History of the Dominican Republic

The recorded history of the Dominican
Republic began on 5 December 1492 when the European navigator Christopher
Columbus happened upon a large island in the region of the western Atlantic Ocean
that later came to be known as the Caribbean. It was inhabited by the
Taíno, an Arawakan people, who variously called their island Ayiti, Bohio, or
Quisqueya. Columbus promptly claimed the island for the Spanish Crown, naming it
La Isla Española, later Latinized to Hispaniola. What would become the
Dominican Republic was the Spanish Captaincy General of Santo Domingo until
1821 except for a time as a French colony from 1795 to 1809. It was then
part of a unified Hispaniola with Haiti from 1821 until 1844. In 1844, Dominican
independence was proclaimed and the republic, which was often known as Santo
Domingo until the early 20th century, maintained its independence except for a
short Spanish occupation from 1861 to 1865 and occupation by the United States
from 1916 to 1924. Pre-Spanish history
The Taíno people called the island Quisqueya and Ayiti. At the time of
Columbus arrival in 1492, the island’s territory consisted of five chiefdoms:
Marién, Maguá, Maguana, Jaragua, and Higüey. These were ruled respectively by
tribal chiefs Guacanagarix, Guarionex, Caonabo, Bohechío, and Cayacoa.
Spanish colony: 1st period 1492–1795 =Arrival of the Spanish=
Christopher Columbus reached the island of Hispañola on his first voyage, in
December 1492. On Columbus’s second voyage in 1493 the
colony of La Isabela was built on the northeast shore. Isabela nearly failed
because of hunger and disease. In 1496 Santo Domingo was built and became the
new capital, and remains the oldest continuously inhabited European city in
the Americas.=Sixteenth century: Taino decimation &
African enslavement=Hundreds of thousands Tainos living on
the island were enslaved to work in gold mines. As a consequence of oppression,
forced labor, hunger, disease, and mass killings, by 1535, only 60,000 were
still alive. In 1501, the Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand I and Isabella,
first granted permission to the colonists of the Caribbean to import
African slaves, which began arriving to the island in 1503. These African
importees have had the most dominant racial influence, and their culture has
an influence second only to that of Europe on the political and cultural
character of the modern Dominican Republic. In 1510, the first sizable
shipment, consisting of 250 Black Ladinos, arrived in Hispaniola from
Spain. Eight years later African-born slaves arrived in the West Indies. The
Colony of “La Española” was organized as the Royal Audiencia of Santo Domingo in
1511. Sugar cane was introduced to Hispaniola from the Canary Islands, and
the first sugar mill in the New World was established in 1516, on Hispaniola.
The need for a labor force to meet the growing demands of sugar cane
cultivation led to an exponential increase in the importation of slaves
over the following two decades. The sugar mill owners soon formed a new
colonial elite, and convinced the Spanish king to allow them to elect the
members of the Real Audiencia from their ranks. Poorer colonists subsisted by
hunting the herds of wild cattle that roamed throughout the island and selling
their hides. The first major slave revolt in the
Americas occurred in Santo Domingo during 1522, when slaves led an uprising
in the sugar plantation of admiral Don Diego Colón, son of Christopher
Columbus. Many of these insurgents managed to escape to the mountains where
they formed independent maroon communities.
While sugar cane dramatically increased Spain’s earnings on the island, large
numbers of the newly imported slaves fled into the nearly impassable mountain
ranges in the island’s interior, joining the growing communities of
cimarrónes—literally, ‘wild animals’. By the 1530s, cimarrón bands had become so
numerous that in rural areas the Spaniards could only safely travel
outside their plantations in large armed groups. Beginning in the 1520s, the
Caribbean Sea was raided by increasingly numerous French pirates. In 1541 Spain
authorized the construction of Santo Domingo’s fortified wall, and in 1560
decided to restrict sea travel to enormous, well-armed convoys. In another
move, which would destroy Hispaniola’s sugar industry, in 1561 Havana, more
strategically located in relation to the Gulf Stream, was selected as the
designated stopping point for the merchant flotas, which had a royal
monopoly on commerce with the Americas. In 1564, the island’s main inland cities
Santiago de los Caballeros and Concepción de la Vega were destroyed by
an earthquake. In the 1560s English pirates joined the French in regularly
raiding Spanish shipping in the Americas.
With the conquest of the American mainland, Hispaniola quickly declined.
Most Spanish colonists left for the silver-mines of Mexico and Peru, while
new immigrants from Spain bypassed the island. Agriculture dwindled, new
imports of slaves ceased, and white colonists, free blacks, and slaves alike
lived in poverty, weakening the racial hierarchy and aiding intermixing,
resulting in a population of predominantly mixed Spaniard, African,
and Taíno descent. Except for the city of Santo Domingo, which managed to
maintain some legal exports, Dominican ports were forced to rely on contraband
trade, which, along with livestock, became the sole source of livelihood for
the island dwellers. In 1586, Sir Francis Drake captured the city of Santo
Domingo, collecting a ransom for its return to Spanish rule.
In 1595 the Spanish, frustrated by the twenty-year rebellion of their Dutch
subjects, closed their home ports to rebel shipping from the Netherlands
cutting them off from the critical salt supplies necessary for their herring
industry. The Dutch responded by sourcing new salt supplies from Spanish
America where colonists were more than happy to trade. So large numbers of
Dutch traders/pirates joined their English and French brethren on the
Spanish main.=Seventeenth century: French
encroachment=In 1605, Spain was infuriated that
Spanish settlements on the northern and western coasts of the island were
carrying out large scale and illegal trade with the Dutch, who were at that
time fighting a war of independence against Spain in Europe, and the
English, a very recent enemy state, and so decided to forcibly resettle their
inhabitants closer to the city of Santo Domingo. This action, known as the
Devastaciones de Osorio, proved disastrous; more than half of the
resettled colonists died of starvation or disease, over 100,000 cattle were
abandoned, and many slaves escaped. Five of the existing thirteen settlements on
the island were brutally razed by Spanish troops – many of the inhabitants
fought, escaped to the jungle, or fled to the safety of passing Dutch ships.
The settlements of La Yaguana, and Bayaja, on the west and north coasts
respectively of modern-day Haiti were burned, as were the settlements of Monte
Cristi and Puerto Plata on the north coast and San Juan de la Maguana in the
south western area of the modern day Dominican Republic. French and English
buccaneers took advantage of Spain’s retreat into a corner of Hispaniola to
settle the island of Tortuga, off the northwest coast of Hispaniola, in 1629.
France established direct control in 1640, reorganizing it into an official
colony and expanding to the north coast of Hispaniola itself, whose western end
Spain ceded to France in 1697 under the Treaty of Ryswick. In 1655, Oliver
Cromwell dispatched a fleet, commanded by Admiral Sir William Penn, to conquer
Santo Domingo. After meeting heavy resistance, the English retreated,
taking the island of Jamaica instead.=Eighteenth century: Colonial decline
and Haitian revolution=The House of Bourbon replaced the House
of Habsburg in Spain in 1700 and introduced economic reforms that
gradually began to revive trade in Santo Domingo. The crown progressively relaxed
the rigid controls and restrictions on commerce between Spain and the colonies
and among the colonies. The last flotas sailed in 1737; the monopoly port system
was abolished shortly thereafter. By the middle of the century, the population
was bolstered by emigration from the Canary Islands, resettling the northern
part of the colony and planting tobacco in the Cibao Valley, and importation of
slaves was renewed. The population of Santo Domingo grew from about 6,000 in
1737 to approximately 125,000 in 1790. Of this number, about 40,000 were white
landowners, about 25,000 were mulatto freedmen, and some 60,000 were slaves.
However, it remained poor and neglected, particularly in contrast with its
western, French neighbor Saint-Domingue, which became the wealthiest colony in
the New World and had half a million inhabitants. As restrictions on colonial
trade were relaxed, the colonial elites of St. Domingue offered the principal
market for Santo Domingo’s exports of beef, hides, mahogany, and tobacco.
With the outbreak of the Haitian Revolution in 1791, the rich urban
families linked to the colonial bureaucracy fled the island, while most
of the rural hateros remained, even though they lost their principal market.
Spain saw in the unrest an opportunity to seize all, or part, of the western
third of the island in an alliance of convenience with the British and the
rebellious slaves. But after the slaves and French reconciled, the Spanish were
defeated by the forces of the black Jacobin General Toussaint Louverture,
and in 1795, France gained control of the whole island under the Treaties of
Basel. French colony 1795–1809
In 1801, L’Ouverture arrived in Santo Domingo, proclaiming the abolition of
slavery on behalf of the French Republic. Shortly afterwards, Napoleon
dispatched an army which subdued the whole island and ruled it for a few
months. Mulattos and blacks again rose up against these French in October 1802
and finally defeated them in November 1803. On 1 January 1804 the victors
declared Saint-Domingue to be the independent republic of Haiti. Even
after their defeat by the Haitians, a small French garrison remained in Santo
Domingo. Slavery was reestablished and many of the émigré Spanish colonists
returned. In 1805, after crowning himself Emperor, Jean-Jacques Dessalines
invaded, reaching Santo Domingo before retreating in the face of a French naval
squadron. In their retreat through the Cibao, the Haitians sacked the towns of
Santiago and Moca, slaughtering most of their residents and helping to lay the
foundation for two centuries of animosity between the two countries.
The French held on to the eastern part of the island, until dealt a serious
blow by the Spanish inhabitants of the island at the Battle of Palo Hincado on
November 7, 1808. With help from the British Navy, the Spanish lay siege to
the city of Santo Domingo. The French in the besieged city finally capitulated on
July 9, 1809, initiating a twelve-year period of Spanish rule, known in
Dominican history as “the Foolish Spain.”
Unification of Hispaniola 1821–44 The twenty-two-year Haitian occupation
that followed is recalled by Dominicans as a period of brutal military rule,
though the reality is more complex. It led to large-scale land expropriations
and failed efforts to force production of export crops, impose military
services, restrict the use of the Spanish language, and eliminate
traditional customs such as cockfighting. It reinforced Dominicans’
perceptions of themselves as different from Haitians in “language, race,
religion and domestic customs.” Yet, this was also a period that definitively
ended slavery as an institution in the eastern part of the island.
Haiti’s constitution forbade whites from owning land, and the major landowning
families were forcibly deprived of their properties. Most emigrated to the
Spanish colonies of Cuba and Puerto Rico, or to independent Gran Colombia,
usually with the encouragement of Haitian officials, who acquired their
lands. The Haitians, who associated the Catholic Church with the French
slave-masters who had exploited them before independence, confiscated all
church property, deported all foreign clergy, and severed the ties of the
remaining clergy to the Vatican. Santo Domingo’s university, the oldest in the
Western Hemisphere, lacking students, teachers, and resources, closed down. In
order to receive diplomatic recognition from France, Haiti was forced to pay an
indemnity of 150 million francs to the former French colonists, which was
subsequently lowered to 60 million francs, and Haiti imposed heavy taxes on
the eastern part of the island. Since Haiti was unable to adequately provision
its army, the occupying forces largely survived by commandeering or
confiscating food and supplies at gunpoint.
Attempts to redistribute land conflicted with the system of communal land tenure,
which had arisen with the ranching economy, and newly emancipated slaves
resented being forced to grow cash crops under Boyer’s Code Rural. In rural
areas, the Haitian administration was usually too inefficient to enforce its
own laws. It was in the city of Santo Domingo that the effects of the
occupation were most acutely felt, and it was there that the movement for
independence originated. Independence: first period 1844–61
In July 16, 1838 Juan Pablo Duarte together with Pedro Alejandrino Pina,
Juan Isidro Pérez, Felipe Alfau, Benito González, Félix María Ruiz, Juan
Nepumoceno Ravelo and Jacinto de la Concha founded a secret society called
La Trinitaria to win independence from Haiti. A short time later, they were
joined by Ramón Matías Mella, and Francisco del Rosario Sánchez. In 1843
they allied with a Haitian movement in overthrowing Boyer. Because they had
revealed themselves as revolutionaries working for Dominican independence, the
new Haitian president, Charles Rivière-Hérard, exiled or imprisoned the
leading Trinitarios. At the same time, Buenaventura Báez, an Azua mahogany
exporter and deputy in the Haitian National Assembly, was negotiating with
the French Consul-General for the establishment of a French protectorate.
In an uprising timed to preempt Báez, on February 27, 1844, the Trinitarios
declared independence from Haiti, backed by Pedro Santana, a wealthy
cattle-rancher from El Seibo who commanded a private army of peons who
worked on his estates.=First Republic=
The Dominican Republic’s first constitution was adopted on November 6,
1844. The state was commonly known as Santo Domingo in English until the early
20th century. It featured a presidential form of government with many liberal
tendencies, but it was marred by Article 210, imposed by Pedro Santana on the
constitutional assembly by force, giving him the privileges of a dictatorship
until the war of independence was over. These privileges not only served him to
win the war, but also allowed him to persecute, execute and drive into exile
his political opponents, among which Duarte was the most important. During
the first decade of independence, Haïti mounted five invasions to reconquer the
eastern part of the island: in 1844, 1845, 1849, 1853 and 1855-56. Although
each was repulsed, Santana used the ever-present threat of Haitian invasion
as a justification for consolidating dictatorial powers. For the Dominican
elite—mostly landowners, merchants and priests—the threat of re-conquest by
more populous Haiti was sufficient to seek annexation by an outside power.
Offering the deepwater harbor of Samaná bay as bait, over the next two decades,
negotiations were made with Britain, France, the United States and Spain to
declare a protectorate over the country. Without adequate roads, the regions of
the Dominican Republic developed in isolation from one another. In the
south, the economy was dominated by cattle-ranching and cutting mahogany and
other hard woods for export. This region retained a semi-feudal character-with
little commercial agriculture, the hacienda as the dominant social unit and
the majority of the population living at a subsistence level. In the Cibao
Valley, the nation’s richest farmland, peasants supplemented their subsistence
crops by growing tobacco for export, mainly to Germany. Tobacco required less
land than cattle ranching and was mainly grown by smallholders, who relied on
itinerant traders to transport their crops to Puerto Plata and Monte Cristi.
Santana antagonized the Cibao farmers, enriching himself and his supporters at
their expense by resorting to multiple peso printings that allowed him to buy
their crops for a fraction of their value. In 1848, he was forced to resign,
and was succeeded by his vice-president, Manuel Jimenes. After returning to lead
Dominican forces against a new Haitian invasion in 1849, Santana marched on
Santo Domingo, deposing Jimenes. At his behest, Congress elected Buenaventura
Báez as President, but Báez was unwilling to serve as Santana’s puppet,
challenging his role as the country’s acknowledged military leader. In 1853
Santana was elected president for his second term, forcing Báez into exile.
Three years later, after repulsing the last Haitian invasion, he negotiated a
treaty leasing a portion of Samaná Peninsula to a U.S. company; popular
opposition forced him to abdicate, enabling Báez to return and seize power.
With the treasury depleted, Báez printed eighteen million uninsured pesos,
purchasing the 1857 tobacco crop with this currency and exporting it for hard
cash at immense profit to himself and his followers. The Cibanian tobacco
planters, who were ruined when inflation ensued, revolted, recalling Santana from
exile to lead their rebellion. After a year of civil war, Santana seized Santo
Domingo and installed himself as President.
Spanish colony: 3rd period 1861–65 Pedro Santana inherited a bankrupt
government on the brink of collapse. Having failed in his initial bids to
secure annexation by the U.S. or France, Santana initiated negotiations with
Queen Isabella II of Spain and the Captain-General of Cuba to have the
island reconverted into a Spanish colony. The American Civil War rendered
the United States incapable of enforcing the Monroe Doctrine. In Spain, Prime
Minister Don Leopoldo O’Donnell advocated renewed colonial expansion,
waging a campaign in northern Morocco that conquered the city of Tetuan. In
March 1861, Santana officially restored the Dominican Republic to Spain.
=War of Restoration=This move was widely rejected and on
August 16, 1863, a national war of restoration began in Santiago, where the
rebels established a provisional government. Spanish troops reoccupied
the town, but the rebels fled to the mountains along the ill-defined Haitian
border. Haitian President Fabre Geffrard provided the Dominican rebels with
sanctuary and arms, sending a detachment of his presidential guards to fight
alongside them. Santana initially was named Capitan-General of the new Spanish
province, but it soon became obvious that Spanish authorities planned to
deprive him of his power, leading him to resign in 1862. Condemned to death by
the provisional government, Santana died under mysterious circumstances in 1864,
and is widely believed to have committed suicide. Restrictions on trade,
discrimination against the mulatto majority, Spain intended to reimpose
slavery, and an unpopular campaign by the new Spanish Archbishop against
extramarital unions, which were widespread after decades of abandonment
by the Catholic Church, all fed resentment of Spanish rule. Confined to
the major towns, the Spanish army was unable to defeat the guerillas or
contain the insurrection, and suffered heavy losses due to Yellow Fever.
Spanish colonial authorities encouraged Queen Isabella II to abandon the island,
seeing the occupation as a nonsensical waste of troops and money.
However, the rebels were in a state of political disarray, and proved unable to
present a cohesive set of demands. The first president of the provisional
government, Pepillo Salcedo was deposed by General Gaspar Polanco in September
1864, who, in turn, was deposed by General Antonio Pimentel three months
later. The rebels formalized their provisional rule by holding a national
convention in February 1865, which enacted a new constitution, but the new
government exerted little authority over the various regional guerrilla
caudillos, who were largely independent of one another. Unable to extract
concessions from the disorganized rebels, when the American Civil War
ended, in March 1865, Queen Isabella annulled the annexation and independence
was restored, with the last Spanish troops departing by July.
Independence: second period 1865–1916 =Second Republic=
By the time the Spanish departed, most of the main towns lay in ruins and the
island was divided among several dozen caudillos. José María Cabral controlled
most of Barahona and the southwest with the support of Báez’s mahogany-exporting
partners, while cattle rancher Cesáreo Guillermo assembled a coalition of
former Santanista generals in the southeast, and Gregorio Luperón
controlled the north coast. From the Spanish withdrawal to 1879, there were
twenty-one changes of government and at least fifty military uprisings.
In the course of these conflicts, two parties emerged. The Partido Rojo
represented the southern cattle ranching latifundia and mahogany-exporting
interests, as well as the artisans and laborers of Santo Domingo, and was
dominated by Báez, who continued to seek annexation by a foreign power. The
Partido Azul, led by Luperón, represented the tobacco farmers and
merchants of the Cibao and Puerto Plata and was nationalist and liberal in
orientation. During these wars, the small and corrupt national army was far
outnumbered by militias organized and maintained by local caudillos who set
themselves up as provincial governors. These militias were filled out by poor
farmers or landless plantation workers impressed into service who usually took
up banditry when not fighting in revolution.
Within a month of the nationalist victory, Cabral, whose troops were the
first to enter Santo Domingo, ousted Pimentel, but a few weeks later General
Guillermo led a rebellion in support of Báez, forcing Cabral to resign and
allowing Báez to retake the presidency in October. Báez was overthrown by the
Cibao farmers under Luperón, leader of the Partido Azul, the following spring,
but Luperón’s allies turned on each other and Cabral reinstalled himself as
President in a coup in 1867. After bringing several Azules into his cabinet
the Rojos revolted, returning Báez to power. In 1869, Báez negotiated a treaty
of annexation with the United States. Supported by U.S. Secretary of State
William Seward, who hoped to establish a Navy base at Samaná, in 1871 the treaty
was defeated in the United States Senate through the efforts of abolitionist
Senator Charles Sumner. In 1874, the Rojo governor of Puerto
Plata, Ignacio Maria González Santín, staged a coup in support of an Azul
rebellion, but was deposed by the Azules two years later. In February 1876,
Ulises Espaillat, backed by Luperón, was named President, but ten months later
troops loyal to Báez returned him to power. One year a new rebellion allowed
González to seize power, only to be deposed by Cesáreo Guillermo in
September 1878, who was in turn deposed by Luperón in December 1879. Ruling the
country from his hometown of Puerto Plata, enjoying an economic boom due to
increased tobacco exports to Germany, Luperón enacted a new constitution
setting a two-year presidential term limit and providing for direct
elections, suspended the semi-formal system of bribes and initiated
construction on the nation’s first railroad, linking the town of La Vega
with the port of Sánchez on Samaná Bay. The Ten Years’ War in Cuba brought Cuban
sugar planters to the country in search of new lands and security from the
insurrection that freed their slaves and destroyed their property. Most settled
in the southeastern coastal plain, and, with assistance from Luperón’s
government, built the nation’s first mechanized sugar mills. They were later
joined by Italians, Germans, Puerto Ricans and Americans in forming the
nucleus of the Dominican sugar bourgeoisie, marrying into prominent
families to solidify their social position. Disruptions in global
production caused by the Ten Years’ War, the American Civil War and the
Franco-Prussian War allowed the Dominican Republic to become a major
sugar exporter. Over the following two decades, sugar surpassed tobacco as the
leading export, with the former fishing hamlets of San Pedro de Macorís and La
Romana transformed into thriving ports. To meet their need for better
transportation, over 300 miles of private rail-lines were built by and
serving the sugar plantations by 1897. An 1884 slump in prices led to a wage
freeze, and a subsequent labor shortage was filled by migrant workers from the
Leeward Islands—the Virgin Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla, and Antigua.
These English-speaking blacks were often victims of racism, but many remained in
the country, finding work as stevedores and in railroad construction and sugar
refineries.=Ulises Heureaux and U.S. protectorate
Allying with the emerging sugar interests, the dictatorship of General
Ulises Heureaux, who was popularly known as Lilís, brought unprecedented
stability to the island through iron-fisted rule that lasted almost two
decades. The son of a Haitian father and a mother from St. Thomas, Lilís was
distinguished by his blackness from most Dominican political leaders, with the
exception of Luperón. He served as President 1882–1883, 1887, and
1889–1899, wielding power through a series of puppet presidents when not
occupying the office. Incorporating both Rojos and Azules into his government, he
developed an extensive network of spies and informants to crush potential
opposition. His government undertook a number of major infrastructure projects,
including the electrification of Santo Domingo, the beginning of telephone and
telegraph service, the construction of a bridge over the Ozama River, and the
completion of a single-track railroad linking Santiago and Puerto Plata,
financed by the Amsterdam-based Westendorp Co.
Lilís’s dictatorship was dependent upon heavy borrowing from European and
American banks to enrich himself, stabilize the existing debt, strengthen
the bribe system, pay for the army, finance infrastructural development and
help set up sugar mills. However, sugar prices underwent a steep decline in the
last two decades of the 19th century. When the Westendorp Co. went bankrupt in
1893, he was forced to mortgage the nation’s customs fees, the main source
of government revenues, to a New York financial firm called the San Domingo
Improvement Co., which took over its railroad contracts and the claims of its
European bondholders in exchange for two loans, one of $1.2 million and the other
of £2 million. As the growing public debt made it impossible to maintain his
political machine, Heureaux relied on secret loans from the SDIC, sugar
planters and local merchants. In 1897, with his government virtually bankrupt,
Lilís printed five million uninsured pesos, known as papeletas de Lilís,
ruining most Dominican merchants and inspiring a conspiracy that ended in his
death. In 1899, when Lilís was assassinated by the Cibao tobacco
merchants whom he had been begging for a loan, the national debt was over $35
million, fifteen times the annual budget.
The six years after Lilís’s death witnessed four revolutions and five
different presidents. The Cibao politicians who had conspired against
Heureaux—Juan Isidro Jimenes, the nation’s wealthiest tobacco planter, and
General Horacio Vásquez—after being named President and Vice-President,
quickly fell out over the division of spoils among their supporters, the
Jimenistas and Horacistas. Troops loyal to Vásquez overthrew Jimenes in 1903,
but Vásquez was deposed by Jimenista General Alejandro Woss y Gil, who seized
power for himself. The Jimenistas toppled his government, but their
leader, Carlos Morales, refused to return power to Jimenes, allying with
the Horacistas, and he soon faced a new revolt by his betrayed Jimenista allies.
With the nation on the brink of defaulting, France, Germany, Italy and
the Netherlands sent warships to Santo Domingo to press the claims of their
nationals. In order to preempt military intervention, United States president
Theodore Roosevelt introduced the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe
Doctrine, declaring that the United States would assume responsibility for
ensuring that the nations of Latin America met their financial obligations.
In January 1905, under this corollary, the United States assumed administration
of the Dominican Republic’s customs. Under the terms of this agreement, a
Receiver-General, appointed by the U.S. President, kept 55% of total revenues to
pay off foreign claimants, while remitting 45% to the Dominican
government. After two years, the nation’s external debt was reduced from
$40 million to $17 million. In 1907, this agreement was converted into a
treaty, transferring control over customs receivership to the U.S. Bureau
of Insular Affairs and providing a loan of $20 million from a New York bank as
payment for outstanding claims, making the United States the Dominican
Republic’s only foreign creditor. In 1906, Morales resigned, and Horacista
vice-president Ramon Cáceres became President. After suppressing a rebellion
in the northwest by Jimenista General Desiderio Arias, his government brought
political stability and renewed economic growth, aided by new American investment
in sugar industry. However, his assassination in 1911, for which Morales
and Arias were at least indirectly responsible, once again plunged the
republic into chaos. For two months, executive power was held by a civilian
junta dominated by the chief of the army, General Alfredo Victoria. The
surplus of more than 4 million pesos left by Cáceres was quickly spent to
suppress a series of insurrections. He forced Congress to elect his uncle,
Eladio Victoria, as President, but the latter was soon replaced by the neutral
Archbishop Adolfo Nouel. After four months, Nouel resigned, and was
succeeded by Horacista Congressman José Bordas Valdez, who aligned with Arias
and the Jimenistas to maintain power. In 1913, Vásquez returned from exile in
Puerto Rico to lead a new rebellion. In June 1914 U.S. President Woodrow Wilson
issued an ultimatum for the two sides to end hostilities and agree on a new
president, or have the United States impose one. After the provisional
presidency of Ramón Báez Machado, Jimenes was elected in October, and soon
faced new demands, including the appointment of an American director of
public works and financial advisor and the creation of a new military force
commanded by U.S. officers. The Dominican Congress rejected these
demands and began impeachment proceedings against Jimenes. The United
States occupied Haiti in July 1915, with the implicit threat that the Dominican
Republic might be next. Jimenes’s Minister of War Desiderio Arias staged a
coup d’état in April 1916, providing a pretext for the United States to occupy
the Dominican Republic. United States occupation: 1916-1924
United States Marines landed in Santo Domingo on May 15, 1916. Prior to their
landing, Jimenes resigned, refusing to exercise an office ‘regained with
foreign bullets’. On June 1, Marines occupied Monte Cristi and Puerto Plata,
and, after a brief campaign, took Arias’s stronghold Santiago by the
beginning of July. The Dominican Congress elected Dr. Francisco Henríquez
y Carvajal as President, but in November, after he refused to meet the
U.S. demands, Wilson announced the imposition of a U.S. military
government, with Rear Admiral Harry Shepard Knapp as Military Governor. The
American military government implemented many of the institutional reforms
carried out in the United States during the Progressive Era, including
reorganization of the tax system, accounting and administration, expansion
of primary education, the creation of a nationwide police force to unify the
country, and the construction of a national system of roads, including a
highway linking Santiago to Santo Domingo.
Despite the reforms, virtually all Dominicans resented the loss of their
sovereignty to foreigners, few of whom spoke Spanish or displayed much real
concern for the nation’s welfare, and the military government, unable to win
the backing of any prominent Dominican political leaders, imposed strict
censorship laws and imprisoned critics of the occupation. In 1920, U.S.
authorities enacted a Land Registration Act, which broke up the terrenos
comuneros and dispossessed thousands of peasants who lacked formal titles to the
lands they occupied, while legalizing false titles held by the sugar
companies. In the southeast, dispossessed peasants formed armed
bands, called gavilleros, waging a guerrilla war that lasted the duration
of the occupation, with most of the fighting in Hato Mayor and El Seibo. At
any given time, the Marines faced eight to twelve such bands each composed of
several hundred followers. The guerrillas benefited from a superior
knowledge of the terrain and the support of the local population, and the Marines
relied on increasingly brutal counterinsurgency methods. However,
rivalries between various gavilleros often led them to fight against one
another, and even cooperate with occupation authorities. In addition,
cultural schisms between the campesinos and city dwellers prevented the
guerillas from cooperating with the urban middle-class nationalist movement.
In the San Juan valley, near the border with Haïti, followers of a Vodu faith
healer named Liborio resisted the occupation and aided the Haitian cacos
in their war against the Americans, until his death in 1922. The principal
legacy of the occupation was the creation of a National Police Force,
used by the Marines to help fight against the various guerillas, and later
the main vehicle for the rise of Rafael Trujillo.
In what was referred to as la danza de los millones, with the destruction of
European sugar-beet farms during World War I, sugar prices rose to their
highest level in history, from $5.50 in 1914 to $22.50 per pound in 1920.
Dominican sugar exports increased from 122,642 tons in 1916 to 158,803 tons in
1920, earning a record $45.3 million. However, European beet sugar production
quickly recovered, which, coupled with the growth of global sugar cane
production, glutted the world market, causing prices to plummet to only $2.00
by the end of 1921. This crisis drove many of the local sugar planters into
bankruptcy, allowing large U.S. conglomerates to dominate the sugar
industry. By 1926, only twenty-one major estates remained, occupying an estimated
520,000 acres. Of these, twelve U.S.-owned companies owned more than 81%
of this total area. While the foreign planters who had built the sugar
industry integrated into Dominican society, these corporations expatriated
their profits to the United States. As prices declined, sugar estates
increasingly relied on Haitian laborers. This was facilitated by the military
government’s introduction of regulated contract labor, the growth of sugar
production in the southwest, near the Haitian border, and a series of strikes
by cocolo cane cutters organized by the Universal Negro Improvement Association.
In the 1920 United States presidential election Republican candidate Warren
Harding criticized the occupation and promised eventual U.S. withdrawal. While
Jimenes and Vásquez sought concessions from the United States, the collapse of
sugar prices discredited the military government and gave rise to a new
nationalist political organization, the Dominican National Union, led by Dr.
Henríquez from exile in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, which demanded unconditional
withdrawal. They formed alliances with frustrated nationalists in Puerto Rico
and Cuba, as well as critics of the occupation in the United States itself,
most notably The Nation and the Haiti-San Domingo Independence Society.
In May 1922, a Dominican lawyer, Francisco Peynado, went to Washington,
D.C. and negotiated what became known as the Hughes–Peynado Plan. It stipulated
immediate establishment of a provisional government pending elections, approval
of all laws enacted by the U.S. military government, and the continuation of the
1907 treaty until all the Dominican Republic’s foreign debts had been
settled. On October 1, Juan Bautista Vicini, the son of a wealthy Italian
immigrant sugar planter, was named provisional president, and the process
of U.S. withdrawal began. The rise and fall of Trujillo 1924–65
=Horacio Vásquez 1924–30=The occupation ended in 1924, with a
democratically elected government under president Vásquez. The Vásquez
administration brought great social and economic prosperity to the country and
respected political and civil rights. Rising export commodity prices and
government borrowing allowed the funding of public works projects and the
expansion and modernization of Santo Domingo.
Though considered to be a relatively principled man, Vásquez had risen amid
many years of political infighting. In a move directed against his chief opponent
Federico Velasquez, in 1927 Vásquez agreed to have his term extended from
four to six years. The change was approved by the Dominican Congress, but
was of debatable legality; “its enactment effectively invalidated the
constitution of 1924 that Vásquez had previously sworn to uphold.” Vásquez
also removed the prohibition against presidential reelection, and postulated
himself for another term in elections to be held in May 1930. However, his
actions had by then led to doubts that the contest could be fair. Furthermore,
these elections took place amid economic problems, as the Great Depression had
dropped sugar prices to less than one dollar per pound.
In February, a revolution was proclaimed in Santiago by a lawyer named Rafael
Estrella Ureña. When the commander of the Guardia Nacional Dominicana, Rafael
Leonidas Trujillo Molina, ordered his troops to remain in their barracks, the
sick and aging Vásquez was forced into exile and Estrella proclaimed
provisional president. In May, Trujillo was elected with 95% of the vote, having
used the army to harass and intimidate electoral personnel and potential
opponents. After his inauguration in August, at his request, the Dominican
Congress proclaimed the beginning of the ‘Era of Trujillo’.
=The era of Trujillo 1931–61=Trujillo established absolute political
control, while promoting economic development—from which mainly he and his
supporters benefitted—and severe repression of domestic human rights.
Trujillo treated his political party, El Partido Dominicano, as a rubber-stamp
for his decisions. The true source of his power was the Guardia
Nacional—larger, better armed, and more centrally controlled than any military
force in the nation’s history. By disbanding the regional militias, the
Marines eliminated the main source of potential opposition, giving the Guard
“a virtual monopoly on power”. By 1940, Dominican military spending was 21% of
the national budget. At the same time, he developed an elaborate system of
espionage agencies. By the late 1950s, there were at least seven categories of
intelligence agencies, spying on each other as well as the public. All
citizens were required to carry identification cards and good-conduct
passes from the secret police. Obsessed with adulation, Trujillo promoted an
extravagant cult of personality. When a hurricane struck Santo Domingo in 1930,
killing over 3,000 people, he rebuilt the city and renamed it Ciudad Trujillo:
“Trujillo City”; he also renamed the country’s and the Caribbean’s highest
mountain, Pico Duarte, Pico Trujillo. Over 1,800 statues of Trujillo were
built, and all public works projects were required to have a plaque with the
inscription ‘Era of Trujillo, Benefactor of the Fatherland’.
As sugar estates turned to Haiti for seasonal migrant labor, increasing
numbers settled in the Dominican Republic permanently. The census of
1920, conducted by the U.S. occupation government, gave a total of 28,258
Haitians living in the country; by 1935 there were 52,657.
In 1937, Trujillo ordered the massacre of 17,000 to 35,000 Haitians, the
alleged justification being Haiti’s support for Dominican exiles plotting to
overthrow his regime. This event later became known as the Parsley Massacre.
The massacre was met with international criticism. The killing was the result of
a new policy which Trujillo called the ‘Dominicanisation of the frontier’.
Place names along the border were changed from Creole and French to
Spanish, the practice of Voodoo was outlawed, quotas were imposed on the
percentage of foreign workers that companies could hire, and a law was
passed preventing Haitian workers from remaining after the sugar harvest.
Although Trujillo sought to emulate Generalissimo Francisco Franco, he
welcomed Spanish Republican refugees following the Spanish Civil War. During
the Holocaust in the Second World War, the Dominican Republic took in many Jews
fleeing Hitler who had been refused entry by other countries. The Jews
settled in Sosua. These decisions arose from a policy of blanquismo, closely
connected with anti-Haitian xenophobia, which sought to add more whites to the
Dominican population by promoting immigration from Europe. As part of the
Good Neighbor policy, in 1940, the U.S. State Department signed a treaty with
Trujillo relinquishing control over the nation’s customs. When the Japanese
attacked Pearl Harbor Trujillo followed the United States in declaring war on
the Axis powers, even though he had openly professed admiration for Hitler
and Mussolini. During the Cold War, he maintained close ties to the United
States, declaring himself the world’s ‘Number One Anticommunist’ and becoming
the first Latin American President to sign a Mutual Defense Assistance
Agreement with the United States. Trujillo and his family established a
near-monopoly over the national economy. By the time of his death, he had
accumulated a fortune of around $800 million; he and his family owned 50–60
percent of the arable land, some 700,000 acres, and Trujillo-owned businesses
accounted for 80% of the commercial activity in the capital. He exploited
nationalist sentiment to purchase most of the nation’s sugar plantations and
refineries from U.S. corporations; operated monopolies on salt, rice, milk,
cement, tobacco, coffee, and insurance; owned two large banks, several hotels,
port facilities, an airline and shipping line; deducted 10% of all public
employees’ salaries; and received a portion of prostitution revenues. World
War II brought increased demand for Dominican exports, and the 1940s and
early 1950s witnessed economic growth and considerable expansion of the
national infrastructure. During this period, the capital city was transformed
from merely an administrative center to the national center of shipping and
industry, although ‘it was hardly coincidental that new roads often led to
Trujillo’s plantations and factories, and new harbors benefited Trujillo’s
shipping and export enterprises.’ Mismanagement and corruption resulted in
major economic problems. By the end of the 1950s, the economy was deteriorating
because of a combination of overspending on a festival to celebrate the 25th
anniversary of the regime, overspending to purchase privately owned sugar mills
and electricity plants, and a decision to make a major investment in state
sugar production that proved economically unsuccessful. In 1956,
Trujillo’s agents in New York murdered Jesús María de Galíndez, a Basque exile
who had worked for Trujillo but who later denounced the Trujillo regime and
caused public opinion in the United States to turn against Trujillo. In
August 1960, the Organization of American States imposed diplomatic
sanctions against the Dominican Republic as a result of Trujillo’s complicity in
an attempt to assassinate President Rómulo Betancourt of Venezuela.
A group of Dominican dissidents killed Trujillo in a car chase on the way to
his country villa near San Cristóbal on May 30, 1961.
The sanctions remained in force after Trujillo’s assassination. His son Ramfis
assumed de facto control, but was deposed by his two uncles after a
dispute over potential liberalization of the regime. In November 1961, the
Trujillo family was forced into exile, fleeing to France, and the heretofore
puppet-president Joaquín Balaguer assumed effective power.
=The post-Trujillo instability 1961–65 At the insistence of the United States,
Balaguer was forced to share power with a seven-member Council of State,
established on January 1, 1962, and including moderate members of the
opposition. OAS sanctions were lifted January 4, and, after an attempted coup,
Balaguer resigned and went into exile on January 16. The reorganized Council of
State, under President Rafael Filiberto Bonnelly headed the Dominican government
until elections could be held. These elections, in December 1962, were won by
Juan Bosch, a scholar and poet who had founded the opposition Partido
Revolucionario Dominicano in exile, during the Trujillo years. His leftist
policies, including land redistribution, nationalization of certain foreign
holdings, and attempts to bring the military under civilian control,
antagonized the military officer corps, the Catholic hierarchy, and the
upper-class, who feared ‘another Cuba’. In September 1963 Bosch was overthrown
by a right-wing military coup led by Colonel Elías Wessin and was replaced by
a three-man military junta. Bosch went into exile to Puerto Rico. Afterwards a
supposedly civilian triumvirate established a de facto dictatorship.
United States intervention 1965–66 On April 16, 1965, growing
dissatisfaction generated another military rebellion on April 24, 1965
that demanded Bosch’s restoration. The insurgents, reformist officers and
civilian combatants loyal to Bosch commanded by Colonel Francisco Caamaño,
and who called themselves the Constitutionalists, staged a coup,
seizing the national palace. Immediately, conservative military
forces, led by Wessin and calling themselves Loyalists, struck back with
tank assaults and aerial bombings against Santo Domingo.
On April 28, these anti-Bosch army elements requested U.S. military
intervention and U.S. forces landed, ostensibly to protect U.S. citizens and
to evacuate U.S. and other foreign nationals. U.S. President Lyndon B.
Johnson, convinced of the defeat of the Loyalist forces and fearing the creation
of “a second Cuba” on America’s doorstep, ordered U.S. forces to restore
order. In what was initially known as Operation Power Pack, 23,000 U.S. troops
were ultimately ordered to the Dominican Republic.
Denied a military victory, the Constitutionalist rebels quickly had a
Constitutionalist congress elect Caamaño president of the country. U.S. officials
countered by backing General Imbert. On May 7, Imbert was sworn in as president
of the Government of National Reconstruction. The next step in the
stabilization process, as envisioned by Washington and the OAS, was to arrange
an agreement between President Caamaño and President Imbert to form a
provisional government committed to early elections. However, Caamaño
refused to meet with Imbert until several of the Loyalist officers,
including Wessin y Wessin, were made to leave the country.
On 13 May General Imbert began Operation LIMPIEZA and his forces were successful
in eliminating pockets of rebel resistance outside Ciudad Nueva and in
silencing Radio Santo Domingo. Operation LIMPIEZA ended on 21 May.
By May 14 the Americans had established a “safety corridor” connecting the San
Isidro Air Base and the “Duarte” Bridge to the Embajador Hotel and United States
Embassy in the center of Santo Domingo, essentially sealing off the
Constitutionalist area of Santo Domingo. Road blocks were established and patrols
ran continuously. Some 6,500 people from many nations were evacuated to safety.
In addition, the US forces airlifted in relief supplies for Dominican nationals.
By mid-May, a majority of the OAS voted for Operation PUSH AHEAD, the reduction
of United States forces and their replacement by an Inter-American Peace
Force. The Inter-American Peace Force was formally established on May 23. The
following troops were sent by each country: Brazil – 1,130, Honduras – 250,
Paraguay – 184, Nicaragua – 160, Costa Rica – 21 military police, and El
Salvador – 3 staff officers. The first contingent to arrive was a rifle company
from Honduras which was soon backed by detachments from Costa Rica, El
Salvador, and Nicaragua. Brazil provided the largest unit, a reinforced infantry
battalion. Brazilian General Hugo Alvim assumed command of the OAS ground
forces, and on 26 May the U.S. forces began to withdraw.
The fighting continued until August 31, 1965 when a truce was declared. Most
American troops left shortly afterwards as policing and peacekeeping operations
were turned over to Brazilian troops, but some U.S. military presence remained
until September 1966. A total of 44 American soldiers died, 27 in action.
172 were wounded in action, as were six Brazilians and five Paraguayans. An
estimated 6,000 to 10,000 Dominicans died, mostly civilians.
Facing ongoing threats and attacks, including a particularly violent attack
at the Hotel Matum in Santiago de los Caballeros, Camaaño accepted an
agreement imposed by the U.S. government. The Dominican Provisional
President, García Godoy, sent Colonel Caamaño as the Military Attaché to the
Dominican Embassy to the UK. The Balaguer era 1966–96
=Balaguer’s second Presidency 1966–78=In June 1966, Joaquín Balaguer, leader
of the Reformist Party, was elected and then re-elected to office in May 1970
and May 1974, both times after the major opposition parties withdrew late in the
campaign because of the high degree of violence by pro-government groups. On
November 28, 1966 a constitution was created, signed, and put into effect.
The constitution stated that the president was elected to a four-year
term. If there was a close election there would be a second round of voting
to decide the winner. The voting age was eighteen, but married people under
eighteen could also vote. Balaguer led the Dominican Republic through a
thorough economic restructuring, based on opening the country to foreign
investment while protecting state-owned industries and certain private
interests. This distorted, dependent development model produced uneven
results. For most of Balaguer’s first nine years in office the country
experienced high growth rates, to the extent that people talked about the
“Dominican miracle”. Foreign, mostly U.S. investment, as well as foreign aid,
flowed into the country. Sugar, then the country’s main export product, enjoyed
good prices in the international market, and tourism grew tremendously.
However, this excellent macroeconomic performance was not accompanied by an
equitable distribution of wealth. While a group of new millionaires flourished
during Balaguer’s administrations, the poor simply became poorer. Morever, the
poor were commonly the target of state repression, and their socioeconomic
claims were labeled ‘communist’ and dealt with accordingly by the state
security apparatus. In the May 1978 election, Balaguer was defeated in his
bid for a fourth successive term by Antonio Guzmán Fernández of the PRD.
Balaguer then ordered troops to storm the election centre and destroy ballot
boxes, declaring himself the victor. U.S. President Jimmy Carter refused to
recognize Balaguer’s claim, and, faced with the loss of foreign aid, Balaguer
stepped down.=Guzmán / Blanco interregnum 1978–86=
Guzmán’s inauguration on August 16 marked the country’s first peaceful
transfer of power from one freely elected president to another. By the
late 1970s, economic expansion slowed considerably as sugar prices declined
and oil prices rose. Rising inflation and unemployment diminished support for
the government and helped trigger a wave of mass emigration from the Dominican
Republic to New York, coming on the heels of the similar migration of Puerto
Ricans in the preceding decades. Elections were again held in 1982.
Salvador Jorge Blanco of the Dominican Revolutionary Party defeated Bosch and a
resurgent Balaguer.=Balaguer’s third Presidency 1986–96=
Balaguer completed his return to power in 1986 when he won the Presidency again
and remained in office for the next ten years. Elections in 1990 were marked by
violence and suspected electoral fraud. The 1994 election too saw widespread
pre-election violence, often aimed at intimidating members of the opposition.
Balaguer won in 1994 but most observers felt the election had been stolen. Under
pressure from the United States, Balaguer agreed to hold new elections in
1996. He himself would not run. Rise of democracy 1996–present
Since 1998 Freedom House has categorized the Dominican Republic as a free
country.=Fernández: First administration
1996–2000=In 1996, U.S.-raised Leonel Fernández
Reyna of Bosch’s Partido de la Liberación Dominicana secured more than
51% of the vote, through an alliance with Balaguer. The first item on the
president’s agenda was the partial sale of some state-owned enterprises.
Fernández was praised for ending decades of isolationism and improving ties with
other Caribbean countries, but he was criticized for not fighting corruption
or alleviating the poverty that affected 60% of the population.
=Mejía’s administration 2000–04=In May 2000 the center-left Hipólito
Mejía of the PRD was elected president amid popular discontent over power
outages in the recently privatized electric industry. His presidency saw
major inflation and instability of the peso in 2003 because of the bankruptcy
of three major commercial banks in the country due to the bad policies of the
principal managers. During his remaining time as president he took action to save
most savers of the closed banks, avoiding a major crisis. The relatively
stable currency fell from about 16 Dominican pesos to 1 United States
dollar to about 60 DOP to 1 USD, and was in the 40s to the dollar when he left
office in August 2004. In the May 2004 presidential elections he was defeated
by former president Leonel Fernández.=Fernández: Second administration
2004–12=Fernández instituted austerity measures
to deflate the peso and rescue the country from its economic crisis, and in
the first half of 2006, the economy grew 11.7%. The peso is currently at the
exchange rate of ~39 DOP to 1 USD. Over the last three decades, remittances
from Dominicans living abroad, mainly in the United States, have become
increasingly important to the economy. From 1990 to 2000, the Dominican
population of the U.S. doubled in size, from 520,121 in 1990 to 1,041,910,
two-thirds of whom were born in the Dominican Republic itself. More than
half of all Dominican Americans live in New York City, with the largest
concentration in the neighborhood of Washington Heights in northern
Manhattan. Over the past decade, the Dominican Republic has become the
largest source of immigration to New York City, and today the metropolitan
area of New York has a larger Dominican population than any city except Santo
Domingo. Dominican communities have also developed in New Jersey, Miami, Boston,
Philadelphia, Providence, Rhode Island, and Lawrence, Massachusetts. In
addition, tens of thousands of Dominicans and their descendants live in
Puerto Rico. Many Dominicans arrive in Puerto Rico illegally by sea across the
Mona Passage, some staying and some moving on to the mainland U.S.
Dominicans living abroad sent an estimated $3 billion in remittances to
relatives at home, in 2006. In 1997, a new law took effect, allowing Dominicans
living abroad to retain their citizenship and vote in presidential
elections. President Fernández, who grew up in New York, was the principal
beneficiary of this law. The Dominican Republic was involved in
the US-led coalition in Iraq, as part of the Spain-led Latin-American Plus Ultra
Brigade. But in 2004, the nation pulled its 300 or so troops out of Iraq.
=Danilo Medina: 2012–2015=Medina began his tenure with a series of
controversial tax reforms so as to deal with the government’s troublesome fiscal
situation encountered by the new administration.
See also History of the Americas
History of the Caribbean History of Haiti
History of Latin America History of North America
List of Presidents of the Dominican Republic
Politics of the Dominican Republic Spanish colonization of the Americas
Timeline of Santo Domingo References
External links Map of the Dominican Republic is a map
from 1910

  1. this tells u alot except the fact the so called domincans are the hebrew israelites tribe of simeon yea they will never tell u what u suppose to

  2. We are One of the Lost Tribes(Simeon) Wake up… Dominican means to mingle they have lied about our Real Identity… Why did Columbus need a Hebrew Translator? Wake up we dont Let whites tell us Our History anymore…Cant Trust em… Death to all Conquistadors!!! APTTMH

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