Dominican historian and translator Amaury Rodríguez offers “Microsyllabus: History from Below in the Dominican Republic,” a compelling, partial introduction to radical perspectives in Dominican historiography—an excellent resource. For the full article and annotated bibliography go to “The Abusable Past” (Radical History Review).
Since the worldwide political upheavals of the 1960s, Caribbean and Latin American social scientists have expanded the production of people’s history or history from below by rescuing collective memories and ways of life relegated to the margins by traditional historians. Radical historians, sociologists, philosophers, activists, artists and writers have placed premium importance on the reconstruction of a history from below counterpoise to the official history and grand narratives focused on heroic figures championed by white Creole elites in Abya Yala, or the Americas. This has taken the form of, for instance, investigating the popular thinking rooted in the indigenous people of the hemisphere and Africa or researching women’s history and resistance to slavery and colonialism. In the Dominican Republic, this cultural shift materialized after the fall of the Trujillo dictatorship in 1961, giving birth to a radical historiography whose main objective is to lay down the foundation of an ongoing scientific-based inquiry into the Dominican past that continues today.
The Trujillo regime (1930-1961), a direct outgrowth of the first U.S. military occupation (1916-1924), left a legacy of authoritarianism, machismo, pseudo-scientific racism, and anti-Haitian racism. The Trujillato’s rabid nationalism, among other factors, led to the 1937 massacre of Haitians, Black/Afro-Dominicans, and Dominicans of Haitian origin. Nonetheless, solidarity ties between the two people that share the island of Hispaniola continued unabated. In “Looking for Solidarity,” translator, author, and scholar Sophie Maríñez reminds us of the long tradition of Haitian-Dominican solidarity by surveying the legacy of Jacques Viau Renaud, the Haitian-born poet and revolutionary martyr who died fighting in defense of Dominican sovereignty during the second U.S. invasion in 1965. Maríñez recounts how “Viau joined the rebel unit Comando B-3, and soon became a sub-comandante, but died, hit by a mortar, when he was only twenty-three. Hundreds of people attended his funeral. Although Dominicans had already adopted him as one of them, Constitutionalist president Francisco Caamaño formalized this adoption by issuing a decree granting him posthumously Dominican nationality for defending with his life the nation’s democracy and sovereignty.”
In the first years of the post-dictatorial period (1961-1965), middle- and working-class Dominicans influenced by the Cuban revolution joined reformist and revolutionary movements, while a nascent counter-culture amplified the revolutionary spirit of the era. Yet, the Dominican peoples’ democratic aspirations were curtailed by another brutal American military occupation. In April of 1965, a democratic revolution seeking to restore President Juan Bosch to power, after his government was overthrown by a U.S.-backed right-wing military coup two years earlier, raised alarms in Washington. Four days later, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent American troops to Santo Domingo, crushing the popular revolt after months of fighting. Afterwards, Joaquín Balaguer’s U.S.-backed right-wing regime (1966-1978) carried out a genocidal campaign against the revolutionary Left. Despite state repression, the revolutionary culture created during the 1960s thrived in the barrios and in the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, UASD), the public university and epicenter of left-wing activity. Popular education projects like clubes culturales y deportivos (cultural and sport clubs) sprung up, and activist-scholars founded social research units at UASD. By the 1970s and early1980s, a Marxist historiography coalesced around Communist partisan periodicals like Impacto Socialista and critical left, independent Marxist journals like Nuevo Rumbo, Realidad Contemporanea and Poder Popular. Left-wing historiography and counter-cultural ideas also appeared in mainstream publications that ran the gamut from newsweekly magazines like ¡Ahora! and Renovación to suplementos culturales (culture sections) of widely-read daily newspapers. Further, street theater left its mark on popular education and Dominican Blackness as documented by scholar and translator Raj Chetty in the article “‘La calle es libre’: Race, Recognition, and Dominican Street Theater.” Finally, the Siete dias para el pueblo (Seven Days for the People)music event in 1974 internationalized the campaign to free political prisoners, rescued Afro-Taino culture, reinvigorated popular music, and set the tone for Dominican—and hemispheric—protest music for the ensuing decades.
The following microsyllabus is a partial introduction to radical perspectives within Dominican historiography. Given the prevalence of colonial violence, right-right ideology, racism, ethno-nationalism, obscurantism, capitalist exploitation and oppression on a local and global scale, the revolutionary lessons from the 1960s Dominican counter-culture still resonate deeply with activists, educators, cultural workers and artists whose research and public interventions challenge reactionary notions of nationhood and self, and ultimately, the status quo. A Further Reading section to complement sources in Spanish appears at the end. I hope that this microsyllabus will introduce students, scholars, translators, artists, activists, librarians, archivists, and the general public to Dominican history from below by engaging with saberes locales (local knowledge) produced by both Dominicans and non-Dominicans on the ground. [. . .]
For full article, with end notes and annotated bibliography, visit https://www.radicalhistoryreview.org/abusablepast/microsyllabus-history-from-below-in-the-dominican-republic/