Microsyllabus: History from Below in the Dominican Republic

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.[1] 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.[2]

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 RumboRealidad 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/

5 thoughts on “Microsyllabus: History from Below in the Dominican Republic

  1. I love it when pseudo historians that do not live, probably were not educated in the DR and have no idea of what makes up the social fabric of Dominican society, write up all kinds of articles about somebody else’s country. Whenever you’re able to understand how the Dominican Republic lost the La Miel Valley, suffered 11 invasions by Haitians from 1844 to 1856, suffered the Moca massacre of non combatant women, men and children by Haitians on Dominican soil or any other number of appalling acts in history then you may understand bilateral relations between the two countries. Regarding the Dominican blackness, the villa of San Lorenzo de los Minas (which now is a section of Santo Domingo) was founded in 1676 (over a hundred years before Haiti existed) with the escaped slaves of what is now Haiti. They lived freely and sold their products downstream in the capital of the country.

  2. It is always foreigners that will comment on countries they no nothing about. They come, look up a few cookos that have similar ideas to them and concoct a story. Haitians and Dominicans have no similarities , of origin,language or religion. Dominicans have been very generous to them considering that haitians have no good will.to them.Haitians still believe that this island belongs to them. Let them and their friends wake up!

  3. With all do respect please, …
    It is very nice and well received of your publication to see and learn about the history.
    Please seek out the Book written by the late Juan Luis Castaños Morales an Attorney, writer and publisher whom unfortunately passed away 2 years ago at a very young age.
    He was my brother in law and one of the most influential important and respected Domenican Attorney in the Sosua, Puerto Plata and Santiago district.

  4. The world will live on is full of hatred, envy, jealousy, tirany, power hungry and lies. Whent infact it should be filled with love unity, respect for one another, and in time of needs be there for one another. It’s sad, but that is what we found in this lovely world. And none will changed except God. In my opinion, my ancestors where victimize, by the spaniar, from spain. Also by the Goverment of Haiti during their occupancy, them by several Dominican president and Dictator. And still after Trujillo, I consider mus of the governents in power, very abusive to the poorest citizen of the people of dominican republic. The it’s a current of haiti sympathizer claiming that the dominican people is mistreating haitian people, and that is false Dominican in general love God under their religious of christianity. And belief that all mens are created equal. However, in this world we live, there are not a single nation that is perfect nor person that is perfect. We all going to find, criminal, rapes, lairs, opportunism and people in general that will take advantage of all kinds, for their convenient. Dominican republic its havebeen allowing haitian people to live, work and live side by side with Dominicans. Howevrr there are yhe haters the divuders and the liar that always complaining about the Dominican people, why because yhey feel intire to all the Island of the spaniola. And it’s will bever happens, becsuse the republic of Haiti have their iwns piece of their territories, and they have to work harder to nake prosper, just like every country foes with their territories. No must of the haitian people complaint about the Dominican and demanding rights, when they don’t have any in Dominican Republic. My conclusion is that instead of does people yhat complain where you don have rights, make change in your own country so uts could prospect. Nay God bless yhe Dominican Republic, and help the republic of Haiti archive their potencial.🙏❤. Peace to all.

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