), he was thoroughly disappointed by the fact that Heureaux virtually sold the island monetarily to foreign powers like the United States. He exiled himself as a mark of disappointment with President Hereaux to St. Thomas, where he tried to seek Haiti’s alliance to overthrow Hereaux; and this never happened as Haiti did not agree to this. In the end, he was too sick to continue fighting and died of cancer in Puerto Plata. Source: Gregorio Luperón: biografía política by Hugo Tolentio Dipp

María Trinidad Sanchez

Source: imágenesdominicanas.com
Source: imágenesdominicanas.com

 María Trinidad Sanchez was one of the most prominent figures during the movement for independence in 1844. She is mainly known for having been the one to knit the flag with Concepcion Boná, though that historical detail is contested. Nonetheless, Trinidad Sanchez is also said to have been the first political assassination in the country once it was known as the “Dominican Republic” due to her involvement in the fight against the annexation to Spain. She was the aunt of the aforementioned Francisco del Rosario Sanchez, and she never gave up his location during interrogations. Documents of the trials show that she was sentenced to death because she didn’t give up his location.

Eugenio Maria de Hostos

Hostos was a Boricua comrade who came to the Dominican Republic and gets a mention on this list for founding the Escuela Normal which sought to impart education for young children everywhere. He wrote the “Proyecto de Ley de Enseñanza Pública”. An advocate for independence across the Americas, Hostos is buried in the Dominican Republic and asked that his remains be returned to Puerto Rico only after the country gains its independence. Source: http://hoy.com.do/biografiaeugenio-maria-de-hostos/

Ercilia Pepín

De Jose Abigail Cruz Infante - Dominio público,
By Jose Abigail Cruz Infante – Dominio público

Ercilia Pepín was born in 1886 and started teaching at the young age of 14! By the time she was 20, Pepín became the director of the “Escuela de Niñas del barrio Marilópez”. She is credited with being one of the first voices of the feminist movement in the Dominican Republic by raising her voice and demanding women’s rights. Like Salomé Ureña, she also worked to impart Eugenio María de Hostos “rational” system of education by promoting art classes and gym. Pepín was also against the first US military occupation. Sources: http://www.eldiario.es/republica-dominicana/feminismo-politica_0_188982040.html and http://eldia.com.do/dominicanas-destacadas/

Salomé Ureña:

Public Domain
Public Domain

Salomé Ureña is known mainly for her poetry and her writings,. Yet she makes our list not as an artist but as an educator. Born in 1850, Salomé opened the first center of higher education for young women in the Dominican Republic called “Instituto de Señoritas”. This occurred in 1888, at a time when education was just being revolutionized by the Puerto Rican Eugenia Maria de Hostos, who was in exile in the Dominican Republic at the time. 6 years after it’s inception, the first class with graduated six teachers. She was born in 1850. Source: http://eldia.com.do/dominicanas-destacadas/

Movement against the U.S. Occupation

Historian and scholar Alan McPherson writes in his text on women during U.S. occupations that of the movements he studied, women were the most involved in the Dominican Republic. He credits this to women not being as involved with government work as men. Some of the women involved were also part of the elite and established families in the country, while others who received much less attention were living in poverty.

So if this list looks femme heavy, that’s why. Women were taking the strong lead in society during the early 1900’s. The writer also notes the importance of the Diaspora, he writes of the formation of a group called “The Ladies Committee” which “had origins in New York City partly because of censorship in the Dominican Republic”. (Source: “Personal Occupations: Women’s Responses to U.S. Military Occupations in Latin America” by Alan McPherson, 2010).

Luisa Ozema Pellerano

Ozema Pellerano was one of the first students to graduate from Salome Ureña’s Instituto de Señoritas. She is considered one of the great pillars of national education. When Salomé Ureña’s health started to deteriorate, Ozema Pellerano and her sister took leadership of the Instituto. Source: http://listindiario.com/la-vida/2010/4/21/139238/Renuevan-mausoleo-de-una-gran-maestra

Ana Teresa Paradas

Source: desdelavegardubsolis.blogspot.com
Source: desdelavegardubsolis.blogspot.com

Paradas was the first woman to become a lawyer in Dominican Republic after a law was passed which allowed this in 1918. Many tensions rose around her and elite women at the time because the new U.S. government sought to “modernize” the status of women and granted them rights that had previously been denied to them, such as the right to a divorce, to manage their own finances, and obligating fathers to pay child support for children born outside of marriage. She was quoted in an article in The New York World as agreeing with these changes. Dominicans in New York and at home were furious, so Paradas had to retract her statement and claimed to have been misquoted. The tensions were definitely high – how does one oppose an imperial occupation when it is simultaneously passing laws that give you basic human rights, like getting a law degree? Paradas managed to navigate being anti-occupation while promoting women’s rights. Source: La Mujer Dominicana en la Relación de Pareja: Repuesta de la Justicia a la Violencia de Género by María Jesús Pola

Petronila Angelica Gomez

Petronila Gomez. Source http://paisdistinto.com/
Petronila Angelica Gomez. Source http://paisdistinto.com/

Also navigating being anti-occupation while promoting women’s rights was this fierce fighter, who the feminist movement, Torres-Saillant notes, is indebted to. Petronila A. Gomez was a Black Dominican woman who grew up in poverty in the town of San Miguel in Santo Domingo. She organized the country’s first National Women’s Congress. In 1917 she also founded the first feminist magazine, Fémina, together with two other Afro-Dominicanas: Evangelina Rodriguez and Altagracia Dominguez. Gomez also published two books after having becoming blind.

Sources: “Personal Occupations: Women’s Responses to U.S. Military Occupations in Latin America” by Alan McPherson (2010). Also http://hoy.com.do/calles-y-avenidaspetronila-angelica-gomez/ and excerpts from “Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience” by Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates

Before we continue, we would like to note something interesting. A newspaper in the Dominican Republic at the time noted the following:

“Nine things which our women have learned in six years:

To show their legs more than they should.

To go marketing playing the role of servants.

To become typists and neglect the kitchen.

To go out riding in automobiles or in airplanes with whom they think best.

To become chauffeurs.

To marry for business.

To cross their legs in public places.

To wear excessively low-cut dresses and to dance in cafes and restaurants.”

Clearly the men at the time were very angry.

Also, McPherson writes, the term “chopa” is a shortened version of the term “shopping girl” for women who worked for wages.

Regardless, Petronila Gomez, Ana Teresa and others at the time navigated these politics and managed to fight for women’s rights despite dealing with the backlash of being associated with the occupation. There is a hypothesis that perhaps without the occupation and urgent anti-occupation needs, the women’s rights movements would’ve occurred later in the history of the Dominican Republic. Nonetheless, this is the reality for women who joined the elite ranks who managed to navigate those spaces. (Source: “Personal Occupations: Women’s Responses to U.S. Military Occupations in Latin America” by Alan McPherson, 2010). 

Evangelina Rodriguez

Dr. Evangelina Rodriguez. Source: scharboy2009.wordpress.com
Dr. Evangelina Rodriguez. Source: scharboy2009.wordpress.com

Dr. Evangelina Rodriguez was the first woman to receive a degree in medicine in the Dominican Republic in 1911. A book of her biography is titled “Despised in Life, Forgotten in Death” (“Despreciada en la Vida y Olvidada en la Muerte”). She was harassed throughout her life for being a black woman in a male dominated field. She was also heavily criticized for her work by the Catholic Church, and found support in Petronila Angelica Gomez and Altagracia Dominguez (two other black teachers). She was born out of wedlock in 1879 to Ramón Rodriguez and Felipa Perrozo, a poor illiterate woman. Her father abandoned the family and her mother died when she was only six years old, so her grandmother took charge of her care. She finished her studies at the same time as she worked as the head master of a girl’s school. She dreamed of studying in Paris and tried raising funds with a book published in 1915. Unfortunately, the book generated more losses than gains. However, she persisted and was able to go to La Sorbonne in Paris. Upon her return, she did what the men in the field wouldn’t. Dr. Rodriguez promoted family planning as well as healthcare for prostitutes and poor women. This fierce advocate for human rights founded a health center for those suffering from leprosy and tuberculosis, another health center for maternity and children, opened a night school to educate peasants who didn’t know how to read, and did charity work for the poor. As soon as Trujillo went into power, she became a fearless opponent. This scared many of her middle class clients away and made her family and friends abandon her, which led to a deterioration of her mental health. She was brutally assaulted and tortured by Trujillo’s men. She survived this incident but later was found dying of hunger and thirst in January of 1947. Though there are medical centers dedicated to her, Evangelina Rodriguez remains an unsung powerful shero of the Dominican Republic. Source: Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience by Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates

Ramón Leocadio “Cayo” Baez

Cayo Baez showing his scarred chest after being beaten by U.S. Occupation officials. Image: elgavillero.blogpost.com
Cayo Baez showing his scarred chest after being beaten by U.S. Occupation officials. Image: elgavillero.blogpost.com

A picture of Cayo Baez showing scars inflicted by the U.S. occupation army shocked the world and revealed the reality that the Dominican Republic was facing at the time of the first U.S. occupation which lasted from 1916 to 1924. Cayo Baez was a peasant from Salcedo Baez who told the story of his kidnapping by American forces at the age 16 in 1923. He was captured and tortured for not revealing the hiding place of his comrades who were against the occupation. He explained in court that he was left for dead and an old lady saved him. They tortured him so severely with a hot machete that he was unable to walk. Sixteen others were also tortured and shot; only Baez survived. Some criticize that he wasn’t properly recognized or recompensed by the government and died poor and forgotten while receiving a very low pension.

Sources: “The Invaded: How Latin America and Their Allies Fought and Ended U.S. Occupations” by Alan McPherson. Also information from http://hoy.com.do/celebran-evento-artistico-cultural-en-honor-a-cayo-baez/

In Part 2 of this series we will pick up with more luchadores against Trujillo’s regime and discuss those involved in La Revolucion de Abril, the anti-Balaguer movement and some more recent leaders. 

About the authors:

Gerald Lopez:

I am both an immigrant and a natural citizen because I was born in the U.S but was taken back to my homeland of the Dominican Republic @ the age of 2 months. Here I experienced childhood, school and daily life up until age 7. I emigrated to the United States with my family where I experienced both warmth from cousins who where here and negativity from school friends who saw me as “inferior” for being an immigrant. But I quickly learned English and camouflaged into the system. Despite this I always had my heart with my childhood and the Maroon blood in my veins didn’t let me fully integrate. I had the urge to learn more about myself, go back, and re-live those memories. While I have been in the U.S. long enough to be one with the environment, I am also still one with my Dominican environment and I consider myself having two homes. With time my identity grew and became fertilized by very progressive Dominicans, including my parents and music groups like Palo Monte and Kalunga. Of which the latter, I later joined and have been a proud member for a few years, to seek to help others See not only who they are but who they where. The more I seek, the more I remember.

Amanda Alcantara:

I’m the Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of La Galería Magazine.  I write about the intersections of gender, race and class from a personal and political perspective. I’m also the author of the blog Radical Latina. I was born in the United States and was taken to the Dominican Republic at the age of three. I lived and went to school there, except for the one year where I completed 2nd grade of grammar school in the US (in that year I learned English). I went to several schools in Santiago de los Caballeros before ending up at el Colegio Padre Emiliano Tardíf, where I met some of my closest friends and lived moments that will always be dear to my heart. I was also involved in a bunch of activities there.  I returned to the US with my mother and sister at the age of 16. Once here, I finished High School and went on to Rutgers University where I got involved with on-campus Latina feminist organizations. I’ve written for several magazines and news organizations. Currently, I work at a non-profit and am pursuing a Master’s Degree in Latin American and Caribbean Studies. 



1 Comment

  1. Great job, very important and necessary effort in excavating the events and individuals (especially women) that disappeared or were distorted in our history. We must keep revisiting and confronting the makers of history.

Leave a Response