Category Archives: People In History

People in History

Some of the basic, condensed history of the people that made Dominican Republic. The good and the bad. All had a hand in making our island in the Caribbean what it has become today. The Tainos called the island Quisqueya. It has also been called, Hispanola, Las Americas, La Primera, Greater Antilles, and of course as we know it now, República Dominicana/ Dominican Republic. Read on to learn about the discoverers and founders of this beautiful land.

Diego Colón (Columbus) 1480 – 1526

Francisco de Bobadilla

Francisco del Rosario Sánchez

Father Bartolomé de Las Casas

Fray Anton de Montesinos

Frey Nicolás Ovando

Las Hermanas Mirables / The Mirabal Sisters (The Hermanas Mirabal Museum, Home, Park and Monuments)

Maria Trinidad Sanchez

Sir Francis Drake (Pirate Drake, Privater Drake)

Pedro Santana

From old HTML non-responsive web site that I have not transferred yet.

Juan Pablo Duarte

Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina

Trujillo

Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina

General Rafael Trujillo ruled the Dominican Republic as both president and an oppressive tyrant behind the standing presidents from 1930 until his assassination in May 1961. “El Jefe” or “El Benefactor” built much of the modern infrastructure of the country while holding the title of one of the cruelest dictators in the world.

Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina.
Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina.

History | “El Benefactor” and “El Jefe” | Controversies & Scandals | Trujillos Murder | Interesting facts | Trujillo: El Poder del Jefe II / The Power of the Chief video | Book of Trujillos Time | More pictures of Trujillo included in the Old Pictures of Dominican Republic slide show (new page)

Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina

Born October 24, 1891 – Died May 30, 1961

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 considered to be a kindhearted and dear woman. His family was of Spanish, Haitian and Dominican descent.

Trujillo was a typical kid and was 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 Trujillo started changing by getting into trouble. He even spent time in jail. Around 1910 he became interested in politics and joined 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 a high rank by 1927, Trujillo became Brigadier General and Commander in Chief of the Dominican Republic’s army.

Rafael Trujillo
Rafael Trujillo

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 Trujillo was chosen to be president without opposition.

* During this time in history there are so many conflicting stories about what really happened. Trujillo rewrote so much of his own history that much of the original documentation was lost. How was he elected? Who killed whom? Who was behind the takeover? If you want more in depth information, I urge you to study more on your own; it is way too political and involved for me to cover here.

“El Benefactor” and “El Jefe”

General Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina - El Jefe
General Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina – El Jefe

Trujillo organized the Partido Dominicano (Dominican Party) the year after his election to president. This party 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.

Parque Colón after Ciclon Zenon ravished the city
Parque Colón after Ciclon Zenon ravished the city

The ravaging hurricane, Ciclon Zenon, destroyed 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 gain 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. It 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 Military Intelligence Service called Servicio de Inteligencia Militar (SIM) 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.

Controversies & Scandals

In October 1937 Trujillo had made agreements with the Haitian president, Stenio Vincent. He stated 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 that from 12,000 to 25,000 Haitian men, women and children were annihilated. To make it look like it was not his fault Trujillo jailed some of the people that committed this atrocity, using them as scapegoats. Trujillo paid $750.000 to the Haitian government.

Trujillo began a program, “Dominicanización de la Fronterá” / Dominicanization of the Border. 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.

Trujillo used prisoners to help rebuild Ciudad Trujillo.
Trujillo used prisoners to help rebuild Ciudad Trujillo.

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. USA tried to make the Trujillo regime volatile by ending diplomatic ties and creating severe sanctions.

Trujillo ordered the murder of the Mirabal Sisters who were political activists and revolutionaries. The sisters were involved with a group trying to overthrow the government. The ladies were driven home after visiting their husbands in prison. They were stopped and led into a sugar cane field. Here they were beaten and strangled to death.

Trujillo was also entangled in another famous scandal regarding the disappearance of Jesús de Galíndez Suárez while working for the government as a CIA agent. Galíndez went to the USA and wrote his thesis “The Trujillo Era: A Case Study of Hispano-American Dictatorship” / “La era de Trujillo: un estudio casuístico de dictadura hispanoamericana”. This thesis gave many astonishing and exposing histories on the way the dictatorship worked. Galíndez was kidnapped in New York a few days before the book was published. He was never heard from again. It is said that he was taken to the Dominican Republic to be tortured and executed.

Here are links to the story of CIA Agent Jesús de Galíndez.
*History in English (wikipedia) – Jesús de Galíndez.
*La trágica historia de Jesús Galíndez in Spanish.

Trujillo His Work and Dominican Republic Calle el Conde after it was rebuilt after the Hurricane 1936
Trujillo His Work and Dominican Republic Calle el Conde after it was rebuilt after the Hurricane 1936

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 debts, 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. The Day of the Woman is celebrated 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.

Trujillos Murder

The Oldsmobile Ninety Eight that was used by Trujillo’s assassins 1956
The Oldsmobile Ninety Eight that was used by Trujillo’s assassins 1956

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 of the USA 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.

The bullet-ridden 1957 Chevrolet. Trujillo was riding inside when he was assassinated.
The bullet-ridden 1957 Chevrolet. Trujillo was riding inside when he was assassinated.

The oldest son of Trujillo, 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.

The Memorial Museum of Dominican Resistance / El Museo Memorial de la Resistencia Dominicana opened May 2011. Here is a collection of more than 160,000 files, photographs, films, objects and books belonging to those who staged the resistance to the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo.

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.
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.

Did you know? – Some interesting facts

*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 his divorce from Aminta Ledesma 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 the Dominican Republic at this time (2008) on the 47-year anniversary of his death. There was talk of trying to return the remains of Trujillo to DR and place his body along with the national heroes in the Panteón Nacional. Most of the people are strongly opposed to this idea.

*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 Negro 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, Joan Collins, were among the many famous friends of the Trujillo family.
The web site The Glamour Girls has some interesting information about Ramfis Trujillo his timeline and his life with the stars.
He also had a very hot romance going on with Kim Novak.
Another friendPorfirio Rubirosa, had dan interesting life.

The Angelita, now called The Sea Cloud, entering Port Santo Domingo.
The Angelita, now called The Sea Cloud, entering Port Santo Domingo.

*Angelita, Trujillos yacht, was the world’s largest, most luxurious and most expensive private yacht of the time. (1957). History of the yacht.

*There are some pictures of Trujillo and his yachts in the Old Pictures of Dominican Republic slide show.

*The very interesting story of General Imbert interviewed. He is the man who shot the final bullet that killed Trujillo.

*I have posted some interesting documents you can download or read online located on the Dominican News Blog. President Trujillo: His Work and the Dominican Republic 1936 and the video Interview with General Rafael Trujillo 1961.

*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.

*United States Government correspondence with the Dominican Republic Government from 1961 to 1963. Dominican Republic: Security, February 1961-September 1963 https://www.jfklibrary.org/asset-viewer/archives/JFKPOF/115a/JFKPOF-115a-008

A large propaganda mural of El Jefe, Rafael Trujillo, inside of the offices of the Partido Dominicano.
A large propaganda mural of El Jefe, Rafael Trujillo, inside of the offices of the Partido Dominicano.

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.”

To view the other movies of the series on YouTube
TRUJILLO: El Poder del Jefe

TRUJILLO: El Poder del Jefe III.

La Violencia del Poder / The Violence of the Chief.

The movie The Feast of the Goat / La Fiesta del Chivo was out in theaters as of 4/2006.

Book of Trujillos Time

The book about the reign of Trujillo The Feast of the Goats – English(at Amazon)

The story about The Mirabal Sisters, Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa, is called In the Time of the Butterflies – English (at Amazon). It is excellent reading and gives much insight into the turbulent and interesting past of the Dominican Republic.

Plaza María de Toledo And History

Plaza María de Toledo

The Plaza María de Toledo is a nice tranquil spot to sit and relax. The Plaza honors the first American Viceroy / Virreina, Doña María de Toledo. A cultural woman who helped make life for the new colony of Santo Domingo a little more proper.

The Plaza and Fountain in the Reflecting Pool with the statue of Maria de Toledo looking on.
The Plaza and Fountain in the Reflecting Pool with the statue of Maria de Toledo looking on.

The Plaza | Location | María de Toledo History

The Plaza and Fountain in the Reflecting Pool
The Plaza and Fountain in the Reflecting Pool

The Plaza

The brick tiled plaza sits between Calle Las Damas and Isabel la Católica. Benches line the courtyard, making it an ideal place for sitting and relaxing. The newly repaired fountain cascades water into a small reflecting pool. The sculpture of María de Toledo sits in the square in front of the fountain. Originally the statue was located on the side lawn of the Alcazar de Colón in Plaza Espana. They moved the statue to Plaza Maria de Toledo when the plaza was renovated in 2017.

The statue of María de Toledo now sits in the plaza named after the Virreina, Doña María de Toledo
The statue of María de Toledo now sits in the plaza named after the Virreina, Doña María de Toledo

There were 2 homes on the original piece of land. All that remains are the 3 stone arches at the entrance along Las Damas and the 2 arches above the pool. It was originally the residence of the group la Compañía de Jesús until they were expelled from the country.

The home next to the Convento de los Jesuitas (now the Panteón Nacional) that sat where the Plaza María de Toledo is now located. Picture from 1920’s
The home next to the Convento de los Jesuitas (now the Panteón Nacional) that sat where the Plaza María de Toledo is now located. Picture from 1920’s

Every Sunday there is a small Antique Market held in the plaza. Vendors sell their wares including antiques, Taino artifacts, brass pieces, jewelry and other interesting trinkets.

Sunday Antique Market in Plaza María de Toledo.
Sunday Antique Market in Plaza María de Toledo.

Location

Walking up (north) Isabel la Católica from the eastern side of the Conde about 1 block. It is the first open space on the right across from Calle Gregorio Luperon. Walking up Calle las Damas from the Conde, it is the first plaza on the left in front of Governor Nicolás Ovando’s Residence, now a hotel. It is next to the Panteón Nacional.

The red brick Plaza María de Toldeo is a nice place for sitting and relaxing
The red brick Plaza María de Toldeo is a nice place for sitting and relaxing

María de Toledo (born 1490 in Spain – Died May 11, 1549 (aged 58–59) in Santo Domingo

María de Toledo was the wife of the son of Christopher Columbus / Cristóbal Colón, Diego de Colón, II Admiral and II Viceroy of the Indies / II Almirante y II Virrey de Indias. She was the granddaughter of García Álvarez de Toledo, 1st Duke of Alba and the niece of King Ferdinand of Spain.

María was the first person of noble race to arrive on the Spanish island in 1509. She brought class to the colony. Clothes and other fancy items were forbidden in the colony until she arrived. She got special permission from the crown for herself and others to use and wear these items, becoming the central person of the aristocratic society. She also held the title of Viceroy / Virreina and was more powerful and influential than her husband Díego Colon.

María de Toledo was a strong defender of the original inhabitants of the island, the Taino Indians, against the mistreatment of the Spanish. She also fought for the rights of her children after the death of her husband. She was one of the most important female figures in the original colony of 16th century Hispaniola.

The unmarked statue of María de Toldeo used to be on the grassy slope on the side of the Alcázar de Colón. The Columbus Palace was built to be the home of Maria de Toledo and her husband Diego de Colón. She loved being a hostess, receiving guests and entertaining in her royal home.

The statue of María de Toledo sitting in its original location on the side of the Alcazar de Colón, her home in the original colony of Santo Domingo.
The statue of María de Toledo sitting in its original location on the side of the Alcazar de Colón, her home in the original colony of Santo Domingo.

NOTE – I have researched and found varying histories. Some report that María had 7 children and some say 8 children. I cannot find the cause of death or where she was buried when she died in Santo Domingo. If I find this information, I will add it.

More about the history of the Jesuits in Dominican Republic.

More about the history of María de Toledo

Luisa Ozema Pellerano

Professor Luisa Ozema Pellerano de Castro

Profesora Luisa Ozema Pellerano de Castro was a strong and very respected woman. She loved education and led the struggle as an activist for Women’s Rights in the Dominican Republic. Luisa also founded a ladies’ school and a nature conservation group during her short time on this earth. She truly left her mark.

Profesora Luisa Ozema Pellerano de Castro
Profesora Luisa Ozema Pellerano de Castro

Luisa was born in Santo Domingo, on November 9, 1870. Her parents are Manuel María Pellerano Bonnetti (1837-1894) and Doña Teresa de Castro de Lara.

Lusia went to school at Salomé Ureña, the first Institute for young ladies. She loved school and learning. She and her sister Eva were part of the first 14 students that graduated from this school. After graduation, she worked for the school until it closed in 1898.

The Instituto de Señoritas Salome Ureña present day located on Calle 19 de Marzo in the Colonial Zone.
The Instituto de Señoritas Salome Ureña present day located on Calle 19 de Marzo in the Colonial Zone.
Image – The Instituto de Señoritas Salome Ureña present day located on Calle 19 de Marzo in the Colonial Zone.

Together with her sister Eva Pellerano and Lucila, they started the new Instituto de Señoritas / Ladies Institute, which was later called Salomé Ureña. Under her teaching, over 100 ladies graduated to become teachers. She was known to be organized, disciplined and of good character.

In 1907 she married Don Federico Henríquez y Carvajal. He was the brother of former President Francisco Henríquez y Carvajal. They never had children.

In 1914, the school she founded became “Escuela Normal de Señoritas” / “Normal School for Young Ladies.” Not only did she love learning and teaching she had a love for nature and conservation. Along with Doña Mercedes Peynado they formed La Sociedad “Día de Árbol” / Tree Day Society.

The home of Luisa Ozema Pellerano de Castro where she lived with her husband near the school she founded on 19 de Marzo in Ciudad Colonial.
The home of Luisa Ozema Pellerano de Castro where she lived with her husband near the school she founded on 19 de Marzo in Ciudad Colonial.

The Tomb

Profesora Luisa Ozema Pellerano de Castro died on March 28, 1927 at the age of 57. They lay her to rest in the cemetery. Her tomb was in disrepair and a group repaired it to include a bust of this important Dominican personage.

She is interred in the Cementerio Nacional de la Avenida Independencia / National Cemetery on Avenue Independencia. Her tomb is so beautiful and is a touching monument to this strong and important lady.

The monument reads:
Luisa Ozema – Vida de sembradora fué tu vida. Cavaste el surco y esparciste el grano… Descansa en paz: La tórtola ya anida. En los trigales que espigó tu mano. Rough translation-Planting seeds was your life. You dug the trench and scattered the grain. Rest in peace. The turtledove nests. In the wheat fields where your hands worked.

The moving monument to Lusia Ozema Cementerio Nacional de la Avenida Independencia/ National Cemetery on Avenue Independencia
The moving monument to Lusia Ozema Cementerio Nacional de la Avenida Independencia/ National Cemetery on Avenue Independencia

Women’s Rights Movement

After the death of Luisa Ozema Pellerano, many of the graduates, ladies known as Maestras Normales / Normal Masters founded and joined the “Nosotras” Club that was founded on June 14, 1927. Many of these lady artists and intellectuals who belonged to that organization joined Acción Feminista Dominicana (AFD) / The Dominican Feminist Action when it was established on August 14, 1931. Their emblem was “¡En Marcha!” / “On the Move!” and their motto was Justicia y Amor Justice and Love. This group of brave and strong ladies worked for the rights of Dominican women.

Abigail Mejia wrote the following eulogy:
“Quitaos el sombrero, ciudadanos,
el Maestro de escuela se adelanta.
Hoy el Maestro está triste.
Su rostro, bondadoso mira hacia la tierra con amargura, reclamándole algo que le robó a deshora.
Ha muerto Luisa Ozema”

Translation:
“Take off your hat, citizens,
The school teacher comes forward.
Today the Master is sad.
His face, kindly looks at the earth with bitterness, claiming something that stole from him at the time.
Luisa Ozema has died ”

You can see more pictures of monument and tomb of Luisa on the picture collection slide show of Cementerio Nacional de la Avenida Independencia / National Cemetery on Avenue Independencia

References:
Facebook – Historia Dominicana en Graficas

https://listindiario.com/la-vida/2010/04/22/139238/renuevan-mausoleo-de-una-gran-maestra