The Miami Herald’s Ezra Fieser reports that a tour of spots of infamy during the brutal rule of Dominican dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo “honors those who resisted him and educates against repeating the past.” A Dominican tourism organization now presents La Ruta del Chivo (roughly translated as “Trujillo’s Route” and translated by the Raíces agency as “Tour of Trujillo’s Last Trip”). Writer Julia Alvarez’s reaction is that “Any way to bring history alive to young generations who did not live it but who have inherited that legacy in bad habits of thinking and acting and being a citizenry is important—be it a novel, or a film, or a ruta.” Here are excerpts, with a link to the full article below:
Rafael Trujillo’s brutal rule over the Dominican Republic ended 51 years ago when he was gunned down on a seaside highway, but his thumbprints still shape this country and its culture. The Trujillo dictatorship, from 1930 to 1961, was among the most oppressive in Latin America, marked by massacres of civilians, torture and assassinations of political dissidents and shocking acts of self-adoration. The capital, Santo Domingo, which Trujillo renamed “Ciudad Trujillo” while he was in power, is marked by his legacy — from the roads and hotels he had built in his honor to the monument that marks the spot where he was assassinated.
[. . .] Now, a Dominican tourism organization is attempting to bring the Trujillo era into modern consciousness. The three-hour “Tour of Trujillo’s Last Trip” (La Ruta del Chivo in Spanish) is designed to educate people about the tyranny and fear under which Dominicans lived while paying tribute to the men and women who opposed Trujillo. “It was a climate of terror,” said Edwin Aristy, of Raíces, the agency that recently began offering the tour.
Supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Dominican government, the tour is another important step in bringing Dominicans closer to their past, said Luisa de Peña Díaz, director of the Memorial Museum of Dominican Resistance, which honors those who stood against the governments of Trujillo and Joaquín Balaguer, who followed him.
The tour, which was launched in June, takes passengers to eight spots in the city in well-preserved cars from the 1950s and 1960s. [. . .] The tour begins at the two-story Memorial Museum of Dominican Resistance where the most startling reminder of the brutality of the era is a dank underground room that houses the electric chair in which many dissidents were tortured. [. . .] Stops along the tour take visitors to monuments and a mausoleum erected to honor the resistance movement, and to the buildings where Trujillo lived a lavish lifestyle. The national library, for instance, was once his residence, complete with a movie theater, skating rink, ample gym and enough closet space to house his 10,000 neckties and the fruits of his excessive buying sprees in New York. The tour concludes at the monument erected at the bend in the highway where Trujillo was killed in a shootout. Although several opposition groups had organized against him, Trujillo was ultimately killed in a plot that involved several of his own men. The plot was aided by the CIA in an about-face for the U.S. government, which had long supported the dictatorship. [. . .] The monument marking the sight is a stirring abstract sculpture depicting one of the victims of the electric chair.
[. . .]How Trujillo rose from humble beginnings to become the pivotal figure in Dominican history is worthy of examination, said author Julia Alvarez. Her historical novel, In the Time of the Butterflies, traced the lives of the Mirabal sisters, three of whom were killed for opposing Trujillo. “It’s important for us to know our history and examine what in our culture and civic habits helped create favorable ground for these dictatorships. He is not the first and he wasn’t our last,” said Alvarez, whose family fled the Trujillo dictatorship for the U.S. in 1960. Alvarez said young Dominican Americans read her novel and tell her “they had no idea.” “Any way to bring history alive to young generations who did not live it but who have inherited that legacy in bad habits of thinking and acting and being a citizenry is important — be it a novel, or a film, or a ruta [tour],” she said.
For more on the museum, see http://popreport.com/2011/05/new-museum-trujillo-victims/
Top photo from http://lo-de-alla.org/tag/rafael-trujillo/
Photo of memorial for Trujillo’s victims from http://www.diariolibre.com/dlenglish/2012/05/30/i338262_advances-years-after-trujillos-death-are-stressed.html