Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina was born October 24, 1891 in the city of San Cristóbal, Dominican Republic. His parents, very poor, were Jose Trujillo Valdez, into retail sales, and Altagracia Julia Molina, was a housewife who was always considered to be a kindhearted and dear woman. His family was of Spanish, Haitian and Dominican descent.
Trujillo was considered to be a typical kid and was an exceptionally involved in his studies at school. When he was 16 he got a job as a telegrapher (thanks to his Uncle) and worked in offices near Bani and also in Santo Domingo.
The young Trijillo started changing by getting into trouble. He even spent time in jail. Around 1910 he started to be interested in politics and joined with the National Party of Horacio Vasquez. He partook in many protests of the then president, Don Isidro Jiménez and his government.
During the United States occupation (1916-1924), Trujillo enlisted in the National Guard, trained by the United States Marines to maintain order after the occupation. Quickly rising to high rank, Trujillo became brigadier general and commander in chief of the Dominican Republic's army by 1927.
During the Revolution in Santiago in 1930 he and his followers overthrew the government causing the president, Horacio Vásquez, to resign. Since Trujillo was in the military he had to run his takeover concealed from sight so as not to be charged with treason. On May 16, 1930 he was chosen to be president without opposition.
* During this time in history there are so many conflicting stories as to what really happened becasue Trujillo rewrote so much of his own history much was lost. How he was elected? Who killed whom? Who was behind the take over? If you want to study more on this your on your own, it is way to political and involved for me to cover here.
The following year Trujillo organized the Partido Dominicano (Dominican Party), which controlled Dominican politics for the next three decades. During that time Trujillo was an unconditional dictator. He was called “El Benefactor” and “El Jefe”. He was General of the Army and president from 1930 to 1938 and from 1942 to 1952 and foreign minister from 1953 to 1961. The Trujillo era gave economic soundness to the country yet it did not sanction the people's freedom.
After a ravaging hurricane wracked much of Santo Domingo in 1934 Trujillo concocted a rebuilding plan to revamp the city. His new promotional slogan was ''el culto al jefe''. He renamed Santo Domingo Ciudad Trujillo (Trujillo City). He also changed the name of the highest mountain of the country, Pico Duarte to Pico Trujillo (Trujillo Peak) after himself. He renamed towns and streets, had statues of himself erected throughout the country and held many celebrations, parades and holidays, all commemorating himself. In 1955 he claimed January 11 to be "The Day of the Benefactor" (''Año del Benefactor de la Patria''), Trujillo used his political control to acquire great personal wealth. He received much support from the United States by becoming one of Latin America's leading anti-Communists.
The way Trujillo presented himself generated indignation thus started conspiracies in many parts of the country by those who did not agree with Trujillo and his policies. To stop this from happening the government formed a strong secret system to watch for these people. Once found, they were nabbed and fated to torture or death. In this way, he kept control of his people.
In October 1937. Trijillo had made agreements with the Haitian president, Stenio Vincent; during meetings they had, stating that he would permit Haitians to cross the border. Then he changed his mind and again wanted control of the border. It was decided that if a person could not pronounce the letter r in "perejil", the Spanish word for parsley (the R is difficult for Haitians to pronounce), they would be killed. Thus entailed a great slaughter of the Haitians in Dominican Republic.
The number of people massacred during his tyranny was never confirmed. It is said to have been from 12,000 to 25,000 Haitian men, women and children were annihilated. To make it look like it was not his fault he jailed some of the people that committed this atrocity, used as scapegoats, and Trujillo paid $750.000 to the Haitian government.
Trujillo began a program, "Dominicanización of the Fronterá". He favored European immigration. He had an open door policy admitting Jewish immigrants in the 1930s when most countries were turning away the Jewish people. After the Spanish Civil War he promoted the immigration of the exiles. It is said that he did this to "whiten" the population but it has not been proved. Trujillo was of mixed descent and it is said he wore make-up to lighten his skin.
There were many more scandals during Trujillo's rule. He was involved in an assignation attempt on President Rómulo Betancourt of Venezuelan, which made the United States and other Latin Countries to pose economic sanctions on Dominican Republic The USA tried to make the Trujillo regime volatile by ending diplomatic ties and creating severe sanctions. He ordered the murder of the Mirabal Sisters who were political activists and revolutionaries. The sisters, who were involved with a group trying to over throw the government, were driving home after visiting their husbands in prison. They were led into a sugar cane field where they were beaten and strangled to death. He was also entangled in another famous scandal with respect to the disappearance of Jesús de Galíndez. He worked for the government as a CIA agent. Galíndez went to USA and wrote his thesis "The Age of Trujillo". This thesis gave many astonishing and exposing histories on the way the ways the dictatorship worked. Galíndez was kidnapped in New York a few days before the book was published. He was never heard from again. It was is said that he was taken to Dominican Republic to be tortured and executed.
Trujillo did do some good for the country. The quality of life in general improved for the average Dominican. He completely paid off all the foreign debt, which was very substantial, and the currency stayed stable. There was still poverty but the economy grew. There was a new road system built and public works services expanded. The port facilities; airports and public buildings were constructed or improved. While the public education system grew illiteracy declined. He fortified the armies and fighting forces of the country. For all these reasons he was loved by the average Dominican. The United States proclaimed Trujillo the "First anti-Communist of America", Trujillo encouraged diplomatic and economic ties with the U.S., but his policies caused discord among the other Latin American countries. He even, unbeknown to him, aided in the start of women's rights. Today is celebrated the Day of the Woman on the anniversary of the murder of the Mirabal sisters.
In 1960 during the term of President Dwight Eisenhower, all the members of the Organization of American States (O.A.S.) agreed to break diplomatic relations with the Dominican Republic. Support of the O.A.S. was lost until Trujillo stopped being a threat. The Dominican Republic was cut off.
Trujillo was murdered by his own armed forces (Antonio de la Maza, Salvador Estrella Sahdalá, Lieutenant Amado García Guerrero, and General Antonio Imbert Barrera) on May 30, 1961 when he was 71 years old. He had just left the home of Doña Angelita Trujillo, located on Ave. Maximum Gomez. He was said to have been there for possibly ten minutes. Then continuing on to the Bar Restaurante El Pony he was shot. This ended the "Era of Trujillo". The "goat" and his 31-year reign ended.
There is suspicion that the CIA provided the weapons for the assassins hoping to form a fresh, less reactionary government. They feared what happened in Cuba would happen in Dominican Republic and felt it was up to them to take control of another government and stop it before it happened.
Trujillos oldest son, Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, Jr., took over after his fathers' death and headed the country for five months. Ramfis Trujillo, as he was known, went into exile after his term ended and became an international socialite. He died from injuries sustained in an automobile accident.
Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina is buried in Paris in the Cimetière du Père Lachaise. Many of his friends and family went into exile to Canada, France, and Spain. He died one of the richest men in the world.
*Trujillo had 3 wives. He married Aminta Ledesma a nice hometown girl from San Cristóbal on August 13, 1913. They had two daughters (one died early). They divorced in 1925. Then Trujillo married Bienvenida Ricardo on March 30, 1927 and divorced in 1935. Trujillo and María de los Angeles Martínez Alba, who he had an affair with, got married after the divorce in 1935. He had a daughter with Bienvenida one year after their divorce. Trujillo had three children with María Martínez. In 1937 Trujillo met Lina Lovatón Pittaluga and had two children with her.
*There is much controversy happening in Dominican Republic at this time (2008) on the 47-year anniversary of his death. There is talk of trying to return the remains of Trujillo to DR and place his body along with the national heroes. Most of the people are strongly opposed to this idea.
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The 1956 Oldsmobile used by the men who murdered Trujillo.
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The bullet ridden 1957 Chevy Trujillo was when he was assassinated.
The memorial on the Malecon (Ave. George Washington) in Santo Domingo marking the place where Trujillo was gunned down setting all free from his tyranny.
TRUJILLO: El Poder del Jefe II / The Power of the Chief (General, Boss)
This documentary shows the important political and social events that occurred in the Dominican Republic between 1938-1952. Included: The invasions of Cayo Confites and Luperón, the PSP, the Juventud Democrática, the sugar industry strike of 1946, the different conspiracies, as well as Trujillo´s relations with the United States before the beginning of the "Cold War."
The movie The Feast of the Goat/La Fiesta del Chivo is out in theaters as of 4/2006. I have a description and link to see the trailer on the movies-tv page on this web site.
The book about the reign of Trujillo, The Feast of the Goats and the story about the The Mirabal sisters, Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa, is called In the Time of the Butterflies (made into a movie in 2001) Both are excellent reading and gives much insight into the turbulent and interesting past of the Dominican Republic.
*Trujillo was such a baseball lover he invited many black players from the US where they could not play because the teams were segregated. Leroy Robert "Satchel" Paige, a Negor League player, went to the Caribbean and Latin America, where the teams were all integrated. He pitched for a team organized by Trujillo. He was trying to gain popularity so he created the "Ciudad Trujillo Team." He paid Paige $30,000 for winning the Dominican championship. Paige fled the Dominican Republic with his teammates directly after being paid for fear of reprisals by Trujillo's enemies.
*Zsa Zsa Gabor, David Selznik, Robert Mitchum, Rhonda Fleming, Shirley MacLaine, Maureen O'Hara, Jimmy Stewart, Robert Taylor, Natalie Wood, Porfirio Rubirosa, Joan Collins, were among the many famous friends of Trujillo. He had a very hot romance going on with Kim Novak. Glamour Girls has a time lime about his life.
*Angelita, Trujillos yacht, was the world's largest, most luxurious and most expensive private yacht of the time. (1957)
*Becoming The Butterflies "The Political Participation of the Mirabal Sisters" This is the account of Minerva Mirabal who was the first of the sisters to become involved in the underground movements to overthrow the government.