[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Kevin G. Andrade (Providence Journal) reports on a recent development that shook many among the Dominican diaspora in Rhode Island. Andrade writes:
The day was sunny with a breeze that, while not gentle, did provide some welcome relief from the heat during the Dominican Festival parade on Aug. 19, as it marched along Broad Street. Flanking the route on a bridge over Route 95 were about a dozen people, all wearing green shirts and waving green flags.
They stood by, observing the festivities until one float passed that was painted the red, white and blue colors of the Dominican flag, with a picture of El Monumento de Santiago — a well-known national landmark — on its side. What caught people’s attention was a phrase written on the front of the float: “Dios en cielo, Trujillo en tierra.” God in Heaven, Trujillo on Earth. That phrase highlighted a simmering controversy in the Dominican community, in Rhode Island and elsewhere, that is tied to a brutal dictatorship that ended almost 60 years ago.
“God in Heaven, Trujillo on Earth.”
The Trujillo in question is Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina, a megalomaniacal dictator who reigned over every aspect of public and private life in the Dominican Republican from 1930 to 1961. Those spectators in the green T-shirts, members of Marcha Verde (Green March) — a protest movement — were clearly not happy about the float’s appearance in the parade. “Look at how shameful this is,” said LuÍs Camacho, a member of Marcha Verde who filmed the float and commented on it in Spanish. “In a parade that is meant to celebrate Dominican-ness, you see this shameful exhibit.”
The artist insists he was trying to educate people on Dominican history. He even dressed as the dictator and marched in the parade with actresses portraying the Mirabal Sisters — dissidents famously assassinated by Trujillo. “This was NOT a political float,” said Rene Gomez, the float’s designer and artistic director for Hispanic United Development Organization. “A lot of research and time and passion went into this and they turned it into a political witch hunt. “You can’t mention Trujillo without mentioning them,” he said, referring to comments that photos on Facebook of himself portraying Trujillo with the actresses playing the Mirabals were in poor taste. “They’re both linked in our Dominican history.”
El Jefe — the Chief, as many called Trujillo — was notoriously brutal, having electric chairs in prison perfectly calibrated to cause maximum pain and having ordered what many have termed a genocide of Haitians in the country in 1937. It is estimated that 50,000 died as a result of his policies of political and racial persecution. Trujillo was assassinated in May 1961.
Now, almost 60 years after Trujillo’s death, his grandson, Ramfis Dominguez Trujillo, is attempting to become a candidate for the presidency of the Dominican Republican in 2020. Dominguez Trujillo has been received somewhat skeptically by many who still remember the rule of his grandfather. Yet his family name still has meaning in the Caribbean nation — and on Broad Street in Providence. [. . .]